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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1993 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 18 May 1993) . . Page.. 1561 ..

Ministerial Statement

Debate resumed from 25 March 1993, on motion by Ms Follett:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

MR HUMPHRIES (9.53): I want to talk briefly on the matter of the ACT Aboriginal Advisory Council which was recently announced by the Chief Minister. Broadly speaking, the Opposition is supportive of the concept inherent in the appointment of the council. According to the Chief Minister, the council is a device for providing mechanisms for consultation with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community of this Territory and to address their particular needs and to enable the community to participate in decisions which affect them. Presumably the Chief Minister is referring to the Aboriginal community in particular.

There are a number of particular focuses at the present time which bring our attention to the needs of our Aboriginal community, only two of which are the International Year of the World's Indigenous Peoples and the decision by the Standing Committee on Planning, Development and Infrastructure earlier this year to recommend the provision of a keeping place in the ACT for Aboriginal people. In both those particular respects the council which the Chief Minister has appointed will play an important role. It will be a conduit between the Government of the Territory and the people of Aboriginal descent who live in the Territory; and it will incorporate the mechanisms provided by ATSIC, and the Bogong Regional Council in particular, to ensure that that consultation, that conduit, is a fruitful one and that it provides necessary mechanisms to ensure that we do what is appropriate and what is in the interests of those members of our community.

There has been discussion in this place before about the appropriateness of some activities, some expenditure, on the part of the Government. I repeat my concern that the Aboriginal deaths in custody issue is an unresolved question for the ACT. There have not been any deaths of Aboriginal people in custody in the ACT, and we hope that that will remain the case. But in those circumstances the question remains of whether we are putting expenditure of money on the royal commission's findings to the best use by directing it specifically towards reforms associated with gaols and remand centres when they pose a very small problem indeed in the ACT.

I believe that any questions which clarify priorities in areas of expenditure would be appropriate, would be useful, and I see this council as a way of doing that. I hope that it will be an opportunity for issues to be grappled with fairly and squarely by this Government and not an opportunity, as it were, to duckshove issues into another forum - namely, this consultative council - as a way of avoiding the consequences of difficult decisions. I believe that some consultative bodies established by the Government in the past have fallen into that description, and I hope that this body is not a mere device to be seen to be consulting with the Aboriginal community but does in fact achieve the important goal of bringing these people into the mainstream of decision making in the Territory and does allow them a real say in the way in which moneys dedicated to their needs are actually spent.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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