Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 05 Hansard (Tuesday, 6 May 2008) . . Page.. 1410 ..
I believe that we’re not necessarily democratic in the way we operate. It’s very nepotistic and really we look after our own instead of looking after the greater needs and so on in the community”. That quote comes from an interview she did on the ABC. Chris Graham notes that a body created by government, “like ATSIC”, is an act “of white legislation, so it too can be abolished any time a white parliament so chooses”.
But both are advocates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination and they both support the need for a representative body to work for the Indigenous community. So really the argument is about the form of the organisation—how it comes into being—not about the need for such an organisation. While I have great respect for Professor O’Donoghue, I still think an elected body is the best option available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in the ACT.
I am pleased to see that the bill requires the proposed body to consult with the United Ngunnawal Elders Council. This, and especially the further consultation and collaboration provided for in the functions of the body, provides an opportunity for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in the ACT community to be heard and for the growth of the continuing culture and custodianship of the Ngunnawal people.
The monitoring and reporting function of this bill is one of the key factors in its favour. Providing the government with data on how programs and policies are impacting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people specifically will be beneficial in developing the right policy to improve outcomes. However, these reports need to be publicly available in order for the government to be truly accountable for its work with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Providing information to the government, particularly if it shows poor performance, will be useless if the government has no compulsion to act on it.
Whatever the shortcomings of the legislation and of elected bodies in general, I will be voting in favour of the bill and I applaud the Chief Minister and all those officers who have worked extremely hard to get it to this stage. I think that in itself is a feat. I look forward to seeing the work of the body, and certainly the Greens will be supporting it in any way we can.
MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (11.11): I have obviously more than a passing interest in this matter. As a former shadow minister for Indigenous services in this place, I have had a lot to do—perhaps as far back as 2001—with people in the Indigenous community. At this stage I am still hoping very much that what the Chief Minister is proposing will be a true representation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Canberra.
One speaker mentioned a bipartisan approach. On such an important matter I would have hoped that the Chief Minister would embrace the whole of the Assembly—all 17 members—so that, rather than the government driving this legislation, the crossbench, the independents and the Liberal Party could have made more of a contribution to the debate.
That said, in April 2006 I wrote to the Chief Minister about this. I think I have been very open about my concerns about another elected body—a white man’s construct. I