Page 1418 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 6 May 2008

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We do not want to see funding that needs to be allocated to reinforce our education and health initiatives and our social support initiatives hived off and misspent perhaps on a body more than we need to spend on that particular body. Clearly, money will have to be spent but let us keep it in perspective and let us make sure that, of a total expenditure for Indigenous affairs, the amount of money spent on setting this body up is a proper representation of the money that ought to be spent and no more. We do know that, from looking at a number of other community groups around the ACT—and I call to your attention, for example, some of the initiatives taken in the multicultural community—if we are not careful, the money can go south when it should be going north because the loudest lobby can always put their hands on the money but the people who deserve it and the people who need it do not necessarily see it.

I point out that—and I think some of my colleagues made a point of that as well—page 67 in last year’s budget paper No 3 shows us that funding of $20,000 was allocated to an Indigenous training program, from which only 15 young Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people will have benefited. The formation of this body is certainly going to cost a lot more than that. That is one example. I think that money is not enough in terms of that particular training program and I certainly would not like to see this particular initiative take away resources badly needed for that.

So here we are. We commend the bill; we support the bill; but we do caution the Chief Minister to ensure that things are kept in perspective and that we do not have another damn layer of bureaucracy. We do have a lot of government departments, all of which have responsibilities for how they take care of the welfare of our Indigenous youth and our Indigenous families. We would not want to see a body such as this get in the road of the exercising of good governance by those departments. That is what can happen when you have specially appointed or elected bodies. You do not want to take the responsibility away from a number of departments with a direct responsibility for Indigenous affairs, to drop the ball on their responsibilities. I would call upon the Chief Minister to ensure that never happens. We will be watching him closely to see that it never happens. I commend the bill.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.45): The opposition, as other members have said, welcome this bill. It represents a positive move towards ensuring that Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders living in the ACT have a sound basis for having their voice heard on matters that affect them. I think one of the reasons that this is important is the actual arrangements and the delivery of services to Aboriginal people that have occurred under the Stanhope government. A particular benefit from this body will be to sharpen the focus on the identification needs within the Indigenous community in the ACT and the development of appropriate responses to these needs.

I feel that Indigenous people have languished under this government. I think there has been a sense of favouritism, where some groups are in or out and groups have been played off one against the other, and that has been unfortunate because we should be working towards unity and cohesion in the Ngunnawal community, not having this who is in, who is out this day. I think to have it segmented in the way that the government has set up the arrangements is most unfortunate, where policy seems to be with the Chief Minister and delivery seems to be with Ms Gallagher.

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