Page 1415 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 6 May 2008

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more than simply be an exercise in appearance but in fact come up with some useful initiatives that the territory can embrace to work, particularly in our local area, then that is something that should be encouraged. I certainly will be examining the progress of this body very carefully and I urge other members to be equally diligent in ensuring that this body achieves what is envisaged and actually helps the Indigenous community in the ACT.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (11.28): I think that the sentiments of support expressed by Mr Seselja go to the heart of the Liberal Party’s position on this legislation. Although some members have dwelt upon the problems of the former national ATSIC body—and I do not think it is necessary to do that—we have here in the ACT an opportunity, in a small and discrete jurisdiction with a well identified community, to make an elected body like this work for the benefit of Indigenous people in the ACT and, through them, the wider Canberra community.

It is a notion of inclusiveness which should be something more than mere symbolism but at the same time we should be doing everything we can not to rest on our laurels and say, “We have created the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elected body and that is all we have to do.” As the shadow minister for family and community services and during my time as the shadow minister for education and with my continuing interest in these areas, I have been very concerned about areas where our Indigenous citizens are not performing as well as the general community.

These are areas of considerable concern. We have made some progress in relation to Indigenous education and bringing the educational achievement levels of young Indigenous people up to the ACT average, but there is still a long way to go. I hope that we do not just say, “Now we have done this, all the issues are solved.” This elected body will be nothing more than a conduit for policy. It means that, by establishing this body, we as the Legislative Assembly, the elected representatives of the whole ACT community, must commit to be responsive to that body and ensure that the recommendations of that body that go towards the betterment of the Indigenous community in the ACT are embraced and that we do not pull back from the very hard work that has to be done.

Mr Mulcahy spoke about the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canberrans and non-Indigenous Australians in general. There is also an educational achievement gap, and one of the things that most concerns me is the fact that one in five children in care and protection in the ACT is Indigenous. This is a considerable problem for the whole Canberra community and a considerable problem for the Indigenous community. We must use the mechanisms available and provided through this body to really consult and really work with the Indigenous community to turn around this terrible statistic.

It is a matter of great trouble to me and it should be a matter of great trouble to everyone in this place that one in five children in the ACT who are in the care of the territory are Indigenous. When you consider that they make up somewhere between 1½ to two per cent of the entire population this is a terrible indictment of what is going on in this territory, and we must use this mechanism and other mechanisms to turn around this dreadful statistic.

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