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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 25 February 2010) . . Page.. 768 ..

This report arises from the inaugural estimates-style hearings held on 19 August last year, at which members of the elected body had an opportunity, at a specially convened hearing, to ask questions of, and demand answers from, chief executives and senior officers of all ACT government agencies in relation to services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of this community.

The report I table today reflects the content of those hearings and allows, for the first time, a group of Indigenous men and women, elected by their peers, to put to government recommendations in relation to policy and service delivery. It details the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community’s perspective on the range and quality of the services our agencies deliver and suggests areas for redoubled effort.

Those hearings were indeed historic. They represented the first time in the nation’s history that a democratically elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative body had been given an opportunity to ask agency heads, face to face, to account for this government’s performance in service delivery to a discrete sector of the community.

The hearings took a similar form to those hearings with which members of this place would be familiar. They took place in the Assembly committee room, and the elected body had the resources of Hansard staff at its disposal to record proceedings.

The elected body has asked that I convey today its thanks to the chief executives and other senior officers for their time and their input into the hearings.

I believe it is important for the elected body to be given the legislative capacity and power to call chief executives. That is why, when we legislated to establish the elected body, we ensured, under section 26 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body Act 2008, that the elected body had the power to invite chief executives of government agencies to discuss any issues relating to the functions of that agency. Under the law, all chief executives must take reasonable steps to attend such meetings, answer questions and provide such information as is requested.

I have also made it clear that the members of the elected body should have good access to all ministers in the government, and, indeed, the body does meet at intervals with the entire cabinet, as well as with individual ministers.

I personally have high hopes that the adventure we have embarked upon here in the ACT with the elected body will lead to direct and measurable improvements in the quality of life of those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who make their homes here—those who are indigenous to this area, as well as those whose roots lie elsewhere in the country. I welcome this first report from the elected body and give my assurance that it will be read most carefully and responded to at the earliest opportunity.

The elected body makes a number of recommendations arising out of the hearings. Six have been identified as key recommendations. The elected body identified issues that have an impact on the targets this government has pledged itself to pursue through the work of the Council of Australian Governments.

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