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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 10 April 2008) . . Page.. 1261 ..


In early 2006, on my instruction, the Indigenous community consultative council held a series of consultations with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, scoping the possible structure of a representative body. The following year the government committed itself to the establishment of such a body. The ACT Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, the ACT Government Solicitor’s Office and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Council then worked to develop an appropriate model. This model needed to reflect the expectations of the local Indigenous community and be structured to deliver substantial policy and service advice to government. A strong elected voice will ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT can participate fully in the formulation, coordination and implementation of government policies that affect their communities. Their interests and aspirations will be directly represented.

The legislation allows for the elected body to have seven members elected every three years. There will be a requirement in the act for the elected body to consult with, and consider the views of, the United Ngunnawal Elders Council. To be eligible to vote, or to nominate or be nominated as a candidate, one must be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person 18 years or over and on the ACT electoral roll or eligible to be on it by having resided within the boundaries of the ACT for one month.

Specifically, the new body will collect and convey to the minister the views of the Aboriginal people and the Torres Strait Islander peoples living in the ACT on issues affecting them. It will act as an advocate for their interests and conduct regular forums for Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders living in the ACT and report the outcomes of those forums. The elected body will conduct research and community consultation to assist it in the exercise of its functions. It will also propose programs and design services for consideration by the government and its agencies. Further, it will monitor and report on the effectiveness of programs conducted by government agencies for Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders living in the ACT. It is also important that Indigenous Canberrans can adequately access government services provided to the public more generally. The body will monitor and report on these.

Finally, in consultation with the United Ngunnawal Elders Council, the elected body will recommend any reasonable action it considers necessary to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural material or information considered sacred or significant to their peoples.

Advice provided by the elected body will assist the government to deliver better and more holistic services to local Indigenous people and will enhance cooperation between government and community agencies. It will build on substantial actions already taken to improve services and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT. These include intensive strategies in the education system, in justice and in health. There have been many achievements; however, these are always tempered by a consciousness that so much more needs to be done.

On 14 February this year, following the formal apology to the stolen generation from the parliament of Australia, this Assembly issued its reaffirmation of its apology issued in June 1997. This apology talked about our commitment to a just and proper


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