Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has rejected Noel Pearson’s push to replace a dedicated minister and department with an Aboriginal-led institution, saying the Turnbull government would not return to a body such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
The Australian See Also editorial below
Photo above :The chairpersons of ATSIC were Lowitja O’Donoghue (1990-1996), Gatjil Djerrkura (1996-2000), Geoff Clark (2000-2004) and Lionel Quartermaine (2003-2004).Image C0lin Cowell 1992/Koori Mail
The Cape York leader told the National Press Club on Wednesday that indigenous affairs was “in deep crisis” and bureaucracy’s engagement with communities had not only failed but disempowered Aborigines.
Mr Pearson wants the government to introduce his empowered communities model, which would “minimise” the need for a dedicated minister and department by allowing indigenous people to administer services provided for their benefit.
He said he was not advocating the re-establishment of ATSIC, which was abolished by the Howard government in 2005 after collapsing under a mountain of corruption allegations and litigation, but the commission had been “more empowering” than a minister and department.
“Noel Pearson is one of many strong voices in indigenous affairs and I welcome his contribution,” Senator Scullion said.
“However, I strongly believe in the need for a cabinet minister and lead agency solely dedicated to indigenous affairs, and we have no intention of returning to the service-delivery arrangements that existed before, under ATSIC.”
Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann said ministerial and departmental oversight was needed. “(It helps) in terms of co-ordination and delivery of policy and government leadership in the area,” he said.
“To hear the voices of Aboriginal organisations and individuals so we can get that funding to the frontline to make a difference in closing the gap.”
Mr Pearson also accused the Coalition of treating his Cape York Institute with “contempt” by failing to respond to his proposal a year after it was handed to the Abbott government.
Malcolm Turnbull’s Assistant Minister Alan Tudge said the government would respond “very shortly” to the report, which canvassed the “right engagement” between government and the communities. “I think that in some communities the government engagement has actually led to a proliferation of services which don’t talk to each other and, at the end of the day, don’t get much progress on the ground,” he told Sky News.
Senator Scullion said the government was working with leaders to determine how to implement the model and believed it had “potential to achieve real, lasting change” across Australia.
The Australian Editorial 29 January 2016
In his National Press Club address, Cape York Institute leader Noel Pearson outlined a new model for indigenous affairs ahead of next week’s release of the Closing the Gap report. The report is expected to contain damning results — again — and lead Malcolm Turnbull into an appeal for innovative policy proposals.
Mr Pearson has proposed a model of indigenous empowerment, aiming to foster entrepreneurialism to improve economic productivity, health and education outcomes. As chairman of the Cape York Academy, he works intensively with local communities, producing impressive results in school attendance and numeracy rates among indigenous children. Mr Pearson levels criticism at government, claiming its actions fail to meet the expectations of Aboriginal communities. The problem, he believes, lies with poor governance.
This will concern the Prime Minister given Mr Pearson’s lament that Tony Abbott’s leadership of indigenous affairs was “cut short”. He described Mr Abbott as his “closest friend” in politics. They shared close camaraderie with then parliamentary secretary Alan Tudge, working in concert to form indigenous policy in office.
And so indigenous affairs emerges as yet another area of policy challenge for the Prime Minister. Mr Turnbull will need to take advice from policy experts within government such as Mr Tudge, who served as deputy director of the Cape York Institute. He will have to balance long-term reform agendas with the more immediate needs of indigenous communities while crafting a process for the referendum on indigenous recognition. And he will need to ensure Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion can provide the outcomes-based governance Mr Pearson rightly contends is overdue.
While innovation in indigenous affairs is welcome, it must be more than change for change’s sake. Successive Labor and Liberal regimes have combined grand overtures (The Apology) with controversial programs (Northern Territory intervention) but have failed sufficiently to close the gap between indigenous and non
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion responds to Pearson’s critique, says change can be ‘a little disconcerting’
Federal Minister Nigel Scullion says his department is taking a methodical approach to Indigenous affairs amid criticism from Noel Pearson that Aboriginal people have been disempowered and ignored.
Earlier this week the Cape York leader detailed concerns about the Coalition Government’s approach to the portfolio, the way funding is being distributed, progress towards constitutional recognition and the high rate of Aboriginal imprisonment.
“Make no mistake, Indigenous Affairs is in deep crisis,” Mr Pearson said.
“We are seeing good things in isolated areas but not seeing the tectonic shifts that are needed.”
In a statement Senator Scullion defended his government’s position.
“We are taking a methodical approach to implementing our Indigenous Affairs agenda and while change can be a little disconcerting, communities are front and centre of these reforms,” the statement said.
“Our advice comes directly from communities.”
Senator Scullion said he welcomed Noel Pearson’s contribution as “one of many strong voices in Indigenous Affairs”.
Communities disempowered, Pearson frustrated
Mr Pearson also used his speech to express frustration about the lack of action on the Empowered Communities report that was provided to the Federal Government last year.
The report was a joint document provided by representatives from seven regions across the country, and recommended – among other things – creating an Indigenous Policy Productivity Council.
The council would scrutinise policies and programs that affect Indigenous Australians.
“There has been no proper engagement in the ideas we’ve proposed and the institutions that we believe are necessary,” Mr Pearson told the press club.
“The reforms we propose will in fact minimise the necessity of having a ministry of Aboriginal affairs or indeed eventually a minister.”
But Senator Scullion said the Government had responded to the report and offered a regionally focused approach to the issues it raised.
“I welcomed the report and believe that the proposed new form of engagement and focus on Indigenous responsibility has the potential to achieve real, lasting change in communities across Australia, particularly in critical areas such as school attendance and attainment, economic development and community safety,” the minister said.
“However, I strongly believe in the need for a Cabinet Minister and lead agency solely dedicated to Indigenous affairs and we have no intention of returning to the service delivery arrangements that existed before, under ATSIC.”
In his speech Mr Pearson said he thought the nation had reached the “dead end of Indigenous affairs presided over by a minister and a department”.
“There’s good things happening and there are good people involved, I’m not saying that the people involved are insincere,” he said.
“It is just that the system by which they attempt to deal with our communities is not one that works. It can’t discern excrement from clay.”
Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands for Healthy Futures Exhibition and travelling road show 2016
Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Close the Gap Campaign for the governments of Australia to commit to achieving equality for Indigenous people in the areas of health and life expectancy within 25 years.
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) in partnership with Wayne Quilliam Photography has developed a visual narrative that has been created to foster awareness, exploration and understanding of Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands.
Our exhibition of 24 photographic images, melded with a series of video interviews embedded within the images will stimulate individual thinking and dialogue relating to the 10th anniversary of ‘Close the Gap’ campaign celebrated in March 2016.