Have your say about a National Indigenous Representative Body - Submission WS06

 

North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to comment on the proposed new National Representative Body.

NAAJA fully supports the establishment of a new National Representative Body that is recognised by Parliament to contribute and lead policy development on issues that affect Indigenous people and provide an Indigenous perspective on broader government issues.

Background

NAAJA is a non-profit private company established on 1 February 2006. It involved the merger of three existing Indigenous Legal Services in Darwin, Nhulunbuy and Katherine from community council based organisations into a single entity company called NAAJA. We have offices in Darwin, Katherine and Nhulunbuy and employ a staff of 71 including 38 lawyers, with 46 per cent of our staff being Aboriginal.

We provide high quality and culturally appropriate legal aid services for Indigenous people in the northern region of the Northern Territory in the areas of criminal, civil and family Law. 

Our company has a dynamic and talented team of lawyers and staff that aim to work towards gaining justice for Indigenous people and keeping their culture, tradition and law strong. Our priority is the provision of legal representation and advice to Indigenous people and, in providing this service, we are also fully engaged in pursuing the rights of Indigenous people through law and policy reform. NAAJA also has a separately funded advocacy program, community legal education program, research project and mediation project. 


Objectives and principles

We agree with the objectives and principles.

Roles and functions

We agree with the objectives and principles

Representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities

The new body should be informed at the remote, regional, local and state/territory levels.

The National Representative Body should have equal representation from each state and territory and cover a range of sectors including education, health, housing, legal, employment and training etc.

Each state/territory should have its own state/territory Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC) which has remote, regional and local representation of up to 12 members which cover a range of sectors including education, health, housing, legal, employment and training etc.

The IAC then elects 2 representatives to the National Representative Body.

The IAC are approved through a nomination process by each state/territory Indigenous Affairs Advisory Council (IAAC)

In the Northern Territory we have the Northern Territory Indigenous Affairs Advisory Council whose primary role is to provide advice and make recommendations regarding the implementation and further development of “Closing the Gap”.  The Council also assists the Northern Territory Government to effectively engage with Indigenous people, organisations, communities and provide advice on the Governments endeavours in addressing Indigenous disadvantage in the Northern Territory.

The IAC should have a diversity of Indigenous people and communities.  The committee should include young people, elders, people with disabilities, members of the stolen generation and people living in remote communities and homelands.

The National Representative Body would engage with Indigenous people at a state/territory level through the state/territory IAC.

Structure of the National Representative Body

The members of the National Representative Body should be elected to the national body from their state/territory IAC.

We would support each state/territory establishing a state/territory IAC.

Each state/territory IAC would elect 2 people to the National Representative Body.

The body should have equal male and females representatives.

This process would be made open and transparent as the state/territory IAC would be made up of representatives from the remote, regional and local regions and have equal representation of male/female, elders, youth, stolen generation and people living in remote communities and homelands.

The skills end experience of the candidates for the position to the National Representative Body should possess experience in:

  • Providing high level advice to government for Indigenous policy and in making recommendations to improve outcomes for Indigenous people
  • Consultation with governments, Indigenous people, communities and organising and providing advice on appropriate targets and initiatives
  • Effectively engaging with Indigenous people, organisations and communities
  • Providing expert advice to government on the governments endeavors to addressing Indigenous disadvantage in their state/territory

In the first year a candidate elected to the body from the state/territory IAC would be approved by the current members of the Steering Committee.

Once the National Representative Body has been established the future candidates could be approved the National Representative Body members.

Relationship with Government and Parliament

We agree that the National Representative Body should be free from government influence or interference, particularly when it comes to choosing the body’s members.

The body should be statutory authority which would provide with legislated roles and functions recognised by Parliament and performed independent of government.

The National Representative body should be recognised by parliament as the key body for:

  • Advocacy
  • Formulating policy and advising government
  • Reviewing government programs
  • Negotiating framework agreement with government
  • Monitoring service delivery by governments
  • Conducting research ad contributing to law reform processes and
  • Presenting Indigenous people at the international level

Funding

The National Representative Body should by funded by the Commonwealth Government to provide the body with a capital base and operational funding.

 

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