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List of Submissions
Public submission 2
Submission concerning the National Indigenous Representative Body
By Ms Hannah McGlade LLB, LLM
29 July 2008
The Guiding Principles for the establishment of the National Indigenous Representative Body should be firmly based within human rights law, and as established by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2008. It is fundamental that these human rights are guaranteed equally to Indigenous women and children.
Therefore, the National Representative Body should primarily act as an advocacy and negotiation body, arguing independently from a considered and well researched base, for the domestic implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other relevant and binding human rights provisions such as Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Social Justice Commissioner is accurate in acknowledging that Indigenous representative bodies have not played a strong role in initiating law reform, and that a proposed national body could have an important role to play in actively pursuing law reform and coordinating and sponsoring test cases. In Australia there is far too great a disparity between the international human rights commitments made by governments and domestic laws and practices: advocacy, negotiation, law reform, and test cases concerning Aboriginal human rights are needed as a matter of utmost priority.
Just as the new representative body should not have a role in government service delivery, neither should it be mandated to directly set departmental priorities, contribute to planning processes, or monitor government services. This would place an unrealistically onerous (and arguably unachievable) standard on a body that should primarily be responsible for advocacy and negotiation to improve human rights, including Aboriginal people’s basic rights to non-discriminatory service delivery. Other important areas of advocacy and law reform should include: the reform of native title law (which has been eroded by courts and the legal profession), equality for Aboriginal women and children within the criminal justice system, addressing underlying factors resulting in the gross over-imprisonment rate for Aboriginal people, justice and reparations for the surviving members of the stolen generations, and a more comprehensive acknowledgement of the international prohibitions of discrimination on the base of race and gender, particularly with respect to institutional and systemic discrimination and substantive equality.
The structure of the National Representative Body should be membership based, whereby communities, organizations and individuals can join and then be represented by a National Board or Executive who are selected (by an expert Indigenous panel) on the basis of skills and expertise, especially in the areas of health and healing, education, law reform, community development, native title and social justice. All executive members should be known and respected as advocates and practitioners for Aboriginal equality, justice and human rights.
The Executive should at all times be represented equally by Aboriginal men and women - and there should be mandated equal representation to ensure that women’s voices are heard and women’s access to the realisation of human rights is guaranteed. The greatest failing of the past ATSIC structure was the disempowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and the fostering and promotion of a male dominated and discriminatory culture of leadership which denied (and thereby further entrenched) the realities of endemic violence and abuse in Aboriginal Australia. It is shameful that the recommendation supported by Jackie Huggins in the Review of ATSIC for women’s equal representation was rejected by the two male non-Indigenous Review authors, one of whom was subsequently charged by NT police for child sexual assault offence. The routine exclusion of Aboriginal women from key government decision making bodies is evidence that without the formal adoption of clear policy of equality and representation, it is most likely that Aboriginal women will be rendered ‘invisible’ yet again.
Aboriginal women’s right to self determination within the proposed National Representative Body is guaranteed by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and should be reflected at all times in the make up of a new National Executive.
Public submission 3
1. What constructive roles do you want to see the body play in Indigenous and national affairs?
Ideally I would like to see the body capacity building communities and making all agencies that have indigenous funding accountable for their funds to ensure they meet KPIs that funds were requested for. Therefore a body that not only works with communities but to also make all others accountable for their said programs as there has been too much waste no accountability and far too many unsustainable capacity building programs where skills are not gained by community and communities left high and dry when the fly in and fly out personnel have left. Also a tool to ensure meaningful and sustainable partnerships with real life long outcomes for all is what I desire from of the National Body. I would also like to see that the guiding principles for the establishment of the National Indigenous Representative Body be firmly based within human rights law, and as established by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2008, with a guarantee of equalty to Indigenous women and children.
As an Aboriginal woman I believe we have not had the degree of opportunities to participate in shaping public policy that has given my people all the benefits of a normal life that has been healthy or natural. The many government research papers can support this statement and it saddens me that as a descendant of the world’s oldest surviving culture our knowledge base to date has not been respected nor our ways of working with our own people to ensue we have equal opportunies to be able to live a safe, healthy, natual life. Today what should count is that we share a common life as Australian citizens, with the realisation that very much is at stake when we go about our public life. It also matters very much that politics is acording to many be an opportunity that opens up to us as a citizen to greater opportunities for providing freedom and justice for all. I need to question then why have the past policies (many distructive of familes and culture) created for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people not been done in a democratic way concidering they were all about us. It can also be seen that since the European settlement, government policy relating to Aboriginal people has been designed and implemented by non-Aboriginal people under the notion that it was for ‘our own good’. The policies have been for protection, assimilation, self determination and reconciliation.
Policies of assimilation were designed to eliminate our unique cultural and social structures of our ancient society. The policies that were created (based on the views of white supremacy and racial superiority) identified the need for our people to change and catch up with the white Australians. There was no respect for our people who had our own political and social structures prior to settlement that had held our communities together for thousands of years.
Therefore, the National Representative Body should primarily act as an advocacy body, arguing independently from a considered and well researched base (most of which has already been done), for the domestic implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other relevant and binding human rights provisions such as Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The proposed body should also play a strong role in initiating law reform as a matter of priority, as proposed by the Commissioner of Social Justice. Again accountablity to ensure we have a strong democratic voice that guides the policy making system within the law and politics of Australia.
2. What outcomes do you want the national Indigenous representative body to deliver?
The body needs to deliver a real sustainable meaningful partnership that sees growth and future prospects in communities and substantial drops in all present statistical issues data concerning all aspects of our lives. Outcomes that are able to give our people hope of a bright future with all the current community issues being addressed and eventually alleviated. In other words, the body needs to be working towards breaking the cycle of disadvantage in our communities for once and for all. To work towards changing entrenched policies and legislation of discrimination towards the Indigenous peoples of Australia. In other words assist in implementing all the recommendations for all the national and state inquiries that to date have just sat and collected dust.
3. What role don’t you want to see the body do, particularly from lessons learnt from the past?
Creating meaningless policy to suit the governments of the day and being an advisory body. As it is time to stop policies of no value and talking as it is now time to take action. Talk fests have not worked. It is time to walk the talk that has been discussed for over 50 years. We now certainly need to take action, as action speaks louder than words. The right people on the body will know what action needs to be taken and how to take care of business.
4. How does the body support rather than duplicate the work of indigenous peak organisations and representative arrangements at the state/territory and regional level?
The body must work in equal partnership with other organisations on an equal level as the body is no better than those working in communities. They will be a resource to assist in making the communities dreams become a reality. It must not become a ‘them and us’ we must all work together to ensure we right the wrongs of the past for the sake of our future generations. This body must not be about individual personalities it must be a team of professionals who are committed, passionate people who are concerned only about getting the task at hand done for once and all. It should not be a political body it should be a working ‘lets get our hands dirty’ body.
5. How will the body be influential and persuasive with governments of all political backgrounds, the corporate sector and broader public?
The right people on the body will be inspirational enough to gain the respect of all Australians, government and non government. The body must be given the powers to make real sustainable changes in every aspect of the people they are working for lives.
6. How should people be chosen to be members of this body?
There should be a process where people apply for the roles and they must have proven experience in community development/management. They must be able to prove their worth by showing why they would be the best candidate to ensure sustainable outcomes could be met by them. They must have compassion, commitment and most of all are passionate people who want to be there for the betterment of their community not their hip pockets (as seen in the past). They must also have a letter of recommendation from their community including Elders and proof that they are community minded people not just family orientated.
7. What skills, experience and qualities would you expect these people to have?
Depending on the size of the body there should be members with expertise in community development, native title, community management, health, education, housing, youth, seniors and all must be compassionate, caring, committed people. Ideally have the relevant qualifications to support their application. Tertiary qualifications are good but there are many community champions that have all it takes to create successful sustainable outcomes without holding a degree as they will be able to show their qualifications through their own success stories when working with their communities. They must be able to demonstrate working in community at a grass roots level as that is the level the body will be focusing on to create positive change(We don’t need more academics and high level government officials that are far too removed from community). There is no need to have people on the body who do not connect with the whole community as shown in the past it does not work. Many in the past were government chosen and or employed or family picked people (stacking voting systems) who are disconnected from the realties of a community life (most with no real community development /community management skills) and the issues faced by the grass roots people, the very people they are to be representing. Please don’t make the same mistake by appointing people of convenience or notoriety ensure they have community runs on the board. Real people need to be appointed and there are plenty in our communities that have the skills, and desires to make real life long sustainable changes. In the past it has been easy to pick those that have a profile but at the end of the day they have just been puppets for the political parties not workers for the communities. They must have a proven track record for working within and for community as a whole not just family. Finally there also has to be committment, honesty and integrity enshrined within the doctrine of commitment to the terms of reference and constitution of the representative body.
8. How can we achieve a balance of elders, youth, women, and men in positions of leadership?
When the decision is made on how large the representative body will be then divide by four and ensure all have proven substantiated expertise in the areas of need for example community development/management, health, aging, housing, native title and youth issues etc. That will then give a good balance of the body to work towards successful sustainable outcome for all Indigenous Australian communities. I am aware that no communities are the same but at the end of the day we have extremely similar issues across the board in urban, remote and rural. It is also impariative that Aboriginal women’s right to self determination within the proposed National Representative Body is guaranteed by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and should be reflected at all times.
9. How can the body most accurately represent the views and priorities of Indigenous people living in urban regional and remote parts of Australia?
Again depending on the size of the body there should be representation from all areas depending on the specific expertise of those recommended or applying for the role. Sadly, most of the issues faced by my people are in all areas of Australia but the urban areas issues are better hidden and the mindset of many is that urban Indigenous Australians have more opportunities but the reality is as it has been shown that many are just as isolated as their rural and remote communities and are facing the same issues of disadvantage.
10. How will the body have its performance measured and be held to account? This includes how the members of the body will be held accountable to their peers in the indigenous community, the broader public and government.
They should be measured by quality and quantity of measureable sustainable results. (Depending of course on the task/s and timelines agreed upon) If a member has committed to achieving an outcome for a certain community be it in their specific field of expertise for example ensuring 10 houses will be built or that all students will attend school of that safe places are built or to decrease family violence through program development etc then if they don’t achieve what they have set out/said they would achieve then they should be made accountable. Dismissal is to be assured as we don’t need more time wasters and get someone who can achieve the desired outcomes as I said earlier there are plenty of community champions with and without tertiary degrees who are passionate people and live to make culturally appropriate changes through working in partnership by development of programs and services to ensure our communities survive and have a bright thriving future to look forward to.
11. How will this body be involved with the Australian Government? This includes whether the body will be operating within, or outside government.
This body should not be held at the whim of any particular government (as seen in the past) it should work in a true meaningful partnership with all levels of government but be a statuary body with the powers to ensure that legislation and policies are for the betterment not detriment of our communities as well as ensuring that all non government agencies (Indigenous and non Indigenous) who gain Indigenous specific funding are held accountable for their proposed community outcomes. We as Indigenous Australians should have the powers to make our own decisions and have the ability to create our own destinies for our own people. Therefore I believe that we should be made accountable only by the highest person in Australia Queens represenative with of course extremely strict accountability codes of conduct put in place to ensure the body will succeed in eliminating the shameful Indigenous disadvantage currently seen in Australian.
12. What sources of funding (Government and non-Government) could be used to cover costs of the body?
I am being open and honest and I am also well researched on what I have to say so please do not take what I have to say personally but facts and the truth do not lie. There is certainly more that enough documents to support what I have said all through this submission (government and non government commissioned documents.)
Many international and national peak bodies are making and exorbitant amount of funds by mining and farming our lands. I feel then that they should be injecting funds to ensuring that we as a nation of first peoples of Australia who lay claim to owning the worlds oldest surviving culture continue and have a bright future to look forward to for many generations to come.
As history has shown many of these wealthy organisations have been able to create their wealth thought using and abusing our ancestors to clear lands, to guide to precious lands and water ways and to work for no financial benefit. Our history does not lie but it shamefully has been kept a secret from most Australians in historical text books. It is now time to right past wrongs and time to accept that the disadvantaged seen today, and felt by many of my communities are a direct result of greedy developers, miners, pastoralists and governments all at the detriment of my people. My people and my country are dying because of the abuse to country and our community’s for the sake of finacial gain for a minority. It is time to stop all this carnage and heal the land and the traditional owners for the betterment of all Australians. Therefore, I strongly believe that there should be a mining, farming and government funds (levy created) set aside as they (the powerful and influential people of society) created the policies that gave the miners and pastoralist and governments at all levels powers to decimate my people and country and also the mining companies national and international should pay as they are destroying country for the sake of short term financial gain. Selling our lands to overseas investors should also stop imediately as they have no care for our country only what they can take our for their finacial gain.
Following this suggestion I believe is the best way to inject funds into our communites as it makes them accountable for their taking of resouces and it should be seen as their duty of care for not only us as the traditional owners but for all Australians. These miners and land developers (many not Australian citizens) must understand the spirit of this country belongs to us and injecting funds into the communities will give them the powers to heal the country they are destroying and the custodians of the country simply because we don’t own the land the land owns us as we are one with it. Our ancestral spirits have been here forever and they continue to be with us and guide us that is our ace in terms of real sustainable outcomes for this country we all call our home. It is time the rest of Australia understands that and most of all those that develope our lands but don’t call Australia home (foriegn investors).
Finally, doing the right thing ensures sustainable outcomes for all who call Australia home as short term financial (mineral and pastoral) gain will only destroy our Australian web of life and at the end of the day all of us. Don’t sell our country short or my people or all Australians will be the biggest losers. That is for sure! Remember when the land dies so does its people.
Public submission 4
Issues for the proposed National Indigenous Representative Body
- The Indigenous Representitive Body IRB must be an amalgamation of an elected body and appointed representitives.
- The elected members are those elected to represent approximately 25,000 - 30,000 Indigenous people (the constituents).
- This should be done on a juridiction basis however where there are issues around state boundries that arrangements are made at the local level to sort this out.
- The appointed members are those that the elected members choose to be on the body as ex officio.
- These could be experts in the relevant fields such as health, education, employement and the environment
- All Aboriginal people on the role should vote to elect their representitive to the IRB.
- Two Indigenous representitives elected from within this body must beome members of Parliament. One in each house.
- The elections should take place 6 months prior to the federal election to allow for a settling in period.
- The elected Indigenous persons are the advocate for the constituents in their region.
- Place is of importance, members are to be associated with three working components of the IRB they are Urban Rural and Remote
- The body must be an elected body if it is to work.
- It would be hypocritical to have anything but an elected body.
- Australia espouses the principles of democracy throughout the world so it must continue to support its Indigenous population to experience and participate in the democratic process.
- The experiences of the past are to be built upon.
To quote George Santayana…
Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it
The Life of Reason (1905-06)
- The IRB must be given the mandate to enhance Indigenous self determination and the soveriegn rights of Indigenous people to control their own affairs.
- The IRB must create the next step and phase to better living for Indigenous Australians ie Reconciliation ----?? Treaty!!
Public submission 5
An Indigenous Body is to be constructive in its decision making and empowerment of its own community. Reinforcing the outcomes of true self determination in all culturally rlevant matters. This is not to become a power hungry, corrupt agency; that is internalized in all its decision making processes. To avert such a consequence it is possible to have indigenous representatives from both gender groups, cultural specific groups, within an Urban Regional scope. In such a way many cultural, ethical considerations are taken on board by a national indigenous representative body. This must be a major concern.
The members of this body could be recruited from academia and the relvant educational systems, both indigenous and non-indigenous groups, with an emphasis on regional life experiences. however, there has to be a limit of say four (4) people from each regional area to stop corruption etc.
The body must be made accountable through a cultural, ethical, practical, transparent accountability process on all levels. This body is to be involved with the Australian Govermnment through the acquisition of socual research, economic research and environmental research from government agencies. As well as utilising many Australian universities' research and expertise, services etc.
A majority of the funding can be initiated by Government sources, that in turn do not really limit the providence of the Body or intervene in its processes. However, funding from non-government sources is also very highly recommended and considered important to maintaining impartial processes within the body.
Overall I wish to congratulate the 2008 Australian Government for recognising the need for a national indigenous body to represent the Australian indigenous culture. This proposal is long overdue and is necessary for any indigenous culture. For your recognition of this proposal I would like to say 'well done", it’s a first step in a truly connected Australian Identity. For this I thank you.
Public submission 6
It is noted the Commonwealth Government has announced it's intention that there be a National Indigenous Representative Body, the preferred nature, functions, role, and constitution of which is something submissions are now being sought.
This, then, is such a submission made primarily to ask that those people reviewing these submissions give some care and attention to enabling the proposed 'peak' National Indigenous Representative Body to be able to integrate, coordinate, rally, and use the combined human and financial resources of three existing statutory National Indigenous Bodies to better economically empower local Aboriginal communities and 'close the gap' between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
The three existing statutory National Indigenous Bodies to which I refer, all of whom might be usefully brought under the immediate 'guidance' of the newly formed Board of the'peak' National Indigenous Representative Body, are, namely:
- Indigenous Business Australia - (already has a board with an Indigenous Chairperson);
- Indigenous Land Corporation (already has a board with an Indigenous Chairperson); and
- National Native Title Tribunal (requires a board with an Aboriginal Chairperson, plus greater number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander members).
The resources and powers of these three National Bodies used more efficiently, more effectively; more creatively, and more strategically in combination under the new National Indigenous Representative Board, can be expected to make more progress, and go further towards better 'closing the gaps' between indigenous and non-indigenous opportunities, health and wellbeing, than thas been possible when operating seperately and without overarching Indigenous Australian oversight
This is but a bare, simple submission made independently of any Aboriginal discussion, arising primarily out of my own 'external' experience and observations as a non-indigenous person who has, for half a life-time, worked closely with local Aboriginal peoples' in the North Queensland region to assist themselves improve their lot in life. It is sincerely made in the hope this current Government is able, post apology, to achieve it's stated aims, and better secure the future of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Public submission 7
Social status equality and Welfare reform is a major problem here in Australia, especially within our Indigenous communities throughout our nation. Yet our nation continually revives and contributes to reviving the economies of other countries less fortunate even though Australia has large gaps between our rich, middle class and poor.
Creating a National Indigenous Representative Body (NIRB) would provide Indigenous people throughout Australia with a voice and conduit to Government in relation to the ongoing issues of Welfare Reform and Social Inequalities within their communities, Australiawide.
Even today Indigenous people can feel disillusioned about Government intervention and feel real issues within communities are not being addressed, through my work in Nth Qld communities the feedback I am continually provided is “All Intervention is both created and provided by those outside the community who live in cities and have no understanding as to community dynamics or cultural protocols.” The question continually posed is “Why, are we not involved and why have people from outside create solutions that are inappropriate to both culture and community dynamics.” Or “How can they grasp what life is like here when they have been sheltered from the violence, drugs, alcohol, rape, domestic violence ,etc”
In order to make progress in the arena of Social Welfare Reforms we need to start taking several steps backward in order to gain momentum to move forwards. Formation of an Indigenous Peak Body on a national level will provide Indigenous people Australia wide with a vehicle allowing them to express positive and negative community needs and concerns which in turn empowers each individual and community as whole in regard to “Community Restoration.”
NIRB would also become a peak advisory group providing both Government, Public Sector and Community based organizations, groups and individuals with advice and representation on Indigenous issues on a state and national level.
Through NIRB forums with relevant Government departments would be held to analyse, negotiate and implement viable solutions in accordance with information gathered through the NIRB to target prevalent issues.
Former Indigenous Welfare to Work programs such as CDEP have kept welfare recipients on welfare for generation after generation and are an example of past intervention strategies where upon generic branded solutions have been created and implemented into community. Resulting in families remaining in poverty with little hope or way out of the system promoting and encouraging welfare dependance throughout our next generations.
The challenge for our policy makers is to create a system which essentially provides education and training, work opportunities for those who are capable of work, and genuine customized support tailored to the individuals needs keeping in mind that some people are unable to achieve any degree of self sufficiency". This is where the role of a peak body such as NIRB is crucial to ensure these measures are put in practice being mindful that each community will need to be assessed individually to ensure tailored solutions relevant to community needs are implemented.
Public submission 8
The National Representative Body is multi-layered and should be based on tribal leadership and management structures where we separate responsibilities back into men's and women's business. This tribal structure is designed to bring together various tribal groups from various locations in order to discuss issues relating their tribal regions.
The representative body: We need to be able to lobby the government for change, hold demonstrations if required and conduct business as we see fit. We have to have the opportunity to highlight injustice, create awareness of discrimination, attend to the mistreatment of the Indigenous Australians and showcase the positives of our national treasures. We have to feel like it is "ours" and in order to create ownership the development needs to come from the people. We cannot have a repeat of the federal government amending legislation and abolishing what belongs to the people (this needs to be real). In order to be fully effective, it needs to be a separately incorporated entity that is fully managed and owned by Aboriginal people. I am sick to death of Aboriginal organisations that focus on money and that is why this entity needs to focus on social change, lifestyle improvement and creating a better world for our children.
Influencing people and governments: We employ positive people with a can-do attitude and who see the benefits in creating communities for children. We employ people who are here to work with the government and not against them. We employ people who encourage the use of words such as respect, understanding, acceptance, commitment, shared responsibility, community and lifestyle improvement.
We have people who are no longer angry and who do not want revenge and are positive in their approach. These people have the ability to open doors towards reconciliation and encourage the involvement of our people in positive societal change.
Organisation Skills, Experience and Qualities: We need people who can talk, who are friendly, they are educated, they are tribal, they have low literacy and numeracy, they are employed, they are on centrelink benefits, they are mothers, they are single parents and they are families. Anyone who wants to be involved can be and anyone who needs help will get it, as true (tribal) representation leaves no-one behind.
Achieving the Balance in representation: We have to formulate local/regional/urban and state-based bodies that filter into national representation. The representation could be based on flexible-rotation, whereby any Aboriginal person can have the opportunity to represent issues for their tribal group, their family, their region or as an individual. We can have a pool or representatives available at any given time and each "tribal gathering" can be held in various regions or states depending on the need and could be a portable representive body along the lines of an Aboriginal Hansard.
How will this body be involved with the Australian Government: The National Representative Body is a separate entity, however, the federal government could have an Indigenous Affairs Branch with the sole responsibility of liaising, communicating and negotiating with the National Representative Body. It is the go-between person for the government and the Aboriginal people representative body and could be essential when it comes to areas that require further negotiation. These two entities could have a staff-exchange program in order to create rapport and build understanding of their inner working.
Funding sources: Funding sources would most appropriately be benevolent institutions and non-government organisations. This is due to the fact that recipients of federal government funding are required to achieve federally-based outcomes and we cannot be bound by outcomes that target federal government approaches to change. The outcomes must be our own and we cannot feel like our funding will be cut if we stand up and speak out against a government policy or program.
Our People: We need effective, confident people who can encouragne involvement and increase membership. We are selling an idea or concept and in order for this to become a reality it needs to be seen to come from the community. You need a male and a female Manager/Director/CEO. A great campaign and marketing person. This is an organisation where we reinvigorate our tribal management structures and create an environment where our strategy is to focus on the spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical development of our children. To sell this, we need a man and woman who are passionate about standing up for their people and who are confident and already have existing networks in various states.
Aboriginal Australia is so different it is not funny, we have tribal custodians, cultural people, christians, muslims, people who can't read, Aboriginal people painting other tribals groups art and calling it their own, rich black people, white people who are calling themselves Aboriginal, Aboriginals who have lost the plot and people who say they are Aboriginal but only white words fall from their mouths. A single entity may not be the salution and you may need various state or even regionally based entities that feed into a national representative body. Because this entity is going to cause turmoil, conflict and frustration because the same old ATSIC leaders will crawl out of the woodworks and then the new leaders won't say anything because they are respecting their elders. I am sick of old money leaders who are only interested in one thing and we need more people who care about our children, who are about their development, who care that we are leaving them a legacy of negativity, anger and greedyness.
Public submission 9
The Rep. Body will be ‘a voice’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This Body will voice our ‘priorities’, be able to negotiate, mediate and strategically debate our vision. This Body will ensure effective policies for our people; putting in place goals and strategies for better outcomes for our people.
The Representatives are there to speak out for us – they are not there to be ‘liked’ by people – some decisions are necessary for bigger picture goals. Egos need to be left in the closet! These Representatives will be effective leaders, if they are not influenced by ‘whiteman’s divide and conquer’ strategies.
The outcomes are to be based on effective practical strategies, instilled with our values and priorities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are practical, hands on people. These outcomes need to convey these practical strategies where people can see the outcome physically occur. Seeing outcomes allows for gratification and justification that our wishes and needs are eventuating.
There is constant duplication due to groups not ‘networking’. The new Body needs to build working relationships with already established groups/organizations. This reconciliation process will only serve as a powerful tool and strengthen the capacity for positive outcomes.
Effective communication with transparent agendas between groups is essential.
The Rep. Body needs to have researched, up-to-date information on all the established groups. Across the country meetings need to be launched to make connections and send out the message of inclusiveness.
The Rep. Body needs to be influential and persuasive. The members of this Body needs to be diverse. Each member should bring to the new Body, personal expertise to enhance the dynamics of the group. With this pool of skills, the Body would be confident to take on challenges from any level.
The new Rep. Body members should have a wide range of skills. These members need to be passionate about the position of Aboriginal people in this country. They need to be aware of issues not only on local level but government level also. They need to have the capacity to self-educate themselves about issues that they are not aware of – informed decisions are vital. They need to be ‘public speakers’.
To achieve self-determination and a feeling of effective decision-making and not just ‘tokenism’ – the Body would be best placed outside Government. In saying this, I am sceptical about the Body being dominated by stronger personality members and there corruption could occur.
Public submission 12
I fully support the recommendation that relevant agencies, rather than the National Representative Body (NRB) itself, should be responsible for program delivery.
The most effective way of ensuring that accountability between the NRB and the responsible agency is genuine - and not just ‘lip service’- is for the NRB to be the body that administrates funding to such agencies for their delivery of specific programs. While government agencies would still have the responsibility to ensure that they conduct all of their business – whether education, health, transport and infrastructure and so on – in a manner that is equitable for Indigenous Australians, the NRB would hold the purse strings for ‘Indigenous specific’ program delivery.
As the policy-setting and funding body, the NRB would determine the nature and purpose of such Indigenous-specific program delivery, would determine the criteria by which bids from program delivery agencies would be assessed, and the criteria by which the effectiveness of the program delivery would be evaluated. While government agencies may be the primary bidders for funding, the NRB would be positioned to invite and consider bids from non-government agencies or the private sector also, which could potentially increase the quality of the bids.
An NRB in a purely advisory and monitoring role would, as one of a number of ‘stakeholders’, have to satisfy itself with reports according to the performance criteria defined by the program delivery agency. However, with a greater degree of power as the controller of the funding, the NRB would be positioned to not only demand information of higher quality and greater detail, but would also be positioned to determine the nature and scope of the information the program delivery agency is obliged to provide.
For the NRB to carry out such a function effectively, it would need to house strong skills in a number of areas. In additional to community engagement, communication and broad-ranging policy skills, the NRB would need to house a strong data and information skills base. In not only monitoring, but determining performance measures for agencies responsible for service provision, the NRB must have the capacity to (re)define what ‘effective performance’ is and what ‘desirable outcomes’ are, according to the values and aspirations of Indigenous Australia. This means developing valid measurables of Indigenous Austalian’s lived experience, and developing indicators of concepts such as ‘need’ and ‘wellbeing’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The NRB would have to be very strong on the accounting and budgeting front too, to be able to do program delivery costings and balance the various bids received from prospective program delivery agencies. With this greater degree of fiscal power, the NRB’s accountability back to Indigenous Australia would be in much more concrete terms. Rather than reporting on its advocacy efforts (ie. reporting on what the NRB had tried to persuade the mainstream to do, with varying degrees of success) the NRB would be expected to report on the effectiveness of its program delivery purchasing decisions (ie. what funding was allocated to which programs, the decision-making rationale, and the effectiveness of the programs). While the responsible agency would ultimately be accountable for the effectiveness of the program, the NRB would be accountable for the decision-making that led to the program being funded.
With this sort of power, the NRB would have less of an ‘advocacy’ role to play. Instead, the NRB would be an audience of advocacy efforts from various sectors of the community, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, in an effort to influence the NRB’s policy agenda and funding decisions. This may be a more feasible position for the NRB to occupy, as to be truly ‘representative’ for the whole of Indigenous Australia as an advocacy and advisory body is an ambitious, and risky, goal. However, an NRB that occupies a more powerful administrative position would be more likely to attract input from the breadth of Indigenous Australia rather than have to elicit it in an effort to remain representative and therefore viable. Rather than ensuring the NRB is 'representative' of all of Indigenous Australia in order to remain viable, the NRB would instead be obliged to ensure it remained accessible for all Indigenous Australian people and communities to engage or not engage as they choose. This is perhaps a more achievable aspiration, and one which puts the choices back in the hands of Indigenous Australia, and leaves the NRB less vulnerable to the (otherwise inevitable) charge of ‘not being representative’.
Therefore, perhaps we need to move away from thinking of a National Representative Body, and aiming to create something more powerful (a National Administrative Body?) However, I appreciate that this entire proposal depends on the rest of the nation accepting the notion of Indigenous people being in charge of actual money…
Please be advised that the views expressed in this submission are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.
Public submission 13
My name is Ronald Terence Gannon J.P. and I hereby forward my submission in relation to the new Indigenous Representative Body.
I am a Wiradjuri Elder from Cowra New South Wales and i am 63 years of age and I hold all required evidence that I am an Australian Aboriginal.
Points of Interest that we want taken into consideration:
These points were raised by all the elders and youth of our clan.
- The United Nations Declaration (61/295) on the rights of Indigenous Peoples (these rights are considered fundamental for all Indigenous Peoples, the 370 million of them worldwide, as stated by the international community), P.M. Rudd to sign this Bill as soon as possible.
- The Northern Territory Intervention, (the claim for land), The Law states that the Rudd government is abusing the Australian Constitution as it now stands, as the Racial Discrimination Act CAN be repealed or amended but CANNOT BE SUSPENDED. Australias membership of the U.N.
ICERD is currently being questioned by the United Nations because of their racist attitude in this matter.
- Remembering, the U.N. Bill mentioned at 1. above has been ratified by the International Community, this Bill states that Indigenous Peoples retain permanent soverignty over their Mineral Rights, and Natural Resources. According to the Rudd government, we don't have any rights, do we!!!!
- There is currently a Maori Tribe seeking autonomy re the soverignty over their land as they never signed any Treaty or ceded their rights and they have taken the New Zealand government to court on this issue, I suggest the Australian Federal Government takes great interest in this event, as the Australian Aboriginal Nations never ceded their rights of soverignty in any form over their land/minerals/natural resources/belongings or anything else.
- The Australian Constitution should be scrapped in its entirety and a new Constitution be made available stating that the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia are the first nations and the soverign peoples of this country, not just in the "preamble" either but in the full body of the new Constitution.
- A Bill Of Rights be established giving the Aboriginal Peoples full control of their country.
- We do not like being referred to as Indigenous Peoples but Aboriginal Peoples as the Indigenous stamp includes everyone and we want our autonomy.
- When the New Aboriginal (Indigenous) Body is formed that voting is compulsory.All elections to be free and democratically conducted.
- The New Body have a seat on COAG
- Apparent FUNDING arguments are about to arise, we wish the Australian Public be informed that all Mining and Natural Resource Royalties belong to the Aboriginal People and if any anyone is "Touching the Till", it is the Non Aboriginal (Indigenous) Types, therefore there is no question on funding. Also, all taxes paid by Aboriginal People be used for Aboriginal Purposes and a Super Fund is formed, we are fed up with being penniless and always under control by the Non Indigenous Types.
- Over the past 220 years, white beaucrats have been responsible for much of our peoples misery, in future, white beaucrats will have NO say on Aboriginal (Indigenous) Matters, we will rule ourselves.
- In relation to Aboriginal Electorates, for future voting procedures, this be done in accordance with Tribal (National) Boundaries.
- All previous Aboriginal (Indigenous) Bodies, ie ATSIC, NAC etc were set up to fail by the Illegal White Governments, the new body is set up by the Aboriginal Peoples, with no Non Aboriginal interference.
- Traditional Owners are religiously to be consulted in relation to any matter, of their National Area.
- The current Illegal governments expect Aboriginal Peoples to respect their LAW, but they show absolutely no respect for the Aboriginal LORE, why is this so, and we want this rectified as soon as possible, our culture is always to be respected.
- In relation to a new Aboriginal Senate Council of Elders/Youth/Male/Female), all National Parties be represented with two members and all Aboriginal members are not to receive any SALARY, they do it for the love of their people and their job. This Aboriginal Senate, will be the only contact the Non Indigenous world will have with the Aboriginal Peoples.
I respectfully request that I submit further Submissions before the 1st September, 2008 deadline as I have many more statements to make
Yours, In Indigenous Aboriginal Unity
Mr Ronald Terence Gannon J.P.Wiradjuri Elder
Public submission 14
I think having a National rep body is great! However I pray that the body reprsentatives are made of people who are really in touch with communites. I believe that most of our High end groups and Indigenous reps have lost touch with their communites and people.
In particular I am concerned with LALC's not all of the LALC's are serving there communites or land. There is a lot of neputism, alledged corruption and extremely bad buisness management on a day to day basis.
We need to include some of our young educated members of the public, not necessarily Indigenous people who are well known or who are favoured by political persuasion.
It is a time for change yes! However lets ensure that this change is not functioning on old worn out poor me's! Lets find active, proactive, smart Indigenous reps and not just people who are puppets and reciving large saleries. Lets find real buisness savvy, sound spirtual Indigenous members of our community.
Frankly we are sick and tired or the same old same old " Give us more" particulary money. How many houses can you build in one community only to have them trashed the week after. Lets find some tough love and stop encourging our people to stay as victims within our society.
Lets really use the words self determination, this also includes regonising issues of personal problems like drug and alchol addictions, gambling. These addictions are ruining our communites.
I don't have to go to NT to see poverty, drug abuse,overcrowding,sexual abuse. Just take a visit to any NSW housing area in Metroplitan Sydney. It is alive and well and our people are still unemployed,sick and dying regardless of City,town,camp or remote community.
We need to have a REP body that supports real change ,real programs and makes a real change!
Our ancestors must be really sad to see what has happened to us!Thanks
Public submission 15
The roles I see this body playing for the indigenous community will be a sounding board for the community to have a say in its own affairs. It will be a multi-functional body to transform, outline and convey information and services, with a consultative approach to government services and the indigenous community about indigenous affairs.
Some of the outcomes I would like to see this body achieve would be to close the life expectancy, health, education and housing gap. Working together with the indigenous community and government representatives with continuing conciliation in a holistic approach, I don't want to see individual members of the body bring their own agendas; the agenda must be for the good of the whole indigenous community. I don't want it to be run by one community or person. Everyone must be able to have an equal say, a round table approach. One way to support and not duplicate is to have not just service providers e.g.; Health and Housing but community members and counsellors, people who see the effects of domestic violence, overcrowding, lack of opportunity in education, health and housing. I think and this is my own opinion that there should be different ways of choosing people. There should be a balance of youth, middle aged and elders from every stat, male and female, educated people and people with life experience, people who are not afraid to speak their mind, who will not be intimidated by others and people who know when to be quiet and listen. Some of the ways you could choose people could be by inviting Aboriginal community organisations that do training, Universities and schools that are teaching indigenous students. Cultural resource centres, Elder groups, women and men’s groups, parenting groups. Organisations who play a proactive roll in their community to put forward candidates that are well known and respected in their communities. There much be certain criteria that is needed to be met e.g.; people who do not have a conflict of interest such as ownership of company or business that may profit from, must be autonomous with known outside influences, people must be willing to submit themselves to a mandatory working with children background check for the safety of our children and any other criteria non-indigenous organisations must submit to. If we are to be transparent, the community must be able to see the way things are handled, the body must be an example on how to do things right and have the same accountability processes and procedures in place as the rest of the country. If your expectations of our community do not measure up to the wider community, we will still be here in another 20 years. We all live in this country and have the same basic human needs. We don't need to have someone save us, we need to work together to be empowered to be self-sufficient and the only way to do this is with education and training. If someone can not read, teach him. We don't need welfare; we need qualifications so that we can compete in an ever-changing world.
Public submission 16
My belief of having a fair, open and honest representative body chosen by community and government endorsement the main reason I wish to submit a submission is to outline the need for change in leadership, especially Aboriginal representation. I'm sick of the so called leaders looking after their own interests and communities, while others suffer. We have had enough of the dodgy dealing by past leaders and all current so called leaders should be exempt from any leadership role. They had their chance to get it right and time after time they got it wrong (and stop blaming the government for your mistakes, greed and stupidity) hence why we are asking for new leadership and direction. The health and welfare of people continues to worsen, so it's time a new generation stepped up and took on the challenge. Personally I’m not here to gain anything for myself or my community; I want to see a fair, open and honest representation in many communities. Such things like CBWG are a waste of time and are often over represented by government workers who have roles as 9 to 5 blackfullas anyway. Then we have the elderly whom assume their age is the significant attribute of being an ELDER, Elders are not self appointed to communities, they are put there because they are respected as such by the whole community. If we were going to elect a body of elders to represent our community then I think it would be a waste of time. I have grown up to be respectful to my elders; some have been great leaders and role models to my community, but see it now as a token gesture for being old. We need a balance of young people as representatives on our peak body also. It's always easy to presume we know best for our kids, but don't take the time to ask. I would like to see a balance of 50/50 men and women represented. Being appointed should not be on academic qualifications or position held in government or community, it's about fair balance across a broad community base. For example how many unemployed people have a voice or stay at home mums and dads. The majority of what our people represent what about brothers and sisters in gaols, sure they may have a criminal record but they belong to a community and have a voice also, it's time for a change and with new leadership we will achieve great things. Where in many communities if you're not related you don't get to be housed or a fair go. I'm sick of seeing the unfair systems that divide our community and people, most out of greed, not necessity. I'm a proud Barkandji man and my children have cultural connection to the entire south coast of NSW, as well my cultural heritage and belonging in far west NSW
Public submission 17
The roles of the body I would want to see is to have more in DECISION MAKING AND CONSULTING
OUTCOMES for our people would be to deliver a positive direction (e.g. housing, health, education). The role I don't want to see is money given out on wasteful ideas with little outcome. The support should be with individual organisations and communities in urban and regional on need analysis to see a better life and future at all needs. The body would give to all those who wish to help and work with the body the right information and supportive data so this would be influential and persuasive to all who walk with us
Recognised leaders, business people, community people who are enthusiastic about making the future better for all. Skills, experience and qualities come from people who have experienced life in all ways and can communicate, discuss and facilitate for better outcomes.
Leadership comes from nominees from FaHCSIA Leadership Program as they have an understanding of some of the qualities in our communities. Also recognition to those men, women, youth and elders in our communities. Representation of views and priorities can be tabled at meetings held when body decides (e.g. weekly, fortnightly, monthly) and representation from the body's representatives in these areas
The Body should be set up the same as government or corporate structure with governance having a mission statement and under law be bound to it and if the outcomes are not favourable or nothing is achieved - remove them and replace those who can deliver outcomes.
The body will have government policy to work with to find the way and show the government what is really needed in partnership develop an outcome.
Funding can come for all aspects (main roads - education - health - housing) with mining as Number 1 - Non government organisations (as long as we have the body representation to give an outcome for those investing in the future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people and their lands. This is Aboriginal Australia and is very rich in resources to share for ALL Australians for a better future for all
Walk with us, share our Country, our Culture and our Dreaming and we can live a happy life together.
Public submission 20 - Arts Access Australia
Arts Access Australia supports the establishement of a National Indigenous Representative Body. Our particular interest is in the sustainability of the second tier of sector specific peak Indigenous organisations, like the National Indigenous Disability Network (NIDN), that will inform the work of the National Indigenous Representative Body and provide a pool of people who may sit on the Representative Body, in whatever form it takes.
Arts Access Australia is the peak national body for arts and disability. We work to support the cultural inclusion of the one in five Australians with a disability. Our work cuts across the arts, disability, ageing, mental health, employment and education portfolios.
In each of these areas we see a consistent under-representation of Indigenous people with a disability in decision making forums to inform government policy and monitor the effectiveness of government program delivery.
The prevalence of disability in Indigenous communities is at least double that of the overall population or two in five Indigenous Australians. This holds across metropolitan, regional and remote areas. The 2008 Report on Government Services includes an Indigenous Compendium which provides disability statistics. http://www.pc.gov.au/gsp/reports/rogs/compendium2008
In addition the 2007 KPMG Review of Disability Services in the NT found significant numbers of people with high support needs living in remote areas where there were fewer services. http://digitallibrary.health.nt.gov.au/dspace/bitstream/10137/134/1/disability_services_overview_feb2007.pdf
The National Indigenous Disability Network (NIDN) have formed a relationship with the National Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisation (NACCHO) though are not yet a sustainable organisation a decade after the need for its formation was recognised. NIDN have also produced the 'Brisbane Statement' of 8 December 2007 calling for a national secretariate, culturally appropriate services and making existing agencies more accessible.
Disability is a common theme across all the already identified areas of youth, women, stolen generations, traditional owners etc. Arts Access Australia recommends that Disability be an additional consideration in selecting the people who will participate in the National Indigenous Representative Body. In addition we suggest that the National Indigenous Representative Body can only be effective if it is working to a network of sustainable Indigenous peak bodies including the National Indigenous Disability Network. A sustainable NIDN will then be able to make a significant contribution to 'Closing the Gap'.
Arts Access Australia understands that the Department of Families and Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) is investigating the feasibility of establishing a sustainable peak Indigenous Disability organisation and we look forward to the outcome of this work.
Public submission 22
National Indigenous Representative Body (NIRB)
- A national/global voice for ATSI peoples of Australia
- A supporting/representing mechanism/body for Indigenous people
- ‘Indigenous business’ being addressed by Indigenous people
- Offered the capacity to generate and raise self-esteem, pride and confidence
- Indigenous agenda/issues can now be tabled ‘at the top’
- A closer negotiated position with government, business, & other’s
- NIRB can not possibly cater to each individual’s needs
- Funding insecurity (at this stage)?
- Goals; aims; vision; charge; mission; agenda; portfolio’s unclear (at this stage)?
- Unsure of service provision and/or core business to be conducted?
- Element of control, power, and authority – is unsure
- Majority of A&TSI will not be consulted during ‘workshop sessions’
- Greater employments prospects
- Greater accessibility into economic and business fields
- Improvements to the broader Indigenous ‘health & well-being’ domain
- The necessary resources required to negotiate with governments
- Taking more control over ‘Indigenous business’ – as a whole
- Greater prospects for ‘sound’ partnerships/collaborations
- Formidable and structured cultural education/awareness/attunement sessions
- Health, housing, education, and livelihoods, get a proper/sound ‘look-in’
- Mirror the negativity aspects of ATSIC
- ‘black fella – white fella crab’ mentality
- Nepotism, favouritism, preferential treatment
- Constant media attention and other scrutinizing/smearing campaigns
- Wrong or bad decisions re ‘funding allocation’
- Selection and appointment of ‘representatives’/committees/advisory
- Office location?
Finally, I would like express a concern that once the ‘preliminary workshops’ have been completed, that there will be a view from (many) ‘others’ who will argue that what each group expressed/offered during the workshops, that it doesn’t represent the view of the majority! For whatever reason, some people were not able to attend; or, that the ‘delivery of these sessions’ did/could not reach the many remote areas and ‘other centres’. There needs to be some covenant/disclaimer included highlighting this.
Public submission 24
Megan Davis BA, LLB, LLM
This submission is based on my doctoral research pertaining to Aboriginal women's representation in Australia. It is crucial that Aboriginal women have a political voice equal to Aboriginal men. My research has consistently called for a representative body with a mandated 50-50 equal representation between Aboriginal women and Aboriginal men. It is not enough to simply appoint women or have special roles for Aboriginal women. Equality must be entrenched within the structure as this will dictate the tenor and the culture of the institution. Many Aboriginal women supported this idea in the ATSIC Review.
It is well established that federal and state parliaments have been indifferent to law reform on Indigenous issues for decades. The problems raised in the Little Children are Sacred report, for example, are problems that the state had known about for decades – a long time before ATSIC was established. The fact that the state is particularly indifferent to the challenges facing Aboriginal women necessitates serious consideration of gender equality in the structure.
No one can represent the voice or experiences of Aboriginal women better than Aboriginal women themselves. There are many recommendations in ATSIC’s own audit of its programs and policies for Indigenous women that can guide this. For example, Aboriginal women said that barriers to standing for election included travel time, time away from home, lack of confidence and childcare. This new representative body has the opportunity to be innovative in its design to encourage Aboriginal women’s participation, prepare representatives for their role and accommodate their unique interests and needs as women, carers, mothers, sisters, grandmothers and daughters.
The National Representative Body should be underpinned by principles of democracy and the rule of law. Direct election can facilitate that commitment whether on a regional level or a national level. Indigenous peoples are entitled to have a say on who represents them – it is a fundamental principle of self-determination.
Self-determination is seriously misrepresented in Australia. It is an internationally recognised human right – a democratic entitlement. Self-determination is about having a say in who represents you and participating in the decisions that impact upon your life. And it is the ballot box that can provide that but only if the process is configured in a way that promotes gender equality. Otherwise any direct election mechanism will be male dominated.
The balance must be right because any structure that is not directly elected must cautiously take into account concerns raised by the community time and time again, particularly in the ATSIC Review, pertaining to issues of nepotism, family fighting, factions and identity politics.
Any Executive of a national representative body with decision-making power that is "appointed" or "selected" will inevitably fail regardless of “eminence” or “expertise”. This is because for any public institution to be successful it must have the trust and confidence of the people. This is a fundamental tenet of public law and of democracy. Even if the selection committee is “Indigenous”, the process is too easily undermined. A national board or executive arm that is not elected in some way will not be representative, will lack legitimacy and credibility. It is an entirely different thing to appoint or handpick an advisory body. But that is separate and distinct to the purpose and mandate of an Executive body that makes decisions and is accountable to Indigenous Australia.
The work of the body should be informed by international human rights law. It is important that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples underpins the work of the body and is acknowledged as reflecting evolving standards pertaining to Indigenous peoples. It can form a basis upon which Indigenous peoples engage with each other and the state.
In particular the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides that States shall take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.
Law reform and advocacy is a critical aspect of any representative body. It is necessary that there is well-targeted international engagement. Particularly in relation to Australia’s poor performance under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Law reform advocacy will play a central role particularly in the context of equality before the law, over representation in the criminal justice system, Indigenous knowledge and cultural protection and the rights of the child. Also, a critical area that has suffered from a lack of national voice is Native Title. Especially in regards to its diminution through statute but mostly through misinterpretation by the common law of the content of traditional laws and customs and proof of native title - it is critical that the representative body plays a national role to remedy this injustice.
The body should be charged with a review and evaluation role and should monitor and report on the performance of state and federal expenditure. It should have a lead role in Indigenous policy development and because of this, have a research arm to produce evidence based research, and collaborate with nationally based research centres who specialise in Indigenous issues.
The body should not have any role in service delivery. It should not be burdened with the hybrid structure that ATSIC had which enabled state and federal government’s to pass the blame on all indicators of Indigenous disadvantage.
Finally it is crucial that the body’s decisions be open and transparent. It is important that Aboriginal people have the opportunity to sit in on public deliberations and discussions of issues that affect them. Obviously it is not feasible that all meetings are public however it is important that people are able to see democracy in action. This engenders a sense of ownership and it is that sense of ownership and faith in an institution that is the key to its success and longevity.
Public submission 26
There have been a multitude of attempts to try and manage Aboriginal Affairs, and to have Aboriginal people manage their own affairs, and all have failed, because the underlying doctrine to each approach was critically flawed.
What is the underlying doctrine? Since first contact over 200 years ago the thinking of administrators and successive governments has been to deal with Aboriginal people based upon a myth that this land was Terra Nullius (land belonging to no-one). However, with the overturning of Terra Nullius in 1992, this should have caused a complete shift in the paradigms of land ownership, mineral rights, resource rights, sea and other territorial rights, instead there was a watering down of the significance of overturning of Terra Nullius, this was convenient and helped validate successive government actions, and to placate and control debate about Aboriginal sovereignty. If this country does not approach future solutions for Aboriginal management of Aboriginal matters with the underlying premise built upon the fact that Aboriginal people are sovereign people, then any attempt will be token and will be doomed to failure. In my view, Aboriginal sovereign rights must be recognised either through constitutional changes and or a treaty with all Aboriginal people. This would need to set in stone the correct doctrine that Aboriginal people not only have Native Title rights “within” Australian law, but have a separate identity, we are not just “ordinary citizens” as wrongly implied by the 1967 referendum.
Alternately, no sovereign rights nor a treaty need to be formally recognised or entered into, however, a model can be set up that is inline with that doctrine. With perhaps, the question of sovereignty and a treaty left up for the “new” model to deal with.
There would need to be at least two arms to the new model, a political and an executive arm. The political arm could work in with the current Australian Parliamentary systems which would rather than seek to have separate departments or agencies for Aboriginal affairs would ensure that proper scrutiny is placed upon the actions of the Australian Government and it’s agencies. The executive arm could be set up to administer funds that are provided to Aboriginal people from a percentage of Australia’s GDP, for arguments sake 5%.
Models then that would work with this doctrine would include a combination of the Swedish Sami Parliamentary system combined with an executive arm funded from a percentage of Australia’s GDP. The Aboriginal Parliament function similarly to the Senate committees in which Government actions can be publicly questioned and perhaps there should be a rubber stamp or endorsement function as well. This would be in exchange for a good portion of a percentage of Australia’s GDP being paid back to the Australian Government in recognition that it is the Australian Government who provides services to “all” Australians, for instance 3% never leaves the Government purse. The remaining 2% of GDP is set aside for divesting the income to Aboriginal Communities, families, individuals and the advisors or executors of the GDP royalty fund. This can be based upon the Royalty model in the Northern Territory Land Rights Act, which has proved to work very well to help equitably disperse funds to Communities, for general investment and to individuals. For example, the Land Councils are funded from a percentage of the mining royalties on Aboriginal Land (as deemed in the NT Aboriginal Lands Right Act). Under this Act the Aboriginal Land Councils who act as the key advisors, and royalty fund administrators are have a duly elected Aboriginal governing committee, who in turn elect an elect an executive for expedience. Therefore, the Land Councils are separate from government and are specialised non government service that is directed and controlled by the Aboriginal people who they serve, and which is fully paid for as a result of activities on deemed Aboriginal Land. The Land Councils carry on activities as directed by the Aboriginal executive and in this sense can be staffed with appropriately skilled and experienced experts as required, freeing up the Aboriginal members to continue with economic, social and cultural activities. The royalty funding is also structured in such a way that a major portion goes to those groups most affected by the mining activity, but also ensures that there is a general payment of royalties to all Aboriginal families/individuals. This system is set in stone in the Land Rights Act and can not be altered by the Land Councils or the elected Aboriginal Governing body. However, there has been some criticism of the lump sum payments, and rather than having very large individual cash payouts handed funds could be spread out over the financial year, in the form of a weekly or fortnightly income boosts much like the family supplement payments, with a smaller lump sum paid once a year, or a sliding scale in which one could choose the optimal structure for themselves, but must include a balance of lump sum and regular booster payments, no lump sum only payments. Just like the structure of the royalty funding under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, it should be wholly and solely decided by Aboriginal people, and must be set in stone, so that no matter who is elected to the executive they can not alter the equitable arrangements to the payments and therefore eliminating the risks of favouritism, nepotism and corruption. I favour that holders of office in either the political or executive arms are elected, and are duly paid sitting fees and expenses, and decisions are made by majority vote, but that there is no single or prime office holder who has a casting vote or power of veto.
Public submission 27
The issue of greatest concern is the way in which the National Indigenous Body is selected.
I Believe that all Aboriginal people have a right to say who will represent their views and the way in which they are presented.
The failures of the past has put Aboriginal issues back time after time, because those persons put up to represent Aboriginal people in most cases put their own views forward.
If that is the case again then the representative body is doomed to the fate of the last two organisations.
What Aboriginal people want is the right to ensure that what is said by the members of any representative body truly reflect the opinion of the people and not that of the individuals on the panel.
To-date, nothing has ever been said by any of the representative bodies that reflects the opinion of the majority of Aboriginal people.
If this representative is to succeed the Aboriginal people must have a say in who represents them.
If this does not happen, it will be a token action by the Federal Government and will achieve nothing for Aboriginal people.
Public submission 30
I want to see the rep body to make funding available for Indigenous Sporting groups to help young indigenous people (children) achieve their sporting goals. Due to the lack of financial support, Indigenous sporting clubs have been forced to cease which leaves children open to boredom and which could lead to Drug, Alcohol, physical, mental & other abuse. Sports bring children together as friends and not enemies. Funding young indigenous sporting clubs will play a major role in the upbringing of their lives and will also make a dramatic change for their future as leaders and role models. This funding needs to be re-occurring and not one off and also need to be available all year round (financial year).
If we want to close the gap we need to start influencing out children and our children’s children.
Public submission 31
One of the most supported manners of putting a Rep Body together is to go back to those that can claim connection to that country. This may entail checking with land councils and community elders to determine those that really care for the area and the people progressing. This will short-cut those seeking fame and funding for their own causes.
The majority of the people who have attended the consultation are the ‘typical’ professional committee members that typically are attracted to a like ATSIC structure that enable rorting of the system.
You will not find the real people who should be talking for country and people in this way. The search needs to hit the road and travel to remote areas to ensure they also are represented
Public submission 32
It is critical that any new elected body be representative of the diversity of Indigenous communities. Most bodies that claim to represent Indigenous people are not inclusive.
One of the most vulnerable "groups" of Indigenous people are Indigenous people with disabilities and their carers. It is no good purporting to consult when people with disabilities and their carers are often not able to attend meetings.
I would like to see positions earmarked so that our diversity is both recognised and represented. For example there could be positions for people with disabilities (or their advocate), carers, people from remote or urban areas, women, younger people and older people, people who represent the arts or sports, people with an education, employment, legal, land rights, media etc background and of course a member of the stolen generations.
This helps to ensure that we are ALL represented and shows the wider Australian community that we are not an homogenous group.
Public submission 33
Some foundational principles to consider include:
- Having legitimacy and credibility with both governments and indigenous peoples
- Two-way accountability – to government and to indigenous people and communities
- Transparency in it’s operations, membership and determining membership or election, and policy making and financial processes
- Being truly representative of the diverse range of Indigenous peoples
- Having a consistent and ‘connected’ structure that has clear links between the national body, indigenous peak bodies and Indigenous organisations at the state, territory and regional levels
- Providing independent and robust advocacy and analysis
To achieve its goals, a National Indigenous Representative Body could also be expected to:
- Play a leading role in making a new partnership between governments and Indigenous people
- Ensure Indigenous people contribute to and lead policy development on Indigenous issues
- Provide an Indigenous perspective on broader government issues, such as climate change or homelessness
- Be a strong and consistent advocate for the rights of Indigenous peoples
- Ensure proper mechanisms are in place to monitor the performance of governments on Indigenous issues
- Ensure government commitments, such as ‘closing the gap’ on health inequality etc, are supported by comprehensive, long-term and evidenced-based action plans.
I believe it is important for our representative body to perform all of these functions, however duplication of that is already available would occur. To avoid this it is integral that it be fed information by the community organisation. Hence a mechanism for a clear channel of information needs to flow into it. It must have a clearance house/research branch to collate this information.
Public submission 34
Should the national structure of the National Indigenous Representative Body be;
- Based on a model of merit selection by a panel of eminent Indigenous peers; no elections. Eminent peers nominated by people Australia-wide.
- Providing for the participation of Indigenous peak bodies and possibly other organisations, in a purely advisory capacity
- Be required to have an equal representation of Indigenous women and men on the national structure
A combination of the above and;
- Providing training, communication and community engagement skills for all members – compulsory
- The national Indigenous Representative Body should be established independent of government with limits on funding for operations (see below)
- National Indigenous Representative Body can work with, and inform State/Territory governments by having a liaison person/presence in each State or Territory
- NIRB should act as advisory, policy formulation, and solutions generator. Issues yes, Solutions yes.
- NIRB should report formally to Federal Parliament including Action Plans, KPIs and results.
- NIRB should be funded by a mix of: Government funding; some form of charitable aim or status; a capital base (establishment fund); charge membership fees like any other representative body; and definitely charge for the deliver of services or products
Public submission 35
Foundation Principles as recommended by my Submission
Government must accept that Aboriginal Culture in inalienable as a fundamental right of Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander People.
The National Indigenous Representative Body has to be legitimate and credible to ATSI Peoples first, and not as a representation of populist Aboriginal Leaders.
The National Indigenous Representative Body must be fully accountable to ATSI people first. This will include transparency in its operations, membership, policy making and financial processes and to the priority of actions affirmed by Aboriginal Communities not the Executive.
The National Indigenous Representative Body members will be drawn from Aboriginal communities that is reflected by urban, remote, rural and DISCRETE (this last category is the most disadvantaged in Australia) and must have Cultural Competency in being able to represent the community that they come from and fully comprehend Aboriginal law and it’s implications to community networks and the value placed upon the relationship to all land and waters, and the Aboriginal environment.
The National Indigenous Representative Body will have mandatory Federal Government grass roots level up to ALL Government Departments and incorporate legitimate Indigenous peak bodies and organisations (the list in the Rep Body Issues paper has included non-operational and non-funded organisations and government bodies that are not community representative in their membership)
1. To Achieve Goals the National Indigenous Representative Body must;
Provide a direct communication link between Community and Federal government and also in reverse that is communicated and transparent to Aboriginal communities. For example, the NIC was not communicating its advice to government to Aboriginal communities and not seen to voice Aboriginal community priorities.
Provide policy papers for Aboriginal community consideration and then directed to Government covering every ATSI community concerns, whether it be housing, health, water, climate change and Government whether Federal, State or Local.
Ensure that Policy Papers given to Government are processed in a timely manner and where the Government can propose amendments or new Bills under Australian Law to include the proposals from Aboriginal policies.
Ensure that Government commitments to action are in place and working with long term monitoring by the National Indigenous Representative Body. (e.g. The Maori have 500 year succession planning, according to the Waitangi Treaty Court Chief Justice Jo Williams, and Australia has only electoral timeframes)
2. Roles and Functions
Government program Delivery
The Australian Government already runs and administers all delivery programs but the National Indigenous Representative Body will have to monitor and ensure compliance with the delivery of all Aboriginal programs to ensure they are employed predominantly by Indigenous Australian staff and that Aboriginal community submissions are included and not watered down in the policy drafting stage. Any policy changes for the betterment of ATSI will be done by the issuing of policy papers by the National Indigenous Representative Body with consultation with the ATSI communities, and the preference will be given to a broad range of Indigenous Australian researchers and not written by a small populist Indigenous groups or non-Indigenous researchers at universities and other bodies.
The National Indigenous Representative Body needs to be a legitimate advocate for ATSI issues, using sound research, whether internal or external (see previous statement on the inclusion of Aboriginal researchers). Underpinned by current research in quantitative and qualitative research and not including the overseas comparisons that are unrepresentative of Aboriginal communities in Australia. Research presentation must have more than adequate funding and human resources in building new relationships with Government Departments, and Non-Government Organisations ‘in closing gaps’. Providing performance indicators when they are achieved and communicating this to Aboriginal communities who are “the shareholders in Australia’s enterprise”.
Any and all policy papers submitted from National Indigenous Representative Body to Government must have full community support even though policy might not affect all communities.
The National Indigenous Representative Body through representation from a consultant group or indigenous lawyers across Australia who represent a range of law areas, could facilitate legal and policy papers where the community have directed interest in and of Aboriginal community concerns to ‘close the gap’. These papers would then reflect law issues on any legitimate legal concern as they affect ATSI within Australia.
Review and Evaluation
Part of the National Indigenous Representative Bodies mandate is to monitor both the government and itself. Any members of the Nation Rep Body need to have regular field visits in Aboriginal communities to know what the issues are and to stay with communities on their living conditions and not five star ‘Blackfellas’. This monitoring by the National Indigenous Representative Body is to be reported back to the Government and to all ATSI communities.
‘Clearing House’ for Information
All ATSI communities need information whether it is on health, housing, environment, water, social justice and any thing that affects Aboriginal communities. Therefore the National Indigenous Representative Body will insist that ALL service providers ensure that the relevant information is available in a timely fashion and the outcome will not be to provide big incomes for non-Aboriginal consultants as native title has done.
The National Indigenous Representative Body will have representation on any United Nations or other legitimate International body, where a legitimate presentation can be made on behalf of ALL ATSI. Other previous Aboriginal ‘Leaders’ have never communicated what the international trips they made had relevance to normal Aboriginal communities who don’t have jobs or a university education. The representative to any of these international bodies must not only be true representative of ATSI communities but also go with Cultural Competency to truly be representative. The same small group of Aboriginal people seem to dominate the consultant positions that come up on a national and state level and there are other smart Blackfellas out there. The government employs this usual bunch on a regular basis (e.g. Warren Mundine, Mick Dodson, Larissa Behrendt, Noel Pearson and Marcia Langton).
Also the National Indigenous Representative Body must ensure that the Government ratify and adopt the United Nations Document ‘The International Indigenous Rights’ at the earliest possible moment and be applied into law.
The National Indigenous Representative Body will have the opportunity to use the Indigenous Leadership Association to carry out on-ground research in ALL communities and to supplement this with outside Aboriginal qualified researchers. This will allow the National Indigenous Representative Body to gain skills on research and presentation. This Rep Body can employ educated Aboriginal people to help their communities instead of living in the city and making big incomes, forgetting their roots.
Facilitation and Mediation
The National Indigenous Representative Body can use the resources of Indigenous Leadership Association and outside facilitations experts to mediate between Aboriginal Communities and Aboriginal Companies, whether it is in Mining, Forestry, Water, Cultural Lands and Sites etc. The appropriately ATSI qualified external Facilitators can be hired on a fee for service basis and not at exaggerated consultant fees.
The National Indigenous Representative Body will be made up of community representatives who have cultural competence. That all communities recognise Tribal Boundaries, irregardless of State boundaries and the use of the non-Aboriginal maps such as David Hortons map is not used. This will allow for a more equitable representation of communities and the boundary disputes are Blackfellas business and not the governments.
Each community will put forward (through it’s registered body corporate) potential leaders/representatives that, will through regional meetings, choose a cultural competent representative to sit on National body who can demonstrate their cultural knowledge and cultural understanding of the cultural diversity of ATSI communities.
This person/s will be culturally aware of issues within the communities and be acceptable to all of the community members and have their performance rated for competence.
These people will then become the voice of their communities and be a fair, honest representative on all issues within their communities. Any representatives who have been convicted of offences violent to women should not be employed, or who are big drinkers so our young don’t have poor role models, any offence against children.
Structure of a National Body
The National Indigenous Representative Body will be constituted from GRASS ROOTS representatives as outlined above, plus representation from all States and Territories for Women, Stolen Generation, Traditional Owners, Knowledge Holders and Young People. The professional rep Aboriginal Consultants will help facilitate ATSI reps for policy papers, legal documents and any professional help they require at a pro bono benefit to Aboriginal communities
4. Relationship with Federal Government and Parliament
The National Indigenous Representative Body must operate as a statutory body, being independent of Government, but with full access to all levels of Government and Parliament, such as resources.
The Australian Constitution must be changed to allow 7 seats in both the upper and lower houses so that any policy matters affecting ATSI people can be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner that is transparent and cross checked for real outcomes.
Being a statutory body under special laws the National Indigenous Representative Body will be able to submit policy papers to Parliament for consideration.
The National Indigenous Representative Body will report to Parliament by annual report.
The National Indigenous Representative Body will establish an exclusively Indigenous Committee with democratically elected representatives with powers equal to Parliamentarians. Currently Aboriginal men have over taken all of the media discussion on men and women’s business and these needs to be addressed.
The National Indigenous Representative Body will have full representation on all COAG committees and full council meeting and have ATSI reps on the National Water Commission and all government executive groups that decide or debate on Aboriginal issues, for example, if there is an Aboriginal representative they are government employed and unable to speak freely from their position and pressured to tow the government policy and law direction.
As a statutory body funding can be provided through Government on a 3rd party arrangement so that arms length distance from control by government can be maintained with the independence required by all the communities. This could also be funded through a direct grant from Government at X Dollars per year + Cost of Living Allowance. ATSIC and any other government department such as Aboriginal Affairs and like are all towing the government agenda and this was no clearer than in the previous Howard era when ATSI people had jobs and mortgages tied up and would not jeopardise these to speak out.
Public submission 36
The proposed Commonwealth Indigenous Reference Group
This group will need bipartisan support at government level to maintain continuation of service.
This group needs to monitor government services to Indigenous Peoples.
The government need to be made accountable to this group.
The government need to respond to the priorities as at time to time will be set by this group.
There needs to be a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and this Body
This body does not need to be involved with direct funding of services.
This Body needs to be separate from delivery of services.
This Body will need its own Charter and Secretariat, with sufficient funding to allow community consultations to take periodically with all indigenous peoples irregardless of where they are residing.
This Body needs to maintain autonomy in relation to advocacy.
There needs to be ordinary members of this group who are to pay annual membership fees.
Representatives of this Body need to be elected onto this group by the indigenous peoples and the process for this needs to be under the direct control of the Electoral Commission.
Public submission 37
Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly
The Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly welcomes the establishment of a national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The government’s decision to negotiate a national representative body is an historic decision-making moment.
The loss of a national structure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the abolition of the ATSIC system has been detrimental to the advocacy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interests.
We recognise an opportunity to re-shape the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people participate in the machinery of government while at the same time having a strong and independent advocacy organisation. We need to get it right.
We believe it would be impractical at this time during the consultations to prescribe the constitution of a national body. Important for us, however, are the regional and local arrangements to underpin national governance arrangements.
We believe there are three key elements in the development of a national representative body as part of governance arrangements in Indigenous Affairs - policy, advocacy and accountability.
The crucial element is to determine what a national body will do. That decision should allow for an evolutionary process from communities and regions to pull the composition together.
Our submission is based on more than a decade of building regional and community governance structures in western New South Wales during all phases of government policy - within the ATSIC system, the promotion of regional autonomy as a government policy objective, under the then government’s new administrative arrangements following the abolition of ATSIC, and now within a new compact of change and reform.
A Legislative Framework
As a successor to the former ATSIC Regional Council, the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly believes that any new national representative body, however it is constituted, should derive its legitimacy from communities and be accepted by government as an integral part of Indigenous governance arrangements within the Australian federation.
Based on our experience, a national representative body should be able to influence government while being part of a framework to ensure the accountability of mainstream agencies in delivering services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the regional and community level.
With the experience of the abolition of ATSIC behind us, the Assembly remains suspicious of any legislative arrangement, exposing structures to the will of the Government of the day. There needs, nevertheless, to be a legislative connection between a national elected body and government.
The absence of a legislative framework of national and regional governance removes the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be their own agents of change while at the same time assisting the government in the formulation of policies and their implementation. To achieve this requires a genuine voice at the national, regional and community level working in harmony with each other.
We believe that with appropriate amendments, the existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 provides a legislative framework for the creation and operation of a national representative body linked structurally to government and regions.
This is inherent in the first object of the Act “to ensure maximum participation of Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders in the formulation and implementation of government policies that affect them.”
In creating a national representative body, it is important to avoid the real danger that a national representative body may be portrayed, and in the end, sidelined, as a lobby organisation and not formally recognised as a legitimate participant as a key stakeholder in Indigenous development.
To achieve this a national body must have the resources to research and argue independent positions informed by the circumstances, experience and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the regional and community levels.
In these circumstances, the legislative connections are important to provide for a relationship with government, on the one hand, and with regional and community structures on the other, while maintaining the independence of a national representative body.
It is our view that the 2020 summit opened the door on a statutory commission that would bring government service providers to account for the investment of public funds in accordance with priorities determined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the responsibility of agencies to perform effectively, efficiently and accountably in response to needs identified by Indigenous communities.
The government’s broad policy framework in response is based on “closing the gap” in Indigenous disadvantage, driven by the Australian Government’s relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people “being recast through meaningful engagement, not just consultation for its own sake.”1
Underpinning the government’s approach is strong leadership and good corporate governance to achieve long-term sustainable outcomes in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 2
There is also government recognition that improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people requires reform of governance and accountabilities – new ways of working – to ensure that government expenditure is targeted, effective and accountable.3 This requires a new partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people - “working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people rather than imposing solutions on them.” 4
Connecting Government, a National Representative Body and the Regions
The connecting structural interface between Indigenous people and government will be an important element of any new arrangements. These arrangements should be flexible enough to embrace regional governance entities developed in Indigenous communities. The Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly represents but one example of such an entity.
Such a structure suggests that the existing Indigenous Policy Commission move from being an administrative construct to having legislative authority so as to provide the operational linkage between an independent national representative body, government, and the regions. Unlike ATSIC, such a Commission would be policy oriented and would have no program responsibilities.
We would see an Indigenous Policy Commission being a lead agency in the development of policy and the provision of services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, reinforced by its connection with a national representative body. We would envisage cross membership of such a Commission, including persons nominated by the national representative body.
A national body should emerge out of local and regional arrangements. Thus, in making a decision on a national body, there needs to be a parallel decision on regional arrangements.
The Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly believes there is a strong case for the restoration of the former Part Three of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989, establishing a legislative framework for regional entities which will feed into a national representative body and government decision-making.
An amendment to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act along these lines would provide a statutory link between a national body and regional entities, with a focus on improving mainstream service delivery at the regional and community levels through the direct participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and engagement with them in planning and setting priorities.
It should be open for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to determine their own representative structures reflecting the diverse circumstances of Indigenous communities. The Minister would be empowered to prescribe regional bodies that meet the principles of the government’s new arrangements and to recognise bodies incorporated under State and Territory legislation where there is agreement between the jurisdictions.
Indigenous people need to be involved in the design and delivery of mainstream services so that they may control, or have strong influence over, service delivery expenditure and regional and local service delivery arrangements.
To this end, a reinstated part 3 of the legislation would seek to provide for:
- the full and effective participation of Indigenous people in decisions affecting funding distribution and service delivery by government agencies
- collaborative processes to maximise opportunities for pooling of funds and cross-functional approaches to service delivery
- the targeting of funds provided for the delivery of major government works and services
- single line national and regional budgets incorporating the inputs of all government agencies
- promote leadership, strategy and accountability
- ensure a “regional focus” so that service strategies are shaped by the needs of particular regions and communities and that services are delivered in accordance with local priorities and preferred delivery methods
In all instances, the structures must have the agreement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in the region. A national representative body would provide a necessary national approach to Indigenous development built around and strengthened by regional participation.
A key to the achievement of the government’s “whole of government” goals is the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in strategic planning, the determination of functional priorities, coordination arrangements at the regional level and the involvement of communities in the delivery of services through community action plans. Appropriate governance structures are necessary to ensure this participation.
A legislative framework would give strength to future arrangements and guide the development and accreditation of effective structures across the country in partnership with Indigenous Coordination Centres as the tools of Departmental coordination reflecting community priorities. Such a framework would strengthen Indigenous leadership at both the national and regional levels.
Consideration needs to be given by government to the desirability of a white paper on future structural arrangements once the consultations have been concluded so that there can be an appropriate national debate on the broad thrust of new policy proposals in Indigenous Affairs.
- Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, Statement by the Hon. Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 13 May 2008
- Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, Statement by the Hon. Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 13 May 2008
- Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, Statement by the Hon. Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 13 May 2008
Public submission 38
- Round table of 150 people to be selected/ appointed. But what is the format for membership to the round table, there need to be a vast range of people on this body and it will need to be a mixture of youth, elders, men and women also having equal amount from each section.
- I feel that to be a part of this body that they shouldn’t be eligible if they are on another body as time and devotion is needed to ensure that this works.
- There also needs to be a clause made with the government in the policy that once this body is in place no other government can take this body away.
- It needs to deal with and work in conjunction with other government services; basically all the government agencies should have an indigenous liaison officer in which should correspond with this body on a regular basis.
- Also a member of this body should be required to liaise with government and also should have a seat in parliament so there voice should be heard.
- You really need to select people from every part of Australia who are willing to be involved on a community, state and national level, and who really want to be a part of something really good for our indigenous people. We don’t want people who are only there for the money and who really aren’t there for others and are only there for themselves.
- I really think that the organisation need to be government funded until it can establish itself and have the aim to become self funded so it become self supporting.
- Sitting fees and extra bonuses like that shouldn’t be in the meetings and shouldn’t be perks of the job, I think that this would only get the wrong people in the positions that we really need people who have our best interests at heart and people who really want to be there and aren’t just there for the money, these fees should be awarded but not to the people to the people of whom they represent. Of course travel allowances are ok people shouldn’t be out of pocket for travelling, but the excessive fees that people receive are really just a waste of money and create negative views from the public. These fees should be granted to people but they will be not given to them personally; they should all be put into a funds/scholarship for people to attain by achievement in our communities. E.g. the people on the body from each state and territory will gain the same amount of fees into an account and then every state and territory will offer the same grants/scholarships but will have different reason for the scholarships and grants. These differences will depend on what is needed in their specific areas.
- Also people who are on the board should have what they have in Rugby League, they should have salary caps, cause honestly you really would want the people who are willing to do this as they show that they aren’t here for the money, they will show that they are willing to do this work for the Australian Indigenous people. It should be in there contract they actually can get whatever salary they are getting now but there should be a levy that they can only earn this amount and everything over that amount should go to their state kitty to help with their grants/scholarships or community aids.
- This representation body should handle everything to do with aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and also be involved with the main areas of Health, Education, Social Services, and Land Rights and as I stipulated earlier there should be liaison officers in each government sector that reports to this body and works within each sector to create a good basis of communication with the people and government.
- It needs to be united with the Australian Indigenous people and the Federal Government; we need to have a common unity and goal.
I hope that you read this information and if you have any further questions about any of my points please don’t hesitate to contact me as I would be glad to assist you in anything that I can.
Public submission 39
Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages
FATSIL's's proposal for an Indigenous Representative Body
FATSIL's proposal calls for unity amongst existing National Indigenous Peak Bodies in forming an new National Indigenous Representative Body.
In the past there has been an attempt by Governments to handpick individuals which only creates resentment. Time and time again we hear Indigenous people saying that certain Indigenous people cannot and do not speak on their behalf. If the Governement continues to use handpick Indigenous individuals then the new National Indigenous Representative Body will fall well short of its intended purpose. FATSIL believes this is the reason behind the low turnout for the FaHCSIA's consultation meetings.
The selction of Indigenous leaders already takes place on a regular basis through National Indigenous Peak Bodies. These people who are committed, dedicated and non-self serving are out there doing what they do best and are not looking for large rewards. These are the experts that any new representative body must entice if it’s to succeed.
The down side of a National Indigenous Peak Body and this type of structure is that it wont have expert knowledge in all areas, but in the National Representative Proposal being put forward by the Federal Government, all encompasing expertise is not feasible. Other mechanisms and processes are available to provide specific advice when required.
What FATSIL's proposal calls for is leadership, accountability, a democratic election process and inclusion in the decision making process.
The positive for FATSIL's proposal is that proven leadership and representation already exists through National Indigenous Peak Bodies. Consultation and representation already fitlers through and is communicated through advocay, lobbying and policy. If any one individual fails in their duty, a process already exists where that person can be challenged. Accountability, innovation and vision are alive in kicking within Indigenous Peak Bodies.
FATSIL's proposal ensures is about bringing together what already exisit out there. Bringing togther proven leaders who work or hold an interest in their chosen field. FATSIL believes that the National Indigenous Peak Body Association must also have the ability to commission "White Papers" and "Green Papers" as its sees fit. It must also have the ability to investigate or co-investigate matters of public concern. Incorporating existing Indigenous Peak Bodies also grants the Association its Independence.
FATSIL is currently developing a Heads of Agreement to form a National Indigenous Peak Body Association and has spoken to several keen groups. Feedback has been positive and we believe in time the Association may wish to become a corporate body. Prior to that there must be a trial period of at least 2 years to iron out any flaws and improve processes.
FATSIL's plan to form an assocation through a legally non-binding method allows members to exclude themselves. This is an important component in a democractic society.
Membership must also include non-Indigenous representation who would attend meetings with no voting status.
For FATSIL's proposal to succeed, members must receive sitting fee's but not a salary.
The long term vision is to have a body that is enacted through legistation. FATSIL is proposing that this legistion be called the "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages and Culture Act". The alternative to this Act would be a Treaty.
ATSIL hereby requests that you consider our National Indigenous Peak Body Assocation as the preliminary body that would eventually become the New Indigenous Representative Body for Australia. We are willing to meet with you to discuss this further but in the meantime, we will proceed with our proposal.
Public submission 40
- Thankyou for the opportunity to provide this submission to the Consultations for the proposed National Indigenous Representative Body
- We would like to address the following issues:
- The need for a national representative body;
- The lessons learned from previous representative bodies;
- The need for a regional level of representation;
- The need to build on existing state and regional representative structures;
- The need to adhere to the principles of democracy in relation to a normal representative structure; and,
- Options for resourcing and a national representative structure.
I. The Need for a National Representative Structure
Since the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), there has been a significant and noticeable gap in broad national Indigenous policy advice and critique of government activity in Indigenous affairs. Rather, policy critique has been uncoordinated and disparate between various Indigenous organisations. This has weakened the position of Indigenous peoples in general, with various governments taking advantage of the situation by privileging particular individuals and organisations that support their measures while ignoring the bulk of people and groups that do not. This situation also allows governments to mislead the public and misrepresent Indigenous affairs in such a way as to build strength of support for their initiatives.'
Tim Goodwin "A New Partrership Based on Justice and Equity: A Legislative Structure for a National Indigenous Representative Body", in Journal of Indigenous Policy Volume 10 fothcoming 2008
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need a national representative structure for many reasons including:
- On many issues - Land, heritage protection, human rights protections, resource management - Indigenous peoples will have a policy perspective that is contrary to that of the Federal Government.
- The Federal Government is responsible for the development of policy and programs for Indigenous peoples. Those policies and programs will work better with the input of Indigenous people, both to identify policy and funding priorities and to ensure Indigenous participation and ownership of those policies and programs
- A national body provides for a unified Indigenous voice across Australia. Although the priorities of Indigenous communities across Australia may vary, advocacy through a national body will be more effective than a number of competing regional voices.
- A national body can lessen the tensions between different Aboriginal communities such as the north/south divide -by seeking to negotiate a unified voice rather than exacerbate the "wedging" of one group against another.
- Further, in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery into Aboriginal communities, there needs to be an investment in building the interface between Aboriginal communities and government. A national representative body can facilitate the interface between Aboriginal communities and governments that want to consult with them and include them in the development of policies, programs and service delivery.
- Tim Goodwin makes the following observation about the implications of having no national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples:
- We would also note the Australian Labor Party’s 2007 Platform and Constitution:
Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders
44. Labor will review the current citizenship rights extended to youth, including suffrage, discrimination and representation in the policy making process and seek to extend these rights where they respond inadequately to young people's needs and legitimate aspirations.
- To promote the First Nations status of Indigenous Australians.
- To build national consensus around a long-term strategy to improve the social and economic well-being of Indigenous Australians.
- To enable the full exercise of Indigenous Australian's rights and responsibilities on both an individual and collective level.
- To advance reconciliation and social justice.
- Labor respects the right of Indigenous Australians to meaningful self determination arising from their First Nations status.
- A Labor Government will develop a strong political relationship with anew national representative body, and be accountable to it.
- Labor will harness Indigenous decision-making power in relation to the formulation and delivery of policies and programs.
II. The Lessons Learned from Previous Representative Bodies.
b. A national Representative Body that reflects the views of Indigenous Peoples
c. An Interface with the Federal Bureaucracy
d. The Use of Regional Planning Processes
e. An Appropriation: Financial Leverage
Competing Advice to Government
Program Delivery Versus Policy Making
- We believe that consideration should be given to the strengths and weaknesses of previous national representative structures and that the lessons learns from those institutions can inform the design of a new national representative model.
- The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) was the most recent national representative body and it provides an informative case study about what considerations for the development of a new national representative body.
- To this end, the following strengths of ATSIC should be noted:
a. ATSIC had a Broad Legislative Mandate
The objects of the ATSIC Act 1989 (Cth) articulated a regime that gave a greater role for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to deal with the issues facing them through elected representation, The objects included:
- 'Maximum participation';
- 'The development of self sufficiency and self management':
- 'Furtherance of the economic, social and cultural development'; and
- 'Coordination in the formulation and implementation of policies … without detracting from the responsibilities of … governments',
- The functions given to ATSIC in the ACT set out a range of legislative mandates to meet these objectives, namely to:
- Formulate and implement programs:
- Monitor the effectiveness of programs conducted by all bodies and agencies;
- Develop policy proposals, to assist, advise and cooperate with all and sundry;
- Advise the Minister on all matters:
- Provide advice to the Minister when requested:
- Protect cultural material and information; and
- Collect and publish statistical material (if the Australian Bureau of Statistics approved).
- The objects and function, when read together, established a framework of responsibilities that conferred to ATSIC the primary role of advising the Federal Government on any matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and for the oversight of all government effort in policy development and the provision of services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, That is, ATSIC was tasked to:
- Maximise the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the formulation and implementation of programmes; and
- Provide an effective voice within the government.
- The ATSIC Act articulated the functions of the Commission and the powers it had to implement them in clear and broad terms. The functions were relatively broad and the powers that the Commission had been given to achieve these functions should have been adequate enough to allow the Commission to effectively fulfil its mandate. That this did not occur raises the question as to why such a generous set of objectives and functions were not used more effectively.
- ATSIC was able to develop policy on some key areas that reflected the position of indigenous peoples. This was a strength in areas where it strongly advocated on issues often conflicting with the governments position.
- One such area was native title. ATSIC's strategies and policies on native title often conflicted with the federal government position and it funded Native Title Representative Bodies to litigate native title claims in matters where the Federal Government is a party. Another area of strength was ATSIC's ability to lobby in the international arena where it frequently advocated positions contrary to the Federal Government's.
- ATSIC was also able to maintain a focus on the rights agenda in aperiod where the government of the day had a policy of “practical reconciliation”. Although attempting to focus on socio-economic issues, the Howard Government's agenda ignored broader social, cultural and economic issues facing Indigenous communities. ATSIC's position was that the recognition and enjoyment of rights was required if any real, meaningful and sustainable progress was to be attained. The "rights agenda" advocated by ATSIC was a position that directly opposed the Federal Governments, but ATSIC was able to continue to focus on structural, long-term rights issues. This broader and structural focus saw ATSIC take the lead on the national treaty debate as a way of maintaining a dialogue about rights protection.
- ATSIC was the first national representative body whereby Indigenous peoples had a role in both an advisory and decision making capacity. The dual role provided ATSIC with a legitimate seat at the table, with leverage and with an actual role in determining the direction and priorities in respect of Commonwealth programs, albeit within fairly tight constraints in terms of actual dollars and programs. This very real power provided ATSIC with a capacity to negotiate on the playing field and, although not level, this was a far cry from the powerless positions experienced in negotiations by Indigenous representative bodies up until that time.
- From this position, ATSIC was able to make positive contributions to a broad range of agendas and initiatives including the response to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the National Aboriginal Health Strategy additions and the response to the Bringing Them Home report.
- ATSIC was also able to take a seat at the MCATSIA table and was influential within COAG (twice) putting forward the National Commitment to Improved Service Delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. It also was actively involved with the COAG Reconciliation Agenda. These were positive initiatives emanating from COAG and had substantial merit.
- These gains were hard fought and marked significant advances in attempting to reform the way government conducted business in the Indigenous portfolio. These points of interaction and influence must not be cast aside.
- There has been recognition of the importance of governance for Indigenous communities at the regional level to capture differences in policy and program needs across the country, Regionalisation recognises that a one-size-fits-all approach to Indigenous policy-making and program delivery is not as effective as an approach that distinguishes between the priorities of different Indigenous communities
- The ATSIC structure sought to give effect to this level of governance through the Regional Councils, Regional Councils were able to respond to the needs of local communities and they can achieve these outcomes through policy development and advocacy
- The Regional Councils were required to formulate a Regional Plan and then to assist, advise and co-operate in the implementation of that plan, Importantly, this process of implementation requires broad consultation and negotiation, not just with ATSIC, but also with various levels of government.
- The ATSIC Regional Councils also had a legislative obligation to receive and to pass on to the Commission and the Torres Strait Regional Authority the views of their constituents about the activities of government bodies in their region and to represent and advocate on behalf of their constituents.
- These powers and functions provided a governance structure at the regional level and served as an important source of advice on policy and priorities at the national level to assist with the allocation of resources and participation in decision-making processes.
- The control of economic resources is the most significant factor in the capacity of any organisation to influence its environment. For too long Indigenous organisations have been subject to the benevolence of government and have had to negotiate without power or influence. Program resources provide that power and influence. For the organisation to be effective it must be at least retained If not expanded.
- ATSIC's responsibility for policy and advocacy and its responsibility for program/service delivery was one that resulted in tensions between these two mandates. However, without the appropriations for its program responsibilities, ATSIC did not have had the capacity to negotiate with any power with other agencies and governments.
- That is not to say that a national representative body has to deliver services directly; this function can and should be a strategic mix of direct and delegated service delivery processes and mechanisms aimed at maximising the effectiveness of delivering those services. That is, maximising access to services for Indigenous peoples and improving the outcomes for the ultimate beneficiaries.
- The positive and meaningful involvement of Indigenous people in the development and delivery of programs to Indigenous peoples can only be a reality when, Indigenous peoples have explicit, effective and significant control over resources.
- ATSIC also had the following weaknesses;
- ATSIC was established as an advisor to government. At the same time, the Office of Indigenous Affairs was also established as a source of alternative advice. This may have been an initiative to ensure that non-Indigenous interests that may have been affected as a consequence of Indigenous initiatives were considered but it quickly became a source of friction between government and ATSIC.
- This duality of advice was only one way in which government sought alternative advice to ATSIC. Each level of government and each agency with some responsibility for Indigenous matters had an advisory mechanism and these arrangements remained after the commencement of ATSIC. With these multitudes of forums and advice, unstructured and uncoordinated policy and program development resulted. Agencies and governments were entitled to seek additional and expert forum advice with respect to specific programs.
- The health program is perhaps the best example of the friction created by the lack of strategic and lateral thought on the part of both government and ATSIC. Just prior to ATSIC being established, the NAIHO (National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation) had been instrumental in negotiating the National Aboriginal Health Strategy (NAHS), a significant and long overdue initiative to address the problems in health including environmental health. Some $250M plus was provided and NAIHO was the primary advisor. With the advent of ATSIC, their role was usurped in respect of the bulk of the monies.
- The Indigenous health lobby campaigned to have the responsibility for the health program transferred from ATSIC and into the Department of Health, effectively mainstreaming the health program. It should be noted that when the transfer was made, a significant increase in funding was also given to the Department of Health, providing it with resources that were not made available to ATSIC.
- This example highlights a situation where each program specific area, be it a peak body or a community organisation, is focussed on the needs of their program or their community and see it as paramount. While this is an understandable position for a lobbying body to take it is the task of the organisation overseeing the distribution of funding across the many competing program and policy areas to make an assessment and allocate resources according to that assessment.
- ATSIC was an agency delivering programs -particularly the CDEP and CHIP programs while at the same time being the primary national advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The competing aims of delivering programs and developing policy seemed to be a tension that saw program delivery become a focus at the expense of policy-making.
No Executive Power
Lack of a State, Territory and Local Government Interface
Ill defined Relationships Between the ATSIC Board, CEO, Minister and Regional Councils
- There are practical difficulties in trying to provide services and achieve policy outcomes at the same time. One takes priority over the other. Ultimately, ATSIC's preoccupation with the service delivery function was to the detriment of its policy development responsibilities. As a result it has become trapped in a constant funding cycle making ATSIC incapable of developing anything but program policy.
- Under its enabling legislation, ATSIC was given the function to monitor the effectiveness of other agencies, to coordinate the development and implementation of policies and to formulate and implement program proposals. To fulfil this responsibility ATSIC required the active cooperation and involvement of Commonwealth agencies and State and Territory governments. This in turn required an interface backed by executive authority from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
- This executive authority was never given to ATSIC and the activities of Prime Minister and Cabinet were often to the contrary to ATSIC's stated policies and intentions.
- The ability of ATSIC to effectively fulfil its mandate was severely impeded by its inability to impact on State/Territory governments and to more effectively monitor how they spent money on key areas of Indigenous socio-economic disparity, namely, health and education.
- Although there was an attempt to remedy this through the establishment of State Advisory Councils, these bodies were not legislated by the ATSIC Act and did not formally form part of ATSIC's legislative structure. State Advisory Council's existed as part of a 'convention' or policy rather than having the recognised force of legislation.
- Therefore, individual State and Territory Governments didn't treat State Advisory Committees as having legitimacy and authority.
- The failure to impose a structure that could act as the state representative voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples created a vacuum in ATSIC's advocacy role.
- The reports of the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the Productivity Commission attest to the parlous state of coordination and cooperation at the Commonwealth, State and Territory levels. ATSIC had been condemned for being unable to achieve an aspiration which to date eludes all levels of government, especially within Indigenous portfolios.
- Another shortcoming of the ATSIC Act 1989 was its failure to define key relationships. These include the relationship between the Board and the CEO and the relationship between the Board and the Minister.
Failure to Build Governance Capacity
- Before the split in the agency resulting in the creation of ATSIS and the appointment of a separate CEO, the CEO of ATSIC was answerable to and directed by the Board of Commissioners, However, the CEO of ATSIC is also responsible to the then Minister for Immigration, Multiculturalism and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, The agenda of Board and the Minister could be very different creating difficulties in governance
- The legislation was also silent about the relationship between the Regional Councils and the ATSIC Board.
- ATSIC has too often been portrayed as being responsible for every Indigenous issue, It is not widely appreciated that it did not have fiscal responsibility for the areas of health and education and was only a supplementary funding provider on issues such as domestic violence, languages, heritage protection and housing.
- In addition to this, there has also been a failure to appreciate that a large percentage (almost 80%) of the ATSIC budget was quarantined for programs such as CDEP and CHIP, These misconceptions directed attention away from government departments (federal and state and territory) with responsibility for Indigenous policy and service delivery.
- The ability to treat ATSIC as the source of inadequate policy and ineffective service delivery stemmed from the media coverage of allegations against senior ATSIC board members, There is no doubt that the continued presence of Board members who were subject to continuing allegations and questioning undermined the credibility of the institution.
- This was exacerbated by the misinformation about ATSIC and its responsibilities that were prevalent in comments within the media and by politicians. These attacks not only accused ATSIC of ineptitude in relation to policy-making and program delivery, but also criticised its governance processes.
- Not only was this misinformation unfair to ATSIC, who is not in some cases responsible for the policy areas it was accused of failing in, it deflected criticism from the governments and agencies that were responsible for those shortcomings.
- The ATSIC Board was, on the whole, comprised of men and women who were extremely committed to and passionate about the people they represented and the issues they were engaged in.
- However, the inability of the ATSIC Board to build an appropriate level of governance capacity, despite the attempts of administrative staff, must be acknowledged. To some extent this was understandable given the lack of trust between the Board and the administration and this is a factor inherent in any interface between government and the community.
- The Board was comprised of members with diverse priorities, opinions, perceptions and views. The needs and demands they represented were high and the resources to meet them relatively low. In that environment every decision of the Board involving resource allocation was contentious and conflict was to be expected.
- In such circumstances good governance is essential to ensuring that the decision-making, activities and the performance of the board is beyond reproach. The lack of unity, transparency and the behaviour of certain members of the Board tarnished ATSIC's reputation
- It should be noted, however, that the problems of the Board did not inhibit the effective delivery of the programs, nor did Indigenous peoples miss out. In spite of the machinations of some members of the Board it continued to deliver on program issues.
- A greater focus on the importance and primacy of good governance is an issue to be addressed in building a new national representative structure.
- To summarise, when looking atthe key strengths and weaknesses ofthe ATSIC structure, the following observations can be made:
- A national representative structure should have a broad, clear mandate and functions that are adequate enough to support itto meet its mandate;
- It should have, as its primary focus, advocacy and monitoring but not be engaged in the delivery of services;
- It should have a regional representative structure that is concerned with regional planning processes;
- It should be given leverage through mechanisms such as appropriations, executive power and a seat at the COAG table.
- It should build on existing representative structures at the state level, especially elected representative bodies;
- It should also have a state interface;
- The relationships between the different levels of the structure and the representative body, the executive and the Minister.
- The representative body should be guided by good governance principles and capacity building in governance should be undertaken as part of the training for all elected representatives.
III. The Need for a Regional Level of Representation
- Regional representation allows for the specific the needs of the Indigenous communities within that area to be identified. It also allows the leadership within that region to be engaged with government in an effective way.
- Regional structures offer a manageable model in relation to effective delivery of services at a local level. This is contingent on proper regional planning processes that engage with local communities. Regional governance allows for a more immediate response to local issues than does a national only approach.
IV. The Need to build on Existing State and Regional Representative Structures
- A new national body must build on existing state and regional structures. Placing a new structure over the top of an existing structure without reference to the existing structure leads to the diminution of both structures with respect to legitimacy and acceptance.
- Such antagonism towards to existing structures allowed for the representation and advocacy function within the existing structure to be undermined.
- The opportunity to build on the existing elected representative structures such as the elected representative body in the Australian Capital Territory and other states and territories must be seen as a central obligation on any new national body design
- This accommodation might mean some adjustment to those existing structures. For example:
A national representative structure might have a national and a regional level.
The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council is an existing elected representative body with a state and local level of representation.
Incorporating a body like the NSW Aboriginal Land Council into a national representative structure would require the building of a regional representative structure into the land council system.
V. The Need to adhere to the principles of democracy in relation to a national representative structure
- We strongly believe that a national representative body must embrace the principles of participatory democracy.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are entitled to choose their representatives, to be involved in the process of choosing who is going to represent their interests.
- Those elected representatives are accountable to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, ensuring that they make themselves aware of the views of the people that they are representing.
- The appointment of individuals to bodies such as the recent National Indigenous Council undermines the representative role of the body. Individuals who have been appointed by government have no duty to represent and have diminished legitimacy with those they are representing. They are appointed as individuals and act in that capacity and are not accountable to the community whose interests their decisions will affect.
- The process of appointment excludes Indigenous people from input into membership of the body. This means that there will be no sense of ownership of the body from the Aboriginal community. It will also mean that those who are appointed are likely to be people whose politics and views coincide with those of the federal government.
VI. Options for resourcing a national representative structure
- The swift abolition of ATSIC was a reminder of the tenuous nature of a representative body that is created with the benevolence of government.
- The NSW Aboriginal Land Council provides an example of a model by which a representative mode can be given the capacity to be self-sustaining and viable. It has a large capital fund and land assets that covers its costs of administration and also allows it to engage in other commercial and benevolent activities.
- We would like to make the following recommendations:
- That the Rudd government continue to consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop a national representative structure.
- That a national representative structure include the following features:
- a broad, clear mandate and functions that are adequate enough to support it to meet that mandate;
- a primary focus on advocacy and monitoring but not the delivery of services;
- leverage through mechanisms such as appropriations, executive power and a seat at the COAG table;
- an interface with state/territory governments;
- a regional representative structure;
- build on and work with existing state and regional elected representative structures;
- adopt the principles of democracy by being an elected body;
- have an independent source of sustainable funding
Public submission 42
We Aboriginal People of Australia have only had two Aboriginal People representing us in Parliament in now 220 years of colonial history. Senator Neville Bonner, now deceased, and Hayden Ridgeway. We have always been a divided society, because of the Liberal Party’s White Australia Policies. Since the Menzies Era. And the fact that we Aboriginals are invaded people, by the colonisers whose own country mother England did not want them, as they were transported as convicts for stealing bread to eat.
We are a separate people, who are also the first people of this land Australia, and in 1988, we never received a treaty of anything for the stealing of our lands by the British crown, and the land was not ‘terra nullis’ as claimed meaning ‘empty land’, uninhabited, and I don’t think my people, Big Black People, were bloody invisible! Such a big lie and the other big lie was that Captain Cook discovered Australia. When there was the Dutch, French and Germans who came before him, but never stayed to dispossess my People of our land, lives and history, and that there were 500 tribal groups of our People, and by the year 1920, there were only 200 tribes left, and 20 languages. 300 Aboriginal Nationals died through the so-called ‘peaceful’ settlement of Australia, which it wasn’t, there has been so many lies told; because out blood is all over this land through the massacres of my People.
In New Zealand the Maori’s are sharing the Parliament with the ‘Pakeha’. The whiteman for over 100 years, when is Australia gonna acknowledge my people in the same way, that’s what I say, we don’t live under a democracy, nor do we have human rights, because we still have whiteman talkin and makin decisions for us in Parliament. Charles Perkins should have become our first Aboriginal minister in Parliament, but the closest he got was as a secretary to the white minister of Aboriginal affairs, well there ya go. They the white politicians will not let Aboriginal people get any political power because we might become a threat to them and rob them of their political power! Bullshit! “We do not need whiteman speakin on our behalf” and we are the only indigenous People in the whole world who don’t have deed, title or rights to our own land! Or a treaty, because there has to be constitutional change acknowledging our People’s ownership because we never succeeded our sovereignty to any political power because of no treaty with my People. And there has to be legislation for a Bill or Rights sayin that any political power either Liberal, Labour or Democrats or whatever, will never be able to dispossess my people of our land, lives, history or culture ever again! And our representative must be picked by our people, not white government ministers, who have always had control of our lives and destinies!
End of Story
Public submission 43
The Darug being part of the Sydney Basin Aboriginal would be one of the lagest nations of Aboriginals but has never had true representation of our people from 1788 until the present timesas this was taken away from us.
We have never invited anyone to govern or rule us us but you have,We have never gave anyone the right to take our land they did anyway.
but the worst fate to occur to the Sydney Basin Aboriginals was to happen after smallpox was when the Wran Labor Government set up the Aboriginal Land Councils and our traditional owners were not prepared for the land grabs they started making, without any involvement or consent from our people with the land councils saying that the Darug were exitinct, which they knew not to be true yet they only can get 10% of the community to vote in their elections and only have up to twelve members attending meetings ( mostly family members who had a personal interest in what was going on)
They have not preserved our Heritage & Culture they do not set up education for the schools on our values, they refuse to treat our Elders with the dignity and respect they deserve, they do not allow our people to join these councils they refuse to treat our sick and turn them away from the medical centres with out treatment yet every government State & Federal continually refuse to hear our cries for help
Even today we have Metro land council being put in the hands of a reciever & there has been many investigations, but things never change when ever their famlies need more money they sell off more of our land.
We would like to see all matters taken away from the state levels, and see a body that is set up & handled by federal government to handle all Aboriginal matters, then make these laws that applies to us all. But it would be disastorous if any of the land councils just move from here and enter the new body as they only look after their own agendas and not the communities.
NSW SHOULD BE REPRESENTED by four Groups The Sydney Basin,Northern Region,-Southern Region & Western Region And this four-group model could apply to all states and the Northern Territory in the same way — except in the case of Tasmania, where two groups might be sufficient.
In addition, the people should only have a vote for a delegate representing their traditional lands. Any person standing for a position should necessarily be a tribal member within that zone.
That will give you twenty six delegates Say,put four in Education four in housing Four in Medical four in Community Four for Heritage & Culture & four for land
these people can then report to the head of the Indigenous body who should be selected by these people
The head of the indigineous Rep body should be four government and eight Aboriginals who must put in submissions for these positions with the 26 state members
The Indigenous Representative Body should comprise four government appointees and eight Aboriginals, with the Twenty Six state members selecting the eight Aboriginals who will represent us.
A web site must be set up giving the community easy access to these members and to list all matters being addressed or to list matters that have to be addressed
Doing it this way allows the traditional custodians a greater say in their community which has been denied by land councils
We know that the land councils with all the back up they have will be trying to get into the Federal Arena to build a bigger base to control this must never be allowed as our community has suffered to long
Our Elders & people ask you do not fail them again as this has been ongoing since 1788You embraced a duty of care to our community when you decided you would govern us. Surely some closure must come to us one day, to give us our identities and cultures back allowing us to have a future with a say on our matters.
It is time that the Federal Government set up a fair and transparent body whose members are accountable to the wider community for their actions.
surely some closure must come to us one day to give us our Identities & Cultures back.
On behalf of the Darug People
Public submission 44
16th September 2008
I strongly believe if an Aboriginal Representative Body should exist that the individuals selected to sit on the panel should possess the following attributes:
- They be Indigenous to Australia
- They be highly self motivated with the best interest of the community they represent as well as Indigenous Australia as a whole.
- Open to all aspects of a multicultural society while still maintaining their own Indigenous cultural identity.
- Be open to exploring all options within each aspect of the key points, with the ability to be able to follow through on any actions.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- A genuine understanding and willingness to develop pro-active positive outcomes.
- Possess the ability to work / interact well with key organisations both Aboriginal and mainstream to work towards a common goal, a better Indigenous Australia for our people.
Panel members should be a true representation of Indigenous Australians. There should be an equal number of both male and female members, as a major factor of Indigenous Australia today men and women's business are still very much apart of our society. A balance of age groups would bring to the table an expertise with their particular peer group. Elders will bring with them life experience. Their guidance and cultural knowledge will be a great asset to the panel, while a younger panel member will bring their idealistic perspective a more mature member will bring realism; they will compliment each other to make a very dynamic group that will be capable of achieve their goals. Members should be representative of all regions of Australia, urban, remote and regional. No person can adequately speak on behalf of an area they don't come from or live in.
The representative body should be held accountable for their time, actions and any decisions they make on behalf of the Aboriginal people of our land. For the representative body to be a true voice for Indigenous Australians they need to be able to hear what it is the Aboriginal people want and or need, the easiest way to achieve this is through a website made specifically for the Indigenous Representative Body. This should include:
- Notes or minutes from meetings
- Key discussion points with comment boxes
- Surveys for any key areas
- Profiling of the representative body so that the people get to know who they are, along with all their contact details
- Policies and procedures the body have in place
- Links to funding grants so they are accessible to the people
Any members considered for a place on the Representative body should sign a code of conduct / ethics agreement. If there are any breaches of these ethics / conducts they should immediately be asked to resign as the people elected to the body should be held at a higher standard.
The Representative body should be a direct voice to parliament in relation to national affairs. The body needs to be visible in all areas rural, remote and urban to see first hand the issues that need to be addressed.
They should than maintain regular contact with all area's regarding the issues of that particular area. The body should either do or have access to feasibility checks on similar communities to see what is working, what has been trialed and what needs to be working better.
They should maintain contact with supporting agencies, seeing what existing funding is available, where there have been successes and failures in programs / projects. The representative body should be able to work in with existing organisations in a non-threatening way.
The body should be real people living in communities, not politicians or people with political agenda's.
The body will be representative of Indigenous Australian's and Indigenous Australia is part of Australia, therefore the money for the representative Body to meet should be paid for by the Australian government, in saying that this body should be autonomous. Joeanne Tallentire 16th September 2008
Public submission 45
The Youth Affairs Council of SA (YACSA) is committed to encouraging participation through young people's active involvement in the decision-making processes which affect their lives. Youth participation in decision-making by extension includes creating opportunities for young people to articulate their political concerns to decision-makers, question policy and influence political debate. YACSA further recognises that for many young people, participation in mainstream political discourse is not ideal and that young people also create their own mechanisms for political activities away from mainstream debate.
Young people are expected to assume many responsibilities in a society which often devalues their contribution and their position as stakeholders in the political process. This is especially so for young people who are experiencing social disadvantage, whose voices are rarely heard in political debate and whose issues and interests may be ignored. YACSA strongly endorses the importance of ensuring that equitable measures are put in place so that political processes are accessible to all young people.
YACSA considers that the new national Indigenous representative body must include mechanisms to foster the participation and engagement of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to engage in decision-making and debates that affect their lives.
In 2001, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people under 25 represented an estimated 3.1% of South Australia's youth population, but accounted for 57.7% of the total Indigenous population. YACSA acknowledges, however, that many Indigenous cultures define youth and adulthood not by age, but by whether or not a person has undertaken specific learnings and practices.
YACSA considers that the new national body must have a role in:
- establishing positive role models for Indigenous young people;
- bringing together Elders and young people to promote Indigenous cultural practices and mentor current and future community leaders;
- advocating that all policies, services and programs intended to address the needs of Indigenous young people must be deveoped locally in partnership with Indigenous communities and young people;
- advocating for improved education, training, employment, housing and health oportunities for Indigenous young people;
- promoting and supporting Indigenous young people when they take on roles of responsibility and leadership within their communities;
- supporting Indigenous mentors, Elders and role models for young Indigenous people; and
- delivering enhanced opportunities for Indigenous young people to participate in decision-making processes, including political processes.
In closing, we note the timelines against which this consultation has operated. Given the significance of this issue and the acute need to deliver improved opportunities for engaging all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in civil society and public policy debate and development, it is perhaps regrettable that the timelines of this consultation will inadvertently exclude many Aboriginal and Torrens Strait Islander Australians from contributing their views. We would therefore propose that the deadline for submissions to this consultation be signifciantly extended and further face to face consultations be held, in repeat and new locations.
Public submission 46
The Aboriginal Disability Network of New South Wales is a systemic advocacy and representative body for Aboriginal persons with disability in New South Wales. It has operated on a voluntary basis, with the assistance of some one-off financial contributions from Government and the private sector, for approximately the past 7 years. It has recently received a grant from the Australian Government, through the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, to assist in the development of a national network for indigenous persons with a disability.
There is a much higher incidence of impairment and disability among indigenous persons than there is in the general population. This stems from a range of social factors which include poor access to primary health care (which results in preventable blindness and deafness), poorly adapted health promotion and health prevention programs (for example, in relation to tobacco use and obesity), the psycho-social impact of colonization, dispossession from land, and the stolen generations, the high levels of violence and abuse in indigenous communities, and from substance dependence.
Indigenous persons with disability experience multiple and aggravated forms of social disadvantage, discrimination and human rights violations. Within Aboriginal communities they are likely to be among the most disadvantaged. They are more likely to be the subject of personal abuse, neglect and exploitation, and structural neglect and discrimination. Indigenous persons with disability experience very poor access to both mainstream and indigenous specific social services. mainstream services are often culturally inappropriate and inaccessible, and indigenous specific services typically inaccessible and unresponsive to the needs of indigenous persons with disability.
It is against this backdrop that we wish to offer the following recommendations in relations to the scope, structre and role of a national system of representation for indigenous persons.
We Believe that any national representative body must be constituted in a systematically representative way. It must ensure that those groups of indigenous Australians who are subject to multiple and aggravated forms of disadvantage, including indigenous persons with disability, are directly represented in its governance. These representatives must be elevted or appointed by democratically constituted representative bodies for indigenous persons with disability.
The national representative structure must also be invested with a specific responsibility to consult with, and ensure the inclusion and participation of, indigenous persons with disability in all aspects of its work. It must ensure that such consultation and participation is undertaken on a cross-disability basis, with appropriate focus on persons with cognitive and psychosocial impairments and other groups often excluded from policy participation.
The establishment of a nation representative organisation for indigenous peoples, without more, will do little to address the aggravated disadvantage experienced by indigenous persons with disability. Our participation in broader representative structures, and out ability to address the specific policy issues that concern us across government, will almost entirely depend upon the Commonwealth providing substantial financial support and policy recognition of our own organisations. In this respect, it is essential for the Commonwealth to continue to support the emergence of a national indigenous disability network, and that it also supports (both financially and with policy recognition) the emergence of indigenous disability networks in each State and Territory.
Additionally, we believe it is essential for the Commonwealth to financially support the emergence of a comprehensive network of individual advocacy services for indigenous persons with disability across Australia. Without individual advocacy support, indigenous persons with disability find it almost impossible to articulate and negotiate for their needs to be addressed, and to pursue complaints and appeals when their human rights are violated. Representative structures, by themselves, will not address human right violations at the individual level.
In our view it would be preferable for the National Indigenous Representative structure not to have a service delivery function. We sincerely believe that more will be achieved if the national representative structure focuses specifically and exclusively on strategic policy advocacy and program monitoring and evaluation. A direct service delivery role would involve the organisation in conflicts of interest that may undermine the transparency and accountability in program administration. The central role of the nation representative structure must be to hold the Commonwealth to account for the development and delivery of high quality programs to address indigenous disadvantage.
Of course, we do not suggest that there ought not to be indigenous specific services, or that indigenous persons ought not to be primarily responsible for the delivery of indigenous programs. It is essential that both are the case. However, this ought to be achieved without making the national representative organisation responsible for these programs and services.
The national representative body ought to be supported by a national office of indigenous policy coordination located in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It is essential that there be a high-level, central coordinating mechanism within government that is capable of driving reform across government. A key role of this office would be to ensure effective program integration at the horizontal interfaces of agency responsibility, and between Commonwealth and State and Territory agencies and programs.
We also believe that the Racial Discrimination Act ought to be amended to provide for the mandatory development of indigenous action plans by all government agencies. The national representative structure ought to play a key role in advising on the development, and monitoring and evaluating the implementation, of these plans.
The amendments to the RDA ought also to provide for complaints handling and investigation role by the Australian Human Rights Commission in relation to these plans.
Public submission 47
Koorie Women Mean Business Incorporated (KWMB), are supportive of a National Indigenous Representative body (NIRB) that is the end result of a democratically elected process. The ATSIC review noted nationally Indigenous people's concerns of nepotism, factional fighting, and identity politics. We firmly believe that a NIRB needs to be embedded and consistent with the United Nations Human Rights instruments - Indigenous, Women, Disabled, Children, Civil and Political.
This is particularly pertinent and imperative given Australia's lacklustre performance under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The Australian NGO Shadow Report on the implementation of CEDAW (2005), in relation to Article 7 Public Participation recommends “that the Government take measures to finance and implement policies and action plans to engage Indigenous women in the wake of ATSIC's demise.” Over 2000 participants expressed their concerns that the mechanisms for Indigenous women's public participation are inadequate. Barriers remain in place for Indigenous women wanting to take up leadership roles on boards or bodies for example – access to child care, travel time, job sharing, workplace release to attend official meetings and financial constraints.
A NIRB role is one of a prescribed review, evaluation and partnerships function, underpinned with key advocacy and policy development on the national and international platform. In our view the participation of Indigenous constituents in advocacy, policy and law reform issues are lower post the demise of the former ATSIC. Service delivery should not be part of the NIRB function. NIRB should not become a one stop shop or grounds for government to renege on their statutory or reporting requirements - domestically, nationally or internationally. Nor should it become a repository for existing Indigenous advisory or sanctioned committees to sit under. In our experience it is our view that the NIRB role or function should compliment all works of Indigenous state and territory community controlled organisations and peak bodies. It is fundamental that all financial resourcing and sustainability of a NIRB runs parallel to Aboriginal people's participation in a democratic elective process. A review of NIRB should occur prior to members term expiration.
NIRB should encourage communication and facilitate a transparent process, through an annual gathering similar to 2020 Summit attracting demographic representation from women, elders, youth, clans, states, community controlled organisations should be hosted This can be capped with participation number and an open nomination process. As well as holding regional meetings similar to the Community Cabinet process - this could be coordinated or aligned with other government advisory bodies meetings for example, MINCO or COAG. We are of the view that NIRB dialogue has begun, any legislative or internal processes will take sometime. We support and urge continued community engagement around NIRB - post consultation and any proposed interim arrangements in the nation's interest.
Public submission 48
An indigenous representative body should reflect the needs of all aboriginal people within Australia by developing broad policy and providing an advocacy and lobbying function to government(s). It should also be wholly accountable for its decisions and actions and should allow the opportunity for every Australian Aboriginal to represent their interests through a legitimate national and regional organizational structure without fear or favour.
Structure & Location
The central office of a national organisation should be located in Canberra to carry out its main function of lobbying the federal government over the main issues that are facing Aboriginal Australians. It would also have a strong regional capacity through a series of offices which provide guidance and advisory functions to local communities.
Logically it will be established as a non-government organisation (NGO) subject to annual grants and subsequent strict reporting regimes to the parliament of the day. Essentially it should be free of government control in its everyday affairs i.e. not an appendage of a government department, open to the machinations and priorities of the relevant minister for Aboriginal Affairs and officer level government employees.
The national NGO would independently recruit and employ high level people to operate in much the same way as government employees do at present through its regional Aboriginal portfolio offices. e.g. ICCs, FACSIA. Such a body however, would be need to be tailored to the needs of modern Aboriginal Australia with its functions and responsibilities tailored appropriately through its national and regional arms (not necessarily replicate the functions already carried out by existing arms of government which were introduced as stop-gap measures to replace ATSIC).
The capacity for such a major organisation to eventually become self-sustaining has not been explored in this short submission. Any variation on this theme will need to be strategically determined and could be based upon overseas experience e.g. tourism ventures such as whale watching ventures and collection of fishing licence fees in Maori lands of NZ. Whether the concept of self sustainability could be woven into the ethos of the new organisation would be subject to the future decisions of its representatives.
Representation & Accountability
Individual representation on a national or regional body should be related to the criteria for determining 'aboriginality' (see ITAC policy on 'Aboriginality' at ATTACHMENT A).
Each individual would need to be an accepted member (as per the above criteria) of an aboriginal organization registered under the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act e.g. an Indigenous Community Housing Organisations (ICHO). A representative would also need to have been elected to the registered organisation's governing committee as per that organisation's articles of association.
A third step would be the selection of a delegate from an organisation's governing committee (or delegates depending upon the size of the organization) who would represent organizational/regional interests at an annual National Policy Congress. The National Policy Congress would have the responsibility for setting broad national policies in such areas as indigenous health, housing, native title, employment and the like.
The Congress would also have the responsibility for the election of representatives from the Congress to the National Board. This election should necessarily take place every 2-3 years. The Board would have a Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson, Treasurer, Secretary, and a number of Board Directors. The Board (collectively) would be subject to NGO annual reporting requirements to Parliament and directors (individually) would be subject to corporations law requirements governing the fiduciary responsibilities and obligations generally applying to all Australian companies.
Criteria for election to the Board could be based upon (for instance) number of years as a member of a regional organisation, the level of representation at that regional level e.g. as a Chair of a Governing Committee etc.
Separate standing sub-committees of the Board could be established for each major subject area and chaired by an elected Board member who would have the responsibility of presenting draft policies to the National Policy Congress for ratification. Each policy sub-committee should have a solid research capability which would be provided by employees of the national organisation (and maybe specialist consultants).
The policies that are formulated and ratified by the National Policy Congress would then become the subject matter for the Board to lobby governments and to present its public 'face' (the organisation may need to be registered as a lobbyist by the federal Government).
ITAC is one of many Aboriginal bodies in Australia wishing to see a legitimate representative national organisation established which is responsive to and responsible for all indigenous hopes and expectations. Such a body needs to be free of the excesses and ad-hoccery of the past, strategic in its outlook and effective in its efforts to provide 'hand up' options rather than quick fix 'hand out' solutions.
The ITAC Governing Committee is grateful for the opportunity to provide its thoughts on this important subject.
ITAC POLICY on 'ABORIGINALITY'
The purpose of this policy is to define and clarify the meaning of 'Aboriginality' and how it is to be applied the day-to-day operation of the Indigenous Tasmanians Aboriginal Corporation for the purpose of determining membership, housing assistance and ATSIS housing loan eligibility.
The commonly used three-part criteria for determining 'Aboriginality' is underpinned by a number of recent High Court, Federal Court, Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Tasmanian Supreme Court decisions. The definition requires that an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person:
- Is of Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent; and
- Identifies as an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander; and
- Is accepted as such by the community(s) in which he or she lives or has lived.
- ESTABLISHING ABORIGINALITY
An applicant for membership and/or housing assistance will only be accepted by ITAC as Aboriginal once the Governing Committee is confident that the above tests have been reasonably satisfied.
The first pillar of the three part administrative definition is contained in Merckel J's Federal Court decision in Shaw v. Wolf (1998). He stated that 'Aboriginal descent' does not need to be proved according to any strict legal standard, it being: "...a social rather than a genetic construct".
Accordingly, ITAC will accept a person as being of Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent when that person has provided:
- Proof of descent to be shown through oral and/or written history or verifiable archival information which shows that the applicant is of Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent; and
- A declaration signed by at least three members of the applicant's Aboriginal community (not immediate family members) showing that the applicant:
- Identifies as an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and
- Is accepted by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in which he or she lives;
If the Governing Committee refuses an application for recognition as an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the applicant may seek a review of the Governing Committee's decision. The application for review must be accompanied, where practicable, by further evidence in support of the original claim.
5. ROLE OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE
When making decisions under this policy, each member of the Governing Committee must act impartially and prudently. Where a committee member believes that he or she has a conflict of interest in respect of an individual application, the committee member shall disqualify himself or herself whilst the applicant's details are being assessed.
Any decision of the Governing Committee will be regarded as final and binding.
Public submission 49
The Rep Body should not be made the whipping post for any Indigenous program or policy that goes wrong, which is what happen to ATSIC, who was blamed for anything Indigenous but was not within their area of control ie health. The ulitmate responsibilitiy lies with Ministers of Departments and their Departmental Secretary not the Rep Body.
The Rep Body should be legislated to able to engage with Departmental Secretaries on an above or equal footing so they can assist Departments to develop meaningful policies (not academic papers) and proper guidelines on how to deliver programs. You don't need any extra resources to do this but government needs to work smarter and engage effectively with the ATSI community. It is time the policy makers and the Ministers start listening properly because we have been saying the same things for so long now we are sick of repeating ourselves.
The Rep Body will have two areas to consider one being to assist Government to close the gap and two they should be mandated with developing the Treaty which should take care of the 'rights' issue. One demands immediate action and the other will take time to develop properly. You still have the other peak indigenous organisations to take care of the health, legal and education, etc. The Rep Body should develop protocols with these peak organisation so they can add value to the role of these organisations when they aren't being as effective as they can in influencing the policy makers.
You got to bear in mind the diversity of A&TSI needs and the makeup of the Rep Body should reflect this. One thing we have in common is the 'rights' issue. When it comes to closing the gap issues some communities are better off then others. I am talking about access to services here. You have remote, rural and urban communities which have a range of access issues and on top of this you have you have the practice of Indigenous culture which ranges from traditional to still learning about culture.
The key for the elected body is to how they are to have a mandate from the ATSI community. We already have elected Indigenous representatives in NSW ALC, the Torres Strait and the ACT. The NSW ALC could be used as a model for election process for the other States and NT. Reps should be nominated by the Indigenous community and/or organisations both Indigenous and non Indigenous. By including non-Indigenous you can include Tertiary Institutions and others that have a strong connection with the Indigenous community and may stop the perception of Indigenous organisations being controlled by a small group.
We should then look at what qualities we need to be an effective and respected representative. All persons who wants to be a National Rep must undergo a Police and Directorship of a Company/Organisation check and they may not be an ‘eligible person' on that basis.
The Structure for the Rep body should be as follows-:
NT, WA, SA and QLD – Remote Reps
NT, WA, SA, TAS, NSW and QLD – Rural Reps
NT, WA, SA, TAS, NSW and QLD – Urban Reps
TSI – TSRA Reps and a mainland Rep
ACT – Indigenous Elected Body Chair
Reps will have portfolio responsibilities and funding should come from those portfolios including state and territories. This ensures that each of these will have a ‘buy in' to the Rep body. Most Govt agencies have a current Indigenous Branch or Section and a review of their role will need to be undertaken in particular the OPIC..
Public submission 50
The National Indigenous Representative Body – Model ideas
- Government Organisations and Officials (outer circle)
- Elders (inner circle)
- The National Indigenous Representative Body (mid circle)
- State and federal mentoring system (model)
- Rightful Recognition and Acknowledgements
- Measurements of Equity, Equality, social and restorative justice(s), self determination & governance
- Protection, maintenance for traditional culture and people and lands
- Economic / social development, political freedoms & Peace.
- Holistic practices & wellbeing
Public submission 51
- Elections from Community
- Department / Agency Staff members autonomy from the Government
- Community consultation
- National Body representing Aboriginal Interest
- An Aboriginal Representative from the elected body on cabinet / in parliament.
- Representation from each Aboriginal on committee
- Representation from each state to be on the national body
Public submission 54
It is my vision that the National Indigenous Representative Body be identified as 'The Australian Council of Indigenous Elders'. This council would be a strong representation of the Australian Indigenous community and provide a voice for our wise ones.
All Community elders would be eligible for nomination. The people, themselves, would identify the elders within their community. There should be no generic definition of an elder as each community will have their own interpretation of appropriate age, wisdom and leadership. All nominations must be approved by a local indigenous community group.
The council would be elected using the Australian Electoral Commission who have experience with the unique aspects of Indigenous elections. Each community elects one representative on the regional council, which may cover particular tribal areas. The regional representatives would then elect a national representative who would be a member of the 'Australian Council of Indigenous Elders' for a 3 year period. The elders on the national council would be responsible for conveying opinions and beliefs of their region through consultation.
The council would have the following portfolio responsibilities;
Ceremonies, Arts, Performing Arts, Culture, Intellectual property, Education, Housing and Law.
The council would need to be made up of an odd number of elders to facilitate a smooth voting system and ensure that no deadlocks occur. A chairperson would need to be elected within the group to facilitate discussion and decision making. The council should not be responsible for the administration, trained people should be employed for this aspect of the organisation.
Public submission 56
From the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. (VAEAI)
This Submission from the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. (VAEAI) offers advice on the representative structure for the National Indigenous Representative Body.
The following outline demonstrates that by utilising the structures established by VAEAI and other Statewide Koorie organidsations, a robust model of representation can be achieved that creates links from the local to the regional, state and national level.
VAEAI's organisational structure, with local Aboriginal Education Consultative Groups (LAECGs) based in 30 locations across the state of Victoria, is aligned with the philosophy of local community engagement in a practical way. Statewide coverage at the local level has enabled VAEAI to be responsive to a Koorie population that is highly dispersed, with some pockets of high concentration.
VaEAI's LAECGs will be involved in regular information sharing and dialogue with the Local Indigenous Networks (LINs) that are currently being developed by Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (AAV) across the State of Victoria. The aim of the LINs is to support existing local structures, such as the LAECGs.
Following the establishment of the LINs, eight Regional Indigenous Councils (RICs) will be set up.
VAEAI is currently represented at the regional level by involvement in Regional Koorie Education Councils (RKECs). the RKECs are constituted by:
- Regional Directors from the State Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD);
- School Principals;
- and LAECG representatives.
The LAECGs representatives are the chairs of the RKECs
Once the Regional Indigenous Councils (RICs) are set up by AAV they will consult with other like bodies, including the RKECs. The RICs will then provide representation to the Premier's Aboriginal Advisory Council (PAAC).
The local to regional to state model of representation that VAEAI is proposing is as follows:
- VAEAI should provide representation to the PAAC through a nominee decided on by VAEAI.
VAEAI is one of four peak Statewide Koorie organisations in the State of Victoria. The other Statewide organisations are:
- The Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Ltd. (VACSAL)
- The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO)
- The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS).
VARAI also believes that the peak Statewide Koorie organisations should be represented on the Premier's Aboriginal Advisory Council to provide their expertise in health, community services and legal.
Through VAEAI the Victorian Koorie Community have maintained and strengthened a partnership arrangement with the Victorian State Government. This partnership was first formalised in 1990 under the Partnership in Education: Koorie Education Policy.
In October 2001btoh the Victorian State Government and VAEAI recommitted to this partnership with the launch of Yalca: Koorie Education Policy. VAEAI is in a unique position as the only Indigenous Education Consultative Body (IECB) in Australia that has in place a formalised partnership with its State Government.
With the Yalca policy in place and possible VAEAI representation occurring on the Premier's Aboriginal Advisory Council, the next level of representation should occur at the national level on the National Indigenous Representative Body.
Within the structure being put forward by VAEAI, National representation would occur through the following mechanism:
- A VAEAI nominee on the Premier's Aboriginal Advisory Council being represented in the National Indigenous Representative Body.
Since 1976 the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association (VAEAI) has acted as an advisory body and an advocate for the Victorian Koorie community. VAEAI have both represented and informed the Victorian Koorie community in all matters relating to education, from early childhood through to post-compulsory.
VAEAI is representative of all Victorian Koorie communities and is recognised across the spectrum of education through a formal partnership within the State Government. VAEAI is responsible for monitoring current policy directions and providing policy advice on education and training to all key stakeholders, including state and federal government.
As a result of state and federal partnerships VAEAI has been able to devise and implement State and Local level protocols that enable active involvement of Koorie people in education decision making. Yalca acknowledges that local Koorie communities, through Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Groups (LAECGs), are best able to determine loval education and training needs.
The National Indigenous Representative Body Community Guide distributed at FaHCSIA community forums calls for a "consistent and connected structure that has clear links between the national body, Indigenous peak bodies and Indigenous organisations at the state, territory and regional levels".
The Community Guide also states that "without genuine engagement with Indigenous Australians, governments will struggle in their efforts to make lasting progress to improve the conditions of our people and in our communities".
VAEAI's strategies have resulted in significant progress for the Koorie community in all areas of education. The representative model outlined by VAEAI provides a clear means of achieving the stated aims of a new National Indigenous Representative Body.
Public submission 57
A National Indigenous body needs to be established without adding further problems in the following areas:
The exclusivity of Native Title and traditional owners cannot be any further undermined by the popular trend for inclusivity and homogenous culture. Half-caste laws etc were also popular, inclusive, but wrong and deathly. The affects of 'white Australia' assimilation is that not all Indigenous people today know all about Indigenous culture, while traditional people who have not been subject to or conditioned through assimilation, those who have successfully resisted have a continuing living culture that cannot be undermined by other Indigenous people who are in their personal, subjective process of reclamation of culture.
There can only be a reclamation of traditional culture, not reconstruction. A National group that is not intune with traditional values may reconstruct rather than represent; we will end up with facades and actors rather than real people who really know what they are talking about, including when to shut up.
A National body needs to make policy recommendations to all levels of government, otherwise it is a waste of time, a talk fest. The National body needs to have power keep an eye on law and policies being made by all levels of government and have ability to intervene where those practices are bound to cause harm, before the damage is done, ie 2006 Vic Aboriginal Heritage Act.
A National body needs to have power to make judgements in issues of traditional law. Traditional law still exists, but in lieu of objectification in Common Law, there is anarchy, lawlessness in traditional law. A National body needs to have the power to at least mediate issues between Indigenous people that are in jurisdiction of traditional law, ie, criteria for being an Elder - is it by popular choice regardless of age as in some Vic State Incorporated groups, or by knowledge, age & ability to use it as it was in the old ways? ie, Indigenous people claiming through Common Law system to be 'kings' or 'queens' of traditional people
The national group must have systems for development of new leaders into the group. This is traditional ways as I understand it, the old people teach the young ones; it is not succession, but it is the right way to the future.
Indigenous and clanistic (family) groups ARE NOT APICAL, they do not have pyramid hierarchies. The top of these hierarchies is oblong, with a number of people sharing equal authority. Do not make a National Body with an apex leader, no Chair, headman/woman, no pretend kings or queens, that is NOT reflective of traditional ways and using such a structure will cause the national body to fail because it is a structure that contradicts the natural social structure of participants. In the extreme, use of apical pyramid structure on family, indigenous and clanistic groups eliminates them; isn't how we protect democracy from feudalism? Refer to new Commonwealth CATSI Act which allows a Board of Directors with equal power - no apex for leadership and I bet it works a beauty!
Public submission 58
Congress of Indigenous Nations
This paper discusses the background to the condition of Indigenous communities and attributes responsibility to five categories; dispossession, disempowerment, disillusionment, distance and diaspora.
The model proposed in this paper is for State and Territory representative bodies to be tasked with accountability of services to Indigenous people.
At the National level we propose the creation of the Congress of the Indigenous Nations of Australia to represent the Commonwealth of Indigenous Nations of Australia. Members of the Congress would be democratically elected representatives of the individual Indigenous Nations. The role of the Congress would be to discuss fundamental and broad areas of reconciliation and treaty, provide advice to the Government of the day and express the spirit in which policy should be developed and implemented.
The underlying causes of many problems facing Indigenous Australian communities can be categorized into several broad categories;Dispossession
- Of lands during the initial colonization period, and;
- Of traditional means of livelihood
- Through the loss of self-determination;
- Through the breakdown of traditional institutions that provided structure to communities and nations;
- Through colonial and federal policies that have been delivered in a paternalistic, non-collaborative fashion, and;
- As a result of the minority status and lack of democratically selected representative body to negotiate with and advise the governments of the day.
- With policies being developed in a paternalistic, non-consultative fashion and have been delivered without significant recognition of cultural sensitivities;
- With policies developed in consultation with non-representative individuals, and;
- With representative bodies that have not been democratically responsible to their constituents and thus have not been accountable to Indigenous Australia in its broadest sense.
- The difficulty of developing policies for and delivering services to those communities in remote locations, and;
- The difficulty of remote communities to participate in a modern economy.
- Indigenous Australians who are removed from their Nation through physical or economic imperatives.
- Indigenous Australians who feel a reduced connection to Nation and feel attendant loss of such concepts as family, language and culture.
The issue of Dispossession is difficult to address and is fundamental to any Indigenous community in the world that has been subjected to colonization by an external power. To a certain extent this issue cannot be reconciled to the satisfaction of many Indigenous Australians in the context of current realities. However, the Labor Governments of the 1980's and 1990's began the process of at least partial reconciliation on this front through land rights and recognition policies. Disempowerment, disillusionment, distance and Diaspora therefore are yet to be reconciled with current realities. There have been previous attempts to address these issues particularly during the 1970's through to the early 1990's. By and large however they were pursued under the mistaken impression that Indigenous Australia is a unitary entity universally facing the same problems. Consequently, policy development has been pursued in the absence of the many and varied views of individual Indigenous nations.
Whilst the Northern Territory intervention makes the same errors as previous attempts, the controversy surrounding the policy and the sense of urgency does provide the impetus to re-visit the basic policy assumptions that drive Indigenous policy development. By re-assessing basic policy development we will be able to address the issues of disempowerment, disillusionment and to an extent distance through different paradigms. This in turn will require the creation of new institutions to deal specifically with the root causes of these issues.
A New National Framework
The issue of Indigenous representation at the national level has been a sometimes controversial, often misguided topic which to date has failed to deliver of universally acceptable model for Indigenous representation at the national level. One of the biggest barriers to the development of a workable model has been the reluctance by stakeholders and decision makers to think laterally or, in the worst cases, to forgo pre-eminence in the existing policy development framework. Further, few if any proposed or implemented models to date have enjoyed universal support from the Indigenous community. This is primarily because they either fail to recognize the diverse range of Indigenous communities within Australia, are not held accountable to Indigenous constituencies or because they are incapable of adequately representing the extremely culturally, socially and geographically diverse range of interests and issues that exist throughout the many Indigenous communities spread across Australia.
Notwithstanding the organization of land councils, which is based on geographic groups has been the most successful model to deal with land issues, this geographic base has never seriously been considered for political representation. This paper proposes a national framework for an Indigenous representative body based on individual geographically based Indigenous nations formed into a national congress.
Recognising broad feelings of disempowerment (see background) resulting from the Indigenous population's minority status, the lack of a democratically selected representative forum to discuss and represent the views of individual Indigenous nations and to advise and negotiate with the Federal Australian Government, we propose the creation of the Congress of the Indigenous Nations of Australia to represent the Commonwealth of Indigenous Nations of Australia. Members of the Congress would be democratically elected representatives of the individual Indigenous Nations.
The role of the congress would be to discuss fundamental and broad areas of reconciliation and treaty, provide advice to the Government of the day and express the spirit in which policy should be developed and implemented. The scope of debate in congress would be focused on the development of policies addressing the core areas of disempowerment, distance and Diaspora (see background). It is proposed that members would maintain a departmentally funded office within the Nation they represent to ensure delivery of services is in keeping with the spirit expressed in Congress and is sensitive to the culture of that Nation. In the establishment and function of "offices" it is recognized that the concept of an "office" may vary depending on the cultural and geographic exigencies of individual nations.
Crucial to the issue of disillusionment is the adherence to ethical behaviour and the setting of high standards of accountability for members of Congress in the management of their national offices. This would be monitored and managed by the department and by their electorate.
Consultative Council of Congress
At the core of the Congress would be the Consultative Council of Congress comprising of Members of the yet to be determined regions, much like regional representation of non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. These members would serve on the council on a relatively frequent rotational basis. Ideally there should be no more than ten members. It is proposed that the role of the council be to present the views of the Congress, synthesize policy proposals and negotiate on behalf of their member nations with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs. The Minister would in-turn ensure the views of the council are taken into consideration in policy development and put those views forward to the Federal Cabinet.
To ensure a successful working, collaborative and consultative relationship between the Minister, the Congress and the Council, the Federal Government of Australia, it is proposed would present ministerial candidates for selection by the Consultative Council who would elect the candidate most suitable for performing a mediation role serving the Congress of the Indigenous Nations of Australia.
To ensure free flowing debate and to expose the Minister to the views of individual Indigenous nations, during sessions of Congress the Minister or their delegate may serve in the role of the speaker of congress.
In order to ensure that policy implementation is delivered in a culturally sensitive manner according to the individual practices of Indigenous nations, we propose that a new Department of Indigenous Policy Implementation (DIPI) be created.
Consultative Council articulation with peak bodies and with Government
It is envisaged the Congress of Indigenous Nations, through the Consultative Council, will perform the role of principal non-government adviser to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs and to the DIPI. Peak bodies and individuals would present policy proposals for debate by the Congress as well as to the Minister and Department. Peak bodies would also be provided with observer status during meetings of the Consultative Council.
In order to avoid perceptions that the views of individual peak bodies will have undue sway in the Congress, any elected representatives who are also members of peak bodies or have significant business interests in matters debated by the Congress would be required to declare these interests in the lead-up to elections and possibly resign membership or divest those business interests upon taking up a seat on the Congress.
With regard to mechanisms of Federal Parliamentary review (ie Senate committees and estimates), the Consultative Council would play an integral role in both responding to review panels and in reviewing the efficacy of funding utilization, departmental performance and implementation programs. Peak bodies would also be granted observer status in these instruments of review.
A New State and Territory Framework
State and Territory based Indigenous representative bodies would need to be organized differently to reflect the effects of the Indigenous Diaspora. It is proposed that State and Territory representative bodies be directly elected by the Indigenous people enrolled to vote in that State or Territory. Their primary function should be accountability for the provision of services by government and non-government agencies, which receive government funding to provide services to Indigenous people. We propose they hold public hearings in which people can make submissions, call in public servants and heads of government funded organizations to account and deliver a report to the State or Territory Parliament. It is proposed that submissions could be accepted from Indigenous residents who on the electoral roll to focus issues on the State or Territory and provide a forum for speaking out.
A Potential Model for Policy Implementation and Delivery
A successful model for the proposed Department of Indigenous Policy Implementation was developed in the 1970's - Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL). AHL maintains numerous hostels across Australia and has effective accountability structures, to the extent that it has never been refused funding. We envisage these hostels and the central administrative office would provide a model for both individual Nation Offices and the DIPI.
For some reason many aspects of this proposed model are foreign to the area of Indigenous political representation in Australia, yet completely familiar to both the areas of Aboriginal land councils and non-Indigenous political representation. It is difficult to imagine non-Indigenous Australians accepting a representative model involving randomly selected representatives from a different geographic region, culture and social status to themselves. The acid test of any model should be its effectiveness, and we feel the above model is the only way to effectively give a voice to all Indigenous Australian's, rather than just a vocal or politically savvy few. We feel that in order for a model to be considered potentially viable, it must give a voice to Indigenous Australians from remote highly cultural regions through to those living in suburban regions, and all those in between. All previous models have assumed that issues experienced by Indigenous communities in remote Western Australia are the same as those experienced by people living in Wangaratta or Marrickville, which everyone accepts as wrong. Given this, we need to get serious about the development of a model to provide effective representation all Indigenous Australians.
Public submission 59
I am an Aboriginal man resident in the Penrith LGA my country is the area now known as the Hunter Valley Region of NSW. I have been actively involved in what is called "Aboriginal Politic" for many years and have seen many failures of both State and Federal Governments in their attempts to create structures/policies to deliver services to our people.
Many of these structures/policies have been endorsed by self appointed Aboriginal representative’s who are recoginsed by State or Federal Governments and/or their agencies and in a lot of cases employed by them. These people have no clear Aboriginal community mandate to represent their view/opinions or aspirations.
The key to developing a structure that will work is for Aboriginal people to be a part of that development so as to own the process. The worst thing Government could do is to throw together something for expedience’s sake supported by those who may have the Governments ear. Take the time to get it right listen to the silence voices in the community and create a process where people can participate without fear or intimidation about how they select representatives.
We do not need another administrative system developed that is doing to eat up much needed funds on the ground. There are many Aboriginal services providers across this country with established administrative systems at the regional and/or local community levels eg; Aboriginal Medical, Legal, Housing services etc and the Land Council systems that could be supported also, with a service fee to assist with the administration of a new structure. Furthermore, we have the Local Government system nation wide.
I would like to recommend that the Federal Government consider putting forward to Aboriginal people for them to consider a new structure where Aboriginal people are elected at the same time as Local Government elections to represent us.
I also believe it must be a compulsory voting requirement for our people. What better way to promote reconciliation then by practical involvement with Local Government this is where it all happens, Local Government level is where attitudes change quicker than State or Federal Government policies, Local Governments have there finger on the pulse with local conditions.
There could be a process developed to support the duties of such an elected representative to ensure that the local community voice is heard which would be taken to an annual or bi-annual conferences for state policies development and then to a national conference for endorsement of a national position to advise the Federal Government.
I believe no better representation could be obtained then by a compulsory election process being undertaken by Government. It could be a simple exercise to include with State and Territory Government support an amend to their relevant Acts for the inclusion of Aboriginal candidates during Local Government election process.
An example of a working relationship within NSW is; In 2000 the Local Government and Shires Association of NSW amended its constitution to include the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights (regional) system as voting delegates at annual conferences of the Local Government and Shires Association of NSW.
Since 2001 a number of resolutions have been presented to these conferences by the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights (regional) system which the conferences have supported.
Furthermore, the Australian Local Government Association has forwarded numerous recommendations of support to the Federal Government Minister for Aboriginal Affairs since 1994 to 2007 to improve conditions related to our people in particular in rural and remote communities.Thank You.
Public submission 60
We are expressing our concerns about the forming of the Indigenous Representative body due to the current Aboriginal identity issues. If the body is formed under the Federal government, the definition of Aboriginal should remain under the federal definition. It is vitally important to consider the objectives of the forming of the body, and that is to, hear the voices of Aboriginal people throughout Australia. If bodies are appointed, on community recognition and respect , and aboriginality is a question, then the purpose of the body is defeated.
There has to be a process of appointing members to represent all the individual communities across Tasmania, not just the urban communities, remote and rural communities should be included. The body should meet on a 2 monthly basis, to plan and develop strategies to be able to work for the best outcomes for their individual community. We believe that by having this process in place would commence the start of reconciliation throughout the communities.All members of the body should have governance training at a Certificate 4 level.
Public submission 61
I suggest that the proposed National Indigenous Representative Body be called the National Indigenous Consultative Group. It's difficult to form a representative body to represent all Indigenous people. A consultative group made up of professional Indigenous people from all States and Territories is well equipped to develop and monitor government policy and advise government on Indigenous issues.
Roles and Function
Establishing an effective National Indigenous consultative Group should ensure Indigenous people contribute to and lead policy development on Indigenous issues. Ensure proper mechanisms are in place to monitor the performance of government on Indigenous issues. Ensure government commitments are supported by evidence based action plans.
Develops policy for government and monitors government policy and programs for Indigenous Affairs. Advise government on Indigenous issues. Have ex-officio membership of the Cabinet Committee in Indigenous Affairs or it could advise these committees. Participate in discussions of the Council of Australian Governments and relevant committees.
Structure of a national body
The National Indigenous Consultative Group should have Indigenous people from each State and Territory who have experience working in Indigenous affairs, knowledge of issues affecting Indigenous people and at least certificate 2 level education. There must be an equal balance between male and females members.
The Minister for Indigenous affairs should call for expressions of interest for Individual Indigenous people to apply for membership on the National Indigenous Consultative Group. Appoint a panel of eminent Indigenous people to coordinate the selection process. The members appointment should be a three year term.
The selection process should be based on merit, experience, knowledge, skills and qualifications. This will encourage professional Indigenous people to apply for membership. Designated positions be allocated to the national body as portfilio areas.
The portfilio should include economic and social areas e.g. health, housing, education, employment and training, Small business development, community development, arts and culture, law and justice, family violence, alcohol and drugs, men's issues, women's issues, youth issues, sport and recreation, counselling and healing. These are some identified service areas that need reviewing, developing or expending to address Indigenous peoples needs.
The national body should be a statutory arm of government and funded by government to develop policy on Indigenous issues, monitor government policy and programs and provide advice on Indigenous issues.
Public submission 62
The position of FVPLS Victoria in relation to Indigenous women’s law and justice is informed by both our experience in provision of legal services and in the recent development of a strategic plan for a National Indigenous Women’s Law and Advocacy body for the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department.
FVPLS Victoria is of the view that the new Representative body should:
- include a strong law and justice and dedicated women’s focus
- recognize the state, territory and regional base of many significant issues
- incorporate well developed and defined relationships with other National Indigenous bodies
- and that women should be guaranteed equal representation.
About FVPLS Victoria
The Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria (FVPLS Victoria) is one of 31 FVPLS units funded by the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department to provide legal and counselling assistance to Indigenous victims/survivors of family violence and sexual assault in regional and remote areas of Australia.
FVPLS Victoria’s head office is in Melbourne and we have regional offices in Lakes Entrance, Gippsland and Mildura. FVPLS Victoria has also secured some funding through Victoria Legal Aid to enable us to provide legal services in Metropolitan Melbourne and other Victoria. FVPLS units are not currently funded for policy development/law reform activity although FVPLS Victoria has secured short term Victorian funding for several policy projects.
This submission focuses upon issues of relevance to the work of FVPLS Victoria being family violence and sexual assault, the majority of victims/survivors of which are women and children. Improving law and justice outcomes for Indigenous women and children is therefore a high priority for FVPLS Victoria. Whilst family violence and related issues clearly have some priority it is also critical that broader law and justice advocacy for Indigenous women occur. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People at Article 22 refers specifically to the rights of Indigenous women and children and to the obligations of States in this regard.
National Indigenous Women’s Law and Advocacy
FVPLS Victoria is of the view that the most effective means to achieve improved law and justice outcomes for Indigenous women is through a dedicated National law and advocacy body for Indigenous women with a state and territory base. FVPLS Victoria has responded to a request from the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department to develop a strategic plan for such a body which is referred to below. It is recognized that this body would need to have strong relationships with the proposed new Representative body and National Justice advisory body and that clarity of roles and functions would be critical.
The issues paper
a) Law Reform
It is noted that the issues paper prepared by the Social Justice Commissioner includes 'contribution to legal reform'as a possible priority area for a new Representative body. The issues paper also notes that the Aboriginal Legal Services have generally been limited to addressing criminal matters, that resourcing constraints have limited law reform capacity and that many big picture issues remain to be addressed.
It is envisaged that a National Indigenous Women’s law and advocacy body as proposed would inform the new representative body and proposed National Justice Advisory body in relation to women’s law and justice issues. Both of these bodies must also develop distinct processes for the advancement of Indigenous women’s issues, including in the law and justice area.
b) Gender Balance
The issues paper also refers to the importance of 'gender balance'and FVPLS Victoria supports the comments at p53 stating.... 'A lack of appropriate representation of women and youth in national Indigenous governance structures, including at the highest levels of office, can impact on the confidence and legitimacy of the representative body among its constituents.'FVPLS Victoria agrees generally with the conclusions of the Hannaford Review of ATSIC also referred to at p53 whereby 'insufficient recognition of the role of Indigenous women and matters that impact significantly on them......lead to consequences including 'distorted and flawed policy and program design with limited capability to meet Indigenous women’s needs and a resultant lack of participation by women in such programs.'Any new representative body must ensure equal representation for Indigenous women and incorporate dedicated focus for the advancement of issues of particular concern to Indigenous women.
National Indigenous Law and Advocacy body – Strategic Plan
In June 2008 the Commonwealth AGD contracted FVPLS Victoria to develop a strategic plan for a National Indigenous Women’s Law and Advocacy body. The plan was submitted to the Commonwealth AGD at the end of August and is attached to this submission (but not for publication). In developing the strategic plan the following were identified as key issues in developing a National advocacy approach :
- Indigenous women across Australia must properly determine the nature, development and progress of a national law and advocacy body representing their interests.
- That the traumatic impact upon Indigenous women of removal of children, institutionalization, domestic servitude, family violence and sexual assault and other systemic racism and discrimination and its impacts must be fully acknowledged
- The major focus on Indigenous law and justice issues arises from the RCIADIC recommendations, with their particular concerns about justice outcomes for men. Insufficient attention has been paid to Indigenous women’s law and justice policy.
- Significant work has been done and recommendations made by Indigenous women in relation to many issues over the years that have not been taken up by successive governments. The inadequate representation of Indigenous women in key decision making roles is likely to have contributed to this situation and must change.
- There are no existing structures at the national or state levels that specifically focus on policy development or on provision of channels for advocacy, and government engagement for Indigenous women’s law and justice issues.
- State and territory governments have a major responsibility for most Indigenous women’s law and justice issues and there is significant diversity amongst Indigenous communities across Australia. Effective Indigenous law and justice advocacy must therefore have a strong state/territory base to achieve on the ground change and it is critical that commonwealth, state and territory governments are effectively linked in supporting these issues
- Achieving on the ground change in the area of Indigenous Women’s law and justice will be greatly influenced by the strength of relationships and clarity of roles and functions between a National Indigenous Women’s Law and Advocacy body, the National Representative body and the proposed National Indigenous Justice Advisory body. These are instances of potential parallel developments in which important aspects of advocacy research and policy development need to be linked well rather than developed separately. The National representative body should have a role to facilitate this linkage without necessarily being the sole or overriding voice.
Public submission 63
In what ever form this body takes on it must be able to represent all Aboriginal people. The smallest voice must be heard. The body must be able to have the means of listening to every boice not just those politically motivated or with the loudest voice. Too often over the past 200 years the voice of the true Aboriginal has not been heeded.
It is therefore of paramount importance that the body is able to clearly access the minister with the information from all Aboriginal people.
The choice of minister must be of someone able to listen to Aboriginal concerns and beliefs.
Public submission 64
Statement of Position
That the Torres Strait islander community form Zenadth Kes Federation of Local Government comprise of all Community Councils established under the Community Services (Torres Strait Islander) Act 1984 and the Torres Shire Council.
That the provision of statutory powers to Community Councils under the Community Services (Torres Strait Islander) Act 1984 is reserved in perpetuity by subsequent legislation to protect the sovereign rights and cultural integrity of the traditional inhabitants of this protected Territory (ref.1985 Torres treaty).
The Federation of Island Council absorbs the responsibilities of policy development, coordination of funding and management of outcome under community governance pursuant to the statutory obligations of State and Commonwealth power of authority operating in the Torres Strait.
That a complementary legislation be enacted to accent to these principles.
Reference Group Composition
ICC working Party
Greater Autonomy Steering Committee
Local Government and Planning Department
Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy
Chairman of Native Title Reference Group
ICC coordinate and manage the outcomes of the consultation from Torres Strait Islander communities to ensure that the integrity of community aspirations and the unique culture and traditions is preserved (under the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nation that Australia is signatory to).
That the green paper in its interpretation and formal proceedings (white paper) retains the principles of native title, human rights, natural justice and equity of outcome.
That all islander and aboriginal peoples are provide with equal opportunity and choices to express and interpret their views in their languages to avoid misrepresentation and exploitation on their basic human rights.
That all islander and aboriginal peoples must not be restricted and must have access to independent legal opinions which would prevent from suppressing their true aspiration and add value to the consultation process.
That the rights of islander and aboriginal children are to be protected and their wellbeing formally recognised through this process to prevent poverty and further regression in health status in future.
That all the special needs characterised by the Fourth World Economic Status (breech of united nation standards) of this region is to be formally addressed by State and Commonwealth authorities through this process.
That the integrity of islander and aboriginal peoples views and aspiration are retained in the final analysis of the findings of the consultation and is honoured by the Department of Local Government.
Public submission 65
This submission derives its proposals for a new National Indigenous Representative Body (NIRB) from a review of the prior performance and current capacity of the Indigenous leadership and the Canberra policy makers in addressing the 'real'Indigenous problem.
My broad conclusions from this review are that an advisory NIRB is required which equips the Indigenous community with a strong voice in policy deliberations at the national level while insulating it from the role ambiguities and unrealistic expectations which were the downfall of ATSIC and its predecessors.
My specific recommendations in relation to the role, functions, structure and relationships of a NIRB are as follows:
- The establishment of a NIRB does not flow from any inherent right in the Indigenous community to self determination. It stems rather from a desire in the mainstream community to assist and support the Indigenous community in its welcome endeavours to overcome the effects of past oppression.
- The primary role of a NIRB should be to provide the Indigenous community with a more prominent voice in the formulation, implementation and review of policy for overcoming the effects of past oppression and for integrating the Indigenous community into the larger Australian political community of which it is a part. A NIRB should not have an executive role either in the executive processes of government or in the administration of programs.
- The functions which a NIRB could undertake in support of this role include advocacy; advice in relation to policy development, program delivery, monitoring and evaluation; and research.
- To enhance its legitimacy as a voice for the various groups and interests within the emerging national Indigenous community NIRB members should be directly elected by the Indigenous people on the basis of a roll compiled by the electoral commission.
- To enhance its independence the NIRB should be established as a statutory body to be funded by a vote of the Parliament with the power to initiate its own enquiries, recruit and direct its own staff and report directly to the Parliament.
- Consistent with its national advisory role the NIRB should not have an executive or oversight relationship with peak bodies; agencies at the state level; regional bodies or local government.
These provisions are intended to equip a new NIRB with a large degree of discretion in the management of its affairs while relieving it of the web of relationships and responsibilities which pulled ATSIC down so that it can act selectively and strategically in promoting the Indigenous cause.
But in insulating the new NIRB from messy relationships with an expanding universe of stakeholders and constituencies at the sub national level we appear to have created a firewall between the national body and the remote homelands whose fate we have identified as the real Indigenous problem. That is not the intention.
Our strategy is to design a body which is free to act selectively and strategically so that it can give a high priority to the promotion of self determination at the sub national level and in particular to the development of forms of self government which build political agency and cultural recognition in remote communities.
Since national elites preoccupy themselves with national agendas - and the Indigenous elite has a record of preoccupying itself with nation building at the expense of homelands governance - the requirement to address issues of self determination at the sub national level should be given statutory force.
After considering the feasibility and appropriateness of the 'close the gaps' response to the dysfunctions revealed by the N T Intervention we conclude that Canberra may, with political commitment and abundant resources, achieve some success in closing material gaps in remote communities but there are structural constraints on its ability to do this in a manner which gets to the heart of the Indigenous problem.
We therefore go on to conclude that Canberra will have to step outside its comfort zone of designing and delivering programs and, in collaboration with a new NIRB, look for solutions to the real Indigenous problem in a new and more appropriate architecture of government for the inland and the north.(These conclusions and recommendations are abstracted from a larger submission of some 5000 words which will be submitted under separate cover.)
Public submission 66
Kulunga Research Network
The creation of a new National Indigenous Representative Body is an opportunity for the Government to establish a respected, authoritative and legitimate representative organization to act for Australia's First People. This body should be a genuine reflection of the Government's intention to establish an equitable relationship with Indigenous people and to work collaboratively to address the broad range of issues that impact on Indigenous individuals, families and communities.
The new body must avoid the issues that have beset other imposed structures in the past. It is vital that the National Indigenous Representative body is not - nor is perceived to be - simply hand picked by government to legitimate government policies. Rather, it must be seen by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people as a significant and independent voice, and an active partner and constructive critic of Government.
Role and Objectives
The role and objectives of the national body should be underpinned and guided by a statement of principles and terms of reference, which its members are obliged to adhere to and respect. While this document should encapsulate the relationship of the national body to Indigenous people, it should also reflect the Government's commitment to respecting Indigenous people's right to be autonomous in decision making processes that impact on their lives and their communities.
The work of the national body should include a principal role as adviser to Government on policy. The work of this body should also have a key role in evaluating and reporting on the Government's progress in relation to the national targets it has set itself across six areas, including closing the life expectancy gap within a generation. In this regard, the work of the national body needs to be adequately supported by independent research and analysis so that it can be fully informed in its decision-making and policy contribution. While the body will necessarily work closely with the Australian Government, it is important that it is not seen as an extension of the Government or simply endorsing government policy and values. Similarly, the National Representative Body cannot be established to assume the blame for the failings of government departments. The transparency and independence of the national body is thus vital in ensuring its ability to constructively criticise government and retain the respect and confidence of Indigenous people that it is accountable to.
Beyond its advisory role, policy contribution and report card writing, the body should be the leading advocate for the inherent and collective rights and unique position of Australia's Indigenous people, both nationally and internationally. This should include both attendance at International forums as well as monitoring Australia's compliance with international instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Ideally, membership of the National Indigenous Representative Body should be sourced from across various sectors including corporate, community, academia, law, health, and local and state government. It is important the body's membership reflects a range of experience and policy expertise and that members are capable of working and engaging at a high level across a range of policy fields.
The National Indigenous Representative Body must also be inclusive. Its make-up should adequately address issues of gender, ages and stages (youth and elderly), as well as a fair distribution of members from across Australia. It is important that the selection process for membership to the national body is transparent and respected by Indigenous people. The appointment or selection by government of candidates will undoubtedly attract criticism and result in a failure of support for the national body and its decision-making. While no single structure will satisfy all, due regard must be payed to the views people have concerning any proposed model for the national body.
The Government is to be applauded for its decision to re-establish a National Indigenous Representative Body for Indigenous Australians. The establishment of a national voice for Indigenous Australia is not only right and just, it also represents good practice in terms of harnessing the knowledge and input of those who are most affected by the policies and issues that face Indigenous Australia - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves. In order for the new body to be a success it must have the support of Indigenous people. That support will only be gained if the structure and position of the new representative body genuinely reflects the status and rights of Australia's Indigenous people - culturally, socially, economically, and politically.
Public submission 67
In 1981 as an alderman on Darwin City Council, tried to represent Indigenous people in my ward. However, they saw me as a "hated white" (according to my mother, my grandmother was part-Indigenous but I look white).
To test my resolve the President of Bagot Reserve asked me to catch a snake for the women. After spending four hours in the water with the crocodiles, I succeeded. Then to the horror of the Bagot women, I was threatened with prosecution. To protect me the President adopted me so that like herself and the other Indigenous women, I could hunt legally.
The next year senior women told me of a police officer in Arnhem Land that they said was a serial rapist. At some risk to ourselves we worked to rid the settlement of that officer and others. Consequently elders named me Lawungkurr, after a Dreamtime woman still respected for her mediation skills.
In 1988 Kunwinjku elders asked me whether I would help them start a tourism business.
I have worked as a specialist birdwatching guide since 1983- my relatives had met some of these people and liked them. After twelve year's deliberation all custodians agreed. However, many were scared that as had happened to the Mirrar, traditional owners of western Kakadu, they would be over-run by tourists, and lose control to "ignorant" tour operators. They were also scared of white people and bureaucracies.
I designed a program that built upon the existing skills, knowledge and values of my family. Then elders and I began to include other outstation residents, all of us teaching and facilitating together. One result was that many became more confident in their dealings with white people and with bureaucracies. But we lost funding when an NT Government Department decided that neither myself nor the elders had the necessary certificate to train.
I am now doing a PhD on the relevance of American birdwatchers as a suitable market for semi-traditional people, and next year am lecturing in the US, on Indigenous issues among others.
As vice-president of NT Council on the Ageing, I took President Brian Hilder and ED Dr Graeme Suckling to meet my son, Isiaah Burunalli, elder at Mamadewerrie, western Arnhem Land, and also Graeme Hindmarsh, of DEMED, the organisation that looks after outstations in that country.
Isiaah told the COTA representatives that funding had been cut to fourteen outstations. This didn't help desperate elders who were struggling to keep young people on the country and out of towns where they too often became drunks, and ended up in jail or dead.
Outstation people live longer, the children are happy and contented, and there is little or no substance abuse or violence. They can also work to control weeds and keep an eye out for avian flu. Forcing such people to relocate to towns will not "reduce the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous life outcomes".
Dr. Suckling and Mr. Hilder were instrumental in getting COTA to adopt a policy of caring for Indigenous elders on outstations. It fitted COTA's existing policy of helping people "age in place".
What constructive roles do you want to see the body play in Indigenous and national affairs?
The body could inform not only Indigenous issues but be relevant to national issues such as education, women's, men's and health issues, crime and tourism.
What outcomes do you want the national Indigenous representative body to deliver?
Respect for Indigenous people as fellow human beings, people with whom we share much common ground.
And action. For instance forcing Indigenous women to have babies far away from their country not only works against their interests, but those of male relatives who, left out, too often feel little attachment to a child, often resulting in abandonment and sometimes violence. Speak to Professor Lesley Barclay, Head of General Practice Studies, Charles Darwin University, Darwin.
Semi-traditional Indigenous people need support to keep their outstations going and their families and country safe, and slow the drift to towns. So I would urge you to ensure that such people are represented on this body.
My Kunwinjku relatives teach their toddlers the skills needed to make them grow into competent parents and responsible members of community; my relatives treat elders as fonts of knowledge - to be called "old lady" is an honour. There needs to be a vehicle of exchange and support for such values, not only for the good of Indigenous people but also for the wider society.
What role don't you want to see the body do, particularly from lessons learned from the past?
I don't want to see power and money given to men who use it to abuse or deprive others. Women must be given more control, along with groups that treat women and others with respect. Token support of (generally male) Indigenous culture to the detriment of women and family values/culture is not good enough.
d) What skills do they need? Kunwinjku children learn to look after each other as toddlers; they can often converse in half a dozen different languages; they have social and community skills that many adults would die for. Those skills need to be acknowledged and nurtured.
Kunwinjku "old ladies" and "old men" ("old" meaning "wise") often lead from behind, and generally facilitate discussion rather than laying down the law. This needs to be taken into account.
I taught Kunwinjku elders to type on a computer in ten days. Most have at least Year 8 high school. I've seen them discussing convoluted social issues with American professors. What other skills do they need! And on that point, I never want to hear another respected, highly intelligent elder tell me he is too "stupid" to teach his kids anything, having learnt this in western-style education.
The body must function in a way that involves women, men and families particularly from remote areas. The body needs to be able to look at the world through their eyes. Learn from the ways that women interact, eg socialising and eating together and sharing child care and talking about family issues. Work with values that semi-traditional people such as the Kunwinjku hold dear - they are similar to those that in general the wider society would support - integrity, tolerance, fairness, regard for community etc.
f) How will the body have its performance measured and be held to account?
There will always be division between Indigenous societies where women are generally respected (eg the Kunwinjku), and others where men have most say; between "urban" Indigenous people and semi-traditional; between those who wish to keep their families and culture safe by living on their country and those who wish to live in towns. Consequently it may be easier to divide urban interests from bush interests, and to hold separate men's and women's meetings. That being said, my long experience demonstrates the importance of members of any body being seen to be "doing the right thing" and that means getting results and publicity.
How can the body most accurately represent the views and priorities of Indigenous people living in urban, regional and remote parts of Australia?
As semitraditional people like my relatives are often uncomfortable in western-style meetings, I urge you to consider holding meetings in a form and places eg on outstations where there is no substance abuse or violence. Small meetings, sexes separated and with facilitators work better. I can cover this in more detail if needed.
Public submission 68
Mount Isa Indigenous Women's Network has reached consensus on the following themes:
No current "high profile" leaders eg. Noel Pearson, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Warren Mundine, should be eligible for appointment/election to the National Indigenous Representative Body (NIRB) as it is felt that they already have influence through their established organisations. The NIRB needs to be much more representative and neutral.
Gender balance essential as is representation from remote, rural & urban. Consideration also of demographics and cultural diversity eg. Gulf & Cape are 2 distinct regions as is Mount Isa, Central Queensland and Brisbane. Torres Strait Islander should also have representation.
The role of the NIRB should be a policy role and sit at the same level as policy decision makers linked to COAG with voting rights. Possibly a Statutory Authority with some independence from government.
No program delivery or financial responsibility - Australian Government Departments reporting to NIRB on performance gainst Key Performance Indicators devised by NIRB for Indigenous portfolios.
Policy to link to service delivery on the ground
Requires the following support:
"Communication Strategy" that facilitates links to community - two-way communication with mandatory feedback to community using culturally appropriate media eg. Newletters, website, NITV, Koori Mail, BRACS, Clearing house."
Research Unit to support policy development and analysis
High level drivers eg. Committed director generals (and high level bureaucrats) of each department.
Independent Ombudsmen for complaints
Option 1: Appointment through selection process is our preference - application process and appointment based on merit
Option 2: Election process i.e. nomination process - nomination form and supporting evidence i.e. features to included: Profile, track record, community support and aspirations for Indigenous Australia. All this information be publically available. Multi-media options for elections: eg online, polling booth, postal, sms.
Additional features for consideration include:
Mandatory Regional Forums twice a year.
10 member body - one member from each state and territory, with the 3 additional members being Torres Strait Islands representative, an Indigenous Chairperson elected by the NIRB and the Cabinet Minister of the Australian Government with the portfolio for Indigenous Affairs.
Each Indigenous member of NIRB hold a policy portfolio for Indigenous affairs that link to COAG priorities.
Public submission 70
A National Australian Representaive body is a fundemental step in engaging the Indigenous community to activly participate in seeking resolutions to the core issues and disadvantages that our communities live with everyday.The representative body must make a strong commitment to deliver true Indigenous community consultation and resolution to Government. Strong policy must be developed to address the inequities in program delivernce across our nation. The Representative body must provide the opinion of the Indigemous community and not their own opinion, some Indigenous people are blessed with the fact that they are not subject to inadequate housing, poor health,education and economic disadvantage.
The body must consider its relationship with peak bodies and Organisations and be committed in building a working, effective partnership, these local bodies are an imperative part of local communities, to ignore them would be unjust. The Representavie body must be prepared to be accountable for its actions if it is to hold any accredabilty with Government, Industry and the general popultation. People should be selected for the body from a cross section of men, women, youth, elders, professionals and community members with sound knowledge of the issues that the Indigenous community live with everyday.
Currently I am the CEO of Gunida Gunyah Aborignal Corporation , Over the past three years of my employment with the Corporation we have established sound policy and procedures that have effectivly secured the future of our Business, by identifying the needs of our communty and setting realistic targets we have been able to maximise our effiecncy in the current economc environment of our community. We have 57 fulltime employees , we operate 3 enterprises and have established a positive working relationship with service providers, agencies, clients, general public and community, this has all been acheivable by positive, pro active consultation with stake holders and community. Whist this is a small contribution to our community, it clearly shows that with strong commitment, good policy, follow up and action that we can find resolutions to the issues we face. I believe that the Representative body is the first step of many in the right direction and I like many others would be privalaged to be a part of that step.
Public submission 71
Virginia Falk and Peter Falk
Issues for consideration for a National Indigenous Representative Body
Note:The following information will be indexed at the page number
p16 para. 2.: The inclusion of discrete Aboriginal communities is not made.
pp17-22(ATSIC):Extract from 'The Rise and Fall of ATSIC: A personal opinion'1
The telling line, 'to create a voice within Government' should have sounded alarm bells for Indigenous Australians. ATSIC clearly was not intended to provide Indigenous Australians with a model of self-governance or even anything resembling Aboriginal governance. The establishment of ATSIC under the Act is under direction of the Commonwealth by the Minister of Indigenous Affairs and was tied conveniently to the apron strings of federal bureaucracy. As the late N.C. Coombs believed, ATSIC was designed to provide a means for government consultation.
ATSIC was never designed to free Indigenous Australians. It merely replicated the well known bureaucracy that wanted to 'whiten' and civilise a proud ancient peoples. On the one hand, it has rained concerns of Indigenous Australians on both the domestic and international stage. Unfortunately, because of its bureaucratic structure, it has also lost the general support of the community it was intended to represent.2
This extract from a paper on ATSIC raises issues not noted specifically in the Rep. Body Issues Paper. The inherent problem faced from the ATSIC model was that it was a government department of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal public servants. The network of the bureau to Aboriginal communities became overtime dislocated from its primary purpose, to serve the interests of Aboriginal communities in urban, rural, remote and discrete communities.
From experience on a community level, the candidates who stood for the Regional positions were either nominated as a 'popular personality' candidate or as a non-active community member who had decided to run. The ATSIC election structure replicated a Local Government model where, anecdotally, nominating candidates have minimal financial, administrative or community service. In addition this Local Government model is underpinned b through the operation of a 'popularity or personality' vote and it is not to our recollection based on the provision of talent, community service or skill base.
From experience of ATSIC at a community level, the communication and follow up between public servant and community was as a general rule 'unapproachable, information was not given in a timely matter, public servants were often unavailable or did not return telephone calls, were lacking customer service skills at a private enterprise level, supplied minimal communication to regional communities on the delivery of services by ATSIC and provided minimal exchange of information on international Indigenous Affairs, for instance, the Draft Declaration of Indigenous Rights, the attendance at the Permanent Forum.
p 21. Under the heading 'Autonomy, Resilience and Vunerability' para. 2. The para. Commences, 'there was confusion surrounding ATSIC's broad powers and functions'. In relation to the 'confusion', ATSIC did not clearly define its role to Aboriginal communities and what policy agenda its role was restricted to. The legislative structure of ATSIC was from a community perspective, that ATSIC was 'ham-stringed' to government and not independent to advocate on Aboriginal community issues that were priority issues on a 'grass roots' level. The bureaucratic agenda from ATSIC appeared to be based on what were the priorities of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal public servants.
After ATSIC period was terminated the public servants were absorbed in other departmental divisions, as a general rule. The Sydney meeting for the Rep. Body Workshops provided testament to the presence of a larger amount of government public servants (including NSWALC) and former ATSIC employees. This Sydney meeting can not be representative of Aboriginal communities within the Sydney radius. It does indicate that further workshops are required for a cross-section of the Sydney regions in order to provide an Aboriginal community response to the Rep. Body proposals. This workshop has failed to meet the expectations of the Aboriginal community.
P 21. Under the heading 'Clarity about powers and functions', the para. states that 'ATSIC did not capitalise on its functions'. The ATSIC central body did not set parameters of its operations to serve Aboriginal communities. Over the years of operation ATSIC became increasingly interested in advocating on international issues and progressively lost touch with community issues that were a priority in the respective regions. ATSIC Executives should equally take and hold responsibility for the 'confusion' that preceded, and any future representative body for Aboriginal people should not reindorse non-performing public servants.
Consultants used in any representative body construction should be drawn primarily from independent Aboriginal consultants that are non-government or university employed, to allay community perceptions of 'conflict of interest'.
The ATSIC Act 'may have been silent', however, the policy information and representative groups at the formation of the ATSIC Bill should have requested any discrepancies in the failings of the Act. The ATSIC Executive would have had the opportunity to communicate with Aboriginal communities and the broader Australian society of its chief functions, and where possible proposed amendments to the ATSIC Act to particularise any gaps in policy construction.
P 22. The footnote is authored by a former consultant in policy development and the views informed on ATSIC must be given its appropriate weight.
Within our regional Aboriginal community, to the best of our knowledge, no community consultation on Aboriginal community concerns had been undertaken. The national agenda of ATSIC had dominated the policy agenda and swept the community needs and expectations of ATSIC's functions well beyond the reach of rural Aboriginal communities. Any future rep. body must have performance indicators and performance task completion to indicate to the respective Aboriginal community that each criteria that is to be addressed by the new rep. body is not aspirational as in the case of 'Two Ways Together' NSW policy and , in general, the failed outcomes of the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
The current case of scholarship funding to Aboriginal students by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council has not been afforded timely and efficient communication and the distribution of successful funding applicants is unfulfilled to date. In addition, the statutory body of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council consists of public servants, and from current community experience it does not link or communicate its current project planning to rural Aboriginal communities. This is a perceived negligent omission to serving Aboriginal peoples in NSW and this rep. body structure should not be reintroduced as it has failed to meet the expectations of Aboriginal regional communities.
Pp 22-23 Under the heading 'Relationship between regional councils…', there is no doubt that the former Howard Government during the last years of ATSIC had played an integral role in demonizing Aboriginal identity in the role of Aboriginal governance. However, the preceding poor publicity that resulted from the CEO of ATSIC had provided the death knoll for the organisation. The inability of the CEO to step aside had provided a stable of reasons why ATSIC should be terminated. As a result the review of ASTIC would not revive the organisation, dissent from Aboriginal communities was varied from community to community.
The lessons from ATSIC's failure to serve the needs of Aboriginal communities was inevitable due to its lack of independence as an independent organisation and it became pressured and muzzled by government in the manner that all public servants, university employees, and Aboriginal organisations are when they are dependent on recurrent government funding. This is a further reason for not replicating a rep. body under this organisational structure.
P 23 Under the heading 'Relationship with governments', it states that ATSIC was 'incapacitated' by its limited powers in compelling governments to implement policy advice. This rep. model should not be replicated again because of the issues outlined in this section.
Government departments that are Indigenous Units or Aboriginal Affairs are incapable to compel governments to act on priority community agenda. This is the general consensus of proactive Aboriginal public servants that Aboriginal policy is given lip service and the decision making for Aboriginal community in many cases is devoid of cultural competence because in some areas of Aboriginal employment cultural issues are not known by some sections of the workplace or are not taken into account in order to satisfy the non-Aboriginal senior management Departments. Any rep. Body model should be independent to act on behalf of all Aboriginal communities and that it is a legislative directive in “must” implement the Aboriginal policy advice or other recommended actions.
Recent consultation advice provided to Western Australia was the inclusion of Aboriginal policies and the State rebutted any provision of legislative protection of Aboriginal rights and interests; which included a request by Aboriginal staff to implement policy development and legislative protection of Aboriginal water rights and interests. This act of government indicates the key ineffectiveness in the Australian government system and the primary problem met by ATSIC.
It is a fact in Australia in any government department in Aboriginal Affairs that often non-Aboriginal people write Aboriginal policy, senior management and Ministerial staffing are in general flippant and lacking commitment to Aboriginal issues as these issues do not receive a high electoral priority for governments reelection. For instance, the pastoral, mining and farming lobby is, historically and in contemporary terms a priority for government action. For instance, the Murray-Darling Basin has been profiled in the media and by government as a priority to address for farmers and irrigators. There has been a total lack of Aboriginal representation or Aboriginal Affairs departments across Australia by so named 'Aboriginal Leaders'.
P 24 Under the heading, 'Lessons to be learnt…” the word 'complex' is used to define Aboriginal and Governments relationship to implementing Aboriginal Affairs policy. However, there is over-finding provided to Aboriginal research units across Australia in universities that fail to link, in general, with Aboriginal communities prior and post-research and in the protection of all information provided by Aboriginal persons to research projects. Government and Aboriginal Research Units do not maintain open communications and follow up to Aboriginal communities on all areas of policies and are complicit in the poor performance of ATSIC and other current major Peak Bodies.
From an Aboriginal perspective, there is a general lack of engaging Aboriginal researchers who have the required cultural competence to communicate and understand the community protocols, community priorities as opposed to government priorities and often non-Aboriginal researchers maximise their input into Aboriginal Affairs as a career pathway to mainstream or Indigenous Expert Status. Any Rep. Body that is short listed should take these issues into account in order to have an independent, accountable, transparent and community focussed organisation that differs in the current model in Aboriginal Affairs and government departments for Aboriginal Affairs in Australia.
This section has not included discrete Aboriginal communities.
P 26 In regard to Section 2 of current mechanisms for representing Indigenous peoples provides a list of National Peak Bodies. I have researched the entire list which presents flaws in the use of this material in that a number of these organisations either are not fully funded to service Indigenous communities or they have web sites that either do not have sufficient information to inform of services, do not have a direct telephone contact or email and are not reflective of a national peak body finction.
Firstly, numerous Indigenous organisations are not funded to operate as services and rely on sponsorship, among other reasons.
- Aboriginal Tourism - has a service for non-Indigenous people as well as for Indigenous people. There are voting rights for non-Indigenous people in this organisation, as explained on their website. There is no control or protection of Indigenous Intellectual Property, which is unrecognised on this website. This organisation relies on sponsorship and government funds to survive. This does not provide the pro forma for a peak body that is fully functional and fully operative to serve Indigenous people.
- Australian Indigenous Doctors Association - This is for Indigenous members only. Non-voting rights for non-Indigenous people as associate members. The service is not fully funded by government to operate. The website is the most user-friendly of the listed organisations in the list.
- CATSIN - This is for Indigenous members only. This organisation does not represent DISCRETE Indigenous communities, as this rep. body paper has also failed to do. The ACT is not included in the service region. The website is functional but again it is not fully funded by government funds to service Indigenous community nursing members.
- FATSIL - This is a comprehensive site on Indigenous language, it has member voting rights and is registered under ORAC. It has a Indigenous profile but lacks broader communication to be identified with a national peak body finction.
- IAPSEN - is a Government membership, not of community service representatives and therefore a conflict in serving two 'masters' exists as an impediment to representing Indigenous peoples in an independent and wholly community collective voice of the rural, remote, urban and discrete communities.
- IDAA - This is an inadequate website to service as a national peak body in that it has limited contacts to serve Indigenous peoples and limited information. Again this organisation is not fully funded to operate and function successfully as a national peak Indigenous body.
- NACCHO - This organisation has a national peak body representation.
- NAJAC - This organisation is founded on government employed persons that is bureaucratic in nature and not generally wholly representative of grass-roots community people on the service level of social justice. The Committee is not accessible on the website and contact points for immediate communication barely exist. As a national peak body it has a poor profile to Indigenous people and the actions of this body are poorly communicated with community Indigenous people.
- NATSIEC - This organisation has an excellent website and provides good communication to those who are known to this organisation, however, it lacks the profile of a national peak body.
- NCATSISWA - This organisation is not for profit and does not have the funding to operate as a national peak body, as government finding is absent. The use of acronyms on this website makes this non-user friendly to Indigenous communities. No membership applications exist on this service and it is focussed on social workers. This organisation lacks the profile and funding to operate as a functional and fully useful entity in the national arena.
- NIHEN - is not a national peak body as per the website. The information provided by this organisation is difficult to navigate for Indigenous community peoples. The organisation is bureaucratic and government representative. The information on the website is non-user friendly for Indigenous community people and has a low profile in Indigenous community.
- NIPAAC - The organisation on the website is in Townsville Queensland. Under ORAC it has lodged an Exemption certificate for a Financial Statement for 2006/2007. It is not realistic to recognise this organisation as a national peak body. There are no names of any Directors on the ORAC website for NIPAAC and no member list for 2008. Only one name is listed as a contact person and again it should not be included as a national peak body.
- NIYMA - This organisation has commenced as per website information in 2007 and has no current news of its activities to date. There is no interconnection to Indigenous community members and NIYMA or discussion between NIYAMA and community. It is not representative of a national peak body.
- National Native Title Council - This website has Bryan Wyatt listed as Chair. This no profile of the organisation on the site and a lack of Indigenous community information. It does not appear to communicate or function as a profiled, Indigenous national representative body.
- NSDC - This organisation is well represented by its website and engages with Indigenous community for Indigenous community on Stolen Generations assistance on a range of national issues that it connects to on these significant issues. It is one of the few listed organisations that should be listed as a national peak body.
- Ngalaya - This organisation is listed in its address at the AJAC organisation. It is a non-active organisation that has a low profile, a low membership list as registered under ORAC and does not provide services to Indigenous lawyers and law students as listed in this paper. It could not be considered as a national peak body organisation or operative in comparison with other peak bodies that exist as a handful of functional national bodies.
- PATSIN - This organisation provides a service to AIDS interests in the Indigenous community and it is a national peak body organisation that provides an excellent website and service network.
- SNAICC - This group is a policy group only and it is an advocacy NGO. It requires a higher profile to connect as a national peak body with the Indigenous community.
- Stolen Generations Alliance - This organisation is a community website portal that is an advocacy group. It is not as comprehensive in its service as SNAICC, and is not government funded to fully serve Indigenous communities as a national community.
27. Aboriginal Land Councils have had previous opportunities through extensive government funding, and for a complex and often negligent set of dealings generally have failed to service their collective Indigenous communities and minimise Indigenous social disadvantage. Land Councils now require CEOs that have been included in the structure of the Land Council to oversee business management and other services, however, on the basis of statistics of Indigenous completion of graduate business students and postgraduates in this area the possibility for an Indigenous person to fill this CEO position will be minimal.
It is a common understanding that Rep Corporate Bodies are not funded to commence their operations. The native title professional bodies involved in providing employment in the native title 'factory' are in general and in numbers non-Aboriginal persons. From the implementation of professional reports, legal representation, judicial employment, and Land Council and PBCs Management rarely, and generally do not provide Indigenous employment to professional graduates. At the Indigenous Water Conference 2008 at Garma it was acknowledged by Sir Tepeny O'Regan, Maori Elder, that Indigenous Australians are more than 25 years behind in providing these changes to the social demographics of Indigenous people in Australia.
Native title bodies and Aboriginal Land Councils have and continue to provide employment for non-Indigenous peoples in a range of professions, and both bodies have and continue to be driven by ineffective leadership and in urban regions through Indigenous persons who do not live by or fully implement a depth of cultural competence.
28. Torres Strait Islander peoples should only comment on TSRA.
29. The post-ASTIC examples on Indigenous representative arrangements. That is Ngaanyatjarra, Murdi Paaki do not represent the dissatisfaction that also underlies these examples. The flippant inclusion of these examples is not good research and it merely provides printed padding for this paper.
30 Lessons learnt - Currently we have the Australian Dialogue Group, that is Pat Dodson, Noel Pearson, Danny Gilbert, Joe Ross and others who have met in NSW to promote and construct constitutional change for Indigenous people. This is a prime example of the problem with Indigenous models in Australia for isolated persons grouping together and forming a illpercieved notion in the media that they are our chosen leaders to carry us, without out democratic consensus, to direct our lives. I do not believe that a welcome or invitation to Gundagai in NSW was requested or proved.
Like Noel Pearson, who represents the Cape York region with others from this region, the media centre their focus on selected Indigenous members, including Mick Dodson, Larissa Behrendt and other popularised media personalities in the national Indigenous representation.
The current government has again, like the Howard government, chosen to consult and speak with these small band of representatives. This example has also historically occurred with ATSIC and the Aboriginal Land Councils. The focus today is now on NAILSMA and IWPG on the development of northern Australia for non-Indigenous farming communities, where this community consultation is generalised on non-Indigenous science and other cultural practices, a lack of legal protection for Intellectual Property of Indigenous peoples and ongoing royalties that are unequal to non-Indigenous partners in industry.
Public submission 72
The National Indigenous Representative Body to be made up of two (2) delegates (male & female) from established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reference Groups within the Shires.
Reference Groups consisting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples from community organizations and other relevant groups and individuals (stakeholders) nominated to represent the community at a local level.
Guiding principles are:
- Democratic election by Indigenous Peoples to elect their representatives, not those appointed by the Federal or State Governments.
- Mechanism for National Indigenous Representative Body to monitor Government performance in relation to Indigenous issues
- Direct link Parliament - Minister for Indigenous Affairs (separate delegate from all other Portfolio's)
- Equal representation across the Nation regardless of State or Territory geographical size or population
- Transparent process - not representatives that are hand picked by the Government
National Indigenous Representative Body mandated by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to consuly with Government in order to have input into planning, policies and decision making. For example: distribution of funding to identified programs and communities services.
National Indigenous Representative Body to actively participate in all research pertaining to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to develop effective advocacy and policy development to empower and pave the way of self determination in the sharing of skills and knowledge.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd set the stage for moving forward on February 13th 2008 when he opened the first fay of Parliament with an apology on behalf of the Australian Government.In True Spirit of reconcilliation and with consideration to the current position of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People responsibility belongs to not only the people but the peoples elected representative (Federal Government). Therefore, allocation of funds be made available in the National Budget to establish and maintain the National Indigenous Representative Body.
Public submission 73
Mr Robert Hill
The role I would like the new Indigenous Representative Body (IRB) to play is:
- Focus on achievements that will build hope for our futures as First Australians;
- Direct response to the main issues and avoid spreading resources too thinly on the ground;
- Elect from the grassroots, where there is best understanding of how and what Indigenous people think;
- Set benchmarks for government departments/agencies that are currently delivering services and programs to measure effectiveness;
- Be a truly representative body of all Indigenous people regardless of where they live; and,
- Have clear guidelines and severe penalties for any representatives who try to rort for their own personal gain.
The IRB will need to deliver the following:
- Instil into the people the pride that existed in us prior to colonisation;
- Build Indigenous Culture into the Education system;
- Employment opportunities that are real and real housing options;
- Partnerships that can assist us to move forward and establish lifestyles in accordance to our values;
- Partnerships that will assist in goal-setting and skills development that will enhance the Body to be in control of the processes to get on with the job.
3: What not to do
I wouldn’t like to see the IRB be used as scapegoats when things appear to be going badly. Don’t have too many White Bureaucrats who will take over and run the Body. I also wouldn’t like to see the Body be in charge of a very large budget – too much money can make things go awry. All funds should be acquitted prior to new funds being allocated if monies are being requested for a similar service/program that had been funded previously.
4: Duplication of Services
The IRB should oversight the delivery of services of Federal, State and Territory Bodies including peak Indigenous organisations to ensure the effectiveness. The IRB should have the capacity to conduct enquiries into these organisations on the same basis as the Senate who conduct enquiries into the actions of various Government agencies.
5: The influences and having the right to be oversight
If the governments at all levels and politicians of all political backgrounds are fair dinkum in advancing the Indigenous Australians then they should be willing to support appropriate legislation to give the IRB the power to function. If this happens then the IRB will have the power to influence and to gain better outcomes for Indigenous people.
6: Selecting of suitable Candidates
People must be recognised by the community that they come from. They must have been associated with their respective communities over a long period of time and endure the same level of hardships as the people who they are wanting to represent. They must have the ability to compromise and be able to focus on common problems across the country and set aside local and personal issues unless these matters are unique to the community they represent.
7: The skills and expertises of the Candidates
All candidates who nominate for election/selection on to the board must be able to speak with their ears and eyes. Avoid any notion that they have all these answers to our problems. They must be able to manage people who may have University degrees but limited knowledge in working with Indigenous people. They must be available to travel to meet with people on a constant basis and be away from their respective homes for long periods of time.
8: Make up of the Body
It shouldn’t really matter the ages or gender of the candidates. It is what they have to offer to promote the issues that have impacted of Indigenous society so real goals can be set to rid us of them so we can start living better lives. Each person must be passionate about the survival of Indigenous people and our cultures, so our younger generations can see what we are about. I wouldn’t like to see big noters on the IRB as their egos are too big and they will slow down progress on real outcomes.
9: Selecting of the Representatives
The Reps must know that no matter where an Indigenous lives he or she will have needs, therefore they must respect individual circumstances while focussing on the major issues that cause individual hardship. They must be fair. In order to encourage every Indigenous person to feel included, the IRB must be seen to trying to raise living standards of all disadvantaged Indigenous persons.
10: Measuring the effectiveness of the Body or Individuals
Positive outcomes delivered to each and every Indigenous person will be the measuring yard stick to judge the performance of Body. There should be annual assessment and representatives who are underperforming should be moved out and replaced by another person from the same region. There must be no nepotism.
11: Alignment of Body
The Body must have it own autonomy. It must have a reporting obligation to senior government ministers who hold the portfolio of local government at the State and Federal levels. The Minister in turn must report to Cabinet and this Report must be read in parliament and recorded in official government records.
12: Funding of the Body
Funds direct from the Federal budget must be earmarked to cover the costs of the Body. Urban and regional offices must be resourced to focus exclusively on IRB aims and objectives.
13: Additional add-ons to what already been asked
- Government must set down some of its own objectives that it hopes to come from this Body.
- A carefully worded document must have the endorsement and support of all political parties so the Body isn’t compromised in anyway and the wording contained in the document must be written in a language that is widely acceptable and understood amongst Indigenous people and communities.
- If Government wishes to negotiate new measures with the IRB sufficient time and resources must be allowed for fair negotiation.
14: I would like to nominate myself for NIRB representation.
Public submission 75
Submission by Maurice Rocha
Partnership when released is strong, visible, practical, and produces effective results. Without a partnership discouragement, disillusionment, resentment and failure occur. The National Indigenous Representative Body in partnership with Government of Australia can fulfil this vision through a structured system of management and accountability.
In order to establish a representation of the National Indigenous Representative Body to work in conjunction so as to deliver policies, programmes and service, supporting the Indigenous Communities to become self reliant and to ensure a partnership approach, the following matters need to be addressed.
- Indigenous participation in discussion, and debates on National issues need to be considered
- Maintain and promote Indigenous culture and languages and skills enabling full exercise of economic social and legal rights.
- Help build and establish Community consensus on key issues affecting indigenous peoples.
- Seek to ensure adequate and appropriate accountability through mechanisms placed.
I was privileged to attend the workshop held in Brisbane and through observation; I would like to submit a suggestive format of a structural management system, which could enable the National Indigenous Representative Body to fulfil some of the above concerns.
- A - Cultural Affairs
- B - Health
- C - Education
- D - Welfare
- E - Justice
- F - Planning Research and Development
- G - Finance
I have spent over 40 Years in Australian and Overseas in working and developing management systems/consultation and also served 2 years as an Executive Director of the Federal Aborigines Board in Perth. The work involved urban and remote Aboriginal Community Welfare through aged youth training and social welfare activities.
Public submission 76
The Goldfields Land and Sea Council welcomes the Federal Government's commitment to form a national Indigenous Representative Body and would like to submit the following key comments.
- The participation of Indigenous people in any national Indigenous Representative Body , if they agree to participate, must be regarded as being pursuant to their rights under Articles 4, 19, 20 and 21 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to strengthen their distinct political characteristics, to fully, freely and with informed consent participate in decision-making through their own chosen representatives and to develop their own political systems.
- This requires that such a national body must be acceptable to the Indigenous people and thus must be formed with their full participation and engagement.
- Essential to acceptance is that it should be representative at regional, state and national levels to ensure decisions are made from people at the grass roots level;
- Further, the body should not be seen as a mere tool of Government for implementing policies and programs - it is imperative that it is capable of providing a dissenting and critical voice.
- One of the key roles of the national body should be to work as an advocate for policy initiatives sought by Indigenous people in Indigenous Affairs;
- It should also play a consultative and advocacy role in developing the amendments to the Australian Constitution ensuring free, prior and informed consent;
- To enable the national representative body to consult Indigenous constituents for the development of policies and legislation consideration needs to be given to how this function will be properly and effectively resourced;
- The body should be more than just a consultation mechanism for Government – it should play a key role in developing legislation, policy and programs and provide an advisory role to Government and other key stakeholders such as industry and non-Government service providers;
- The GLSC is of the view that it should not be responsible for service delivery;
- The body should also be able to play a key role in holding the Government to account. To do this effectively it will require the appointment of Commissioners for overseeing government policies and programmes, such as closing the 17 year life gap. In this regard the body would play a monitoring and evaluation role. The Commissioners should be elected from within the National body;
- The body should have the power to have significant input into Government decision making in relation to policies – one suggested mechanism would be for the body to have the capacity to examine the results of Indigenous Impact Assessments on relevant policies and legislation.
- The body should play a key role in coordinating research amongst tertiary institutions, i.e. CAEPR, AIATSIS, CIS and the Whitlam Institute, including the ability to seek research on particular matters;
- The body should play an advisory role on Indigenous Issues to all available international mechanisms, i.e. to the Special Rapporteur of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and hold Australia to account in its compliance of Covenants, Conventions and Treaties in the international arena.
- The body should be formed through an election process by Commonwealth legislation, with local, regional, state and national mechanisms at all these levels;
- At the outset of the national body, an election will be undertaken to elect State representatives, along the following lines – WA to have 3 representatives, Northern Territory to have 2, South Australia 1, Queensland 3, New South Wales 3, Victoria 1 and Tasmania 1. Interested persons should nominate to represent their states and a preferential vote should be undertaken. These elected representatives will form the National Indigenous Body.
- The representatives on the national body should perform specific functions along the lines of Commissioners and should be fully funded with a secretariat to undertake research and consultation, form policies and advocate on behalf of its constituents;
- It should have the authority to form advisory or special purpose committees as required, either from the elected membership and/or co-opting experts from particular fields such as peak body representatives;
- Once the state representation has been established, the national body should undertake consultation with Indigenous consituents to develop an appropriate regional representational mechanism. Appropriate boundaries for this representation will need to be negotiated through this process;
- Until an appropriate regional mechanism is established the national body should utilise regional indigenous peak bodies such as native title rep bodies, legal services, health and education bodies.
Relationship to Government
- The national body should be independent of Government and operate under statute with a clear set of powers and functions;
- It is critical that the body has significant links with Federal Parliament, in particular it should have the power to have direct input into both the House of Representatives and the Senate, including Committees of both houses.
- The body should have a formal role in Budget Estimates hearings and other Committees of review. The body should also have ex-officio membership of the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs and the Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs and play a key advisory role to COAG. As with government agencies, it should have the ability to provide input to significant policy and administrative initiatives that are proceeding through the Cabinet process.
- It is the GLSCs view that to ensure legitimacy and credibility with the Aboriginal community members should be elected (not appointed) with 6 year rolling terms - an Indigenous electoral roll would need to be developed for this purpose;
- An appropriate induction process and support system for members should be developed to ensure good governance and representation of constituents;
- Before elections, special forums should be held around the country to raise awareness of the election process and to encourage nominations from women, elders and youth.
- The body needs to operate with appropriate and adequate resourcing;
- This could be developed with an annual untied grant for the first 12 years (i.e. to cover the first two 6 year terms) to develop a capital base with the view to the body becoming self-sustaining, i.e. a 'Future Fund' such as the ILC model, or the New South Wales Land Councils model;
- Special advice should be sought to establish the most appropriate and effective model and structure.
Public submission 77
The National Native Title Council welcomes the Federal Government's commitment to form a national Indigenous Representative Body and would like to submit the following key comments.
- The participation of Indigenous people in any national Indigenous Representative Body , if they agree to participate, must be regarded as being pursuant, to their rights under Articles 4, 19, 20 and 21 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to strengthen their distinct political characteristics, to fully, freely and with informed consent participate in decision-making through their own chosen representatives and to develop their own political systems.
- This requires that such a national body must be acceptable to the Indigenous people and thus must be formed with their full participation and engagement.
- It should be representative at regional, state and national levels to ensure decisions are made from people at the grass roots;
- The body should not be seen as a tool of Government for implementing policies and programs - it is imperative that there is the flexibility to be a dissenting and critical voice;
- One of the key roles of the national body should be to work as an advocate for change in Indigenous Affairs;
- Any national body should collaborate effectively with the Indigenous Dialogue – the Dialogue should be the key vehicle to facilitate constitutional reform and that this process be carried out under the principles of the UN Declaration such as free, prior and informed consent;
- The national representative body can consult Indigenous constituents for the development of policies and legislation (again with the principles of the Declaration) – this function needs to be properly and effectively resourced;
- However, the body should be more than just a consultation mechanism for Government – it should play a key role in the development of legislation, policy and programs;
- The body should be a credible voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, providing an advisory role to Government and other key stakeholders particularly industry as well as non-Government service providers;
- The body should be able to play a key role in holding the Government to account - this could include the appointment of Commissioners for oversighting government policies such as closing the 17 year life gap – this function should include monitoring and evaluation of Government;
- The body should have the power to have significant input into Government decision making in relation to policies;
- It is the view of the NNTC that the body should not be responsible for service delivery;
- The body should be formed with full and operational local, regional, state and national mechanisms;
- It should have a fully funded secretariat to undertake research, consultation and develop policies;
- It should have the authority to form advisory or special purpose committees as required, from the elected membership and/or co-opting experts from particular fields such as peak body representatives;
Relationship to Government
- The national body should be independent of Government with a clear set of terms of reference;
- It is critical that the body has significant links with Federal Parliament, in particular it should have the power to have direct input into both Houses of Parliament including Committees of both houses.
- The body should have a formal role in Budget Estimates hearings and other Committees of review.
- The body should have ex-officio membership of the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs and the Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs and play a key advisory role to COAG. As with government agencies, it should have the ability to provide input to significant policy and administrative initiatives that are proceeding through the Cabinet process;
- Membership should be an amalgam of elected and appointed representatives. This will ensure peak body representation at regional, state and national levels;
- Members should have the necessary skills to be an efficient and effective member of the body. An appropriate induction process should be developed to ensure good governance, accountability and transparency - the induction should include information on social and political systems at national as well as international levels;
- The body needs to operate with appropriate and adequate resourcing. This could be developed with a significant injection of funds with the body having access to and control of long term funding for its activities, i.e. through a 'Future Fund' such as the ILC model or the New South Wales Land Council model;
- The model that is developed should be charitable – to minimise tax liability as well as being better able to attract philanthropic donations;
Public submission 78
Link-up (NSW) Aboriginal Corporation
Our overall response to the creation of a new national Indigenous representative body has been shaped by two priorities:
- moving towards genuine self-determination
- ensuring the interests of the Stolen Generations are represented.
In relation to the first priority we believe that the new representative body should, as far as is possible under the current structures of the Parliament and the Government, make decisions in relations to matters affecting Indigenous people, not just advise on them.
In relation to the second priority, we believe that the interests and needs of the Stolen Generations and their descendants should be taken into account in all aspects of the new representative body's activities. Given the inter-generational and trans-generational effects of separation from family and community, the needs of the Stolen Generations include the needs of children and young people, older people, men and women, families, communities, people in urban areas and people in rural and remote areas.
(By inter-generational effects we mean the direct impacts of the experience of one generation on the next. At Link-Up (NSW) we are made aware every day that the effects of, for example, removals are not in the past. One of the consequences of these effects is inter-generational removals, now to the third and fourth generations, and the alarming over-representation of Aboriginal children in the out-of-home care system.
By trans-generational effects, we mean the pervasive effects on Aboriginal people of "200 years of unfinished business" - which results, for example in "mental distress"/"inherited sadness" (as expressed in NSW Health's 1999 document titled NSW Aboriginal Health Strategic Plan).)
Having a single Stolen Generations representative on the new body would not be sufficient to represent all the interests and needs of the diverse members of the Stolen Generations. Consideration of Stolen Generations issues therefore needs to be threaded through every aspect of the activities of the new representative body.
The two priorities outlined above also need to be reflected in the national body's reporting to the community There needs to be a publicly available annual report that, among other things, reports on:
- what action the national body has taken to influence the Government and the general community towards full implementation of self-determination, and the results of this action
- what action it has taken to ensure that the needs of the Stolen Generations are met, and the results of this action.
We also believe the Government needs to be accountable – to all Australians, but particularly to Indigenous Australians – for its progress on the policy development, legislation and resource allocation required to resolve all the "unfinished business" between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia.
2. Responses to Specific Questions in the Discussion Paper
Our responses to the Questions for Discussion in the Summary Paper and the Issues Paper are at Attachment A.
Many of our responses to the issues raised in the Questions for Discussion are consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), especially those relating to decision-making. It is imperative that, as well as supporting the establishment of a new National Indigenous Representative Body, the Australian Government also formally, and as soon as possible, recognise the Declaration. Indigenous rights, whether in relation to decision making or other aspects of Indigenous life, should not have to be argued afresh every time there is a public debate on Indigenous issues.
Responses to questions for discussion 1-10 in summary paper and issues paper for the National Indigenous Representative Body
Question for Discussion 1. - Guiding principles for the establishment of a National Indigenous Representative Body
All the options outlined are useful, although some of the ATSIC Review principles (eg on employment and housing, p 66 of Issues Paper) would need to be revised to reflect:
- an understanding that the carrying out of traditional roles is also employment
- respect for the views of individuals and communities whose values mean that they favour communally owned housing rather than individual home ownership.
In addition, in relation to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth), if there were to be a legislative basis for the new body, there is no place for an objective such as that in s 3 (b) of that Act (see p 69 of the Issues Paper), which was “to promote the development of self management and self sufficiency among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders”. This type of objective would need to be replaced by one that recognises the inherent capacity of Indigenous people to manage their affairs and mandates action by the representative body to engage with government around the barriers to self sufficiency.
We specifically support the “foundational principles” outlined on p 6 of the Summary Paper and pp 63-65 of the Issues Paper.
Question for Discussion 2. - The National Indigenous Representative Body and government service delivery
Funding and delivering services for all Australians is a core responsibility of governments. However, Indigenous people need a formal way of directing priorities for services to them and monitoring the action to implement them.
We therefore support the position outlined in the grey Question Box for Q 2, on p 9 of the Summary Paper and p 72 of the Issues Paper, which would give the national body a role in setting priorities for service delivery, contributing to planning processes and monitoring government service delivery – without having to be involved in direct service delivery.
Question for Discussion 3. - Role and functions of a National Indigenous Representative Body
We support the roles and functions outlined in the grey Question Box for Q 3, on p 9 of the Summary Paper and p 81 of the Issues Paper, and would also be prepared to consider additional or alternative roles and functions that might be proposed in other responses to the Issues Paper, as long as they are consistent with the two priorities we articulated in the Introduction to our response.
Question for Discussion 4. - Ensuring that a National Indigenous Representative Body is representative of Indigenous peoples
We believe that a national structure alone is not sufficient for the new body. It should also have State/Territory and regional structures.
However, the existence of State/Territory and regional structures would not necessarily rule out additional participatory processes and engagement related to the national structure (such as issue specific forums and advisory groups, regional or State/ Territory level planning processes, or the convening of a National Congress) – as long as these were linked appropriately and effectively with the roles, functions and activities of the State/Territory and regional structures.
Question for Discussion 5. - Relationship between the National Indigenous Representative Body and Indigenous peoples at the regional level
We support a combination of the processes as outlined in the grey Question Box on pp 11-12 of the Summary Paper and p 84 of the Issues Paper.
Question for Discussion 6. - Relationship between the National Indigenous Representative Body and Indigenous peoples at the State or Territory level
In relation to the national body’s relationship with Indigenous peoples at the State or Territory level, we support a combination of the processes as outlined in the grey Question Box for Q 6, on p 12 of the Summary Paper and p 87 of the Issues Paper.
In relation to the second part of the question - whether the national body should seek to exert influence on the States/Territories through a formal or informal role at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) - we support this but believe that:
- this role should be a formal, participatory one, not just an advisory one
- this is the minimum that needs to occur
- additional forms of formal participation are needed which would allow the national body to:
- influence the work of the national portfolio-based Ministerial Councils which deal with matters of common concern to the Commonwealth and the States/Territories within those portfolios
- influence the work of State/Territory governments in areas where, because individual States/Territories have sole responsibility for an area of policy, or can act alone in relation to it, matters are unlikely to be dealt with through the national COAG and Ministerial Council processes.
(The last point above also applies where the Commonwealth has sole responsibility for an area of policy, or can act alone in relation to it. This is covered in our response to Question 9.)
Finally, specific arrangements for a formal participatory role in relation to individual State/Territory structures and processes will in part depend on the way the national body is structured - and almost entirely on the willingness of the States/Territories to support a participatory role (as opposed to an advisory role) for a representative Indigenous body.
Question for Discussion 7. - National structure of a National Indigenous Representative Body
We support a combination of the processes as outlined in the grey Question Box for Q 10, on pp 12-13 of the Summary Paper and pp 96-97 of the Issues Paper, and would also be prepared to consider additional or alternative factors that might be proposed in other responses to the Issues Paper, as long as they are consistent with the two priorities we articulated in the Introduction to our response.
Question for Discussion 8. - Establishment of the National Indigenous Representative Body
We believe that the national body should be established by government, as a statutory body with:
- independence of the kind enjoyed by HREOC (now the Australian Human Rights Commission)
- a direct reporting relationship with Parliament through its annual report.
- statutory powers to enable it to table reports and advice in Parliament from time to time (as per p 102 of the Issues Paper).
We support the options outlined in relation to this question on pp 13-14 of the Summary Paper, but favour those that refer to a decision-making role, rather than simply an advisory role.
Question for Discussion 9. - Relationship of the National Indigenous Representative Body with government and Parliament
In relation to the Parliament, we strongly support the option of “an exclusively Indigenous committee, with democratically chosen representatives, and all the powers of Parliamentarians” which “could evolve, effectively, into an Indigenous chamber of Parliament”, as outlined on p 14 of the Summary Paper and p 101 of the Issues Paper.
However, even if this were to occur, there would still be a need for the national body to have a decision-making role in relation to the activities of Commonwealth and State/Territory governments that affect Indigenous people.
This is covered in part in our response to Question 6, in the context of influencing States/Territories decision-making – and, as pointed out there, that form of formal participation in government decision-making processes alone is insufficient.
Additional processes are needed because COAG and the Ministerial Councils deal with matters of common concern across the Commonwealth and State/Territory governments, not necessarily those where the parties can act independently of each other.
Therefore, as with State/Territory decision-making, there is a need for a formal, participatory role in relation to Commonwealth decision-making to cover situations where the Commonwealth has sole responsibility for an area of policy, or can act alone in relation to it.
Such a role depends entirely on the willingness of the Commonwealth to support a participatory role (as opposed to an advisory role) for a representative Indigenous body.
Question for Discussion 10. - Resourcing the National Indigenous Representative Body
We support a mix of options as outlined in the grey Question Box on p 15 of the Summary Paper and p 104 of the Issues Paper, and would also be prepared to consider additional or alternative options that might be proposed in other responses to the Issues Paper, as long as they are consistent with the two priorities we articulated in the Introduction to our response.
Public submission 79
Weetapoona Aboriginal Corporation (wAC) would like to acknowledge that this submission is based on a diverse range of opinions. Some opinions may not reflect the individual opinions of all those who provided input into wACs response. The final analysis in this submission represents the views of wAC. The response is written as recommendations from the consultations.
One of the main principles that Aboriginal people need to move towards is a policy of self-determination, similar to the self-determination policy of the native American Indians. Where the government developed a blueprint for self-determination and included the following goals which are interrelated, for example, 1) tribal self-rule; 2) cultural survival; and 3) economic development. Adopting a policy of self-determination would include being involved in the formulation and implementation of policies affecting Aboriginal peoples lives.
Members expressed the want to move away from government paternalism, Aboriginal groups need to become more empowered and initiate and develop their own blueprint, which is another step toward self-determination. Self-determination should not, be confused with sovereignty. Rather, self-determination is a means by which Aboriginal people can realize the full potential of their sovereign powers.
In the discussion paper most of the principles were acceptable, however members wanted to make it known that Tasmania has it own unique interests and needs, politically, economically, socially and culturally and feel that they should get their own affairs in order in this jurisdiction. Following the formation of a statewide group, a representative(s) would be elected to represent Aboriginal people on a national basis.
National and statewide representatives would be elected democratically giving Aboriginal members the increased ability to participate in determining the political agenda and take part in the decision making process, preventing the domination of one group in political processes.
Indigenous is not an acceptable name we are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and should be named accordingly. An appropriate national name might be the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Authority.
As mentioned above the emphasis is on decentralisation and a national Indigenous representative body is secondary.
There needs to be an incorporated state-wide body that is formed through membership made up of the majority of Tasmanian Aboriginal groups. We understand that all groups may not want to be a part of this collective and may not fit the criteria, but if at least 75%-80% are involved there should be good representation of Aboriginal people. This criteria would ensure that regions are represented and individuals also have the ability to voice issues and concerns through mandated community consultations.
Form an incorporated body with membership of 75-80% of all Aboriginal groups from Tasmania.
1-2 representatives comprising male/female elected by membership of organization to be a member of the statewide group.
National representative elected by the statewide group via ballot to represent Tasmania.
Roles and Function
This statewide group would represent all Aboriginal people living in Tasmania as there would be one person elected democratically from each of the Aboriginal organisations to advocate for the rights of Aboriginal people statewide. All entities locally, statewide and nationally that have business which is related to the economy, social activities and associated with Aboriginal issues would need to refer to this group. Cultural and land issues would be referred to local people from respective regions. All policy development would be referred to the statewide group, once they have been given the opportunity to consult with its members of respective organisations.
In terms of government seeking Aboriginal peoples input to conduct facilitation and mediation, research, clearing house for information, review and evaluation this would be on a fee for service basis.
In terms of Aboriginal and mainstream organisations receiving government funding for any programs (health, education, employment etc) with an aim to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people, the statewide group would be involved with vetting and monitoring those organisations to ensure that Aboriginal people are receiving the services they need and the funding recipient is meeting the targets set out in an agreement. This is particularly pertinent as sometimes Aboriginal groups can play the race card when it comes to non-Aboriginal people monitoring what they do if they are not performing well.
The Aboriginal national body would also ensure that the government is listening to the Aboriginal state/territory groups ensuring that government priorities or gaps are identified for each jurisdiction. This group would also vet the dollars put into any programs (health, employment, education etc) to ensure they are obtaining the outcomes that were negotiated.
The elected representatives would co-opt experts (mainly Aboriginal preferred) to assist them in the decision making process. This process would be through a selection process with both the national body and government bodies/agencies.
The national group would support Aboriginal organisations to build capacity within communities.
Relationship with federal government and Parliament
wAC believes that there should be some relationship with government and parliament but not working closely at the expense of the national representative body's independence.
Another strategy would be to utilise COAG the peak intergovernmental forum in Australia, comprising the Prime Minister, State Premiers, Territory Chief Ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association and to have an Aboriginal person a part of this membership. Under COAG we should also be involved with the Ministerial Council to participate in developing policy reforms for consideration by COAG, and overseeing the implementation of policy reforms agreed by COAG. A position such as Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs should be established whereby two people would be nominated by the national body and the government to represent Aboriginal people in specific areas. The incumbent(s) would be able to move between those major departments/agencies making decisions on Aboriginal policy and issues. Allowing us to participate in the decision making process when it comes to 'closing the gap'.
In order for Aboriginal people to move from the lower socioeconomic bracket, government should make provisions for Aboriginal people to have a share in the natural resources. For example, in Tasmania this might include a percentage of the mining rights, fishing rights, land rights for Aboriginal people who are members of the statewide group. This would allow Aboriginals to set up special programs addressing health, education, housing, employment and other areas.
Another option to fund the operation of these groups would be to take a percentage of the administration dollars provided by the government and put towards the above areas to fund the ongoing expenses and employment and other associated costs of setting up a national and statewide body. This funding is not a grant it is a fee for service, based on per head population and remoteness.
Another possible funding solution would be to take a percentage of the GDP to fund service delivery and administration for the first people of this country. There are around 2% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples therefore this should be the amount.
Public submission 80
The Board of the NSW Reconciliation Council (NSWRC) welcomes the opportunity to provide input into the development of the new national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. NSWRC is the peak body for reconciliation in NSW, representing 60 Reconciliation Groups - Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians working at a local and regional level to advance reconciliation.
We believe the establishment of a national representative body is one element of a broader rights discussion. We strongly support recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Australians in the Australian Constitution. Equally, we believe the Constitution should recognise a national Indigenous representative body as the representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Without this recognition, the body may not be sustained through future governments. In addition to the introduction of the new national Indigenous representative body, we strongly support the introduction of a bill or charter of rights, to provide stronger recognition of human rights and inherent Indigenous rights in Australia.
Roles of the Body
The new representative body should be a means for Indigenous Australians to exercise true self determination. It must therefore be recognised as the body for decision-making in relation to Indigenous affairs. The new body should meet this objective by fulfilling the following roles: reviewing and evaluating government performance in meeting commitments to Indigenous people; advising and formulating policy in relation to Indigenous affairs; contributing to relevant legislative reform; undertaking research; and representing Indigenous Australians internationally.
We believe policy advice from the new body must be delivered at the Prime Ministerial level as opposed the Ministerial level.
In terms of its research role, the body should have the power to undertake inquiries, similar to Senate Committee Inquiries.
We do not believe the body should be a service delivery body, but rather should inform and monitor the performance of government agencies in delivering services to Indigenous people. It is important that the body is able to hold service delivery agencies accountable.
Government Service Delivery
The body should serve as a means for monitoring government performance in meeting its commitments to Indigenous Australians. The body should publicly report on government performance, thereby increasing the level of accountability on government agencies to meet the needs of Indigenous people.
The body should also direct government service delivery. In order to do so effectively, the body will need to be structured based on regional areas as well as on government portfolios (eg Health, Housing, Education, Justice, Community Services). Representatives on the national body should have a formal direct link with people working on the ground in regions within the particular portfolio areas to guide their decisions on service delivery needs in their regions.
We believe the body must include regional, state/territory and national representatives. We do not believe a national body could effectively represent the diversity of Indigenous communities without regional and state/territory representatives. State/Territory representation is essential to effectively monitor legislation, programs and policies specific to the State/Territory.
To engage with Indigenous people at the regional level, the body should formally include regional representative mechanisms as part of its structure and should also hold regular regional forums. Regional boundaries for the purpose of regional representation on the body must be determined through extensive consultation and must be reviewed regularly.
To engage with Indigenous people at the state/territory level, the body should: draw its membership from regional representative mechanisms; be based on other mechanisms to be determined on a State/Territory by State/Territory basis (including existing State/Territory -based representative bodies and advisory boards); and be based on the conduct of State/ Territory-wide policy forums conducted on a regular, cyclical basis.
The structure should not rely on existing bodies as these bodies were established to meet specific responsibilities and represent Indigenous communities on specific issues (eg health, land, education) which are likely to be more limited than those required by the new body.
The body should have a formal role and direct voice on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
The structure should be a combination of nominated and elected positions. There should be dedicated positions for Elder and Youth representatives and there should be equal representation of men and women. The body should have the power to appoint expert panels/commissions/inquiries to advise on key issues.
Establishment & Resourcing
The body must be truly independent of government and must have a secure ongoing source of funding. The possibility of establishing a future fund financed through a percentage of mining tax receipts should be explored.
The final funding formula determined for supporting the body must be legislated to secure the future of the body.
The NSWRC supports the following principles as identified by the Australian Human Rights Commission, as essential in underpinning the new Indigenous representative body:
- The body must have legitimacy and credibility amongst Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples and governments. In order for the body to have legitimacy in the eyes of Indigenous communities, communities must be actively involved in determining the structure. Without this participation in the development of the structure, it is unlikely communities will trust or respect the new body. Therefore, it is important that this consultation process allows for the involvement of as many individuals as possible. Increasing the number of consultations may be necessary if insufficient numbers have attended consultation sessions. Getting this process right is essential for communities to feel a sense of ownership over the new representative body.
- The body must be truly independent of government in order to advocate freely on issues.
- Operations, membership and determining membership or election and policy making and financial processes must be transparent.
- The body must be truly representative of the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.
- The structure must be consistent and connected. There must be clear links between the national body, Indigenous peak bodies and Indigenous organisations at the state, territory and regional levels.
- There needs to be two-way accountability – to the Indigenous people the body represents and to government.
- The body must provide independent and robust advocacy and analysis.
Public submission 81
A GRASSROOTS SUBMISSION FROM
THE TASMANIANIAN ABORIGINAL
LIA POOTAH COMMUNITY
Towards a new National Indigenous Representative Body 2008
The Lia Pootah Community acknowledges that the government is aware of the intrinsic problems that will form part of the new Representative Body. However, if the government fails to recognise that Tasmania’s Aboriginal Communities have an entrenched fundamental bias, established in 1995, then promoting a new Representative Body will remain as lip service to justice and reimbed the problems inherent in Tasmania.
Tasmania cannot be brought online with other Indigenous Communities until the problems specific to Tasmania have been eradicated permanently.Tasmania has two separate and unrelated Aboriginal descent Communities Palawa and Lia Pootah. Yet both the Federal Government and the Tasmanian Government have allowed the development of unconstitutional policies to dictate Aboriginality in Tasmania even though both governments have been appraised of the developments each step of the way. For both governments to turn a blind eye in the past to the problems in Tasmania could be because of the entrenched and purpose designed bureaucratic structure of the previous peak Aboriginal body ATSIC. For the first time in almost fifty years the Government now has the opportunity to "wipe the slate clean" of the discriminations and problems of the past and allow natural justice to work in Tasmania for all those of Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestry. The catch all "it is an Aboriginal problem" fails to eventuate when the problem is firmly entrenched within government sanctioned and approved policies.
No where else in Australia, other than Tasmania, is a state government department sanctioned with the state parliament’s approval to determine Aboriginality for its indigenous population. In no other state in Australia is one group allowed to dictate and determine protocols and policies to support a single community, their own, by deliberately ignoring or removing another Aboriginal Community because they would lessen their financial and power position. Only in Tasmania has the state government allowed the watch dog for natural justice to be the gatekeeper for the watch dog. Genocide is a legal reality in Tasmania if you are Aboriginal and not part of the policy devised accepted group. If you have no heritage linking to the Palawa families then you are declared white by the Palawa even though the Federal Court has declared those dismissed by the Tasmanian government as Aboriginal. Such fundamental basic rights as descent, self determination and community recognition are ignored. Access to natural justice and a government upheld equality for all those of Tasmanian Aboriginal descent, must be allowed to exist in Tasmania for the Lia Pootah Community otherwise the proposed new Representative Body will fail before it begins.
With the development of a new National Representative Indigenous Body the Australian Government has the opportunity to actually develop an organisation that for the first time could be representative of Indigenous Community needs and not establish another organisation with inbuilt failure structures such as ATSIC and its predecessors. To date Indigenous representative bodies have not necessarily represented the people or Communities that they were designed to represent owing to fundamental design flaws. The underlying bureaucratic format of a government representative body becomes problematic for Aboriginal Communities, in as much as that the said organisations only service those politically savvy enough to manipulate mainstream bureaucratic structures set up by successive governments. There is and has been no room for grassroots representation at any organisation prior to the Indigenous Leadership Program. However, training leaders is one thing, but using their skills as Leaders to represent their Communities appears to be less important when the same entrenched representatives in Tasmania continues to be the "old guard" with their self determined policies and policy makers. Grassroot communities need to have a say which is listened to and acted upon by Governments, if we are given no opportunity to interact then how can learn to express ourselves to a level which is listened to.
The continuing use of such established bureaucratic policies, which is indicated in the Issues for Consideration in the formation of a new National Indigenous Representative Body Summary, follows a predetermined government policy format based on the Constitutional changes associated with the 1967 referendum of Aboriginal people being given Australia citizenship and associated Parliamentary Acts and policies and developed bureaucratic customs which were implemented to make the changes to the Australian Constitution work. As a result of the referendum government departments were designed to bring all policies into an interactive methodology for the unification of Indigenous stakeholders. Fifty years ago the Indigenous Community was coming to terms with the loss of their culture and heritage and very few were able to bridge the necessary gap between traditional lifestyles and the European system which was to become our future. When the majority of a population is ignorant then the few who understand only work to implement services to suit themselves or their immediate family. Superficially these changes were made in the belief of implementing a fairness of service distribution but because of the underlying attitude of assimilation these initial changes formed a self continuing bias. This bias has never been removed and become buried under successive policy changes and departmental restructuring has more often than not undermined the very Communities the government is trying to support.
For almost fifty years non Aboriginal people have been making decisions about who they consider Indigenous representation and Indigenous "leaders". Perhaps the Federal Government, when it makes the decisions for the new representative body, should consider whether today’s Indigenous Communities accept the people, entrenched within mainstream and community organisations, that the Government considers as Aboriginal Leaders are in fact representative of the Communities. These so called "leaders" who have implemented change over the preceding decades, in the majority of instances, have lost touch with the needs of their own communities who are holding safe the culture and heritage of their communities. Or as is the situation in Tasmania they are people who really only represent a minority group who has assimilated into the mainstream and lost touch with what it means to be part of an ancient culture and heritage, but because of government sanctioned policies are given the right to steal the Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural heritage of the Lia Pootah.
Aboriginal Communities historically were considered under the blanket term "Aboriginal" rather than recognition of diversity in Aboriginal Communities and this perception has been used by successive governments to gain political points rather than to implement changes requested by the Communities in a format that such Communities know will work for them. Lia Pootah has been requesting such fairness for over a decade and here we are a gain repeating the same exercise we did for the restructuring of ATSIC. Unless the entrenched problems within all Indigenous Government Bodies are restructured then nothing will change, and in Tasmania specifically, it is necessary to equalize the representation to include both Palawa and Lia Pootah Communities on all committees and representative bodies. Just as the schools and museums in Tasmania need to show the two Tasmanian Aboriginal heritages instead of an anthropological view established in the 1960s and 1970s that has limited Tasmanian Aboriginal knowledge and only theories accepted as fact by the Palawa has become the entrenched perception and has no foundation within the knowledge of Lia Pootah cultural heritage.
In Tasmania part of the confusion relating to Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestry is the very name Tasmanian Aboriginal. Tasmanian Aboriginal is not an owned title as devised for one survival group, Palawa. Tasmanian Aboriginal is a name for all those modern Tasmanian Aboriginal descendants whose ancestors survived the invasion of their land. Anthropologically the Tasmanian Aboriginal people were a unique race in 1788 and 1803. Tasmanian Aboriginal people had a culture that was totally unrelated to the mainland Aboriginal culture and today they are represented by one group the Palawa who have a white mainstream political culture that is controlled by a dictatorship that is not representative of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people who survived in spite of the extinction myth of the past. The present Federal Government under Mr Rudd needs to implement recognition of the specific problems associated with both Tasmanian Aboriginal Communities instigated by previous government sanctions. Recognition of entrenched bias and deliberate discrimination must be undertaken and such discrimination reversed before the new body can function in any fairness and equality of representation.
When Community Representative Bodies are constructed by the reigning government to form any National Peak Body they are incorrectly assumed to represent broad Community opinions. However this is not the case when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. Any peak Indigenous Body formed under such broad policy guidelines predetermined by policies which have their foundation in legal and political systems constructed in the Northern Hemisphere for white people, will never democratically represent any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Community. Irrespective of any proposed changes: by using policies designed to interact with already existing government departmental policies; originally devised to work in a climate of assimilation through a multinational and multicultural department, they are doomed to fail in Indigenous equality.
Does Mr Rudd or Ms Gillard realise, or for that matter even care, that to have any input into any proposal that the government puts forward the people who it is directed toward have to be educationally assimilated to even be listened to. Many of the people the various communities represent do not have the level of education, or level of language to even engage with the issues, that is always necessary to implement a policy of the level required by any government department. It is those who have the expected necessary educational requirement that through ATSIC implemented policies that are now entrenched within government. This is an area that needs to be redressed so that those who do not have experience or degrees in law, policy, political science and the workings of bureaucracy have an equal input. While the Summary states that it is not developing another ATSIC it is fooling itself or attempting to fool the Indigenous stakeholders who have no experience with policy and bureaucracy and public service training.
The so called Aboriginal problem in Tasmania is a direct result of an assemblage of biased policies deliberately instigated by a Palawa minority to self serve their own family members. Perceived similar situations also exist in a number of mainland Aboriginal Communities, but they do not have the underlying identity problems which appear to be unique to Tasmania. In Tasmania we are now by Federal Government representative bodies told that Aboriginal identity is an Aboriginal problem which must be sorted out by the individual Aboriginal Communities. This is understandable with so many of the Stolen Generation wanting to return to their traditional communities, but it is not applicable to Tasmania where the Palawa determine what is an Aboriginal issue and enforce a singular Aboriginal identity. As a result of almost half a century of debate on Tasmanian Aboriginal survival and with two decades of manipulation of one Tasmanian Aboriginal survival group against the other. Even the Federal Court determinations are disregarded in Tasmania and the Tasmanian government sanctions racist political discrimination, the marginalised Lia Pootah Community find they have no voice and policies are now in place to ensure that they have no opportunity for their voices to be listen to even if they are heard. Even winning in the Federal Court of Australia holds no weight in Tasmania where the Office of Aboriginal Affairs in Premier and Cabinet thumb their nose at the Federal Court decision and maintain their own form of legal acceptances.
The Lia Pootah Community is made up of Tasmanian Aboriginal descendants who maintained their identity as Aboriginal within the broad Tasmanian community since 1803. Today Lia Pootah is a marginalised community which finds that there is a deliberately inbuilt structural failure within the government policy system which is self sustaining within successive governments, owing to entrenched perspectives and entrenched advisor opinions. In a number of instances this situation is allowed to exist due to lack of cultural understanding of the grassroots demographic, in Tasmania it is because a single group not only controls the information issued to the government on Tasmanian Aboriginal issues, but the Tasmanian Government endorses the dictates of the Palawa as to what Aboriginal education material can be admitted into schools or displayed in the museums and including government sponsored publications on Tasmania’s history.
Having a new Indigenous representative body that is equal to any other mainstream government department will never accurately represent Aboriginal Communities unless the Indigenous Communities can actually speak for themselves and not have representation from individuals who ingrate themselves into the mainstream bureaucracy moving away from Community needs and wants. Since invasion in 1788 for Australia and 1803 for Tasmania, for any Aboriginal Community to be heard and listened to by any governing political party it was necessary to become versed in the policies and perspectives of the invader and their language. Aboriginal like its latest replacement name Indigenous, is a politically devised definition to represent a homogenous group of people, Indigenous like Aboriginal is a blanket term devised to manage Aboriginal diversity. It is too difficult and cumbersome for any bureaucratic department to actually be inclusive of Aboriginal Community representation.
Indigenous peak bodies run along non Aboriginal constitutional organisations with voted member representatives in the positions of Chair, vice chair, public officer, secretary, treasurer and a committee, are organisations with committees self absorbed in maintaining their perceived status and financial security. The structure of such organisations may assist interaction with various Federal Government departments; but experience has shown that any white mainstream based structure ignores the grassroot representation. From experience Lia Pootah does not recognise such contrived organisations as representative of Community needs. Instead such contrived organisations fall victim to power plays, and accumulation of monies that never reach the Community, a situation that is recognised by successive governments.
In the mid 1990s in Tasmanian such a government required and accepted peak bodies effectively removed all broad community representation through constitutional amendments until the so called representative peak bodies only represents a small family group, not the diverse Tasmanian Aboriginal Community as the government assumed they did. This is a situation that has never been redressed despite numerous requests in the intervening decade and the situation needs to be over tuned before the new peak body is implemented. Not even the Lia Pootah Petition to Tasmanian Parliament in 2000 allowed Lia Pootah to be heard. With changing such ingrained failure for broad community representation in Tasmania how can any new peak body change the discriminatory representation of the past and present?
Predetermined failure can also be a politically devised situation because for a government it is easier to communicate with a single representative from each peak organisation, irrespective whether they actually represent the Community they claim to speak for. In Australia this is further complicated because there are now diverse communities within the original diversity of Aboriginal and individual Communities where many successful Communities have mainstream programs that compromise cultural heritage. Too much of Australia’s Indigenous culture and heritage has become a cultural fairground for the international curious tourist, in the need to be financially self sustaining. The Assimilation Policies which resulted in the Stolen Generation, Christian Missionary interference which destroyed cultural and heritage continuity in many communities and education policies aimed to make Aboriginal people the same as all Australians, have created fragmented communities where lines of culture and heritage have become strained in many communities and broken in others. In Tasmania the Palawa are represented by a moneyed elite, well funded organisations where even their Elders are paid to attend advisory body meetings. By comparison Lia Pootah is unfunded and is a Community with community representatives and community input whereas the Lia Pootah organisations are organisations not communities or community representatives.
When this cultural breakdown is overlain with the necessity for community individual representatives to be exceptionally versed in the political framework of how governments work, not traditional community structures, then the cultural heritage stakeholders become marginalised and the false Community representation becomes ingrained. This is what has happened in Tasmania to the extent that the Palawa have invented a history which now claims stolen generation children at a time when the Tasmanian Aboriginal was considered extinct and any removal was from welfare issues not Federal Government Aboriginal assimilation policies. To many our mixed racial origins of survival still acknowledge the extinction myth. In Tasmania, as in the rest of Australia, those who maintain the cultural knowledge have been passed over for those who have mainstream bureaucratic skills and media savvy representatives.
Today while there are accepted numerous Peak Indigenous Organisations, there is no such thing as a Peak Indigenous Representative Body for any state or territory at present in Australia. What is in place and considered a representative body, are the dominant organisations or individuals who were able to function from the 1960s as a fundamentally mainstream organisation run by Aboriginal people to act like non Aboriginal people. For what ever reason members of these organisations became the so called representatives for peak bodies almost half a century ago, and yet these organisations are still maintained by the government to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. These peak bodies be they Lands Councils: Advisory Bodies; Regional Authorities, Corporations fail in many instances to represent the very people the government considers them to represent. In Tasmania such bodies are politically problematic and government failure to challenge these biased attitudes have encouraged entrenchment and dictatorships that are self representative. This was shown in the Black Electoral Roll for Lands Council Elections in 2001 and 2004 and three years down the track and further court hearings the Palawa controlled Lands Council is still thumbing its nose to the Federal and Tasmanian Government. Almost any household Aboriginal name in politics has been there since the initial government moves to "give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a voice" but how many of these names actually represent their community.
Instead of representatives what the government has in Tasmania are entrenched power based people or families who only actually represent themselves. The apex of this entrenchment was first the state departments of Office of Aboriginal Affairs, then ATSIC where in Tasmania where the worst aspects of non Aboriginal power brokerage became the norm and community representation became almost non existent. The so called elections for representation on the ATSIC Council, in Tasmania alone, were so rigged as to make them corrupt and this corruption brought about the impact of the policies now entrenched in the Office of Aboriginal Affairs in Premier and Cabinet and are still working smoothly in the ATSIC replacement ICC. In Tasmania when later community families tried to become part of ATSIC they found that their was no room for them, their community or family representatives, any attempts at inclusion developed into a political or court situation which caused considerable friction within communities and led to abuse of power as shown in associated media coverage. Lia Pootah Community people who work within such entrenched bodies do so by denying their Aboriginal heritage for fear of loosing their employment. Such media coverage in Tasmania is of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community but is only Palawa perspectives or politicking, and only confuses an already confused mainstream population.
Lia Pootah keep wondering what will change with the new body? Lia Pootah’s experience with numerous government bodies and focus groups are assured that it will still be the same group representation as in the past and history has proven that such a structure cannot work as a community representative body. As already noted and it is necessary to reiterate, in many cases it is the assimilation policies of the past have been a success, as attested to by the people in the most recent government peak body ATSIC and ICC. The recent 20 20 Summit, there was a single community Palawa representative for Tasmania, who was an ATSIC Commissioner and a person who has proven in the media to be both culturally ignorant and non representative for the broad Tasmanian Aboriginal Community.
At the recent Consultation for the proposed National Indigenous Representative Body in Tasmania there was one Community representation and the rest of the attendees were a number of registered corporations and government departments dominated by ex ATSIC policy makers and representatives of past ATSIC Councils. Even the chairperson and facilitators of the consultation were declaring themselves ex ATSIC as though this gave them credibility and expertise. ATSIC never attained its potential as a representative body because it became a power brokerage for those versed in white political ways. If corporations who were part of the old ATSIC regime, and now considered Peak Indigenous Bodies, are to be the foundation of the new representative body then it will be the same representatives dictating and determining the needs of the communities they are working away from and dissociated from. There is no comparison between the philosophies and cultural needs of a Community and the objectives of a corporation.
Removing the funding component in the establishment of the new body will not remove the problems endemic to all Aboriginal organisations. Culture and heritage are given lip service when politics, financial remuneration and self promotion are the achievable aims. What corporations and organisations achieve is Aboriginal politics that is both distressing and destructive and has no part in a community’s representation at any level. Tasmania’s Aboriginal community situation is a living example of the destructiveness that a government sanctioned peak body can achieve with unlimited money and self imposed power where a minority are pandered to because of their obtained political clout or appalling abusive behaviour.
As already noted the base problem for the Federal Government to develop a fair and equitable Representative Body, for any new Indigenous peak body is that it is being built on an already existing Parliamentary departmental policies and acts, formed after 1967 Referendum, this has contaminated and compromised later related and interrelated government policies, spanning almost half a century. Therefore any new Indigenous Body can only be a modified version of all previously existing policies designed since and including those designed in 1967 to answer the needs of the moment, but do not offer a foundation for a sound new restructured Peak Indigenous Body. As a grassroots Community it is difficult to know if such unworkable previous policies can be scrapped and a new workable foundation based on contemporary needs and community wants can be formed.
To build a new Representative Body and maintain the policies and organisational structure devised at a time when the Federal Government had active assimilation policies must fail the needs of today’s Indigenous Communities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have become educated to best serve their communities but education is a two edged sword and requires all Communities to have a say, not just policy driven self serving corporations. In Tasmania such self serving corporations, such as the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) and its satellite corporations have become the only representative body to be advisers or have members sit on advisory bodies. For almost a decade the TAC has been listed in the phone book as a government department but the TAC still claims it is a community representative organisation, they cannot be both.
As an example of secrecy associated with established policies, since 1992 the TAC has had a representative advising successive Premiers a position that was never sanctioned with Community approval when we were a united Tasmanian Aboriginal Community. In Tasmania hidden agendas are the norm and have been devised through policies developed in ATSIC and woven into the Tasmanian Aboriginal Affairs Department and the development of the Aboriginal Strategy Reference Group for broad community liaison with extended policies into all representative groups needing Tasmanian Aboriginal input. The Lia Pootah Community have no representation in any advisory position or peak body in either Tasmania or Australia, but there is perceived a full quota of Tasmanian Aboriginal representatives where an Indigenous voice is needed.
When the Consultation for the proposed National Indigenous Representative Body workshop was held in Tasmania there was nothing to indicate fresh ideas would be considered, with the exception for the exclusion of funding. As far as the Lia Pootah Community is concerned unless the Federal Government is prepared to rectify its sanctioning of discrimination and bias in Tasmania and allow natural justice to be implemented for the marginalised Tasmania Aboriginal Community then the proposed National Indigenous Representative Body will fail in its mandate.
Without Lia Pootah representation in the new National Representative Body then Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard have no capacity for developing a fair and equitable organisation. The new Federal Government need to put an end to the entrenched discrimination and practices of genocide such as sanctioned by the Tasmanian Government against the Lia Pootah people.
Public submission 82
Ballard Learning Centre
There is a vision of utopia held by some Indigenous people that we need to 'have a voice' (our own special voice) and that it needs to be 'one voice' on behalf of all Indigenous people. On a regional level, this translates to 'one voice for the Kimberley'. It seems that the drive for a national representative body is that it will provide this all important 'voice'.
The ATSIC era and our own experiences of organisational politics at a local and regional level tell us that this is naïve, if not undemocratic.
Not because representatives could advocate predominantly for their own constituent and interest groups and regions. Nor because they could be elected by relatively few indigenous people, if the voting patterns are consistent with ATSIC elections where a small percentage of Indigenous people voted to elect representatives who in turn, needed only a small percentage of votes to win office.
The threat to democracy lies in a possible outcome in which all indigenous people (and governments) will be expected to subscribe to a policy platform promoted by this institution and that there will be little scope to individually advocate with government and others outside of this framework.
This could be stifling and hamper individual responsibility.
There is another major pitfall.
The policies themselves could be unhelpful and off-target.
This will certainly be the case if there is the same resistance to questioning and learning which has historically characterised Indigenous organisational politics. Little valuable and innovative policy will come through the proposed body if it is 'anti-learning'.
It is our experience at a local level that it has generally been well nigh impossible for individuals outside the organisational/political sphere to get a hearing for any new ideas about old problems. This has encouraged us to advocate for ourselves with government and others. In the absence of a representative body, we have felt free to do so. It would be a great shame if a new body impeded the development of individual initiative. We remember keenly in the not too distant past, how nothing substantial could happen unless it went through the ATSIC regional Council and in our view, this was largely an unproductive process.
Here are three key components of what will be needed in setting up a national Indigenous representative body in our view:
1. A checklist of what is vital for Indigenous people in open society.
2. Concentrate strategies to encourage resourceful policy making by Indigenous people.
Free speech has been largely crushed in every day Indigenous society. An obvious strategy is to provide a means for people to develop policies that will directly assist Indigenous people. Rather than people saying they do or don't agree with certain stances – the NT intervention, income management etc – there needs to be a formal mechanism for Indigenous people to develop well thought out policies which can be put to the Indigenous voting population in a politically robust environment.
3. A set of standards for the conduct of business in this forum.
'Standards' does not refer simply to moral and ethical behaviour. It refers to the processes and methodologies used to resource political activity, develop policy, select candidates and set the terms of their office. Rather than focusing on advocacy of human rights, the body itself must reflect a human rights-based approach in its decision-making if it is to assert those standards upon others including governments.We urge the Australian Government to hasten slowly in establishing the new body.
Public submission 83
Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency Co-Op. Ltd (vacca)
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) welcomes this opportunity to make a submission to the Rudd Government's consultation process on a National Indigenous Representative Body. With the demise of ATSIC there is no longer any recognised formal systems of Indigenous representation to government and therefore a lack of 'voice' for our people. We welcome the fact that the Rudd Government recognises that this is problematic for both Indigenous communities and the Federal Government: the former, because of the need to be able to speak to government, and the latter, because the government needs to develop sound policy in order to address issues of disadvantage and appropriate community services provision.
VACCA believes that self-determination is fundamental for Indigenous communities. The following statement is from our public policy statement on self-determination.
VACCA is an Indigenous community-controlled agency and believes that Indigenous communities have the right to self-determination, particularly in relation to their children's welfare.
Self-determination, self-management and community control must be at the heart of any work with Indigenous children, their families, their kinship relationships and their communities.
If Indigenous communities are able to exercise their right to self-determination they will be able to provide a future for their children.
- Indigenous communities have a right to self-determination
- because they remain sovereign communities.
- Article 2 of the UN Charter and Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights enshrine the rights of all peoples to self-determination.
- Indigenous communities have the right to determine their own priorities and strategies, as political communities of peoples with the right to
- determine their own governance arrangements.
- look after their children.
- Historically, Indigenous child removal occurred within a framework where Indigenous governance and rights were denied.
- Indigenous communities through national, regional and local Indigenous bodies should be engaged as equals by governments on the basis of their self-determining rights.
- Indigenous governance is not just a right to be exercised, it is also a responsibility. It is the combination of Indigenous governance as a right and as a responsibility which gives affect to good Indigenous governance.
As you can see, our concern for self-determination arises from both our identity as an Indigenous community controlled agency and our awareness that self-determination is fundamental for the provision of culturally competent child and family welfare services. We therefore contend that any system of Indigenous representation must not only allow for our voices to be heard by government but, more importantly, must enable our peoples to be self-determining. While we recognise that recreating Indigenous governance after over 200 years of colonisation will be complex, we believe that it is only through self-determination that Indigenous peoples will achieve justice and address disadvantage.
Indigenous Governance and Self-determination
Governance can be seen as encompassing both formal and informal structures and processes through which a group, organisation, community or society conducts and regulates its internal affairs as well as its relations with others.1
Governance for an Aboriginal person is a lifetime process. It is a process, which proceeds from gaining knowledge to imparting knowledge. It defines self and community. It is not something which can have components extracted to be grafted to something else, as is often the suggestion when governments try to instigate good governance for us from their perspective. It is all or nothing. Anangu governance is the whole, it is me, it is my family, it is my land, it is the law which binds all of these, it is to what I belong and what belongs to me.
That is not to say that Aboriginal governance is a static entity. Far from it! What is most important to understand here is that as a process and particularly as a process of learning and understanding, our governance is a dynamic. It has the ability to adopt and adapt. Without this ability it would not have survived for the 60000 odd thousand years that it has. It is the principles underlying our governance, which remain fixed; these are the undeniable constants for Aboriginal people.2
The key issue for Indigenous peoples in Australia today is that of rebuilding Indigenous governance in the context of over 200 years of colonial dispossession. Dispossession is the "core of Aboriginal disadvantage because it has denied Aboriginal rights to natural and cultural resources replacing them with 'handouts' and dependence on non-indigenous society" and process which has effectively "supplanted Aboriginal control".3
VACCA contends that all governments need to recognise the right of Indigenous communities to be self-determining. Obviously it is for Indigenous communities to decide how they are to exercise their rights to self-determination. The former ATSIC model was based on a non-indigenous model of democratic representation rather than either traditional models of governance or present day expressions of self-determination through the creation of Indigenous community controlled agencies, cooperatives and organisations. The ATSIC model was therefore neither culturally appropriate nor accommodating of how Indigenous communities sought self-determination through the creation of their own organizations. This led to, at times, confusion and a lack of acceptance of the ATSIC model as being the 'voice' of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
What is needed is a way of respecting the variety of forms of self determination which Aboriginal communities are themselves expressing and a more appropriate matching of roles, responsibilities and access points to government departments. What needs to be accommodated in any representative system for Indigenous communities are issues of
- sovereignty - which acknowledges the traditional owners and custodians of the land and waters who have never ceded their sovereign rights,
- the self-determination of Indigenous peoples who have been forcibly removed from their traditional lands but are still 'peoples', as defined by international human rights conventions,
- self-determination as expressed in community controlled locally based cooperatives,
- self-determination as expressed in various community controlled political/advocacy organisations and
- self-determination and culturally competent expertise as expressed in community controlled service based agencies.
Another critical issue is that of respecting the local and regional nature of Indigenous communities whose rights to speak for country or local people should not be taken away or absorbed by any new representative Federal structure. Similarly, Indigenous community controlled service agencies should also be respected on the basis that they are expressions of Indigenous self-determination and represent Indigenous expertise in a range of culturally appropriate services.
There is also the question of regional Indigenous bodies and how they may relate to the Federal body. Regional bodies could represent local communities self-determining rights and needs in some areas more effectively than a stand alone Federal body. While the Federal body can focus on overall strategy/planning and policy input, regional bodies may need more direct resourcing so that they can represent and advocate of behalf of their local communities.
A Federal representative Indigenous body could give effect to these various rights at the local and regional level and enable systematic co-ordination between Indigenous community-controlled service organisations. Any Federal body should reflect and represent
- sovereignty in relation to lands and waters (the traditional owners),
- the self-determination of current locally based Aboriginal communities and
- Aboriginal community controlled human services expertise.
A Broader Perspective: Why Indigenous Governance is right, necessary and doable.
From the perspective of Indigenous communities there is the unresolved issue of sovereignty. A 2000 ATSIC Scoping Paper on Resourcing Aboriginal Development and Self Determination suggests recognition of Indigenous governance as "a new order within the Australian Federation."
This terminology of an Aboriginal order of governance within a federation has been successfully used in Canada for over a decade and has led to the conceptualisation of Canada as a 'diverse' federation within which different peoples and orders of government belong in different ways.4
Critical to such an approach is recognition of the particular Indigenous community's rights and responsibilities in areas that are cultural and political and, with that recognition, capacity building to ensure the adequate resourcing of community control and governance. The areas in which Indigenous governance could operate would be in matters which pertain to issues that are "internal to the group, integral to its distinct culture and essential to its operation as a political and cultural community."5
Indigenous governance requires the allocation of rights and responsibilities for a wide range of functions and decisions. Some of the areas over which decisions would be made could include:
- establishment of governing structures, elections and membership;
- maintenance of Indigenous languages, culture and religion;
- child welfare, education, health and social services;
- administration and enforcement of Indigenous laws;
- land and resource management, including zoning, service fees, land tenure and access;
- development of own-source revenue opportunities;
- management of public works, infrastructure, housing, local transport; and
- licensing, regulation and operation of businesses located on Indigenous lands.6
Ideally, a governance system which truly recognised Indigenous self-determination, would allow for an Indigenous layer of governance alongside the already recognised and pluralistic layers of Federal, Federal/Territory and local governments. This would allow for Indigenous peoples and communities through national, regional and local Indigenous bodies to be engaged as equals with their own jurisdiction and "some reasonably durable and guaranteed source of finance for exercising that jurisdiction."7 Those representative Indigenous bodies would have discretion and a measure of control and enable an "emphasis on representation, deliberation and accountability to constituents within the Aboriginal order of governance rather than to the general Australian order of governance."8 The issue of capacity for those Indigenous bodies would be partly addressed through guaranteeing financial capacity.
Indigenous governance is not just a right to be exercised, it is also a responsibility. Indigenous organisations have a responsibility to communities to be an effective interface with the dominant culture. It is the combination of Indigenous governance as a right and as a responsibility which has given effect to good governance. Given the current political climate, particularly at a Federal level, it is unlikely that such a proactive and creative approach to Aboriginal governance as suggested in the ATSIC scoping paper would be agreed to, at least in the short term. However, there is room for incremental reform, along such lines, through Federal Governments and there is much evidence from overseas which gives credibility to such an approach.
In his paper at the 2002 Indigenous Governance Conference in Canberra, Stephen Cornell reported that the Harvard Project Research into Aboriginal Governance in the USA discovered that there were five factors which were critical to successful development; the exercise of sovereignty, efficient governing institutions, cultural match, strategic thinking and leadership.9
Put most simply, self-rule appears to be a necessary but not sufficient condition for sustained economic development on American Indian reservations. We have yet to find a case of sustained, positive reservation economic performance where someone other than the Indian nation is making the major decisions about governmental design, resource allocations, development strategy, and related matters. In case after case, we have seen development begin to take hold when Indian nations move outsiders from decision-making to resource roles and become primary decision-makers in their own affairs.10
Self-determination and the exercise of some form of Indigenous sovereignty means that decisions
- reflect tribal/nation goals,
- are accountable to the community, and
- are linked to the consequences of the decisions.11
Importantly, Indigenous sovereignty, combined with effective governance institutions, creates stability, keeps politics out of day to day management, enables non-politicised resolution of disputes and a capable tribal/nation bureaucracy.
In short, sovereignty that is not backed up with effective institutions of governance is unlikely to yield sustained economic development. For many tribes, this has meant constitutional overhauls, reorganizing governing institutions to adopt separations of powers, checks and balances, independent court systems, and other tools of good governance. It means backing up governing power with governing capabilities.12
The critical area of cultural match requires that the governing institutions have the support of the people they govern.
This in turn appears to be a matter of the fit between the formal institutions of governance, on one hand, and Indigenous conceptions of how authority should be organized and exercised, on the other. Institutions whose form departs significantly from such Indigenous political conceptions fare significantly worse than those that build, sometimes innovatively, upon such conceptions. In other words, institutions have to be effective, but they also have to resonate with Indigenous political culture if they're going to deliver the goods. People have to believe in them.13
The fourth factor of strategic thinking enables long term thinking for the future of the tribe/nation rather than short-term thinking to get things started and obtaining government funding. This requires a more long term approach by governments to creating sustainability for Indigenous communities. The fifth and final factor is the development of an Indigenous leadership which is committed to appropriate long term governance and strategising.14
Neil Sterritt, author of the First Nations Governance Handbook: A Resource Guide for Effective Councils written for a joint committee of First Nations leaders and Government of Canada officialsin 2001, talks of the need to appreciate an effective Circle of Change to encourage good governance. He suggests that the Circle of Change consists of four elements: organisation, credibility, authority and power. "Good governance is all about building the Circle of Change by getting organized, being credible, having authority, and exercising legitimate power."15
Part of Sterritt's approach is to place the community members, who are responsible for choosing the Indigenous agency's board, at the top of the organisational chart. The leaders and board members are the trustees of the community's assets as receivers of the trust of the community.16 The board members therefore have moral and legal obligations to the community. Their role is to set policy and goals, hire good people, implement and act on the policies and seek to achieve the goals.17 There needs to exist "commonly accepted goals, rules, policies, values and codes of ethics, roles and responsibilities, and skills and tools."18
From these suggestions arising out of the experiences of First Nation groups in Canada and the work of the Harvard Project and the Native Nations Institute in the USA, Mick Dodson and D.E. Smith have articulated nine core ingredients and principles for good Indigenous governance in Australia:
- Stable and broadly representative organisational structures;
- Capable and effective institutions;
- Sound corporate governance;
- The limitation and separation of powers;
- Fair and reliable dispute resolutions and appeal processes;
- Effective financial management and administrative systems;
- Simple and locally relevant information management systems;
- Effective development policies and realistic strategies; and
- Cultural 'match' or 'fit'.19
For stable and broadly representative organisation structures, Indigenous organisations need to;
- broadly represent the rights and interests of all community members,
- support local objectives,
- enable the sound management of internal assets and
- clearly demarcate and coordinate different areas of functional responsibility.20
To be capable and effective, Indigenous organisations need to have institutional mechanisms and rules which are culturally-endorsed, such as a constitution, policies, laws/regulations, agreed processes for decision making, agreed roles and responsibilities and agreed standards of behaviour. These rules and standards "must be plainly set out, consistent and hard to change" to ensure institutional protection from political interest groups.21
Sound corporate governance enables accountability and requires;
- that the authority, roles and responsibilities of leaders, boards and managers
are clearly set out in public policies, and given effect to;
- that decision-making is responsible and fair;
- that governing boards are of an effective composition, size and level of
experience to adequately discharge their duties;
- that boards and management are able to understand their roles and
responsibilities, evaluate risks, and to safeguard and facilitate the rights and
interests of all their members;
- that these roles and responsibilities are periodically reviewed; and
- that remuneration for leaders, managers and boards is transparently defined
in terms of actual performance against these.22
A key principle of sound governance is the effective limitation and separation of powers to prevent the abuse of power and therefore the abuse of the trust of the community. This means that boards should make "policies, enforce the rules and provide strategic direction" and not interfere with the day to day implementation and management of these policies rules and directions. Combined with transparent financial reporting, clear codes of conduct, minuted board meetings and written contracts, limitation and separations of powers defend the organization from undue political interference.23
To enhance the trust between the community and the organization, it is important that there exists a fair and reliable dispute resolution processes. Such processes mean that Indigenous bodies can;
- address conflicts of interest or corrupt behaviour amongst leaders or staff,
- respond to appeals over unfair dealings, and
- adjudicate the grievances of their members, and to do so in a consistent and non-politicised way.
These processes should be formalized, documented, enable recourse to external mediation or resolution and enable binding decisions.24
Given the reality of dominant culture impositions and systems it is important that Indigenous governance enables the appropriate use of resources through effective financial management and administration systems.
To develop their financial capacity, governing bodies need access to accredited financial management expertise, simple and workable local financial systems, local financial management training, financial mentoring, local banking services, and effective financial backup support. All financial procedures, policies and guidelines should be documented in writing. Another core ingredient of good financial governance is the development and safeguarding of the integrity of financial reporting.25
Effective communication between the community and the organizational is essential to maintain trust. Therefore Indigenous organizations must develop simple and locally relevant information management systems to enable real accountability and enable effective and efficient understanding of the context of the work of the organization.26
Effective and realistic policy and strategy development is also critical to Indigenous governance.27 While Dodson and Smith's paper is focused primarily on economic development, the key principles espoused are useful for other community-controlled organizations. Indigenous bodies need to work out how they engage in the dominant culture imposed systems which directly affect their activities and communities. Once this is established, on the basis of the policies espoused by the organization, the next step is to work out strategies to pursue aims and objectives in that context.
Finally, and most importantly, Indigenous agencies and organizations need to work out the 'cultural match' required for the governance of the organization to be truly Indigenous. In order to be legitimate and have a mandate from the community, Indigenous organizations need to work out how culture informs corporate governance. Dodson and Smith express the dilemma in this way:
Problems arise for many Indigenous governing bodies when they lose sight of the fact that their ongoing legitimacy is often grounded, at the local level, in culturally-based values, priorities and behaviours. But achieving a cultural match to secure a mandate is difficult, especially when so many communities are the historical constructs of colonisation and a mix of cultural traditions....
Creating a cultural match is more about developing strategic and realistic connections between extant cultural values and standards, and those required by the world of business and administration.... Most importantly, while Indigenous governance arrangements need to be informed by local cultural standards if they are to be regarded as legitimate by community members, the governing arrangements also have to work-governing bodies have to be practically capable of responding and taking action in the contemporary environment.28
There are a variety of issues involved in Indigenous organisations' dual role as legal entities within the dominant culture and as bodies seeking to enable the aspirations of Indigenous communities. Indigenous governance, particularly in circumstances where there is no clearly defined territorial area of control, is inherently complex. To what extent is complying with dominant culture processes a culturally inappropriate 'cop-out'? To what extent is it just common sense? The critical issue is that of community control and the extent to which Indigenous organisations are determining the access points between Indigenous communities and the dominant culture in accordance to their accountability to those Indigenous communities.
Integrating policy, representation and service delivery
In considering a new representative structure for Indigenous communities there is also a need for an integrated framework for policy, representation and service delivery. The following chart expresses the need for varying configurations of Indigenous self-determination and expertise to connect with various areas of mainstream governance and expertise.
A Suggested Process for Implementation
The key question for the Rudd Government concerning new Indigenous Representative Arrangements is the extent to which they will be based on self-determination and Indigenous governance. While having a voice into government processes is important, representation alone is not self-determination. We would hope that the representation framework would be a first step towards developing real self-determination along the lines suggested in the ‘Broader Perspectives’ section of this submission.
Another critical issue which needs to be addressed if the model for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is to be a true expression of self-determination and not merely a tokenistic tool for government is that of how communities are to be resourced and their capacity for governance developed. VACCA believes that self-determination lies at the heart of capacity, particularly in our area of expertise, child and family welfare.
Appropriate forms of representation are critical but difficult to establish due to the impact on traditional forms of Indigenous governance. A National Indigenous Regional Communities Forum should be established to reflect and represent the voices of current local Indigenous communities and the Traditional Owners. It would have representation from regional forums, determine its own agenda, priorities and have a focus on communities, particularly in relation to issues of land, rights, cultural heritage, language, community rights and appropriate protocols for engagement. It would have secretarial support, advise the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and meet annually with Prime Minister.
A parallel process is to acknowledge traditional owners and custodians of the land. Their resourcing could be based on improving the role of traditional owners in current heritage protection and land management arrangements. Traditional owners have the right to speak for country and welcome peoples into their country through treaties and agreements. In effect these treaties, agreements and land/heritage management agreements recognise Indigenous sovereignty. Land management and culturally based activities, particularly involving, if appropriate, tourism, can become the basis of restoring economic capacity.
Additional to the above processes for acknowledging forms of self-determination would be to resource and capacity build Indigenous community controlled services agencies so that they can, in turn, develop capacity for the communities. A body which would oversee the further development of governance models which are culturally appropriate and enable local Indigenous bodies to meet their legal and financial requirements would enable real capacity building. An Indigenous Governance Authority could function as a governance regulator and an ombudsman for local communities to make sure local community controlled bodies are accountable.
Economic development is a critical area for Indigenous communities. We would suggest the establishment of an Indigenous Economic and Business Development Peak to assist local Indigenous businesses to create opportunities for communities.
The next step may be to recognise the current configuration of Aboriginal and Islander communities through local co-operatives. Their involvement in service provision to their communities should be enhanced through Federal-wide service organisations who would be given resources to develop capacity in health, children and family welfare, education and community services for local communities. An Indigenous National Peaks Community Controlled Agencies Forum should be established to enable National and State-wide Aboriginal peak/lead bodies to continue to develop culturally appropriate professional expertise and also to effectively regionalise their service provision through capacity building arrangements with the relevant government departments and oversee
- human services policy and program development and implementation,
- economic development initiatives, (there should be a representative from the Indigenous Economic and Business Development Peak)
- best practice benchmarking.
At the Federal level the three key forms of self-determination - traditional ownership, current forms of communities and community controlled agencies – should have representation on the Federal body with a clear delineation of issues pertinent to stakeholder rights and responsibilities (see chart below). Hence the two groupings of Federal forums which require some form of representation on the Federal Commission.
A government resourced Federal wide representative Indigenous body could assist these connections through the following Federal and local/regional structures. We would therefore like to suggest the following forms of structures, all of which would need to be established.
Federal Representative Chart
We would suggest a process of enabling Indigenous peak community controlled agencies to enter into agreements with government departments so as to create greater involvement and control into the development of policies and the delivery of services. A critical issue will be how self-determination is to become effective given issues of governance development and capacity building. There needs to be a determination to move from a model that gives Indigenous communities or Indigenous community controlled bodies influence to one which provides decision making powers to the community. In our discussions with the Victorian Government concerning child and family services the following forms of Indigenous community interaction with government and government departments has been outlined:
- Static Influence/no control (low impact)
- Communities provide advice, are consulted, but have no decision making powers, low information and therefore low accountability
- Dynamic influence/some control
- Some forms of joint decision making, more dynamic exchange between govt./dept. and Indigenous community, more information and accountability but final control rests with govt/dept.
- Directive influence/joint control
- Integrated approach, joint decision making, still have departmental support
- Full control/decision making
- Decision making and responsibility rests with Indigenous community
Such a transformation would need to be developed carefully so as not to over burden Indigenous leaders and communities. Restoring self-determination will only occur hand in hand with capacity building and culturally appropriate governance training and development.
Another key issue which needs to be addressed is how Indigenous communities can influence the Treasury. There needs to be some level of input into the budget cycle so that Indigenous communities don’t remain at the end of the cue when it comes to governmental funding priorities.
We therefore would like to make the following recommendations:
- That the Federal Government makes a clear statement regarding the primacy of principles of self-determination as the basis of any new Indigenous representation arrangements. This could be in conjunction with a public singing of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Creation of an Indigenous Governance Authority which would be a statutory authority consisting of voting Indigenous leaders and non-voting governance experts which would encourage the development of Indigenous governance, establish protocols for engagement for government departments and provide an ombudsman role for communities.
- That the Federal and State Governments resource Indigenous community controlled community peaks and state-wide service agencies so that they can establish governance and capacity development across the services sector and develop a services plan to establish methods of local and regional service provision for Indigenous communities.
- That the Federal and State Governments negotiate with traditional owners and custodians concerning issues of sovereignty over lands and waters.
- That the Federal and State Governments establish regional bodies which ensure input of traditional owners and local Indigenous communities. These bodies would select representation for the National Indigenous Regional Communities Forum.
- That the Federal and State Governments resource Indigenous community controlled co-operatives so that they can give effect to the self-determination of local communities. Processes could be determined by COAG in consultation with Indigenous agencies.
- That the Federal Government establishes a Indigenous National Peaks Community Controlled Agencies Forum which consists of Indigenous community controlled peaks concerning the areas of health (NACCHO), child and family services (SNAICC), education, legal services, economic development, land and housing. Where there are no current Indigenous peaks, the Federal government should resource the formation of those peaks through current Indigenous community controlled bodies. These Indigenous peak bodies would chair forums which would have direct input into Government Departments and provide advice to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
- That the Federal Government creates a new National Indigenous Communities Commission which consists of equal representation from two forums Indigenous Regional Communities Forum and Indigenous National Peaks Community Controlled Agencies Forum. This body would provide direct advice to the Prime Minister.
- Establishment of an Aboriginal Productivity Commission with responsibility to set outcomes to be achieved across all sectors of government and monitor government performance in achieving these outcomes
- Establishment of Aboriginal Ombudsman positions within each state and territory with the role to advocate on behalf of Aboriginal people to achieve access and equity for Aboriginal people in services provided to all Australians.
Thank you for giving our submission your consideration.
1 D.F. Martin, Rethinking the Design of Indigenous Organisations: The need for strategic engagement, Canberra, Centre for Indigenous Economic Policy and Research, Paper 248, 2003, p. 7, in reference to T. Plumtree and J. Graham, Governance and Good Governance: International and Indigenous Perspectives, Ottawa: Institute of Governance, 1999.
2 Alison Anderson, Paper at Indigenous Governance Conference, 3-5 April 2002, Canberra, p.4, available at www.reconciliation.org.au
3 Darryl Cronin, "Indigenous Disadvantage, Indigenous Governance and the Notion of a Treaty in Australia: An Indigenous Perspective," in ATSIC/ATSIS Treaty: Let's Get it Right, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003, pp. 151f.
9 Stephen Cornell, "The Importance and Power of Indigenous Self-governance: Evidence from the United Federals," Paper at Indigenous Governance Conference, 3-5 April 2002, Canberra, available at www.reconciliation.org.au
15 Neil Sterritt, "Defining Good Governance," Paper at Indigenous Governance Conference, 3-5 April 2002, Canberra, p. 4, available at www.reconciliation.org.au
19 M. Dodson and D.E. Smith, Governance for Sustainable Development: Strategic issues and principles for Indigenous Australian Communities, Canberra: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy and Research, Paper 250, 2003.
22 M. Dodson and D.E. Smith, Governance for Sustainable Development, pp. 14f, in reference to Australian Stock exchange, Principles of Good Corporate Governance and Best-Practice Recommendations, ASX Corporate Governance Council, Sydney, 2003, p. 11 and Neil Sterritt, First Nations Governance Handbook: A Resource Guide for Effective Councils, Prepared for the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Canada, 2001.
Public submission 86
Reps from each State and Territory, bigger states may have two reps. At least two TSI reps, no more than 10 reps.
Board members to not include so called "leaders" look at C.E.Os and General Managers who are running Indigenous organisations that have good governance.
Body to have the power to make government (local, state and federal) accountable for services or lack of them.
Body to be transparent, to choose their own chairperson.
As Circle of Elders exist in states and territories, their input should be encouraged.
Would like youth to be also encouraged to have an input in some way.
Not sure how performance to be measured.
Would like funding to come from private donors and government.
Body not to perform a service delivery role.
Have an independent advocacy role that talks to government on policy development and monitors government policy.
Would be great if the Body was financially independent.
Public submission 88
I spent 15th September 2008 listening to Aboriginal Women from all over Australia. One conclusion was that they all want to be called Aboriginal and not 'Indigenous'. They reported that at the 20/20 Conference in Canberra early in the year, there was a vote on this, and everyone voted for 'Aboriginal'. Yet the Government and its public servants persist in using the term 'Indigenous'. All Aboriginal women agree that the bureaucrats do not listen to them and use political jargon instead of standard, clear terminology.
Another Political ploy that is disliked is that white males are always put in charge of Aboriginal centres. The head of the Indigenous Coordination Centre is a white male, born in South Africa who uses polispeak and is too controlling.
White friends and I have talked about this and agree that it is all too petty and unimportant. That is what white people think, it is NOT what Aboriginal people think.
On 27th May 1967 The Constitution was amended to allow the government to legislate for all Aboriginal people.
There is also a need for the Aboriginal Medical Services to be properly resourced with doctors receiving the same pay as other doctors. Please.
Public submission 90
Campbelltown City Council
The group discussed how the new rep body should be selected, how it should be selected and what functions it would have.
The new national rep body should be made up of components of regional representatives. This is due to the diversity of our people and to ensure that all aspects of our community profiles are represented on the group (ie urban, regional, rural and remote).
A selection committee should be formed to choose the regional reps.
The regions could be based on the "old" ATSIC boundaries,or Local Aboriginal Land Council boundaries,or geographical boundaries or electoral boundaries.
The selection process for the regional reps should be overseen by the FAHCSIA National Leadership Team. Each regional rep group should have male, female and youth reps.
From each region, the regional representatives would elect who would go onto the national rep body.
The selection committee, who will choose the regional reps, will be made up from reps from key Aboriginal organisations from across the region, this will ensure a fairer selection process.
The selection of the committee, who will choose the regional representatives will be done via an Expression of Interest to the FAHCSIA National Leadership Team.
The selection criteria for the selection committee to choose the regional reps will be determined by FAHCSIA.
The selection criteria for those nominating for the regional representatives will include:
- Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander descent
- Have knowledge of the area they will be representing
- Have experience on committees and boards
- Knowledge of issues across the region
- Excellent communication skills
- Must be over 18 years
- Have an understanding of political jargon and "government speak"
- Know how to deal with bureaucrats and interpret policy and legislation
- Have 4 character references 2 from representatives of 2 different Aboriginal community organisations and 2 from key Aboriginal community representatives.
The Regional Representative body will be:
- made up equally of men and women (including youth)
- there should be 3 people from each area within the region.
- must feedback and consult with all members of the region they represent.
- should have a 3 year term - half the reps will stand down after 3 years to allow new reps to participate, but half the reps will remain for the next 3 years in order for continuity and history for the group. The regional representatives will select who will go onto the National Representative Body.
The National Rep Body will:
- Represent the cultural related interest of Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people at the local, divisional, state and national levels in order to give input on issues that impact on government services to ATSI people.
- Have access to all government ministers who are attached to various portfolios that impact on ATSI people across the country.
- Will identify how past injustices by government agencies still impact on ATSI communities today and identify strategies and initiatives to address the disadvantages that ATSI people continue to experience as a result of this. Particularly in areas of health, education, housing, the legal system and the environment.
- Contribute to planning. This would be the key priority for this group - to advise government on the planning of key services that improve the social and wellbeing of ATSI across the country.
- Ensure accountability from government. Assist with setting key performance indicators for the various government agencies delivering services to ATSI people actoss the nation.
- Be a voice the ATSI communities across the nation. It is imperative the group have the full support of the various regions and communities they represent.
- The group must have decision making capability in terme of government.
- The group must have direct dialogue with the upper level parliament and various ministers in government who are responsible for policy and that they are consulted on every policy that impacts on ATSI people.
- The group monitor portfolio responsibilities and outcomes.
- The group will ensure government signs off on the Declaration of Human Rights for the Worlds Indigenous People.
- The rep body will remain representative - not an agency of government. This will retain the intergrity of the group (so not another agency bound by government direction).
- Will be funded federally but will be independent of the government.
The National Rep Body will:
- Have a 3 year term
- Develop a Terms of Reference or Charter for the group with consultation with the regional rep groups.
- Report back to regional reps to distribute information to grass roots organisations and community.
- Must be representative of ATSI communties across the nation.
Public submission 92
Elaine McKeon AM, Chairperson, Aboriginal Hostels Limited
Bob Blair, Acting Chairperson, Indigenous Business Australia
Shirley McPherson, Chairperson, Indigenous Land Corporation
A number of your Indigenous specific portfolio agencies have been giving careful thought to the possible composition of the proposed Indigenous advisory body.
Like you, we have seen these bodies come and go over the years. Most have not proven sustainable in the longer run for a range of complex issues. It is because of the past failures that the portfolio agencies have sought to identify a structure which is based on different concepts and where Government can be satisfied that those who would sit at the table have the appropriate skill sets and clear objectives. We believe it is also important that the members of the advisory group are able to demonstrate that they have appropriate representational authority to be at the table.
We have also noted, and support your views, that there is no intention to create another ATSIC; there will not necessarily be separate elections; and the body will have urban, regional and remote representation. We are also of the view that in order to avoid the problems of the past, the advisory body should not have any program responsibilities.
After considering a range of possible options, and having examined the long history of national Indigenous advisory bodies, we have collectively come to the view that an advisory body, based on the leadership of existing and well established structures, is more sustainable.
From a government viewpoint, the composition of such an advisory group would be seen to draw on the considerable expertise and experience built up over many years within these structures. The advisory group would comprise a range of leaders, gender balanced, with appropriate skills and experience who would be positioned to represent a range of specific interests and subject matters, ensuring a holistic approach to advising on Indigenous issues.
We believe that the membership should be drawn from both community and relevant government structures to ensure an appropriate balance of advice. Importantly, the concept would significantly improve the level of understanding and dialogue between these bodies which would lead, over time, to improved linkages and coordination of effort.
Importantly, membership by individuals would not remain static as the chairs of the various government and community organisations change from time to time. While some may criticise the inclusion of the chairs of government agencies, the appointment process by you as Minister of these chairs is a transparent process which includes consideration of criteria appropriate to the role. These chairs invariably have strong community backgrounds.
At the government agency level, we propose that the advisory group would include the chairs of Aboriginal Hostels Limited, Indigenous Business Australia, and the Indigenous Land Corporation. We have attached a short synopsis of the legislative responsibilities of each of these agencies. We have also included a short summary of each of our backgrounds to demonstrate connection to communities. We have not proposed the inclusion of the Social Justice Commissioner only on the basis that he may see his role compromised by inclusion in the group but that would be a matter for your consideration. We understand the Torres Strait Regional Authority is making separate representations.
The chairs of these agencies would bring to the advisory group considerable expertise in the provision of accommodation and shelter, socio-economic development including through small business and home ownership and land ownership and management.
The current chairs of these government bodies also provide a solid geographic balance with strong associations with communities in Cloncurry, Rockhampton, the Murchison area, and Perth.
At the national community representative level, there are well established structures which have played an important role over many years representing and advocating for specific needs. We would propose that the chairs of the following organisations also be considered for membership of the advisory group.
- Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) which works to help to develop policy that is of most benefit to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. This includes advocating that state, territory and federal governments develop policy and legislation that supports the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. The current chair is Muriel Bamblett AM who is a Yorta Yorta woman and who has been employed as the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) since 1999. From 1997-99 she was the Chairperson of VACCA and has been active on many boards concerning children, families and the Indigenous community including a Member of the Victorian Children's Council; a Ministerial appointed representative on the Australian Families and Children Council; a Community Member on the Victorian Youth Parole Board and a Board Member of the Aboriginal Community Elders Service and Victorian Stolen Generations Organisation. She has been the recipient of a number of awards, including the 2003 Robin Clark Memorial Award for Inspirational Leadership in the Field of Child and Family Welfare; and was awarded an AM (Membership in the General Division) in the 2004 Australia Day Honours for her services to the community, particularly through leadership in the provision of services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.
- The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) which is the national peak Aboriginal health body representing Aboriginal community controlled health services throughout Australia. These local bodies are a primary health care service initiated and operated by the local Aboriginal community to deliver holistic, comprehensive, and culturally appropriate health care to the community which controls it. The current chair is Dr Mick Adams who is a descendent of the Yadhiagana people of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland and has traditional family ties with the Gurindji/Wardaman people of central western Northern Territory and an extended family relationship with the people of the Torres Straits, Warlpiri (Yuendumu) and East Arnhem Land (Gurrumaru) communities. He spent his childhood growing up in Darwin's Parap Camp community. Dr Adams has been working in the health industry for over 30 years. He has worked in both state and the community-controlled health service sector, has been a representative on local, state and national boards, and has been nominated as a representative to advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues on national boards and national and international conferences.
- The replacement structure for the National Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee (NAJAC) which was originally established to independently monitor the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments' responses to Recommendations of the Royal Commission Inquiry into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. It was established as a representative body originally consisting of the Chairpersons of the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committees (AJACs) from each State/Territory, and serviced by a secretariat to be supported by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department. However, as a result of changes in the state and territory based AJACs in recent years, along with administrative changes in Indigenous affairs more broadly, the Australian Government is considering the establishment of a different type of expert advisory group in Indigenous law and justice. The Government is proposing that it comprise a group of high profile experts in a variety of fields, able to comment across key issues relevant to Indigenous law and justice.
- The National Native Title Council which was established to forge strong and collaborative partnerships with key stakeholders in native title as well as Indigenous affairs policy. The main focus is on promoting the development of better solutions for resolving native title and securing adequate resources for Native Title Representative Bodies and Native Title Service providers. It also seeks to maximise the significant contribution that native title makes to achieving and improving the economic, social and cultural participation of Indigenous people. The current chair is Brian Wyatt who is a Yamatji man was born in Meekatharra. He has more than 30 years experience in community and government administration of Aboriginal affairs. He has worked as a senior adviser to government ministers, regional manager with the WA Aboriginal Affairs Department, Assistant General Manager of Aboriginal Hostels Limited, and director of the Eastern Goldfields Aboriginal Council. He is CEO of the Goldfields Land and Sea Council in Kalgoorlie but has taken leave in the short term to work full-time in the role of chair of the National Native Title Council. In 2001 he attended the UN Conference on Racism in South Africa and in 2002 his speech to a national forum in Canberra led to the Human Rights Commission inquiry into racism in the Goldfields. In 2003 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to research land rights and economic development in South Africa, Canada and North America.
The chairs of these government and community structures would result in an advisory committee of seven members.
If you were contemplating a larger group, there are other peak bodies at both the state/territory and national levels from which additional membership might be drawn.
For example, based on a discussion paper issued by the Social Justice Commissioner, there are smaller national representative bodies which could be considered for inclusion. However, we would suggest that their possible involvement be considered in the context of the desired overall size of the national advisory group, and perhaps some further research into these organisations' current standing and performance. These bodies include:
- Aboriginal Tourism Australia (ATA) which was established to: provide leadership and a focus for the development of Aboriginal tourism, consistent with Aboriginal economic, cultural and environmental values; and promote cultural integrity and authenticity across the tourism industry and provides education on Indigenous protocols to the broader tourism industry.
- Australian Indigenous Doctor's Association (AIDA) which is dedicated to the pursuit of leadership, partnership and scholarship in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, education and workforce. It also advocates for improvements in Indigenous health in Australia and equitable health and life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to work in medicine by supporting Indigenous students and doctors.
- Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses (CATSIN) which was established to increase the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples into nursing, and setting the agenda for, and advising on, a range of health related issues.
- Federation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages (FATSIL) which promotes the maintenance, retrieval and revival of Indigenous languages, through the support of community based language programs. FATSIL is the national peak body for community based language organisations and acts in an advisory role on issues relating to Indigenous languages to government and relevant non-government agencies, and provides a communication network to support information sharing between all target groups involved with Indigenous languages in Australia.
- Indigenous Dentist's Association of Australia (IDAA) Primary Objectives Promote good oral health for Indigenous Australians and provides support for Indigenous dentists and dental students.
- National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) which works with the churches for a fair deal for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and for the healing of the nation. It provides a forum for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to speak and take action on issues of faith, mission and evangelism; of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spirituality and theology; of social justice and land rights.
- National Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Workers Association (NCATSISWA) which brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social workers as a professional body to exchange information, ideas, and to network for the benefit of the communities.
- National Indigenous Higher Education Network (NIHEN) which seeks to achieve parity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in higher education; provide a forum for the staff of the Indigenous higher education sector to pursue common goals and objectives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
- National Indigenous Postgraduate Association Aboriginal Corporation (NIPAAC) which provides a network for Indigenous postgraduate students; advocates for and to represent the interests of Indigenous postgraduate students at a national level; promotes research into Indigenous issues and the training of Indigenous researchers; educates researchers on appropriate protocols when dealing with issues of cultural and social significance to Indigenous peoples.
- National Indigenous Youth Movement of Australia (NIYMA) which seeks to engage other young indigenous peoples with life, support young Indigenous peoples in life and career pursuits, celebrate all successes among the membership, promote self-awareness, healing and wellness among the membership and communities.
- National Sorry Day Committee (NSDC) which works in unity with its members, the Stolen Generations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, government, social justice and community organisations, so that the 54 recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report are finally achieved.
- Ngalaya Aboriginal Corporation Primary which is comprised of Indigenous lawyers and law students nationally and seeks to cooperate and collaborate to achieve an equality of justice for all Australians. It provides assistance to Indigenous law students and Indigenous law graduates ensure Indigenous law students attain the same graduation and work place participation rates as those attained by other students.
- Positive Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Network (PATSIN) which works within Indigenous communities and with government and service providers to represent the interests of Indigenous Australians living with HIV/AIDS.
- Stolen Generations Alliance which works for healing, truth and justice.
At the state and territory level there are peak bodies, such as the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, and prominent bodies, such as the land councils in the Northern Territory. Again, consideration of inclusion would reflect the preferred size of the national advisory body.
As chairs of your Indigenous portfolio bodies, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to further explore our suggested approach.
Public submission 93
Kimberley Language Resource Centre (KLRC)
The KLRC was the first regional language centre to be established in Australia. It is the peak representative body for Aboriginal languages in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia. The organisation was established in 1984 following the establishment of the Kimberley Land Council (1978) and the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre (1984). These organisations together protect the heritage of Kimberley Aboriginal people which is based on the foundation of Land, Law, Language and Culture.
The KLRC is governed by an elected Board who are accountable to a membership representative of the 30 remaining language groups in the region (about a fifth of the remaining national languages). The strategic direction of the organisation is developed from the grass roots up and is regularly reviewed to ensure it is reflects the needs of people at the community level.
"The year I turned five years old I was taken away from my mother...Nobody ever spoke their language in school. That's how I lost my language. It was one of my dreams to learn to speak my language again...I love the Language Centre. I am proud to have been the chairperson for this many years" (McConvell and Thieberger, 2001, p88).
Bonnie Deegan [KLRC Chair 1992-2001] a member of the Stolen Generation who relearned her language of Jaru after returning from the Beagle Bay Mission
The origin of the KLRC is rooted in the belief that the effects of colonisation on the Indigenous languages of Australia have endangered the cultural knowledge of thousands of years. The oral transmission of this knowledge to younger generations has been severely disrupted.
The impact of the English language and the Western system of education also continues to decimate languages and Traditional Knowledge and in turn the heritage and identity of the younger and future generations.
One of the many criticisms that gets levelled at indigenous intellectuals or activists is that Western education precludes us from writing or speaking from a 'real' and authentic indigenous position. Of course, those who do speak from a more 'traditional' indigenous point of view are criticized because they do not make sense ('speak English, what!). Or, our talk is reduced to some 'nativist' disourse, dismissed by colleagues in the academy as naive, contradictory and illogical (Smith, 1999, p14)
We believe it is timely that the voices of the people the KLRC represents are heard.
This submission is the first step in what we hope will contribute to radical changes in policy direction and program development at all government levels. We believe the words spoken by the Prime Minister in the National Apology to the Stolen Generations will allow for the aspirations of the elders, parents, young people and children of the Kimberley to be heard, listened to, taken seriously and acted upon.
The truth is: a business as usual approach towards Indigenous Australians is not working. Most old approaches are not working. We need a new beginning-a new beginning which contains real measures of policy success or policy failure; a new beginning, a new partnership, on closing the gap with sufficient flexibility not to insist on a one-size-fits-all approach for each of the hundreds of remote and regional Indigenous communities across the country but instead allowing flexible, tailored, local approaches to achieve commonly-agreed national objectives that lie at the core of our proposed new partnership; a new beginning that draws intelligently on the experiences of new policy settings across the nation
(Kevin Rudd, Parliament House, 13th February 2008)
What are the issues in the Kimberley?
- Ongoing decimation of languages and therefore access to traditional knowledge
- The subsequent effect of this loss on people's sense of themselves giving rise to questions about the validity of their personal vision for their future
- Loss of identity in young children through loss of their heritage language
- Deep sadness in elders and parents that languages and cultural knowledge are not embedded in education practices
- Lack of consultation and functioning partnerships around ways to collaborate in change processes from the ground up
- A continuing model of separating Language from Family and Community in early childhood care, the education system, Natural Resource Management and most research disciplines
What is the KLRC hearing from the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley?
- A desire for future leaders to be strengthened by their heritage languages and traditional knowledge
- A deepening concern about the continuing loss of languages and cultures
- Anger that this continuing loss is not truly acknowledged by governments
- An emphasis on the connection between this loss and many of the social, health, education and economic problems that exist in the Kimberley today.
Loss of languages and cultures breaks people's spirits and leaves them floundering. This is not about past history. It is a continuing loss that is still contributing to the breakdown of family and society.
"When I was young I learned my language of Bunuba by walking along and breathing it - everything is linked through language. I could ask a question about why the ant is there and the answer would tell me more than that."
(Patsy Bedford, Community Language Development Officer, KLRC)
"This means that the Aboriginal structures for leadership are not there. The Kardiya influence is so strong it's almost like a distraction. And our Authority is slowly lost. You wouldn't let an athlete compete in the Olympics if they were not groomed, day to day. It's about exercising through knowing your language, cultural knowledge and using it in leadership roles. You can't just cast it aside for a time and then try to pick it up again" (personal communication 2008, Olive Knight, Walmajarri Elder, Wangkatjungka Community)
Language Continuation captures the goal of each Kimberley Aboriginal language group that their languages continue into the future in a social context that is appropriate for their community, their language, their culture and their land. The essential factor in Language Continuation is that the community/language group is the driving force behind any activity and that they are the decision-makers for how and where their language(s) will be spoken or documented.
It is essential that Language Continuation and Traditional Knowledge is recognised as vital to people's lives and as a Core and Guiding Principle for all policy and program development and service delivery in the Kimberley.
KLRC Response to the Issues Paper
We applaud the emphasis on a new and approach from Government and some of the possibilities suggested in the issues paper:
- Real consultation and partnerships
- A commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Consultation with and listening to the voices of children and young people
- An emphasis on ensuring proper local and regional representation
To avoid the mistakes of the past it must be acknowledged that the Aboriginal languages and traditional knowledges of Australia are still under threat because they are not explicitly named as a Core Principle fundamental to the success of how to ‘close the gap' between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. The majority of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region do not speak Standard Australian English as a first language and their heritage is predominantly Aboriginal. Whether their languages are traditional languages, Kriol or Aboriginal English this fact must be taken under serious consideration by the governments of Australia.
"There is a lot written about us and the question is how do we get a balance between what others are writing about us and what we think and mean about ourselves. How do we have control and direct the knowledge about us?" (Unknown speaker, The Crocodile Hole Report, 1991, p39)
Language and Traditional Knowledge Continuation should be the cornerstone of any future-oriented approach to rethinking relationships with Aboriginal people in the Kimberley. The continued threat to the remaining languages in the Kimberley region makes this an imperative.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE NIRB
- The proposed core principles do not strongly enough state the central foundation stones of Language, Law, Language and Culture as the solid base from which Indigenous Australians are able to move forward in partnership with government
- The proposed core principles to do not explicitly name Indigenous Languages as being central to the development of the NIRB
- The proposed core principles do not strongly enough state the need to engage with Aboriginal people at the local and regional level through their own representative structures
If the principles of Language Continuation and Traditional Knowledge transmission are not made transparent and embedded in all policy and program development and service delivery we believe a serious omission will be made and will contribute to the ongoing tragedy that is unfolding each day.
The structure of the NIRB:
- The proposed structure does not account for already established regional peak bodies such as the Kimberley Language Resource Centre
- FATSIL has up to this point not acted in the role of "national peak body for community language based organisations" (p28). While this may change in the near future, this fact needs to be understood and explicitly discussed as a structural flaw to ensure that the KLRC has opportunities to be directly consulted on language research, education policy and early childhood models proposed for the Kimberley region.
We believe the NIRB should acknowledge grass roots representation.
However, other areas of Australia may not have the same representative base as the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley.
In acknowledging the "cultural distinctiveness and diversity of Indigenous Australians" (p75) the existence of regional organisations such as the KLRC, KLC and KALACC needs to be respected and not replicated or over-run because the model does not exist elsewhere.
The role of the NIRB:
The issues paper states that a potential role of the NIRB could be to ensure that "governments....are responsive to Indigenous needs" (p77).
How will the NIRB decide the needs of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley? Who decides and in whose interests?
The role of the KLRC is to be responsive to the Language Continuation needs of Kimberley Aboriginal people.
The three areas identified on page 78 of the issues paper are roles that the KLRC already enacts on behalf of Kimberley Aboriginal people. This should be acknowledged and the KLRC supported by Australian governments to strengthen its existing roles of:
- informing research into best practice
- identifying opportunities for greater collaboration
- identifying opportunities for innovation
We believe the NIRB should give regional grass roots organisations a place at the table to ensure that they can continue to protect the interests of those they represent.
Reconceptualising Language Continuation and Traditional Knowledge Transmission
The issues paper does not explicitly state the importance of Language Continuation in the NIRB's role, or place it as a core principle. Maybe because a shared understanding of the implicit importance of the diverse languages and cultures of Indigenous Australians is assumed.
It is this "taken for granted" assumption that we believe has led to the current situation where languages and traditional knowledge are objectified and viewed from the outside as separate to, and not an integral part of, who people are - whether in health and wellbeing, education, employment, or economic advancement.
We believe reconceptualising the place of Language Continuation and Traditional Knowledge transmission and making them explicit would uncover some of the gaps and assumptions made in the past.
In societies across the world since ancient times, the quest for knowledge has been elevated to a high-level discipline, even an art form. In Yolŋu society, knowledge has always been considered valuable - almost more valuable than life itself (p121). . . So why don't Yolŋu learn. . .Could it be that the dominant culture education delivered to Yolŋu is so ineffective that almost no education occurs, and Yolŋu are left thinking that the age of knowledge and thinking is at an end? (Trudgeon, 2000, p122).
Professor Bernard Spolsky, an eminent international researcher in the field of Language Policy, states "...there is a difference of opinion as to where the responsibility for language maintenance resides - with the speakers of the language or the nation state in which they live" (Spolsky, 2004, p114). The KLRC maintains that while the responsibility for Language Continuation and Traditional Knowledge transmission should of course reside with the speakers and their communities, the responsibility to resource these independent-from-government activities, in the spirit of the National Apology and the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, resides with the Australian governments.
First steps - an innovative Strategic Plan
The Kimberley Language Resource Centre has prepared an innovative Strategic Plan based on the vision for the future of the people it represents.
At the core of this plan is an emphasis on the pre-school years. The KLRC believes the importance they place on early childhood learning and social health and wellbeing accords with the Rudd Government's commitment to an Education Revolution.
There is ample evidence internationally supporting the benefits of curricula which incorporate Indigenous languages and knowledge. This research suggests that a holistic curriculum incorporating this knowledge can enhance motivation and interest and therefore increase children's involvement and success in education (Srikantaiah, 2005; Ball, 2004; Ball & Pence, 2006).
It can also revitalize Indigenous ways of knowing and doing and in return bring hope and motivation to the community (Ball, 2004). It can also improve children's health and well-being (Greenwood, 2005 in Lawrence and MacNaughton, 2006)
The KLRC believes this can be achieved through the Teaching on Country Curriculum Framework (KLRC 2007). This holistic approach to a curriculum gives ownership to the community and acknowledges Language Continuation and Traditional Knowledge as core curriculum components for children in the Kimberley. It has been developed with and endorsed by Elders and language speakers from across the Kimberley.
We must apply an ecological bottom-up approach to language maintenance . . . Action needs to begin at the most local level in two senses. First, most of the work will have to be done primarily by small groups themselves . . . Second, it is necessary to concentrate on the home front (i.e. intergenerational transmission) . . . Without transmission, there can be no long-term maintenance (Nettle and Romaine, 2000, p177).
In conclusion, the Kimberley Language Resource Centre would like to honour him by using the words of the Ngalipita Boss (who cannot be named due to his recent passing). He stated:
"Among Aboriginal people, to know my world is to speak my language...I didn't speak English until I went to school. By learning the English language I learned how to deal with the non-Aboriginal world. Now that we can both speak the same language, we would like to ask you to sit down with us, so that we can start talking and listening to one another" (KLC, 1998, p26)
Abley, Mark (2003) Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages. William Heinemann: London
Ball, J. & Pence, A. (2006). Supporting Indigenous Children's Development: Community-University Partnerships. University of British Columbia Press, BC.
Ball, J. (2004). "As if Indigenous Knowledge and Communities Mattered: Transformative Education in First Nations Communities in Canada" The American Indian Quarterly - Volume 28, Number 3&4, Summer/Fall 2004, pp. 454-479
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Lawrence, H. & MacNaughton, G. (2006) Bigger Picture Report and Resource. Centre for Equity and Innovation, University of Melbourne.
Nettle, Daniel & Romaine, Suzanne (2000) Vanishing Voices: the extinction of the world's languages. Oxford University Press
Smith, Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999) Decolonizing Methodologies. Zed Books Ltd: London and New York
Spolsky, Bernard (2004) Language Policy. Cambridge University Press
Srikantaiah, D. (2005). Education: Building on Indigenous Knowledges. IK Notes, No 87. December. World Bank.
Trudgeon, Richard (2000) Why Warriors Lie Down and Die. Aboriginal Resource and Development Services Inc.: Darwin
Public submission 94
Interim Community Planning Council (CPC)
The interim Community Planning Council is the current form of an evolving local community governance structure, previously the Aboriginal Community Facilitation Group, that was formed to represent the local Aboriginal community as part of the Shepparton Aboriginal COAG trial in 2003. It has deliberately defined its status as 'interim' while it undertakes a comprehensive community consultation on the structure and role of the Community Planning Council proper.
The Indigenous community of Greater Shepparton is the largest Aboriginal community in Victoria and is in the top decile (by size) of Aboriginal communities nationally (ABS Census 2006). With over three quarters of Indigenous Australians living in cities and regional centres, we believe our dynamic Aboriginal leadership, strong cultural expression and desire of community members for equal participation in society place us in a leadership role in addressing issues of governance, social inclusion and closing the gap for our and similarly situated Aboriginal communities.
Due to the early stages of development of our local governance model we are not yet in a position to state how the national model should be structured. However, we are agreed on an overriding principle that any national body needs to recognise and be reflective and inclusive of local governance structures.
The following is a brief description of how we currently view the role of the Community Planning Council in Shepparton, Victoria and ask that consideration and ongoing consultation be given as to how a national body would be able to complement and support these local developments.
We have a majority representation on the interim CPC of local Aboriginal community members. Their membership is as representatives of community, not as organisations that they may be involved with. The interim CPC believes that the overall community planning role of the CPC makes it inappropriate for organisational representation on the CPC as the organisations carry an important role in the implementation of the strategic planning.
The interim CPC has key leaders from mainstream including the Mayor, Council CEO and business sector. This is a deliberate strategy around effective engagement of mainstream leadership to participate in a partnership to achieve change in mainstream attitudes and practices that socially, economically and culturally exclude Aboriginal participation in the civic life of the community.
The Key Terms of Reference for the interim Community Planning Council (CPC) are:
- Commence a community visioning process which seeks to articulate where the local Aboriginal community wishes to be in the short, medium and long term and develop through this process a clear vision statement that can be communicated to community and Government
- Develop and implement a community engagement process to refine the role of the CPC (what it does) and develop mechanisms for identifying how the CPC is constructed (the process of who is on it) by December 2008. The CPC is tasked with launching this new model in 2009.
- Oversee and manage a whole of community data management process to support strategic planning and service delivery performance in contributing to the above vision.
It is our contention that sustained change to 'close the gap' in education, employment and health outcomes has to be underpinned by effective community governance and the development of a collective community vision for the short, medium and long term. This vision needs to underpin the expression of Aboriginal cultural identity and lead to long term changes in the respect, recognition and celebration by mainstream towards local Aboriginal identity and culture.
The CPC will be tasked with overseeing the implementation of the community vision, including strategic planning. To support this we are currently developing a comprehensive data management framework in order to effectively track the progress of our community in the years to come
The Data Management Taskforce of the interim CPC (with invited experts) has identified 8 key areas for the collection of data: early years; education and training; participation in the local economy; culture and participation; governance, health, justice and housing. In particular they are systematically developing a set of headline indicators for each of these areas. Indicators are summary measures that keep issues in the public policy spotlight. They will compare Indigenous to total population data for each indicator.
Three general issues have been raised about the current data situation:
- There is currently no easy way to access existing data collected by government, schools, services, etc (i.e. administrative data);
- Some data that would be useful is not collected (i.e. there are data gaps); and
- There are many projects being run to collect data (surveys, etc) but these are uncoordinated
The issues that need to be addressed in Shepparton are summarised in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Data issues to be addressed in Shepparton
1. What data sources exist? Are their gaps?
2. What system is needed to gather and analyse data?
3. How could data be reported?
4. Influencing community decision making
A data integration
Indicators for monitoring issues
Broad community awareness and advocacy
Strategic Planning and Policy Development
More detailed data for decision-making
Central to the effective operation of the interim CPC has been the resourcing of an independent Strategic Planning and Policy Unit to pursue these priorities. Equally important is the ongoing partnership with all levels of government, business and mainstream leadership to support the community development processes and in the longer term develop formal agreements to ensure ongoing community access to relevant data and support to implement the strategic planning processes.
Public submission 101
Thank you for the opportunity to provide a written submission in relation to the proposed National Indigenous Representative Body.
The South Australian Government supports the creation of a National Indigenous Representative Body as the mechanism to engage Indigenous Australians to incorporate such views into the ongoing development and application of Government policies and programs.
In response to the demise of ATSIC, in November 2005 the South Australian Premier convened the interim SA Aboriginal Advisory Council (the interim SAAAC) to investigate and recommend structures through which the State Government could engage with Aboriginal people in matters of Aboriginal affairs programs and policy development. It is important to note that it was determined in advance that the body would not have a service delivery role.
After consulting with Aboriginal people around South Australia over several months the interim SAAAC identified four separate components in order to improve engagement with Aboriginal communities and families. They are:
- Provision of confidential advice to Government on policy development and implementation from an Aboriginal perspective;
- Advocacy on behalf of the Aboriginal community on policy issues to both government and the broader SA community;
- A representative forum for Aboriginal people; and
- Advocacy for individual Aboriginal people who have problems with government.
Notably, the interim SAAAC considered that it is highly unlikely that any single body could adequately perform all four functions. The attempt by ATSIC to perform multiple roles is widely regarded as contributing to its failure, whereas the interim SAAAC considered discrete areas of responsibility ought to be addressed separately.
The interim SAAAC made a number of recommendations in its May 2007 Report. The major recommendations of the interim SAAAC were:
- A permanent SAAAC be established to provide confidential advice to Government on Aboriginal policy and programs;
- A Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement be established to advocate Aboriginal people’s interests to government and the broader community, in particular as they may relate to systemic issues;
- A national representative body is established to represent the interests of Indigenous Australians.
On 3 December 2007, the South Australian Government accepted these major recommendations, believing:
- The establishment of the SAAAC and the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement will lead to better engagement of Aboriginal communities and families in South Australia, and provide appropriate mechanisms for Aboriginal people to have a voice in Government. These high-level advisory mechanisms provide an opportunity to increase and optimise the effectiveness of policymaking and service delivery relating to Aboriginal people and is an important channel for government to seek Aboriginal views in a constructive environment; and
- That a representative body is needed but it ought to be established at a national level to avoid any duplication; and
- That in line with the most widespread view put to the SAAAC in its consultation, a national representative body be elected (although these consultations did not specify the exact nature of the election process, preferring to have that detail left to the Australian Government to determine); and
- The State Government determined since advocacy for individual Aboriginal people is currently undertaken by Aboriginal community-based organisations such as the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM) and mainstream statutory complaints authorities such as the Ombudsman and the Health and Community Services Commissioner, there was no need to establish another structure to specifically address individual Aboriginal people’s needs. Existing government mechanisms often provide culturally sensitive services to Aboriginal people.
The role of both the SAAAC and the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement is to ensure that government provides such services.
The SAAAC and the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement were established and both formally report to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation.
The primary role of the SAAAC is to provide the State Government with advice on existing and future programs and policies including identifying and informing the State Government of emerging trends and issues as they affect Aboriginal South Australians, from both metropolitan and regional perspectives (Terms of Reference are attached).
SAAAC membership is determined through a nomination process, with the responsible Minister appointing nominees to the SAAAC against set criteria (ie gender balance, age, life skills, locality, and leadership competencies etc). The SAAAC’s role is primarily advisory and it functions at a high, whole of government level. The State Governments objective of receiving quality, timely and balanced advice representing the broad interests of all Aboriginal South Australians has been accommodated.
The primary role of the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement is to identify systemic challenges prohibiting or impairing Aboriginal South Australians accessing government services and, in consultation with the Minister, convey these concerns to the relevant government agency. Government agencies and officials would be expected to respond to, and remediate those issues raised (Terms of Reference are attached).
On 15 January 2008, the Federal Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Ms Jenny Macklin in a media release titled National Indigenous Council publicly thanked the National Indigenous Council and its members for their contribution to the previous Government over the past four years, stating however:
"I have decided not to continue with the National Indigenous Council beyond its current term expiring on 31 December 2007 believing the interests of Indigenous people would be better served through a different approach”. The said Minister continued to state, "the Rudd Government will undertake discussions with Indigenous people about the best process to develop a new representative body. Through this process, we will strengthen links between Government and Indigenous communities…”.
Consistent with the Australian Governments desire to establish a different national indigenous representative body approach, throughout the consultation process the federal department for Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FAHCSIA) has consistently communicated some broad principles for the Proposed National Indigenous Representative Body, such as:
- The Australian Government will not create another ATSIC;
- There will not necessarily be separate elections for the body;
- The body will have urban, regional and remote representation; and
- The responsible Minister has indicated she does not envisage that the body would have a service delivery role.
Of particular interest for the State Government generally will be the level of interaction and mutual cooperation between the National Indigenous Representative Body, with the SAAAC and the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement noting in particular that Minister Macklin stated in her said media release:
”…it is also important that strong links are established between the new Indigenous representative body and other Indigenous advisory committees”.
The State Government is keen to establish and maintain linkages and synergies between the National Indigenous Representative Body in discharging its operations and functions, with the operations and functions of the SAAAC and the South Australian Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement.
Accordingly, the State Government believes that once the National Indigenous representative Body is established and functional, ait would be helpful if an invitation be extended to the SAAAC and the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement to determine and clarify the “practicality and extent of links” being established, and maintained.
Hon Jay Weatherill MP
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation
Attachment 1 - Terms of Reference for the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council
The role of the Aboriginal Advisory Council is to:
- Provide the Government with advice on existing programs and policies as they affect Aboriginal people.
- Identify and inform the Government of emerging issues that will affect Aboriginal people from both metropolitan and regional perspectives.
- Provide the Government with advice on the development and implementation of future policies and services concerning Aboriginal people.
- Provide advice to Government agencies about appropriate consultation processes with Aboriginal communities.
- Maintain links with other relevant advisory bodies.
- The Council will consist of up to ten members including the Chair.
- A quorum consists of at least five members.
- The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation will appoint the members and the Chair after a public call for nominations.
- In appointing members, the Minister will consider nominees with an understanding of Aboriginal culture and with standing within Aboriginal groups, and consider the Council’s gender and age balance.
- Members will be appointed for a two-year term, and may be re-appointed to a maximum of two consecutive terms.
(this will encourage the development of new leaders and the introduction of different perspectives and ideas)
- The terms will be staggered, with five members appointed each year. Initially, the existing members will be reappointed for one year, the existing Chair will be reappointed for two years, and new members will be appointed for two years.
- Resignations are to be notified in writing to the Minister. The Minister will appoint an interim member to any position that becomes vacant until the end of that current term.
- Members will be paid sitting fees in accordance with the Cabinet-approved classification structure.
- Members are to consider issues on behalf of all Aboriginal South Australians, not as an advocate for any particular organisation, interest group or region.
- The Council will meet quarterly, with the possibility of additional meetings if required.
- The Executive Director of the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division or delegate will attend each meeting.
- The Chair will set meeting agendas. The Council may provide advice on its own initiative or at the request of the Minister.
- The Council will provide agendas and minutes of its meetings to the Minister, and report quarterly or as requested on its activities.
- Administrative and project support will be provided to the Council by an Executive Officer and an Administrative Officer.
- The Council is not expected to conduct regular public communications. Where public statements are required, they will be made in consultation with the Chief Executive, Department of the Premier and Cabinet and/or the Office of the Minister, consistent with agreed protocol.
- Members are to maintain the confidentiality of Council material and discussions.
- Members are to declare if they have a conflict of interest and the Council will determine if abstention or absence from discussion are appropriate.
- The Minister may amend these terms of reference at any time.
- The Council will be reviewed within three years of operating.
Attachment 2 - South Australian Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement Terms of Appointment
- The Commissioner will publicly advocate for engagement between the broader community and Aboriginal people.
- The Commissioner will identify systemic barriers to Aboriginal people’s access to government, non-government or private services.
- The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation and the Commissioner will jointly determine where the Commissioner may raise issues directly with agencies.
- Where the Commissioner considers issues to remain unresolved, he / she may convey such concerns to the Minister.
- The Minister may request that the Commissioner investigate and provide advice on specific issues.
- The Commissioner will mentor Aboriginal leaders.
- In performing these functions, the Commissioner must act independently, impartially and in the public interest.
- The Commissioner will consult with Non-Government Organisations and peak Aboriginal bodies and represent their views to government as appropriate.
- The Commissioner will maintain a close relationship with, and seek advice from, the Commissioner for Social Inclusion.
- The Commissioner will maintain communication with the office of the State Ombudsman and other bodies as appropriate to identify systemic issues.
- Where public statements are required, they will be made in consultation with the Chief Executive, Department of the Premier and Cabinet and/or the Office of the Minister, consistent with agreed protocol.
- The Commissioner will report regularly on his / her activities to the Minister.
Appointment of Commissioner:
- The Governor in Executive Council appoints the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement.
- The Commissioner is appointed for a period of two years.
- The Commissioner shall hold office during good behaviour only.
- At the expiration of a term of office, the Commissioner will be eligible for re-appointment.
- The Commissioner will not divulge any information confidential to the South Australian Government other than with the prior consent of the Minister or as required by law.