NACCHO Aboriginal Health #NRW2019 and #ClosingTheGap @KenWyattMP ‘s First speech and major interview as Minister for #Indigenous Australians ” A reflection on how far we’ve come on the journey of Reconciliation #GroundedinTruth

” On Friday Ken Wyatt stood in front of an audience in Perth, his home town, and promised to lead his people towards a better future as the nation’s first Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians.

He was not the man who was supposed to be standing on the podium as keynote speaker marking the end of National Reconciliation Week. The original choice had been Pat Dodson, invited to speak as the father of reconciliation rather than as Labor’s aspirant for the job that Wyatt has since ­landed.

Dodson pulled out from Friday event soon after Labor’s May 18 election defeat, prompting Reconciliation WA co-chairwoman Carol Innes to pick up the phone to her friend Wyatt, also her local MP in the Perth hills electorate of Hasluck and now her federal minister. ”

Read the full The Australian Inquirer May 31 or Part 2 Below

 ” One of my priorities in this role is working on a refreshed Closing the Gap framework.

As the Prime Minister said earlier this year, the original Closing the Gap process was good-hearted and well-intentioned, but it took a top-down approach, not one based on true partnership. It failed on its own tests.

In refreshing that approach, we now have an opportunity to do things differently. To do things in partnership.

We’ve set up a partnership with a coalition of peak organisations, and a Joint Council through COAG.

But of course the key is partnering with people on the ground, so that they can drive local, community-led solutions.

And though the approach has changed, the heart and soul of Closing the Gap has not. “

Minister Ken Wyatt WA Reconciliation Breakfast speech : Read in full Part 1 Below

” Just announced the establishment of NIAA the National Indigenous Australians Agency- to lead and coordinate the development and implementation of Australia’s Closing the Gap targets in partnership with Indigenous Australians

See full details Part 3 Below 

Part 1

In Noongar language, I say kaya wangju – hello and welcome.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we’re meeting today, the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation, and pay my respects to our Elders past, present and emerging.

And all distinguished guests joining us today.

What an amazing gathering – it warms my heart to see more than 1300 people together here this morning, to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and contributions.

To celebrate our deep past and enduring presence, across this great state and our vast country.

What a privilege that I have been made the first Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians, during National Reconciliation Week.

This morning I want to reflect on how far we’ve come on the journey of Reconciliation – how I got here, with a bit of my story – and how far we’ve come as a nation.

Any of us who are old enough to remember the 50s and 60s will tell you it’s a long, long way.

I was born in 1952 and raised on Roelands Mission, the eldest of 10 kids. My dad was a railway ganger. My mum was a member of the Stolen Generations.

In those days, they had to get permission to marry. Permission to travel. They could be arrested if they were out after 6pm.

If the Department of Native Welfare came around and thought you weren’t providing good care, they could take your children away.

We then lived in a tiny place called Nannine, just south of Meekatharra. My schooling at first was by correspondence – working a radio with a foot pedal, like an old sewing machine, for two hours at a time.

Soon afterwards, my parents moved down to Corrigin. At that point, my life changed.

It’s no exaggeration to say I’m standing here today because of my parents’ dedication to our family and their commitment to going to school and getting an education – and that started with my Year One teacher, Mrs Abernethy.

She saw that I was behind the other kids, so she got me to come to school half an hour early every day. When I was home with whooping cough, she came over every afternoon.

She believed in me, supported me, never gave up on me. And fifty years later, she even campaigned for me in the seat of Hasluck!

While she was building my confidence – and my vocabulary – there was a petition circling to get the Aboriginal families kicked out of Corrigin.

It failed. The townspeople wanted us to stay.

Just a few years later, Australia voted overwhelmingly for inclusion in the 1967 Referendum.

I was in high school in Perth, and Fremantle had the second highest ‘Yes’ vote in the nation.

Things were changing. We were making progress. For the first time, we had a sense that as Australians we were indeed walking together.

Four years later, Neville Bonner became the first Aboriginal person in parliament as a Senator for Queensland.

The next year, 1972, saw the creation of the first Department of Aboriginal Affairs – the precursor to the new Agency I will now lead.

In the mid-70s we got the Racial Discrimination Act and the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

These were landmark reforms that opened the way for every move toward rights and equality that have followed.

In fact, between the 1960s and the 1990s, the law of the land changed so much.

And in the decades since then, I know we’ve seen a big cultural shift.

The Reconciliation movement, and the work Senator Pat Dodson did all those years ago, has driven a great deal of that change.

It started small, but its ripple effect outwards has been tremendous.

It’s had an incredible impact not only at the local level, but in the way big corporates have embraced it, and undertaken commitments in Reconciliation Action Plans that would have been unthinkable 25 years ago.

I believe it’s been one of the major social reforms in Australia.

Its impact shows up in Reconciliation Australia’s recurring study.

Every two years since 2008, the Australian Reconciliation Barometer has measured attitudes and perceptions towards reconciliation on five overlapping dimensions: Race Relations, Equality and Equity, Institutional Integrity, Unity, and Historical Acceptance.

What the latest study shows is that the overwhelming majority of Australians believe that the linkages between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are important, and that knowing our history and truth-telling are vital to this relationship.

80 per cent of Australians support formal truth-telling processes, and 86 per cent believe it’s important to learn our shared history.

Still more encouragingly, 95 per cent of people agree it’s important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a say in matters that affect them.

This echoes the ‘Yes’ of 1967. And it resonates with my appointment as Minister for Indigenous Australians.

The days of complete control by the police or the bureaucracy over Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives are long gone.

Since those days we’ve travelled more or less steadily towards greater freedom, autonomy, and equality.

And, crucially, we’ve travelled together.

As I said after my swearing-in this week, policy won’t be made in my office. It will be made in conjunction with Indigenous Australians.

I firmly believe it’s only through genuine partnership, through walking together, that we will solve our problems.

We need to jettison forever – as it seems the broader population has already jettisoned – the historic mindset of our people as passive recipients of services and programs.

We need instead partnerships based on mutual respect, mutual resolve – and mutual responsibility. Indigenous Australians must be truly regarded as equal and active partners, involved and informed.

One of my priorities in this role is working on a refreshed Closing the Gap framework.

As the Prime Minister said earlier this year, the original Closing the Gap process was good-hearted and well-intentioned, but it took a top-down approach, not one based on true partnership. It failed on its own tests.

In refreshing that approach, we now have an opportunity to do things differently. To do things in partnership.

We’ve set up a partnership with a coalition of peak organisations, and a Joint Council through COAG.

But of course the key is partnering with people on the ground, so that they can drive local, community-led solutions.

And though the approach has changed, the heart and soul of Closing the Gap has not.

We want to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids getting the best start in life, the same opportunities, schooling, healthcare, and life outcomes as their peers.

As well as Closing the Gap, we remain committed to recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in the Constitution.

We will continue to work with Indigenous communities to design a model for constitutional change that suits their needs and aspirations, and we will hold a referendum once we’ve settled on the right model.

This is a long-term process. We want to get it right. If we don’t, we risk putting this issue on hold for another 30 or 40 years.

In keeping with the ARB finding that a majority of Australians support learning about the past and undertaking a formal truth-telling process, we have committed to work on that with Indigenous communities.

And as part of that process, we will support the establishment of a National Resting Place.

For more than 150 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains were removed from Country and placed in museums, universities and private collections in Australia and overseas.

The National Resting Place will be a central place for commemoration, reflection and healing. A place for ancestral remains to rest in honour and peace, where all Australians can celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

In all this work, we will be partners, walking together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Looking back across this shared journey – my own and the much larger story of reconciliation – I can see the progress we’ve made.

Now, I could have told you some other stories today.

The primary teacher who told me I should leave school and get a job, because nobody would employ me as an adult.

The birthday party where half the kids invited didn’t show up because I was invited too.

The comments and emails I got when I was running in Hasluck – just 10 years ago, not back in the 1950s.

But those aren’t the stories that have shaped my life.

Those things scar you. Of course they do.

But they don’t define you.

I apply the same lens to our larger journey of reconciliation. Yes, we acknowledge the suffering and the wounds. Indeed we can’t go forward unless we tell the truth about the past.

But every step we take, every progression we make, is because of hope.

It’s because of optimism – because we choose trust over distrust, and courage over fear.

As I said at the beginning of this Reconciliation Week – we must ensure the greatness of our many nations is reflected in the greatness of our Australian nation, now and forever.

I believe with all my heart that the only way forward is together. I’ve seen the power and strength of sitting together, of listening and talking together, and of walking and working together.  Grounded in truth. Walking with courage.

As we say in the traditional Noongar of the country on which we’re meeting:

“Ngyung moort ngarla moort, ngyung boodja ngarla boodja.”

Meaning: “My people our people, my country our country.”

That’s the reason we’ve come so far.


That’s the force that will take us forward.

Thank you.


Part 2 : Continued from opening :

Carol Innes has known Wyatt since she learned that her mother and his mother shared years in a native welfare institution learning domestic skills. She watched him rise through health and education public service ranks in Western Australia, then become a commonwealth bureaucrat.

She rang and congratulated him when he made history in 2010 as the first indigenous person elected to the House of Representatives; then again when he became the first indigenous man in a ministerial portfolio in 2016; and now in the coveted cabinet role that no other indigenous person — except Dodson — has come even close to achieving.

“Ken’s a learned man, a quiet achiever, and now he’s been given the loudest voice,” says Innes.

“He’s had a passion for his people, and it was courageous of him to go into politics. The election before this one, he had a whole dossier of hate mail from voters saying if they’d known he was Aboriginal they wouldn’t have voted for him.”

Today’s Reconciliation breakfast in Perth will include business figures such as BHP’s iron ore head Edgar Basto and Rio Tinto senior executives, community leaders in football codes and senior Aboriginal leaders such as Nolan Hunter, chairman of the National Native Title Tribunal.

Many in the 1300-strong crowd have lent public support to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which calls for a referendum on constitutional reform and an indigenous voice to parliament. Wyatt himself supported the statement two years ago before his own party — including Scott Morrison — rejected it. It now has tentative support under the Prime Minister, dependent on the outcome of a ­future inquiry.

Not a single person in the room will have missed the symbolism that, despite such setbacks, Australia has just witnessed two Aboriginal men from WA poised to occupy the indigenous affairs portfolio, one a southwest ­Nyoongar and the other a Yawuru man from the Kimberley.

It was Wyatt, wearing his traditional Nyoongar kangaroo cloak, who made history as he was sworn in by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove on Wednesday. So, the audience might ask, why not dream that an embrace of the Uluru Statement, the hope for a constitutional voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, might be closer?

Wyatt tells The Australian the wellspring of emotion he felt at the swearing-in ceremony was “10 out of 10”.

It has been an intensely ­emotional week, in fact, starting when Morrison rang him at home last Sunday on National Sorry Day.

“It was after 10am and I was hanging out the washing,” says Wyatt. “Anna (Wyatt’s historian wife) and I had been talking about the 1967 referendum and reconciliation week.

“The Prime Minister said: ‘I’d like to offer you the opportunity to become the minister for indigenous Australians.’ I just couldn’t respond to him. He said: ‘Given your silence, I’ll accept that as a yes.’ ”

Wyatt says his speech today will begin by explaining “how along the way in my life, reconciliation has happened even though there was then no process”.

He will describe how decent “whitefella” institutions in the town where he grew up — the Country Women’s Association ladies and the Rotary Club that offered a scholarship — and his schoolteacher Lyn ­Abernethy “began the journey of believing in me as an Aboriginal kid”.

Born in 1952, he was the eldest of 10 children to a railway ganger father of Yamatji-Irish background and a Nyoongar mother. In the wheatbelt town of Corrigin, where his parents had settled for the children’s education, young Ken’s academic promise was rewarded with an annual fountain pen from native welfare and the faith of Abernethy, who would bring spelling books to his house.

“She epitomises what reconciliation is; she taught me, she walked with me,” he says. “Years later, she came back to hand out how-to-vote cards at my first election.”

To the thousands of indigenous elders and leaders with whom Wyatt has already worked as indigenous health minister, to those who urge him to lead the way toward fulfilment of the Uluru Statement, Wyatt says to wait a little longer. “The government is committed to recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution. There needs to be more work done on what model we take to a referendum, which is why we are funding a $7.3 million consultation process.”

Is a referendum for an indigenous constitutional voice likely within his first ministerial term?

Wyatt says: “I do not want to rush something that fails. Because if it fails, like the referendum on becoming a republic, it could take another 30 years to be resurrected again. We have to get this right.”

Meanwhile, Wyatt says he wants to sit down and read the parliamentary reports tabled by Dodson and Liberal MP Julian Leeser, co-chairmen of parliament’s constitutional recognition committee. “Then I’ll turn my mind to the pathways we will take as a nation. But I’ll do that in concert with the Prime Minister.”

He says Dodson’s idea for regional assemblies has merit: “You don’t want a national body that’s disconnected from communities.”

He has promised to establish Circle of Elders meetings “to air local issues, to hear about what is working and to receive regular input ­directly from elders, families and communities”.

Wyatt has already handed Morrison his blueprint for a commission of elected elders that would have a say over government policies, taskforces, probes and complaints, The Courier-Mail reported yesterday.

Wyatt sent his plan to the Prime Minister in February as a “potential way forward to address the issue of constitutional recognition”, the newspaper said.

Asked about the proposal last night, Wyatt told The Australian: “This is not government policy.”

Wyatt’s elevation to serious power is a far cry, in tone and symbolism, from what happened after the Malcolm Turnbull leadership spill last year, when Morrison anointed Tony Abbott as special envoy for indigenous affairs.

Wyatt’s close relative Ben Wyatt, who is Western Australia’s Treasurer, was scathing, saying the term special envoy suggested “Aboriginal people are some ­foreign, unknowable nation in need of a special diplomatic mission. Led by the country’s worst diplomat.”

But Ben Wyatt this week praised the elevation of the man he calls “Uncle Ken” to Minister for Indigenous Australians, a role that Wyatt junior also holds in the state’s Labor government.

Like several men in the Wyatt wider family circle — Ben’s father, Cedric, and another uncle, Brian — Ken Wyatt has had a solid career as a public servant, including as director of Aboriginal education in WA and director of Aboriginal health in NSW. In 1996 he was awarded an Order of Australia.

Closing the Gap

If constitutional recognition is ­uppermost in many Aboriginal leaders’ minds, Closing the Gap is another urgent priority.

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation head Pat Turner has welcomed Wyatt’s appointment as an opportunity to continue “some good work” he did in indigenous health.

“To close the gap, it will require a cross-portfolio effort, not just from Ken, from all ministers, and for all of them to put their hands in their pockets from their port­folios,” she says.

Fred Chaney, Aboriginal affairs minister in the Fraser government, agrees Wyatt will need to bring along with him those ministers in other portfolios — social security, health and justice — that touch directly on the lives of Aboriginal people. He cites the example of “the obsession governments have with the healthy welfare card that has led to top-down control and a massively disproportionate number of social security breaches by Aboriginal people”.

Chaney counts Wyatt as a friend and handed out voting cards for him in his Hasluck electorate (“The only person I’ve ever done that for”). He says Labor’s ­utterances of support for Wyatt’s appointment “will presage a period of bipartisanship in which they can find some real answers”.

“The portents for co-operation are good,” he says.

Wyatt says reducing the number of young people committing suicide is a priority that needs new approaches.

“We can’t prevent them all but I want to make sure there’s support. There may be structures outside the ‘8 to 5’ service model,” he says.

“Someone said to me, ‘We need nocturnal workers in com­munities who kids know they can go to.”

He says he will be aided by a new administrative structure for Aboriginal affairs in which “all of the people who were once in Prime Minister and Cabinet are now in a new unit focused on priorities ­government has been working on. And they will work directly to me.”

Nyoongar man’s burden

Then will begin the true test of Wyatt’s ability, which some observers of his performance in the scandal-plagued aged-care sector have questioned.

“It always sounded like he was defending the system and not the aged,” one commentator tells The Australian. “He has a long history as a bureaucrat.”

Other critics point to the internal upheavals last year within Wyatt’s own office. A bitter disagreement between staff members led to an order by then prime minister Turnbull’s office for an investigation, whose outcome remains ­secret.

“The office wasn’t in shambles. It was an individual who wasn’t happy and raised a series of incorrect allegations,” says Wyatt.

“An independent report refuted those claims.”

As for his performance in the aged-care portfolio: “People told me they are disappointed I’m not continuing with them. I worked very closely with consumers, families and those who were dissatisfied. That’s why we set up the royal commission.”

Wyatt’s burden of expectation may hang rather more heavily than the “booka” kangaroo cape he was given by Nyoongar elders. Is he worried some people will expect him to be the ministerial “saviour” of his people?

“That may be a perception but I’ll be working closely with our people on the changes that are needed and I’ll set realistic priorities,” he says.

Innes says the roomful of people at today’s Reconciliation event will be on his side.

“He’s a Nyoongar man from Western Australia who’s got a big job ahead of him. But the beauty is we’ll be walking alongside him.”=

Wyatt’s rise from days of Rabbit-Proof Fence

The Wyatt ascendancy demonstrates that progress in black-white relations can be made in one man’s lifetime.

Now aged 66, Ken Wyatt came under the eye of native welfare when he was a boy. The department kept a file marked “Kenneth George Wyatt”. In one entry, it states: “This lad has potential but whether he has the capability is the issue.”

Exactly one year ago, Ken and his relative Ben Wyatt — also an indigenous affairs minister, in the West Australian government — marked a far sadder moment in their shared family history.

The two men stood next to the graves of Aboriginal inmates of Moore River settlement, the most notorious of WA’s native camps housing mixed-race Stolen Generations children.

Moore River was immortalised in Phillip Noyce’s film Rabbit-Proof Fence, depicting the true story of three girls who escaped and walked hundreds of kilometres back to their desert home. One of those girls was Ken Wyatt’s great-aunt Molly, whose daughter Doris Pilkington wrote Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, a book based on her mother’s account. Ben Wyatt’s connection is even more poignant — his father, Cedric, was born there in 1940, a child soon removed from his family who refused to talk of it again.

“It’s a very personal story for me,” Ken Wyatt told The Australian that day. “But Ben was walking back into the place his father grew up in for a short time.

“Moore River reflects the history of removing people from around the state,” he said. “We’ve got to keep it as a reminder of policies that didn’t, in the end, dampen the spirits of people who lived there.”

Victoria Laurie is a senior reporter and feature writer in the Perth bureau of The Australian newspaper.

Part 3

Just announced the establishment of NIAA the National Indigenous Australians Agency- to lead and coordinate the development and implementation of Australia’s Closing the Gap targets in partnership with Indigenous Australians;

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