Page 3068 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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body. Issues cannot be taken in isolation, and who better to address this aspect than indigenous people themselves—fancy that!

The intent of the federal government is to quite rightly place the responsibility of indigenous affairs back into the mainstream of government activity. This means that the Chief Minister and minister for indigenous affairs will have to work directly with the Aboriginal indigenous Australians of the ACT to facilitate the creation of their own solutions, not only at a federal level, of course, but at our state and our territory level. This will, in turn, improve relationships across all agencies and at every level of government.

Let us look quickly at shared responsibility agreements. Of course the ACT has no part in this but I will talk about that later. In the seventh edition of the Ngunnawal Elders Community Newsletter, December 2004, the Chief Minister and minister for indigenous affairs, Jon Stanhope, said that his government had also “strongly supported the shared responsibility trial.” Yet in the Canberra Times article of 3 March 2005, he quite roundly attacks the federal government saying such moves have “put the cause of indigenous Australia back 15 years.” I put it to the Chief Minister and minister that perhaps this is where he wants indigenous people—quite an odd thing to do, I would say. One has to question the Chief Minister’s knowledge and understanding of this portfolio area.

The new arrangements suggested by the commonwealth are very positive and liberating for indigenous communities. It will see them have far more control over their lives. However, it is quite ignorant and quite divisive for Mr Stanhope as minister for indigenous affairs to be talking about shared responsibility agreements for the ACT. One would have to say, and I do smile at this, that Mr Stanhope must have had his tongue jammed so far into his cheek—enough to have caused him pain—when he said in his opening statement in an article to the Canberra Times on 3 March 2005, that the federal government was signing a shared responsibility agreement with the ACT. What nonsense! This must have been news to the federal minister, I am sure, given that one was never planned for the ACT.

Of interest is that the local indigenous community have already shown a higher developed self-respect and are conscious of health and wellbeing issues. Therefore, such an agreement was really only ever aimed at rural and remote communities across Australia. If the minister had sought advice he would have known that there is simply no need for such an arrangement here in the ACT, given the heightened awareness of their own wellbeing in the Aboriginal community in the ACT. Much like Victoria, the ACT does not have isolated Aboriginal communities but rather Aboriginal people are interwoven with the rest of the community. Therefore, this arrangement is specifically aimed at allowing rural and remote communities to find their own solutions to some of the challenges they face. It is important that indigenous people have much more of a say in their future but that government—federal, state and territory—ensure that sufficient funding mechanisms are in place to support these solutions.

The federal government is offering a simple coordinated and flexible one-stop shop service by way of a new whole-of-government frontline presence in the regions through their new indigenous coordination centres. Indeed, an ICC exists for this region in Queanbeyan. It is disappointing that the Chief Minister continues to abrogate responsibility for leading the way and assisting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island

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