Page 1417 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 6 May 2008
implementation of government policies that affect them. There are a plethora of practical matters, though, that go to the heart of good governance regarding how we as a territory look after our Indigenous people and, given the complexity of all that, we clearly must support this bill. And so we shall.
If I could say, though, further to the point that Mr Seselja raised earlier, the question that must be asked, however, is: will this body become the son of ATSIC? By that, I simply mean: will it become a bureaucratic son of what became the bureaucracy of ATSIC? ATSIC had its strengths but it had very, very significant weaknesses. We would not want to see, for the sake of political expediency, a body established here in the ACT which becomes as cumbersome and unrepresentative of Indigenous peoples as ATSIC eventually became. I think we all know that ATSIC across the country did not represent the best interests of all Indigenous peoples and, like too many bureaucracies in this country which revolve around well-organised political lobbies, ATSIC had become a place where many questions were asked about not only the effect of its governance as a body but also issues of whether it was actually focusing on the fundamental issues relevant to education, health and proper representation by Indigenous groups across this country.
Whilst a lot of people would not necessarily agree with me, one of the best things that ever happened was the disbanding of ATSIC, therefore, which allowed other more prominent and better representative leaders of the Indigenous community to come forward in this country and make strong contributions to the debates across this country about Indigenous affairs and how we can better progress our Indigenous peoples. We all realise, of course, that Indigenous people in this country have had a pretty rum deal and a pretty rough trot for a long time—no question about that. We would hope that the Chief Minister and his officials are learning the lessons that are very clearly there for us all to look at on the back of what has gone before us in terms of the management of Indigenous affairs in this country.
We must ensure that the bureaucracy of the body that the Chief Minister is proposing does not take over the fundamental goals outlined here today. Indigenous people in the ACT need less bureaucracy and more initiatives and practical measures to coordinate and implement government policies.
We on this side of the chamber are clearly on the record as leading the way in the debate on the sorry statements. As our leader on this side, Mr Seselja, said earlier, in 1997 it was the Liberal Party in the ACT that led the way in trying to break the ground on sorting out the sorry statement matter. We can clearly, by that, demonstrate that we are very keen to see that the Chief Minister’s proposal does work. But we want to make sure that it works properly.
We know, for example—if I can just focus on one particular area—the initiatives to reduce the number of Indigenous youths attending Quamby are a very important part of government at the moment. We are very concerned, as is the Chief Minister, about the number of Indigenous youth who wind up in Quamby. It is very, very important, therefore, that all of our programs that seek to intervene and stop young men and young women going to Quamby or anywhere else are well supported. I would hate to see money spent on this particular initiative at the expense of those.