NACCHO #HealthElection16 : Calls for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff to head new Federal Indigenous Affairs Department

Pat Turner2

“We need our own department re-established, with all senior staff working in the newly recreated department being Indigenous. It should be headed up by competent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in all of the senior executive positions so we can work more effectively, both with government and with our people.”

Former senior Indigenous public servant Pat Turner has called for a federal Indigenous affairs department to be re-established and headed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. Pictured above speaking at the press conference  for the #redfernstatement with Jackie Huggins Congress Co- chair : Article from ABC NEWS

“The Australian health budget is 10 per cent of Australia’s GDP. $90 billion dollars is funded for Australians’ health by the Commonwealth Government alone. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sector get $4 billion, so you do the sums.  If closing the gap is so important to the incoming government, they have to fund the implementation of the health plan”

Pat Turner believes health is one of the glaring areas in need of attention. ABC PM

READ or DOWNLOAD THE FULL #redfernstatement HERE

Key points:

  • Statement designed to apply pressure to prioritise Indigenous Affairs
  • We need our own department, Turner says
  • Turner, representatives take aim at Abbott government decisions

Ms Turner, who now runs the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Network, was among a group of health, education, legal and reconciliation representatives who jointly delivered the so-called Redfern Statement today.

The statement is designed to apply pressure to both major political parties to prioritise Indigenous affairs in the election campaign.

The group has primarily called for a series of Abbott government policies to be undone.

One of Tony Abbott’s most inflammatory bureaucratic decisions was to move the standalone Indigenous affairs department within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, a move Ms Turner said must be reversed.

Ms Turner and other representatives also took aim at a string of other legacy decisions taken by Mr Abbott’s government.

Among the most pressing concerns were the 2014 budget cuts and the flaws in the new Indigenous funding system, the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS).

“The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is a coordinating department, they have no idea how to deliver programs,” Ms Turner said.

“And that’s been reflected in the IAS, and how hopeless it is.”

Ms Turner was previously chief executive of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and former deputy secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

‘Do not ignore us, we vote too’

Co-chairwoman of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Jackie Huggins said change was a matter of urgency.

“We don’t want to be marginalised, and they say to government quite clearly, do not ignore us at your peril because we vote too,” she said.

“It’s about time the Government woke up to that and engage with us in a very real and meaningful genuine relationship that we have been screaming out for years.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said there was still a long way to go to improve ties between Indigenous Australia and government.

“At the moment, we don’t have a relationship with government; they’ve defunded congress, the only representative organisation we have that’s our organisation.

“They’ve appointed an Indigenous Advisory Council who only represent themselves, and they’ll tell you that.”

The coalition of some of the nation’s most well-respected Indigenous leaders said that in the last 25 years, they had seen prime ministers come and go, countless policies introduced and then changed, and promises of funding made only to be followed by cuts.

The group said the only political party to highlight Indigenous needs this campaign had been the Greens.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion issued a response to the Redfern Statement, saying the Coalition’s track record demonstrated their commitment to “improving outcomes for First Australians”.

Senator Scullion said the Coalition had put additional funds into the Indigenous Affairs budget, including $48 million to support land tenure measures through the Developing Northern Australia White Paper and $14.6 million for constitutional recognition.



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