Aboriginal Health and the @AusLawReform inquiry into the incarceration rate of Aboriginal peoples

 

” The Terms of Reference for this Inquiry ask the ALRC to consider laws and legal frameworks that contribute to the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and inform decisions to hold or keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody.

ALRC Home page

Download this 236 page discussion paper

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Full Terms of reference part B below

The ALRC was asked to consider a number of factors that decision makers take into account when deciding on a criminal justice response, including community safety, the availability of alternatives to incarceration, the degree of discretion available, and incarceration as a deterrent and as a punishment

The Terms of Reference also direct the ALRC to consider laws that may contribute to the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples offending and the rate of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Submissions close on 4 September 2017.

Make a submission

Part A Proposals and Questions

1. Structure of the Discussion Paper

1.40     The Discussion Paper is structured in parts. Following the introduction, Part 2 addresses criminal justice pathways. The ALRC has identified three key areas that influence incarceration rates: bail laws and processes, and remand; sentencing laws and legal frameworks including mandatory sentencing, short sentences and Gladue-style reports; and transition pathways from prison, parole and throughcare. These were the focus of stakeholder comments and observations in preliminary consultations.

1.41     Part 3 considers non-violent offending and alcohol regulation. It provides an overview of the detrimental effects of fine debt on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the likelihood of imprisonment in some jurisdictions. Fine debt can be tied to driver licence offending, and the ALRC asks how best to minimise licence suspension caused by fine default. Part 3 also looks at ways laws and legal frameworks can operate to decrease alcohol supply so as to minimise alcohol-related offending in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

1.42     Part 4 discusses the incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. It contextualises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female offending within experiences of trauma, including isolation; family and sexual violence; and child removal. It outlines how proposals in other chapters may address the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and asks what more can be done.

1.43     Part 5 considers access to justice, and examines ways that state and territory governments and criminal justice systems can better engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to prevent offending and to provide better criminal justice responses when offending occurs. The ALRC places collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations at the centre of proposals made in this Part, and suggests accountability measures for state and territory government justice agencies and police. The remoteness of communities, the availability of and access to legal assistance and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interpreters are also discussed. Alternative approaches to crime prevention and criminal justice responses, such as those operating under the banner of ‘justice reinvestment’, are also canvassed.

2. Bail and the Remand Population

Proposal 2–1        The Bail Act 1977 (Vic) has a standalone provision that requires bail authorities to consider any ‘issues that arise due to the person’s Aboriginality’, including cultural background, ties to family and place, and cultural obligations. This consideration is in addition to any other requirements of the Bail Act.

Other state and territory bail legislation should adopt similar provisions.

As with all other bail considerations, the requirement to consider issues that arise due to the person’s Aboriginality would not supersede considerations of community safety.

Proposal 2–2        State and territory governments should work with peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to identify service gaps and develop the infrastructure required to provide culturally appropriate bail support and diversion options where needed.

3. Sentencing and Aboriginality

Question 3–1        Noting the decision in Bugmy v The Queen [2013] HCA 38, should state and territory governments legislate to expressly require courts to consider the unique systemic and background factors affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when sentencing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders?

If so, should this be done as a sentencing principle, a sentencing factor, or in some other way?

Question 3–2        Where not currently legislated, should state and territory governments provide for reparation or restoration as a sentencing principle? In what ways, if any, would this make the criminal justice system more responsive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders?

Question 3–3        Do courts sentencing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders have sufficient information available about the offender’s background, including cultural and historical factors that relate to the offender and their community?

Question 3–4        In what ways might specialist sentencing reports assist in providing relevant information to the court that would otherwise be unlikely to be submitted?

Question 3–5        How could the preparation of these reports be facilitated? For example, who should prepare them, and how should they be funded?

4. Sentencing Options

Question 4–1        Noting the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

(a)     should Commonwealth, state and territory governments review provisions that impose mandatory or presumptive sentences; and

(b)     which provisions should be prioritised for review?

Question 4–2        Should short sentences of imprisonment be abolished as a sentencing option? Are there any unintended consequences that could result?

Question 4–3        If short sentences of imprisonment were to be abolished, what should be the threshold (eg, three months; six months)?

Question 4–4        Should there be any pre-conditions for such amendments, for example: that non-custodial alternatives to prison be uniformly available throughout states and territories, including in regional and remote areas?

Proposal 4–1        State and territory governments should work with peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to ensure that community-based sentences are more readily available, particularly in regional and remote areas.

Question 4–5        Beyond increasing availability of existing community-based sentencing options, is legislative reform required to allow judicial officers greater flexibility to tailor sentences?

5. Prison Programs, Parole and Unsupervised Release

Proposal 5–1        Prison programs should be developed and made available to accused people held on remand and people serving short sentences.

Question 5–1        What are the best practice elements of programs that could respond to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples held on remand or serving short sentences of imprisonment?

Proposal 5–2        There are few prison programs for female prisoners and these may not address the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female prisoners. State and territory corrective services should develop culturally appropriate programs that are readily available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female prisoners.

Question 5–2        What are the best practice elements of programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female prisoners to address offending behaviour?

Proposal 5–3        A statutory regime of automatic court ordered parole should apply in all states and territories.

Question 5–3        A statutory regime of automatic court ordered parole applies in NSW, Queensland and SA. What are the best practice elements of such schemes?

Proposal 5–4        Parole revocation schemes should be amended to abolish requirements for the time spent on parole to be served again in prison if parole is revoked.

6. Fines and Driver Licences

Proposal 6–1        Fine default should not result in the imprisonment of the defaulter. State and territory governments should abolish provisions in fine enforcement statutes that provide for imprisonment in lieu of unpaid fines.

Question 6–1        Should lower level penalties be introduced, such as suspended infringement notices or written cautions?

Question 6–2        Should monetary penalties received under infringement notices be reduced or limited to a certain amount? If so, how?

Question 6–3        Should the number of infringement notices able to be issued in one transaction be limited?

Question 6–4        Should offensive language remain a criminal offence? If so, in what circumstances?

Question 6–5        Should offensive language provisions be removed from criminal infringement notice schemes, meaning that they must instead be dealt with by the court?

Question 6–6        Should state and territory governments provide alternative penalties to court ordered fines? This could include, for example, suspended fines, day fines, and/or work and development orders.

Proposal 6–2        Work and Development Orders were introduced in NSW in 2009. They enable a person who cannot pay fines due to hardship, illness, addiction, or homelessness to discharge their debt through:

  • work;
  • program attendance;
  • medical treatment;
  • counselling; or
  • education, including driving lessons.

State and territory governments should introduce work and development orders based on this model.

Question 6–7        Should fine default statutory regimes be amended to remove the enforcement measure of driver licence suspension?

Question 6–8        What mechanisms could be introduced to enable people reliant upon driver licences to be protected from suspension caused by fine default? For example, should:

(a)     recovery agencies be given discretion to skip the licence suspension step where the person in default is vulnerable, as in NSW; or

(b)     courts be given discretion regarding the disqualification, and disqualification period, of driver licences where a person was initially suspended due to fine default?

Question 6–9        Is there a need for regional driver permit schemes? If so, how should they operate?

Question 6–10      How could the delivery of driver licence programs to regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities be improved?

7. Justice Procedure Offences—Breach of Community-based Sentences

Proposal 7–1        To reduce breaches of community-based sentences by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, state and territory governments should engage with peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to identify gaps and build the infrastructure required for culturally appropriate community-based sentencing options and support services.

8. Alcohol

Question 8–1        Noting the link between alcohol abuse and offending, how might state and territory governments facilitate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, that wish to do so, to:

(a)     develop and implement local liquor accords with liquor retailers and other stakeholders that specifically seek to minimise harm to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, for example through such things as minimum pricing, trading hours and range restriction;

(b)     develop plans to prevent the sale of full strength alcohol within their communities, such as the plan implemented within the Fitzroy Crossing community?

Question 8–2        In what ways do banned drinkers registers or alcohol mandatory treatment programs affect alcohol-related offending within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities? What negative impacts, if any, flow from such programs?

9. Female Offenders

Question 9–1        What reforms to laws and legal frameworks are required to strengthen diversionary options and improve criminal justice processes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female defendants and offenders?

10. Aboriginal Justice Agreements

Proposal 10–1       Where not currently operating, state and territory governments should work with peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to renew or develop Aboriginal Justice Agreements.

Question 10–1      Should the Commonwealth Government develop justice targets as part of the review of the Closing the Gap policy? If so, what should these targets encompass?

11. Access to Justice Issues

Proposal 11–1       Where needed, state and territory governments should work with peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to establish interpreter services within the criminal justice system.

Question 11–1      What reforms to laws and legal frameworks are required to strengthen diversionary options and specialist sentencing courts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?

Proposal 11–2       Where not already in place, state and territory governments should provide for limiting terms through special hearing processes in place of indefinite detention when a person is found unfit to stand trial.

Question 11–2      In what ways can availability and access to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services be increased?

Proposal 11–3       State and territory governments should introduce a statutory custody notification service that places a duty on police to contact the Aboriginal Legal Service, or equivalent service, immediately on detaining an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person.

12. Police Accountability

Question 12–1      How can police work better with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to reduce family violence?

Question 12–2      How can police officers entering into a particular Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community gain a full understanding of, and be better equipped to respond to, the needs of that community?

Question 12–3      Is there value in police publicly reporting annually on their engagement strategies, programs and outcomes with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that are designed to prevent offending behaviours?

Question 12–4      Should police that are undertaking programs aimed at reducing offending behaviours in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities be required to: document programs; undertake systems and outcomes evaluations; and put succession planning in place to ensure continuity of the programs?

Question 12–5      Should police be encouraged to enter into Reconciliation Action Plans with Reconciliation Australia, where they have not already done so?

Question 12–6      Should police be required to resource and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment strategies, where not already in place?

13. Justice Reinvestment

Question 13–1      What laws or legal frameworks, if any, are required to facilitate justice reinvestment initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?

Part B The Term of reference

ALRC inquiry into the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

I, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Attorney-General of Australia, refer to the Australian Law Reform Commission, an inquiry into the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our prisons.

It is acknowledged that while laws and legal frameworks are an important factor contributing to over‑representation, there are many other social, economic, and historic factors that also contribute. It is also acknowledged that while the rate of imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and their contact with the criminal justice system – both as offenders and as victims – significantly exceeds that of non‑Indigenous Australians, the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people never commit criminal offences.

Scope of the reference

  1. In developing its law reform recommendations, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) should have regard to:
    1. Laws and legal frameworks including legal institutions and law enforcement (police, courts, legal assistance services and prisons), that contribute to the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and inform decisions to hold or keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in custody, specifically in relation to:
      1. the nature of offences resulting in incarceration,
      2. cautioning,
      3. protective custody,
      4. arrest,
      5. remand and bail,
      6. diversion,
      7. sentencing, including mandatory sentencing, and
      8. parole, parole conditions and community reintegration.
    2. Factors that decision-makers take into account when considering (1)(a)(i-viii), including:
      1. community safety,
      2. availability of alternatives to incarceration,
      3. the degree of discretion available to decision-makers,
      4. incarceration as a last resort, and
      5. incarceration as a deterrent and as a punishment.
    3. Laws that may contribute to the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples offending and including, for example, laws that regulate the availability of alcohol, driving offences and unpaid fines.
    4. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their rate of incarceration.
    5. Differences in the application of laws across states and territories.
    6. Other access to justice issues including the remoteness of communities, the availability of and access to legal assistance and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language and sign interpreters.
  2.  In conducting its Inquiry, the ALRC should have regard to existing data and research[1] in relation to:
    1. best practice laws, legal frameworks that reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration,
    2. pathways of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the criminal justice system, including most frequent offences, relative rates of bail and diversion and progression from juvenile to adult offending,
    3. alternatives to custody in reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration and/or offending, including rehabilitation, therapeutic alternatives and culturally appropriate community led solutions,
    4. the impacts of incarceration on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including in relation to employment, housing, health, education and families, and
    5. the broader contextual factors contributing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration including:
      1. the characteristics of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison population,
      2. the relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offending and incarceration and inter‑generational trauma, loss of culture, poverty, discrimination, alcohol and drug use, experience of violence, including family violence, child abuse and neglect, contact with child protection and welfare systems, educational access and performance, cognitive and psychological factors, housing circumstances and employment, and
      3. the availability and effectiveness of culturally appropriate programs that intend to reduce Aboriginal; and Torres Strait Islander offending and incarceration.
  3. In undertaking this Inquiry, the ALRC should identify and consider other reports, inquiries and action plans including but not limited to:
    1. the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody,
    2. the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (due to report 1 August 2017),
    3. Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration’s Inquiry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Experience of Law Enforcement and Justice Services,
    4. Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs’ inquiry into Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric impairment in Australia,
    5. Senate Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs inquiry into Harmful Use of Alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities,
    6. reports of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner,
    7. the ALRC’s inquiries into Family violence and Family violence and Commonwealth laws, and​
    8. the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

The ALRC should also consider the gaps in available data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration and consider recommendations that might improve data collection.

  1. In conducting its inquiry the ALRC should also have regard to relevant international human rights standards and instruments.

Consultation

  1. In undertaking this inquiry, the ALRC should identify and consult with relevant stakeholders including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their organisations, state and territory governments, relevant policy and research organisations, law enforcement agencies, legal assistance service providers and the broader legal profession, community service providers and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Timeframe

  1. The ALRC should provide its report to the Attorney-General by 22 December 2017.

 

NACCHO Congratulates #Lowitja @LowitjaInstitut 20 years of making a difference in Aboriginal health and wellbeing

 “It has been 20 years since I was asked to be the inaugural Chairperson of the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Tropical Health.

One of my fundamental objectives as a Chairperson was to work towards reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Western perspectives of health and wellbeing and encourage a different way of doing research.

That meant bringing the academics and the researchers together with those who are qualified to know what’s needed on the ground. I wanted practical people to investigate the changes that need to be made in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to bring about the change we all want to see for our peoples.

I told them that I wanted them to be a courageous organisation committed to social justice and equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to match words to action, to achieve real, tangible outcomes. “

Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue AC CBE DSG august 2017

 “When these ( ACCHO ) services are set up, it was very clear that the mainstream system was failing us.

So we decided we had to set up our own services… those original AMSs, Redfern and Congress and all the others that followed… were… hotbeds of political activism as well.

We were flexing our muscles in terms of, not only self-management, but self-determination.”

Pat Anderson Lowitja Chair and former NACCHO Chair Interview , 14 November 2014)

 ” Honoured to be marking 20 years of the two decades of Aboriginal-led excellence in research and making a difference.”

The Hon Ken Wyatt Minister for Indigenous Health launching the report  

Paul House welcomes the audience above to country at launch of report Changing the Narrative in ATSI Health Research. Improving our wellbeing

In 2017 Lowitja is celebrating 20 years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led and focused health research – recognising the journey of the Lowitja Institute and the four associated Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs).

To mark this anniversary they released at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 9 August 2017 a publication titled

 

Changing the Narrative in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research


Four Cooperative Research Centres and the Lowitja Institute: The story so far

Download a copy here  LOWITJA Changing-the-narrative

Changing the Narrative outlines the journey and the successes of the Institute and the CRCs, and showcases how their cumulative efforts have pioneered a new way of conducting  health research in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

It maps the evolution of a new, collaborative and culturally appropriate way of carrying out health research.

It’s an approach driven by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander priorities – an approach developed by the CRCs, and embodied in the Institute.

Each of the CRCs and the Institute has progressed the work to develop health research expertise and processes to achieve lasting reform. Efforts are based on key principles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander control of the research agenda, a broader understanding of health that incorporates wellbeing, and the need for research to have a clear and positive impact.

The Lowitja Institute commissioned the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) to write a brief history of our organisation – including audiovisual recordings that highlight the vision of influential individuals.

In addition, the writing, editorial and production work of the Lowitja Institute team have created the hard copy Changing the Narrative publication, and a companion e-book which will be available soon.

Extracts from Report ( for references see report )

Background Aboriginal Community Controlled Health

While this sense of outrage at inequality was being expressed at the universities and in the big cities, little change was occurring in the rural and remote areas of Australia where services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were limited.

Those that did exist were segregated and hidden in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander welfare departments, missions, reserves and pastoral stations.

In the 1970s, however, there was a significant increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research.11 The results of much of this research confirmed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy was lower, and morbidity higher, than for other Australians. In the Northern Territory, these statistics were worse than they had been for non-Indigenous Australians at the turn of the twentieth century.12 Other indicators – such as living conditions, maternal and infant health and chronic disease – highlighted a huge gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians.

This crucial time of activism followed the 1967 referendum to allow amendments to the Australian Constitution that would give the Commonwealth Government the right to make laws affecting Aboriginal affairs and to include Aboriginal peoples in the national Census.13 It was a movement that was ‘most symbolically expressed through the land rights campaigns, but first gained concrete organisational form through the establishment of the Aboriginal legal aid and health services’.14

Change would not happen until the 1970s. The first Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) was established in Sydney’s Redfern in 1971, with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service in Melbourne’s Fitzroy and the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) in Alice Springs two years later.15 The CAAC prides itself today as ‘the voice of Aboriginal health’, from its beginnings in the early 1970s and on its foundation objective that ‘Aboriginal health must be in Aboriginal hands’.16

However, it was not until 1991 that Darwin’s Danila Dilba Biluru Butji Binnilutlum17 and smaller services like18 Miwatj in East Arnhem Land the following year.19 A noticeable exception was Utopia’s Urapuntja Health Service, which opened in 1977.20

When these services are set up, it was very clear that the mainstream system was failing us. So we decided we had to set up our own services… those original AMSs, Redfern and Congress and all the others that followed… were… hotbeds of political activism as well. We were flexing our muscles in terms of, not only self-management, but self-determination. (Pat Anderson Interview 3, 14 November 2014)

Pat Anderson drew attention to the sense of ‘struggle’ against inefficient government control and past polices and the desperately poor health situation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that framed their thinking in setting up these Northern Territory community controlled health services.

There was a whole range of Aboriginal national bodies that was set up around that time, but in particular with the health services, that was a very conscious decision to be able to be part of the struggle. We used to sign letters in those days, ‘Yours in the Struggle’, with a capital ‘S’. (Pat Anderson Interview 1, 23 October 2014)

The independence of the ACCHSs was enabled by a wide range of people from within the medical profession in Alice Springs and Darwin:

… When we decided that we were going to set up our own organisation, not a government initiative, doctors and nurses and a whole lot of people, as well as Aboriginal people… worked for nothing in those days. They would donate some of their time. The doctors, for instance, when they finished their shifts, they would come to the AMS and they did that for quite a while… NACCHO remains because it came out of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander local communities. (Pat Anderson interview 3, 14 November 2014)

Aboriginal Health Strategy

The other thread that provides crucial background to the establishment of the CRCATH and changes to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research landscape that began to emerge at this time was the 1989 National Aboriginal Health Strategy (NAHS).21

It aimed at developing mechanisms to achieve improvements in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health; in particular it focused on taking into account ‘specific health issues, health service provisions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation, research and data collection and ongoing monitoring’. It also aimed at maximising the involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their own health care.22

A Working Party was established in 1987, which included stakeholders from across a number of sectors involved in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, including government, communities and the Aboriginal controlled health sector. Its Chairperson was Dr Naomi Mayers, Director of the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service. Other members of the group included Associate Professor Ted Wilkes and Professor Shane Houston, both of whom would go on to serve on the Board of the CRCAH. The Working Party carried out consultations with interested parties from across all Australian jurisdictions and received approximately 120 submissions for its consideration.23

The Working Party’s report highlighted many of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community’s concerns regarding the nature of health research. It noted that research was too often imposed on communities, with the communities having little control or redress, and seldom of actual benefit to them. The report also acknowledged that the pervasive nature of the existing Western-centric approach to research needed to be questioned and re-examined.24 The Working Party called for reform of the research processes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and, in particular, for more involvement by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

… The community should be involved in framing the questions so that the research is relevant to their needs. The Aboriginal community must actively participate in the research process, be kept fully informed, and have some say in how research findings are publicised and used. Only when research projects are subject to Aboriginal community influence, will they be both relevant and of benefit to the community.25

Shane Houston described the Working Party as ‘visionary’ to ‘embrace this notion that good data and good research could be the bedrock or the springboard on which we built really quite an innovative model and approach to Aboriginal health and research’. This was in spite of the fact that, up to that point, ‘appalling relationships [existed] between Aboriginal communities and researchers’ resulting from ‘countless examples’ of research failing to engage in ethical and effective ways with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (Shane Houston interview, 1 December 2014).

Shane Houston was critical of what he saw as the dilution of the recommendations of the Working Party in the final report.26 Nevertheless, he later also recognised that it helped reshape the discussions around some of the most important issues regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and continued to be influential 25 years later. He pointed out that the NAHS was a breakthrough for policymakers and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health services, as it carried the debates beyond blaming researchers for their self-interest, and grasped the idea of influencing good and ethical research to create better data.

The report talked about intersectoral collaboration before people were talking in this country about the social determinants of health. It argued the case that housing affected health, that education affected health, that education affected housing. And it did so in a really coherent [way] that both government and communities agreed with. It argued for a reform to the style of service delivery in communities. It argued for more collaborative planning – ongoing planning, joint planning by state, territory and Aboriginal communities in the Aboriginal health arena…

And I think, looking back on it, it was one of those key turning points in the Aboriginal health movement across the country that just flipped the debate, that created a new way of talking about, a new way of engaging [with] and a new way of solving the challenges that we confronted. It was never going to be a panacea that would solve every problem. But it gave us the experience and the tools to approach problems in a new way. (Shane Houston Interview, 1 December 2016 )

Aboriginal Health #Garma2017 : #Makarrata ,canoes and the #UluruStatement @TurnbullMalcolm @billshortenmp Full Speech transcripts

 ” Djapiri said Bill and I are in the same canoe and on this issue we certainly are – but we are not alone, we are not alone in the canoe. We are in the same canoe with all of you as well and we need to steer it wisely to achieve our goal, to achieve that goal of Makarrata.

Beyond Constitutional Recognition, that work continues every day. I reflect on the Makarrata discussion of the late 70’s and 80’s. A list of demands was sent to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 1981. It called for rights to land and resources, compensation, the creation of Aboriginal schools, medical centres and an Aboriginal bank.

Despite a final agreement not being reached at the time, we have achieved some of the policies called for. The Commonwealth provided $433 million to 137 Aboriginal Medical Services across the country last financial year.

As Prime Minister I will continue to do all I can to ensure that being an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian means to be successful, to achieve, to have big dreams and high hopes, and to draw strength from your identity as an Indigenous person in this great country.

That’s why, as we renegotiate the Closing the Gap targets with the various state and territory jurisdictions later this year, my Government has insisted on a strengths based approach.

Indigenous people are not a problem to be solved.

You are our fellow Australians. Your cultures are a gift to our nation.”

Selected extracts from the full Prime Minister Speech 5 August Garma see Part 2 Full Speech

Download full copy Garma 2017 PM full Speech

” Djapirri said, she told me of a dream of a canoe, paddled by the Prime Minister and myself.

That in itself is an arresting image. Two captains. But in all seriousness, we appreciated I think the power of that illusion, the power of that dream.

Here at Garma, on the lands of the Gumatj, we gather to talk about a Yolngu word. Makarrata.

It is not just now a Yolngu word – I put it to you it’s a national test.

Coming together, after a struggle.

And for the first Australians, it has been a very long struggle indeed.

– A struggle against dispossession and discrimination, exclusion and inequality.

– A struggle against violence and poverty, disease and diminished opportunity.

– A struggle for better health, for better housing, for safer communities, more jobs, for longer lives.

– A struggle against injustice and racism: from the sporting field to the courts of our land.

Above all, a struggle for a better future for their children: a struggle to be counted, to be heard, to be recognised.

At Uluru, you gave us the statement from the heart.

A call for:

– A voice enshrined in the Constitution

– A declaration to be passed by all parliaments, acknowledging the unique place of the first nations in Australian history, their culture, their connection.

And a Makarrata Commission to oversee a process of agreement-making and truth-telling.

All three of these objectives speak to the long-held and legitimate aspirations of our First Australians:

– A proper acknowledgment of Aboriginal histories and the dispossession that followed upon the arrival of the Europeans

– A bigger say in the issues which affect you – no more ‘solutions’ imposed without consultation or consent

And a more lasting settlement, a new way forward, a new pathway including through treaties.

These ideas are not new – but the Uluru statement did articulate these with new clarity, a new passion, a new sense of truth and purpose “

Selected extracts The Hon Bill Shorten speech  Garma 5 August 2017 see in full Part 3 Below

Download full speech Garma 2017 PM full Speech

Part 1 Media Coverage

View NITV Media coverage

When it comes to Aboriginal constitutional reform, picture Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten sitting in a canoe – and the opposition leader thinks he’s the only one paddling.

The Labor leader has backed a referendum question on an indigenous voice to parliament, while the prime minister has failed to commit bipartisan support.

The two politicians are moving together downstream, struggling to balance the boat to achieve reconciliation, Gumatj leader Djapirri Mununggirritj has told Garma Festival in northeast Arnhem Land.

Mr Shorten called it an “arresting image” but said he was disappointed Mr Turnbull dismissed his end of year referendum question deadline as “very ambitious”.

“We support a declaration by all parliaments, we support a truth telling commission, we are not confronted by the notion of treaties with our first Australians,” he said.

Mr Turnbull acknowledged many Aboriginal leaders were disappointed the government didn’t give “instant fulfilment” to the Referendum Council’s recommendations.

He described the Yolgnu elder’s canoe analogy as apt, saying his cabinet will give the matter careful consideration to keep the aspiration of Makarrata, or coming together after a struggle, from capsizing.

An “all or nothing approach” to constitutional change risks rocking the boat, resulting in a failed referendum, and Mr Turnbull called for time to develop a winnable question to put to Australian voters.

“We are not alone in the canoe, we are in the canoe with all of you and we need to steer it wisely to achieve that goal of Makarrata,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said there’s still many practical questions about what shape the advisory body would take, whether it would be elected or appointed and how it would affect Aboriginal people around the country.

Specifically, he questioned what impact the voice to parliament would have on issues like child protection and justice, which are largely the legislative domain of state and territory governments.

But Mr Shorten said debate over Aboriginal recognition in the nation’s founding document has dragged on for the past decade.

“I can lead Mr Turnbull and the Liberal party to water but I can’t make them drink,” he said.

Having led the failed 1999 republic referendum campaign, Mr Turnbull warned that Australians are “constitutionally conservative”, with just eight out of 44 successful since federation.

But Mr Shorten said “Aboriginal Australians do not need a balanda [white person] lecture about the difficulty of changing the constitution”.

Mr Shorten’s proposal of a joint parliamentary committee to finalise a referendum question has been met with cynicism by indigenous leaders.

The Above AAP

 

 Part 2 PRIME MINISTER Garma SPEECH :

Ngarra buku-wurrpan bukmak nah! Nhuma’lanah.

Ngarra Prime Minister numalagu djal Ngarra yurru wanganharra’wu nhumalangu bukmak’gu marrigithirri.

Ngarra ga nhungu dharok ga manikay’ ngali djaka wanga’wu yirralka.

I acknowledge and pay respect to your country, and your elders.

As Prime Minister, I’m here to talk to you and learn from you.

I acknowledge and respect your language, your song lines, your dances, your culture, your caring for country, and your estates.

I pay my respects to the Gumatj people and traditional owners past, present and future, on whose land we are gathered.

I also acknowledge other Yolngu people, First Peoples from across the country and balanda here today including Bill Shorten, Nigel Scullion and all other Parliamentary colleagues but above all I acknowledge our Parliamentary colleagues, Indigenous Parliamentary colleagues. Truly, voices of First Australians in the Parliament. Thank you for being here today and for the wisdom you give us, you together with my dear friend Ken, so much wisdom in the Parliament.

I offer my deep respect and gratitude to the Chairman of the Yothu Yindi Foundation, Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu for hosting Lucy and me with your family. It was lovely to camp here last night and the last music was beautiful, serene and like a lullaby sending us all off to our dreams. Thank you. Emily was the last singer – beautiful.  And of course we woke here to the beautiful sounds of Gulkala.

I again as I did yesterday extend our deep condolences to the family of Dr G Yunupingu at this very sad time. He brought the Yolngu language to the people of Australia and his music will be with us forever.

I’ve come here to North East Arnhem Land to learn, participate respectfully and can I thank everyone so far I’ve had the chance to talk with. I am filled with optimism about our future together as a reconciled Australia.

Last month scientists and researchers revealed new evidence that our First Australians have been here in this land for 65,000 years.

These findings show that Indigenous people were living at the Madjedbebe rock shelter in Mirarr Country, at Kakadu east of Darwin, 18,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Among the middens, rock paintings, remains, plants and ochre, was the world’s oldest-known ground-edge axe head.

These findings place Australia on centre stage in the story of human origin, including mankind’s first long-distance maritime voyage – from Southeast Asia to the Australian continent.

Our First Peoples are shown as artistically, as technologically advanced, and at the cutting edge of technology in every respect.

Importantly, they confirm what Aboriginal people have always known and we have known – that your connection, your intimate connection to the land and sea are deep, abiding, ancient, and yet modern.

This news is a point of great pride for our nation. We rejoice in it, as we celebrate your Indigenous cultures and heritage as our culture and heritage – uniquely Australian.

As Galarrwuy said yesterday as he spoke in Yolngu, he said: “I am speaking in Australian.” Sharing, what a generosity, what a love, what a bigness he showed there as he does throughout his life and his leadership.

I want to pay tribute to the work of so many of you here today, who are leading the healing in communities, building bridges between the old and new, and looking for ways to ensure families and communities are not just surviving, but thriving.

Particularly the Indigenous leaders who every day wear many hats, walk in both worlds, and yet give tirelessly for their families and their communities. You often carry a very heavy load, and we thank you.

Where western astronomers look up at the sky and look for the light, Yolngu astronomers look also deep into the dark, using the black space to uncover further information, to unravel further mysteries.

So while we are both looking at the night sky, we are often looking at different parts. And yet through mutual respect, sharing of knowledge and an openness to learning, together we can see and appreciate the whole sky.

Those same principles are guiding us toward Constitutional Recognition.

The final Referendum Council report was delivered, as you know, on the 30th of June. Bill Shorten and I were briefed by the Referendum Council two weeks ago. The report was a long time coming and I know some would like an instant fulfillment of its recommendations.

Let me say, I respect deeply the work of the Referendum Council and all of those who contributed to it, and I respect it by considering it very carefully and the Government is doing so, in the first instance with my colleagues, including Ken Wyatt the first Indigenous Australian to be a Federal Minister, and together we consider it with our Cabinet. That is our way, that is our process, that is how we give respect to serious recommendations on serious matters.

And I do look forward to working closely and in a bipartisan way with the Opposition as we have done to date.

Djapiri said Bill and I are in the same canoe and on this issue we certainly are – but we are not alone, we are not alone in the canoe. We are in the same canoe with all of you as well and we need to steer it wisely to achieve our goal, to achieve that goal of Makarrata. Thank you again Galarrwuy for that word.

We share a sense of the significance of words. I love words and language. There is a great definition. What is the difference between poetry and prose? The best definition of poetry that I have ever found is that which cannot be translated, it can only be felt.

The Referendum Council’s report as Marcia reminded us is the fourth major report since that time and it adds immensely to the depth of knowledge. It gave us the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and I congratulate all those who attended on reaching an agreement. That was no small task.

It tells us that the priority for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is to resolve the powerlessness and lack of self-determination experienced – not by all, but certainly by too many.

I have been discussing it with leaders, the leaders of our First Australians and will continue to do so as we develop the next steps.

But there are still many questions:

What would the practical expression of the voice look like? What would the voice look like here for the Yolngu people? What would it look like for the people of Western Sydney, who are the largest population of Aboriginal peoples in Australia?

Is our highest aspiration to have Indigenous people outside the Parliament, providing advice to the Parliament? Or is it to have as many Indigenous voices, elected, within our Parliament?

What impact would the voice have on issues like child protection and justice, where the legislation and responsibility largely rest with state and territory governments?

These are important questions that require careful consideration. But the answers are not beyond us.

And I acknowledge that Indigenous Australians want deeper engagement with government and their fellow Australians, and to be much better consulted, and represented in the political, social and economic life of this nation.

We can’t be weighed down by the past, but we can learn from it.

Australians are constitutionally conservative. The bar is surmountable, you can get over it but it is a high bar. That’s why the Constitution has often been described as a frozen document.

Now many people talk about referendums, very few have experienced leading a campaign. The 1999 campaign for a Republic – believe me, now, one of the few subjects on which I have special knowledge – the 1999 campaign for a Republic has given me a very keen insight into what it will take to win, how hard it is to win, how much harder is the road for the advocate for change than that of those who resist change. I offer this experience today in the hope that together, we can achieve a different outcome to 1999. A successful referendum.

Compulsory voting has many benefits, but one negative aspect is that those who for one reason or another are not interested in an issue or familiar with it, are much more likely to vote no – it reinforces an already conservative constitutional context.

Another critical difference today is the rise of social media, which has changed the nature of media dramatically, in a decade or two we have a media environment which is no longer curated by editors and producers – but freewheeling, viral and unconstrained.

The question posed in a referendum must have minimal opposition and be clearly understood.

A vital ingredient of success is popular ownership. After all, the Constitution does not belong to the Government, or the Parliament, or the Judges. It belongs to the people.

It is Parliament’s duty to propose changes to the Constitution but the Constitution cannot be changed by Parliament. Only the Australian people can do that.

No political deal, no cross party compromise, no leaders’ handshake can deliver constitutional change.

Bipartisanship is a necessary but far from a sufficient condition of successful constitutional reform.

To date, again as Marcia described much of the discussion has been about removing the racially discriminatory provisions in the Constitution and recognising our First Australians in our nation’s founding document.

However, the Referendum Council has told us that a voice to Parliament is the only option they advise us to put to the Australian people. We have heard this, and we will work with you to find a way forward.

Though not a new concept, the voice is relatively new to the national conversation about constitutional change.

To win, we must all work together to build a high level of interest and familiarity with the concept of a voice, and how this would be different, or the same, as iterations of the past like the National Aboriginal Conference or the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

We also need to look to the experience of other countries, as we seek to develop the best model for Australia.

The historic 1967 Referendum was the most successful in our history because of its simplicity and clarity. The injustices were clearly laid out – Indigenous people were not enjoying the rights and freedoms of other citizens. The question was clearly understood – that the Commonwealth needed to have powers to make laws for Indigenous Australians. And the answer seemed obvious – vote yes to ensure the Commonwealth gave Indigenous people equal rights.

To succeed this time around, we need to develop enough detail so that the problem, the solution and therefore the question at the ballot box are simple, easily understood and overwhelmingly embraced.

One of the toughest lessons I learnt from the Referendum campaign of ‘99 was that an ‘all or nothing’ approach sometimes results in nothing. During the campaign, those who disagreed with the model that was proposed urged a “no” vote, arguing that we could all vote for a different Republic model in a few years. I warned that a “no” vote meant no republic for a very long time.

Now, regrettably, my prediction 18 years ago was correct. We must avoid a rejection at a referendum if we want to avoid setting Makarrata reconciliation back.

We recognise that the Uluru statement is powerful because it comes from an Indigenous-designed and led process. And because it comes from the heart, we must accept that it is grounded in wisdom and truth.

It is both a lament and a yearning. It is poetry.

The challenge now is to turn this poetry that speaks so eloquently of your aspiration into prose that will enable its realisation and be embraced by all Australians.

This is hard and complex work. And we need to take care of each other as we continue on this journey. We need to take care of each other in the canoe, lest we tip out of it.

Yesterday afternoon was a powerful show of humanity. As we stood together holding hands – Indigenous and non-Indigenous people – we stood together as Australians. As equals.

And we will have the best chance of success by working together. This cannot be a take it or leave it proposal. We have to come to the table and negotiate in good faith, and I am committed to working with you to find a way forward.

Galarrwuy – you gave us your fire words yesterday, thank you again. We will draw on them as we look to light the path forward for our nation.

And when considering how to do that, we are inspired by the success of the Uluru process. The statement that emerged from Uluru was designed and led by Indigenous Australians and the next steps should be too.

To go to a referendum there must be an understanding between all parties that the proposal will meet the expectations of the very people it claims it will represent.

Now we have five Aboriginal members of our Parliament. They will be vital in shaping and shepherding any legislation through the Parliament. They too are bridge builders, walking in both worlds, and their contribution to the Parliament enriches us all.

The Australian Parliament and the nation’s people – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – must be engaged as we work together to find the maximum possible overlap between what Indigenous people are seeking, what the Australian community overall will embrace and what the Parliament will authorise.

I have been learning that the word Makarrata means the ‘coming together after a struggle’— Galarrwuy told us a beautiful story this morning about a Makarrata here in this country. And a Makarrata is seen as necessary, naturally, if we are to continue our path to reconciliation.

But just like the night sky, reconciliation means different things to different people. This complexity convinces me that our nation cannot be reconciled in one step, in one great leap. We will only be reconciled when we take a number of actions, both practical and symbolic.

Beyond Constitutional Recognition, that work continues every day. I reflect on the Makarrata discussion of the late 70’s and 80’s. A list of demands was sent to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 1981. It called for rights to land and resources, compensation, the creation of Aboriginal schools, medical centres and an Aboriginal bank.

Despite a final agreement not being reached at the time, we have achieved some of the policies called for. The Commonwealth provided $433 million to 137 Aboriginal Medical Services across the country last financial year. Indigenous Business Australia provides low interest loans to help Indigenous Australians secure economic opportunities including home ownership with 544 new housing loans made last year. The Aboriginal Benefits Account supports Northern Territory Land Councils and provides grants for the benefit of Aboriginal people living in the Territory.

We now spend $4.9 billion on the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

And we are empowering communities through our Indigenous Procurement policy.

I am pleased to announce today the Commonwealth has officially surpassed half a billion dollars in spending with Indigenous businesses all over Australia. I am looking forward to sharing the full two-year results in October. This is a spectacular increase from just $6.2 million being won by Indigenous businesses only a few years ago under former policies.

Since 2008 the Commonwealth has been helping improve remote housing and bring down rates of overcrowding, with $5.4 billion to build thousands of better homes over ten years.

And the land is returning to its traditional owners.

More than 2.5 million square kilometres of land, or about 34 per cent of Australia’s land mass is today recognised under Native Title. Another 24 per cent is covered by registered claims and by 2025, our ambition is to finalise all current Native Title claims.

So we are standing here on Aboriginal land – land that has been rightfully acknowledged as yours and returned to you. And we are standing here near the birthplace of the land rights movement. A movement of which the Yolngu people were at the forefront.

As a nation we’ve come a long way.

In the Northern Territory, more than 50 per cent of the land is now Aboriginal land, recognised as Aboriginal land.

Just like the land at Kenbi which, on behalf of our nation, I returned to the traditional owners, the Larrakia people last year.

Earlier this year I appointed June Oscar AO, who has been acknowledged earlier, as the first female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, who has agreed to report on the issues affecting Indigenous women and girls’ success and safety.

And all of that work contributes to a better future for our First Australians.

But there is much more to be done in not just what we do, but how we do it – as we work with our First Australians. We are doing things with our First Australians, not to them.

Now Galarrwuy – I have read and read again your essay Rom Watungu. It too is a story from the heart, of your father, of his life and when his time came, how he handed his authority to you, the embodiment of continuity, the bearer of a name that means “the rock that stands against time”

But rocks that stand against time, ancient cultures and lore, these are the strong foundations on which new achievements are built, from which new horizons can be seen – the tallest towers are built on the oldest rocks.

You, Galarrwuy, ask Australians to let Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders breathe and be free, be who you are and ask that we see your songs and languages, the land and the ceremonies as a gift.

As Prime Minister I will continue to do all I can to ensure that being an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian means to be successful, to achieve, to have big dreams and high hopes, and to draw strength from your identity as an Indigenous person in this great country.

That’s why, as we renegotiate the Closing the Gap targets with the various state and territory jurisdictions later this year, my Government has insisted on a strengths based approach. Indigenous people are not a problem to be solved. You are our fellow Australians. Your cultures are a gift to our nation.

There’s so much more work to be done.

But in doing so, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and all Australians, continue to connect with pride and optimism – with mabu liyan, in Pat’s language from the Yawuru people – the wellbeing that comes with a reconciled harmony with you, our First Australians, our shared history truthfully told and a deeper understanding of the most ancient human cultures on earth, and the First Australians to whom we have so much to thank for sharing them with us.

Thank you so much.

Part 3 Opposition Leader’s Garma Speech

Good morning everybody.

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet, I pay my respects to elders both past and present.

I recognise that I stand on what is, was and always will be Aboriginal land.

I acknowledge the Prime Minister and his wife Lucy.

I wish to thank Gallarwuy and the Gumatj for hosting us – and on behalf of my Labor team who are here, Senator Pat Dodson, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, the Hon Linda Burney, the Hon Kyam Maher, supported also by local Members of Parliament the Hon Warren Snowden and Luke Gosling, and Territory Minister Eva Lawler.

We are very grateful to be part of this gathering.

Also Clementine my daughter asked me to thank you for letting her join in the bunggul yesterday afternoon, she loved it.

At the opening yesterday, we were privileged, all of us, to be at a powerful ceremony, where we remembered Dr G Yunupingu, a man who was born blind – but helped Australians see.

From his island, his words and his music touched the world.

But I also understand that the words of our host were about setting us a test, reminding all of us privileged to be here that there is serious business to be done.

Here at Garma, on the lands of the Gumatj, we gather to talk about a Yolngu word. Makarrata.

It is not just now a Yolngu word – I put it to you it’s a national test.

Coming together, after a struggle.

And for the first Australians, it has been a very long struggle indeed.

– A struggle against dispossession and discrimination, exclusion and inequality.

– A struggle against violence and poverty, disease and diminished opportunity.

– A struggle for better health, for better housing, for safer communities, more jobs, for longer lives.

– A struggle against injustice and racism: from the sporting field to the courts of our land.

Above all, a struggle for a better future for their children: a struggle to be counted, to be heard, to be recognised.

In 2015, the Referendum Council was created with a very clear mission.

To consult on what form Constitutional Recognition should take – how it should work.

To listen to Aboriginal people and to be guided by their aspirations.

And to finally give them a say in a document from which too long they been excluded.

Since then, thousands of the first Australians have explained to the rest us what

Recognition means – for all of us, for our children and indeed for all of our futures.

We asked for your views, we sought your counsel – and, in large numbers, it was answered.

At Uluru, you gave us the statement from the heart.

A call for:

– A voice enshrined in the Constitution

– A declaration to be passed by all parliaments, acknowledging the unique place of the first nations in Australian history, their culture, their connection.

– And a Makarrata Commission to oversee a process of agreement-making and truth-telling.

All three of these objectives speak to the long-held and legitimate aspirations of our

First Australians:

– A proper acknowledgment of Aboriginal histories and the dispossession that

followed upon the arrival of the Europeans

– A bigger say in the issues which affect you – no more ‘solutions’ imposed without consultation or consent

– And a more lasting settlement, a new way forward, a new pathway including through treaties.

These ideas are not new – but the Uluru statement did articulate these with new clarity, a new passion, a new sense of truth and purpose.

And let me speak truthfully on behalf of Labor, the Opposition.

I cannot be any more clear than this: Labor supports a voice for Aboriginal people in our Constitution, we support a declaration by all parliaments, we support a truth-telling commission.

We are not confronted by the notion of treaties with our first Australians.

For us the question is not whether we do these things, the question is not if we should do these things but when and how.

The Parliament needs to be engaged.

The Parliament needs to be engaged now.

The Parliament needs to start the process of engaging with the people of Australia now.

It does not come as a surprise to me, that following upon a report of the

Referendum Council, the Parliament’s next step must be to consider this report.

And in doing so, we must carry its message from the heart of Australia into our hearts as parliamentarians. With optimism, with understanding, not with a desire to find what is wrong, but to find the desire to make these concepts work in the interests of all.

If we were all gathered here now, back in 1891 and 1894 and 1897 to write the Constitution, we would never dream of excluding Aboriginal people from the Census.

But in 1901, they did.

If we were starting the Constitution from scratch, we would not diminish the independence of Aboriginal people – with racist powers.

But in 1901, they did.

And if we were starting on an empty piece of paper, we would, without question, recognise the First Australians’ right to a genuine, empowered voice in the decisions that govern their lives.

Now as you know, we cannot unmake history. We do not get the change to start all over again – but it doesn’t mean that we are forever chained to the prejudices of the past.

The Prime Minister’s observations though are correct about the difficulties of constitutional change. But I ask also that we cannot let the failure of 1999 govern our future on this question.

Voting for a constitutional voice is our chance to bring our Constitution home, to make it better, more equal and more Australian.

A document that doesn’t just pay respect to the weight of a foreign crown, but also recognises the power and value of the world’s oldest living culture, recognises that

Aboriginal people were here first.

And of course, let us reject those who say that symbolic change is irrelevant because dealing with these questions does not mean walking away from the real problems of inequality and disadvantage.

– Talking about enshrining a voice does not reduce our determination to eradicate family violence

– It doesn’t stop us creating good local jobs, training apprentices, treating trachoma or supporting rangers on country.

– It doesn’t distract us from the crisis in out-of-home care, youth suicide or the shocking, growing number of Aboriginal people incarcerated for not much better reason than the colour of their skin.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples don’t have to choose between historical justice and real justice, you don’t have to choose between equality in society and equality in the Constitution – you have an equal right to both.

The Uluru Statement has given us a map of the way forward – and today I finally want to talk about how we follow it, how we take the next step.

Not the obstacles ahead, not the problems, real as they are.

Aboriginal Australians don’t need a balanda lecture about the difficulty of changing the Constitution, our inspiration friends, should not be the 1999 referendum, it should be the 1967 referendum.

You have lived that struggle, every day.

Let me be very clear. In my study of our history, in my experience, nothing has ever been given to Aboriginal people – everything that is obtained has been fought for, has been argued for, has been won and built by Aboriginal people.

Think of the Freedom Riders

Think of the Bark Petition, which Gallarwuy was witness to

Think of the Gurindji at Wave Hill

Eddie Mabo and his fight for justice

Nothing was ever sorted by simply waiting until someone came along said let me do it for you. It is not the way the world is organised.

Every bit of progress has been driven by pride, by persistence by that stubborn refusal to not take no for an answer when it comes to the pursuit of equality.

Now making the case for change and encouraging Australians to vote yes for a recognition, reconciliation, and truth – this is not easy.

But before we can do that we surely must agree on the referendum question that has to be the long overdue next step.

I have written to our Prime Minister, we’ve proposed a joint parliamentary committee – which they’re taking on board, having a look at – to be made up of Government, the Opposition and crossbench MPs – to work with Aboriginal leaders right across Australia.

This committee will have two key responsibilities.

One – advising the Parliament on how to set-up a Makarrata Commission and create a framework for truth-telling and agreement making, including treaties.

Two – what would a voice look like. Whilst there are many questions, none of these are insurmountable.

And three, as a matter of overdue recognition – to endeavour to finalise a referendum question in a timely fashion. There’s no reason why that couldn’t be done by the end of this year.

The issues have been traversed for a decade.

Now friends this is not a committee for the sake of a committee, it’s not another mechanism for delay. It is the necessary process of engagement of the Parliament.

But we have had ten years plus of good intentions, but it is time now perhaps, for more action.

The Parliament does have a key role to play here, in setting the question.

The Parliament could agree on the question this year if we all work together so that the people could vote not long after that.

Voting to enshrine a voice in a standalone Referendum – free from the shadow of an election, or the politics of other questions.

It may seem very hard to imagine, it may seem very hard to contemplate.

But it is possible to imagine a great day, a unifying day, a famous victory, a Makaratta for all.

As I said yesterday, we’ve heard plenty of speeches, there are many fine words… but perhaps people have a right to be impatient after ten years – indeed after 117 years.

So the test I set isn’t what we say here, in this beautiful place.

It’s what we do when we leave.

It’s the honesty of admitting that after the event, what is it that we do.

The test I set for myself is can I come here at future Garmas and look you in the eye and say I have done everything I can, because if I cannot say to you that I have done everything I that I can, then I can’t be truthful with my heart.

Yesterday Gallarwuy spoke with a tongue of fire, he told a powerful truth.

He said that for more than two centuries we had been two peoples – living side-by-side, but not united.

I think that is the challenge for politics too.

Djapirri who just spoke up before me, she’s talked about hope. There is the hope that you refer to, you have the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. We are here side-by-side, and now we need to be united, not to kick the can down the road, but united on a process that says this parliament will respect what we have heard from Aboriginal people.

Not just at Uluru, but for decades.

In 1967, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were counted. In 2017, you are being heard.

There is no reason why we can’t enshrine a voice for Aboriginal people in our Constitution.

Djapirri said, she told me of a dream of a canoe, paddled by the Prime Minister and myself. That in itself is an arresting image. Two captains. But in all seriousness, we appreciated I think the power of that illusion, the power of that dream.

My party is ready.

I think Australia is ready.

The fine words that we heard at the opening yesterday, they remind me of the fire dreaming symbol, which is in the front of the Parliament of Australia.

Fire.

That fire dreaming symbol is from central Australia but it is connected isn’t it, by the word of Djapirri yesterday.

Again, that spirit of fire it is a gift from Indigenous people to all Australians and I sincerely will endeavor to make sure that spirit of fire infuses our Parliament.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #NAIDOC2017 : Recognising the communication gap in Indigenous health care

 ” The communication gap between health professionals and Indigenous Australians has a significant impact on health outcomes

Limited health literacy is not confined to Indigenous people, but it is greatly magnified for speakers of Indigenous languages in comparison, for example, to non-English speaking migrants from countries where a scientific approach to medicine is practised and where these health concepts are already codified.”

Dr Robert Amery Medical Journal Australia NAIDOC Week 2017

 

Introduction Press Release

Communication gap puts Indigenous health at risk

The need for health professionals to have a stronger focus on communication with Indigenous people has been highlighted by the University of Adelaide’s Head of Linguistics, who says some lives are being put at risk because of a lack of patient-doctor understanding.

In a paper published (Monday 3 July) in the Medical Journal of Australia coinciding with the NAIDOC Week theme of Our Languages Matter – Dr Robert Amery has raised concerns not just about language but also a lack of cultural awareness that also impacts on good communication with Indigenous patients.

Dr Robert Amery, who heads Linguistics within the University of Adelaide’s School of Humanities and is a Kaurna language expert, says poor communication can lead to “mistrust and disengagement with the health sector” among

Indigenous patients, leading to a lack of compliance with treatment, and ultimately poor health outcomes.

He says there’s a 16-year gap in life expectancy for Indigenous people living in the Northern Territory compared with non-Indigenous Australians. Of these Indigenous people in the NT, 70% live in remote areas, and 60–65% speak an Indigenous language at home.

“While many speakers of Indigenous languages living in remote areas can engage with outsiders and converse in English about everyday matters, they often have a poor grasp of English when it comes to health communications and other specialised areas,” Dr Amery says.

Miscommunication can be subtle, and previous studies have shown that while both parties think they have understood each other, they can in fact come away with very different understandings.

“Miscommunication isn’t just about language. Some of these difficulties also arise from the interface of communication and culture, which are often derived from differences in worldview,” he says.

“For traditionally oriented Aboriginal people living in remote areas, understanding of disease causation is fundamentally different. Serious diseases, even accidents, are often attributed to sorcery. Germ theory and the immune system are foreign concepts.

“Silence plays an important role in Indigenous cultures. Indigenous people often respond to questions after a prolonged pause, a concept foreign to those doctors who see silence as impolite in their own cultures.

They compensate by filling the silence and disrupting Indigenous patients’ thoughts. There is a simple solution: pause and allow the patient to think.”

He also suggests healthcare professionals avoid the use of “intangible” conceptual English words and vague sentences, instead focusing on factual communication; that they demonstrate how a medical procedure works; and use simple diagrams to explain medical issues.

“These examples may seem plain and obvious, but astoundingly, despite the many hours dedicated to communication in medical education, such concepts are not taught,” Dr Amery says.

“An investment of time in the consult will have immense payoffs over the long term.”

 Download MJA paper here MJA Dr Robert Amery

Published with permission from Robert Amery and Medical  Journal Australia

 See website for references or PDF

The communication gap is most pronounced in remote areas where cultural and linguistic differences are greatest. The close interdependence of language and culture amplifies the gap, such that communication difficulties in these communities run deeper than language barriers alone.

Life expectancy for Indigenous Australians living in remote areas is considerably shorter than for those living in rural and urban areas.6 Figures are not available for the life expectancy of native speakers of Indigenous languages as a cohort, but the gap in life expectancy exceeds 16 years for Indigenous people living in the Northern Territory,7 70% of whom live in remote areas, and 60–65% speak an Indigenous language at home. The life expectancy gap is, of course, multifactorial, although most studies focus on causes of death.8 The communication gap as a contributor is under-rated and under-researched.1,9

An understanding of the Indigenous language landscape is critical to improving communication. In the 2011 Australian census, 60 550 people, or 11.8% of Indigenous respondents, claimed to speak an Indigenous language at home, and 17.5% claimed not to speak English well.10

More have difficulty with specialised language, with common terms such as infection, tumour, high blood pressure, stroke and bacteria often misunderstood. Native Indigenous language speakers communicate in over 100 different traditional languages and live primarily in the NT, the Kimberley region of Western Australia, northern South Australia and northern Queensland, including Torres Strait.

None of these languages have more than 6000 speakers, and many are now reduced to a mere handful, yet each of these languages is a vast storehouse of knowledge built up over thousands of years. It can be daunting to enter a large English-speaking hospital if you communicate in a language spoken by so few people.

Speakers of some languages have shifted to dominant regional languages, such as Murrinh-Patha (Wadeye, NT), while others have shifted to a creole language, such as Kriol (the Kimberley region and the Barkly Tableland area of the NT and North West Queensland).

Aboriginal people often speak distinctive varieties of Aboriginal English that differ from mainstream English. For most Aboriginal people in remote areas, their Aboriginal English is an inter-language variety, in the same way that Japanese speakers have their own distinctive accent and turn of phrase in English, which may be a challenge for medical personnel to understand.

Data might suggest that only a small proportion (less than 10%) of Indigenous adults under 60 years do not speak English well, and that communication issues would therefore not be significant (Box 1).

However, while many speakers of Indigenous languages living in remote areas can engage with outsiders and converse in English about everyday matters, they often have a poor grasp of English when it comes to health communications and other specialised areas. In a study on comprehension of 30 common legal terms (assault, bail, guilty, warrant, etc),11 200 Yolŋu people (north-east Arnhem Land) were surveyed with over 95% unable to correctly identify the meaning of these terms (Box 2).

A parallel health study has not been conducted, but it is likely that understanding of common specialised health terms would be no better. Personal experience supports this view. In 1990, I taught a short course in medical interpreting to a group of Yolŋu students. In teaching the difference between idiomatic and literal language, I introduced an example (“He chucked his guts up”) that I thought everyone would understand. The Yolŋu students interpreted this idiom literally, thinking he ripped out his intestines and threw them in the air. Even simple little things that might be said, such as “let’s keep an eye on it”, can be baffling, because these expressions are often taken literally.

Proportion of Indigenous Australians who speak an Indigenous language and who are reported to speak English “not well” or “not at all”, 2006 and 2011*

Yolŋu comprehension of 30 common legal terms*

Misinterpretations also arise from the interface of communication and culture, here derived from differences in worldview rather than linguistics. In the 1980s, I talked with Tjapaltjarri (skin name, now deceased), a senior Pintupi Aboriginal health worker, about the location of a relative’s house in Alice Springs. Tjapaltjarri referred to various landmarks such as trees and rocks. I asked him about prominent street names including Bloomfield Street. We conversed with full understanding, but I could not follow Tjapaltjarri’s directions. I never paid attention to these landmarks, he never noticed street names. This was not a linguistic issue. It was literally a matter of different worldview. Extrapolate from this example to appreciate the difficulties first language speakers of Aboriginal languages might have in following medical explanations, even when they seemingly speak good English.

These communication gaps are confirmed in health settings. A study of Yolŋu patients undergoing dialysis in Darwin2 identified, through exit interviews, significant misunderstanding of test results despite both patient and renal nurse having revealed that they were satisfied with the communication.

Trudgen9 discusses a Yolŋu patient suffering from severe diabetes and renal failure who was able to avoid dialysis once his condition was explained to him in meaningful terms, and goes on to estimate that 75–95% of communication with Yolŋu patients fails, even with an Aboriginal health worker involved. Aboriginal health workers are not necessarily trained interpreters, nor is interpreting their primary role, although they are often expected to interpret.

How do we improve? Surprisingly simple communication methods, which are easy to teach within mainstream medical education, can help. Trudgen demonstrates how to explain to a Yolŋu patient their 2% residual renal function.9 Many Yolŋu and speakers of other Indigenous languages do not understand the concept of percentages. A picture of a kidney was drawn, shading in the 2% still functioning and showing the remainder, which was sclerosed (Box 3). The patient responded in shock and, no doubt, with better dialysis participation.

Box 3

Template to explain residual renal function of 2% (hatched area) in an otherwise sclerosed kidney (dots)

Aboriginal patients may not be as trusting of medical implements as others. Refusal of an ear examination, for example, may be overcome by allowing such a patient to look through the otoscope to understand how it works. Silence plays an important role in Indigenous cultures.9,12,13

Indigenous people often respond to questions after a prolonged pause, a concept foreign to those doctors who see silence as impolite in their own cultures. They compensate by filling the silence and disrupting Indigenous patients’ thoughts. There is a simple solution — pause and allow the patient to think.

Studies1,2,3,4,14 have identified a widespread belief among Yolŋu people that information is deliberately withheld, mirroring culturally based misconceptions that lead many professionals to believe that Aboriginal patients do not want to know or that they do not experience pain.15

However, several studies1,4,14 clearly demonstrate the desire of Aboriginal people, both from the Top End and from Central Australia, for information about their illnesses and treatment. Effective communication methods, including the use of interpreters, are grossly underutilised, and frequently there is a failure to recognise that patients do not understand.

In a study of 41 Yolŋu people, only 11 found explanations about diagnosis and treatment satisfactory.4 Other studies have shown that even when patients are satisfied, gross misunderstandings may still exist.2 Trudgen9 again gives an example of how this may occur. A doctor explained to a patient that he “could not tell conclusively why [the patient’s] heart was enlarged”. The patient subsequently interpreted this to be that the doctor had no idea why his heart was enlarged and decided not to engage in treatment. Had the doctor avoided use of “intangible” conceptual English words and vague unrevealing sentences, instead focusing on factual communication, this error could have been avoided.

A failure to develop an adequate understanding does run deeper than words. For traditionally oriented Aboriginal people living in remote areas, understanding of disease causation is fundamentally different. Serious diseases, even accidents, are often attributed to sorcery.16,17 Germ theory and the immune system are foreign concepts.

Traditionally oriented Aboriginal people typically have detailed knowledge of anatomy from hunting, butchering and observing nature,9,18 but the perceived function of the kidneys, lungs, pancreas and other internal organs may be quite different. Finding common ground between these understandings is no easy task, but it is important to understand that it may play into medical treatments in the same way as having insight into the use of alternative medicines does in other cultures.

These examples may seem plain and obvious, but astoundingly, despite the many hours dedicated to communication in medical education, such concepts are not taught. Some strategies are provided in Box 4. There is an urgent need to pay more attention to communication needs of remote Aboriginal people.

Communication strategies

A refusal to take Aboriginal languages seriously not only results directly in less than optimal medical outcomes, but also in mistrust and disengagement with the health sector and non-compliance with treatment regimens.3

An investment of time in the consult will have immense payoffs over the long term. We cannot expect our medical students and colleagues to adapt without teaching.

Concepts are simple to grasp with knowledge of the languages and cultures. Is effective establishment of the Aboriginal patient–doctor relationship not one of the more teachable aspects of communication for generations of doctors?

Education is the way forward to a practical and high impact population of medical staff who contribute to the health and pride of the people who are Australia’s national treasures.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News : 10 Winners profiles National #NAIDOC2017 Awards

The National NAIDOC Committee on the weekend congratulated ten outstanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who were honoured at the 2017 National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony in Cairns.

See all 10 winners profiles full below Part 2

Dianne Ryder, a proud Noongar woman from Western Australia, was honoured with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. Dianne served a 21 year career in the Army, being awarded the Army Australia Day Medallion in 1990.

She is currently the President of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans Association of WA and challenges us all to consider how we can improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Elverina Johnson, a highly respected Gurugulu and Indinji Gimuy women from Yarrabah in far north Queensland won the Artist of the Year award. Elverina has been involved in the arts industry for over 30 years as a singer, songwriter, playwright, actor, photographer and artist.

She believes that the arts can empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and restore a genuine sense of pride in their culture and communities.

The Person of the Year Award, sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank, went to National Basketball Association (NBA) Champion and a three time Olympian, Patrick Mills. Patrick is a Muralag man from the Torres Strait, Ynunga man from South Australia who is dedicated to using his international profile to promote and raise awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

NACCHO extends its congratulations to all of the 2017 National NAIDOC Award winners and nomination

“It is inspiring to see the tireless work being done by so many talented and dedicated individuals to benefit themselves, their communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across our land,” said Committee Co-Chair, Benjamin Mitchell.

Congratulations to:

• Minjerribah Moorgumpin Elders-in-Council Aboriginal Corporation (QLD) – Caring for Country Award winner

• Latia Schefe (QLD) – Youth of the Year

• Elverina Johnson (QLD) – Artist of the Year

• Dr James Charles (SA) – Scholar of the Year

• Sharee Yamashita (QLD) – Apprentice of the Year

• Amanda Reid (NSW) – Sportsperson of the Year

• Faye Carr (QLD) – Female Elder of the Year

• Ollie George (WA) – Male Elder of the Year

• Patrick Mills (QLD/SA) – Person of the Year

• Dianne Ryder (WA) – Lifetime Achievement Award winner

2017 National NAIDOC Theme – Our Languages Matter

The importance, resilience and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages will be the focus of national celebrations marking NAIDOC Week 2017.

The 2017 theme – Our Languages Matter – aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.

Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the continent at first (significant) European contact in the late eighteenth century. Most of these languages would have had several dialects, so that the total number of named varieties would have run to many hundreds.

 Search languages with this interactive website

Today only around 120 of those languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on.

National NAIDOC Committee Co-Chair Anne Martin said languages are the breath of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the theme will raise awareness of the status and importance of Indigenous languages across the country.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages are not just a means of communication, they express knowledge about everything:  law, geography, history, family and human relationships, philosophy, religion, anatomy, childcare, health, caring for country, astronomy, biology and food.

“Each language is associated with an area of land and has a deep spiritual significance and it is through their own languages, that Indigenous nations maintain their connection with their ancestors, land and law,” Ms Martin said.

“We are grateful to have worked with some outstanding partners this year, whose support contributed to success of the 2017 national celebrations.” said Committee Co-Chair, Anne Martin.

The Awards were hosted at the Cairns Convention Centre and attended by just under 1000 guests including the Yirrganydi and Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people, the Cairns community, federal and state politicians and high profile Indigenous affairs identities.

The Committee welcomed back Hannah Hollis and Luke Carroll as hosts for the evening alongside a colourful line-up of entertainment including the AustraNeisia and Gondwana Indigneous Childrens choirs, Torres Strait Islander dance groups Gerib Sik and Naygayiw Gigi, local band The Nightshift and teen superstar Isaiah Firebrace.

The Committee thanks all involved in making this year another successful National NAIDOC event.

“It is a privilege to stage the Awards each year in a different city around our sacred country. I would like to thank the Cairns NAIDOC Committee for its assistance with the Awards and the Yirrganydi and Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people for welcoming us onto their land”, said Mr Mitchell.

Lastly, congratulations to Sydney which was announced last night as the National NAIDOC Host City for 2017.

Highlights of the night are available at http://www.nitv.org.au

For more information on NAIDOC Week and the 2016 National NAIDOC Awards winners, visit www.naidoc.org.au

 

Caring for Country Award – Minjerribah Moorgumpin Elders -in -Council

The Minjerribah Moorgumpin Elders-in-Council Aboriginal Corporation in Queensland was created to record and teach people about caring for Country for future generations. They represent descendants of the Noonuccal, Ngugi and Goenpul people of North Stradbroke (Minjerribah), Moreton (Moorgumpin) and the Moreton Bay (Quandamooka) islands.

Each year the Elders deliver cultural education services to approximately 6000 participants. They teach knowledge of local languages; bush plants, and environmental management skills that they learned growing up.

As well as education, the Elders are preserving a regional ecosystem which includes significant vegetation and habitats.

Their success has seen the Elders involved in cultural heritage assessments, the publication of books to unique flora, bush tucker and medicinal plants of Stradbroke Island, and the re-introduction of local language to the younger generation, through publication of the Jandai Language Dictionary

Youth of the year – Latia Schefe

Latia Schefe is a young Yuggera woman from Brisbane, Queensland who has overcome serious illness and adversity to become a strong role model among her peers.

Diagnosed with Neuroblastoma cancer when she was only 6 years old, Latia endured multiple operations, chemotherapy and the loss of a kidney.

Despite her hardships, Latia went on to complete Year 12 education and in her final year was awarded the Jane Prentice Award for Indigenous Student of the Year.

Latia stands out as a promising future leader, participating in a Biking Program which fixes old bikes for people with disability, and coordinating local NAIDOC celebrations.

For her future, Latia wants join the police force, or drive the giant trucks in the mining industry

Artist of the Year – Elverina Johnson

Elverina Johnson is a highly respected Gurugulu and Indinji Gimuy women from Yarrabah in far north Queensland – and one of Australia’s most highly respected Indigenous artists.

With creative talents spanning the spectrum of visual and performing arts, Elverina has been involved in the arts industry for over 30 years as a singer, songwriter, playwright, actor, photographer and artist.

She believes that the arts can empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and restore a genuine sense of pride in their culture and communities, and works with youth and Elders alike to promote cultural respect and integrity.

Elverina volunteers her time to address critical social issues impacting on the lives of people in Indigenous communities, living true to her traditional family name -Bunya Badjil – which means “Good Woman”

Scholar of the year –Dr James Charles

Dr James Charles is a Kaurna man from Adelaide, South Australia and is currently working at Charles Sturt University as a lecturer in Podiatry.

He graduated from the University of South Australia in podiatry, completed his Masters, recently completed his PhD, and his research is being published in peer review journals.

James is passionate about providing podiatry services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and believes that foot health is undervalued. He has worked for many years at leading Universities, educating on providing culturally appropriate health care.

In 2008 James undertook a two year chairmanship of the newly formed Indigenous Allied Health Network, an organisation he helped build.

Always giving back to his community, James has raised significant money for the Rotary Indigenous Health Fund to provide scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Apprentice of the Year – Sharee Yamashita

Sharee Yamashita is a young Thanikwithi woman from Thursday Island who has recently completed her Electrical apprenticeship while managing the demanding responsibilities of a young family. She is now a full time employee working with Rio Tinto in Weipa on the Cape York Peninsula.

Sharee has overcome many obstacles along her journey, and says her determination has been inspired by many people, including her father. Her success in her apprenticeship has increased her confidence and she is keen to share her journey to inspire others.

Sharee’s leadership has a powerful positive impact on everyone that she interacts with. Her success in a male dominated industry makes Sharee an important role model for other young Indigenous women.

Sharee’s goal for the future is to help other young people to create opportunities and succeed in their chosen careers.

Sportsperson of the year – Amanda Reid

Amanda Reid is Gurinagi & Wamba Wamba women from Sydney, New South Whales and an accomplished Indigenous Paralympic athlete.

Amanda is the first Aboriginal cyclist and medallist, winning Silver at Rio 2016, and the first female athlete since 1992 to achieve a podium status.

Amanda is the current UCI Para World Cycling Champion in the 3000 meter Pursuit and the 500 meter time trail, breaking the Paralympic record in Rio.

Previously an Australia Day ambassador and currently delivering presentations in local schools, Amanda is an inspirational role model to all Australians. She mentors young disabled athletes as well as Aboriginal youth in care and plans to increase her community work prove that people with disability can achieve in their community.

Amanda lives every day by her mantra “dream it, believe it and you will be it.”

Female Elder of the year – Faye Carr

Faye Carr is a Yuggera Elder from Ipswich in Queensland, who has overcome a tough childhood to become a strong advocate and leader in her community.

Passionate about sharing her culture and knowledge with her community, Faye has been contributing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people since the 1960’s.

Faye was involved in establishing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, the Kambu Progress Association and the Kambu Aboriginal to deliver important legal, housing, recreational and health services to Ipswich and broader Queensland. Among many accolades, Faye was honoured with Ipswich Citizen of the Year in 2016.

Always an advocate for her people, Faye recently met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other key stakeholders to raise awareness about the impacts of domestic violence on women and families.

Male Elder of the year – Ollie George

Ollie George is a Badimaya Elder from Western Australia who has worked tirelessly since the early 1990s to preserve his mother tongue, Badimaya.

He has taught Badimaya at the school in his hometown of Mt Magnet and works with community members to create language materials and resources. He has recorded hundreds of hours of Badimaya language, much of it by himself.

Since 2012, Ollie has worked to produce 7 publications in Badimaya, has been featured in two ‘Indigenous Community Stories’ by the Film and TV Institute of WA, and the primary consultant on several projects on Badimaya language and country.

Ollie is now completing his ‘Nganang Badimaya Wangga’, a project based on 24 yarns he tells about life growing up on his country, learning language from old people, and the cultural and historical legacy of the Badimaya people.

Person of the year – Patrick Mills

Patrick Mills is a Muralag man from the Torres Strait, Ynunga man from South Australia and sporting legend.

A National Basketball Association (NBA) Champion and a three time Olympian Patrick is a member of the San Antonio Spurs who famously won the 2014 NBA Championship.

Patrick is the first Indigenous player to represent Australian Men’s Basketball at three consecutive Olympic Games and is preparing for his record fourth Games in Tokyo 2020.

He is the youngest player to represent Australia in Men’s Basketball and he holds the Olympic record for being the overall highest points scorer at the London Olympics in 2012. Patrick has won numerous awards including ACT Young Australian of the Year in 2015 and ACT Sports Male Athlete of the Year in 2016.

Patrick uses his international profile to promote and raise awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and often takes time to share parts of his language with his teammates.

A strong role model, Patrick’s goal for the future is to be an ambassador for Indigenous people and continue educating the world on his culture. Patrick says ‘It’s who I am. It’s what I know – even more than basketball.’

Life time achievement award – Dianne Ryder

Dianne Ryder is a proud Noongar woman from Western Australia with a legendary reputation for her contribution to family, community and country.

After school, Dianne embarked on a 21-year career with the army and in 1990, she was awarded the Army Australia Day Medallion.

Since leaving the Army, Dianne has worked as a community outreach worker in Sydney and later Perth. She is currently the President of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans Association of WA and heavily involved with the Indigenous Veterans Memorial Service.

Her contribution and involvement with her community has led to her being sought out to share her wisdom with government departments and politicians at a state and national level. In 2015, Dianne was nominated for Australian of the year in 2015 and for the Prime Ministers Advisory Council on Mental health.

Dianne’s favorite saying is “Just imagine …” where she challenges us all to consider how we can improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : #NTIntervention: Ten years on and what has been achieved?

 

” The intervention was a “debacle” and a new attempt with Indigenous involvement “couldn’t do any worse .

I suggest a “mark two of what was attempted under the intervention”: a 10-year “Marshall plan” between federal and territory governments but with Aboriginal people as expert advisers on a planning, oversight and implementation committee.

It’s not enough to pay us the cursory privilege of being consulted, where our voices are not listened to and where we have no role in decision-making,” she said. “We couldn’t do any worse than what’s being done today, surely.”

Olga Havnen, the chief executive of the Danila Dilba Aboriginal health service see Part 2 story below

 “I  describe the intervention as “a complete violation of the human rights of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.

The legacy is that Aboriginal people were completely disempowered.

They had the Army going into communities in their uniforms. They had no idea why the Army was there. People were terrified that they’d come to take the kids away.”

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation chief executive Pat Turner see story part 3 NT Intervention: Australia’s most costly ‘political stunt’

As the national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples calls for a fundamental reset of government and community relations with us, beginning with the implementation of the Uluru Statement resolutions for constitutional reform. Congress stands ready to fill the role of the advisory body to parliament.”

“We also call for the immediate implementation of the Redfern Statement, which provides a roadmap for how governments can work collaboratively with us to develop efficient and effective programs”

Congress press release Part 1 Below

Part 1 The Northern Territory Intervention: Ten years on and what has been achieved?

As a federal election loomed a decade ago, facing disappointing polls the government of the day was scandalized by sexual abuse in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities and proposed an intervention to improve the life chances of Aboriginal children.

The program won bipartisan support and continued under a new name, Stronger Futures, when the government changed. Closing the Gap targets were announced and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to improve the health, education, housing and employment status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around the country, and especially those living in remote communities.

A decade on, it is timely to consider results:

  • The annual Closing the Gap report shows that six of the seven targets are not on track.
  •  We understand that there has not been a single prosecution for child sexual abuse as a result of these programs.
  •  Aboriginal men have been stigmatized as drunken, irresponsible pedophiles.
  •  Provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act have been ignored to allow the Intervention to proceed.
  •  Communities have been weakened by the downgrading of local self-government. Those who presume to know what is best for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have had their way.
  •  Tax payers are askance at the shocking waste of public monies on ineffective programs, for which many blame Aboriginal people.
  •  Most notably in the Northern Territory, but in the states as well, shocking abuses of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander juveniles have been uncovered.
  •  Incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children have sky rocketed.
  •  United Nations representatives have issued reports critical of the Intervention and of government relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • The 97 recommendations of the 2007 Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle (Little Children are Sacred) report have been ignored.

A longer list would add to the inevitable conclusion that there is a crisis in Indigenous Affairs.

“The rationale for the Intervention was to protect Aboriginal children and to provide them with a better future. Health, education and well-being statistics demonstrate failure of the Intervention. There have been very few positive outcomes to show for the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent on the Intervention and related programs,” he said.

Part 2 NT intervention a ‘debacle’ and second attempt should be made, commission told

from Helen Davidson The Guardian

A 10-year Northern Territory intervention “mark two” could address the failings of the first one, which has seen most of the money “squandered”, the Northern Territory royal commission has heard.

Olga Havnen, the chief executive of the Danila Dilba Aboriginal health service, said the intervention was a “debacle” and a new attempt with Indigenous involvement “couldn’t do any worse”.

Havnen, who is also a former coordinator general for remote services in the NT, made the comments before the royal commission into the protection and detention of children on Thursday.

The hearing has coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the federal government’s emergency intervention into the region, which has been criticised as draconian and removing self-determination from Indigenous communities while failing to address Indigenous inequality.

Havnen told the hearing the NT was still reliant on federal funds and still failing to involve Indigenous people and organisations properly.

This week the commission heard the rates of child protection cases and notifications has more than doubled in the 10 years since the intervention. Separately, NT budget estimates revealed the number of children in out of home care had tripled, while the proportion in had dropped 20%.

Havnen said many government contracts were still procured without proper assessment of whether the organisation had the capability to work with Indigenous communities.

“These arrangements are absolutely stunning and I think are largely a legacy of the intervention supposedly committed to improving Aboriginal communities,” she said.

“By any measure the vast majority of that money has been squandered, and the people who made those decisions need to be held to account in my view.

“Just on the very cursory amount of information we have access to, you have to go: what the hell is actually really going on here and why does this continue to happen?”

Earlier this week the commission heard evidence a private business, Safe Pathways, had charged the Northern Territory government $85,000 a month to run a residential home for a maximum of four children.

A former Safe Pathways manager, Tracey Hancock, told the commission the amount would include staff wages but she didn’t have any further information on what the money was for.

Safe Pathways reportedly told the ABC the charges had been approved and accepted by the NT government.

“We get held up to be accountable as Aboriginal service providers and our level of accountability and transparency – every dollar we spend and commit, including performance outcomes, is well and truly documented,” Havnen said on Thursday.

“But you go and look at these websites for a lot of these NGOs running out-of-home services, there’s no detail about their governance arrangement, there’s no annual report, there’s no financial transparency or accountability. How is this good for anybody?”

Havnen earlier told the commission governments treated large non-Indigenous organisations as equal partners more than they did Indigenous organisations. She also said there were Indigenous organisations across the NT that were “well placed” to provide services currently contracted to non-Indigenous NGOs.

Aboriginal health services across the NT would be asked by the department to provide client medical records when there was an investigation “and yet we seem to be completely invisible to them as a capable partner and potential resource” to assist the department and vulnerable families, she said.

She said it seemed ironic and suggested the commission look at where remote Aboriginal health services were located. “Many of them are in those communities where we know large numbers of Aboriginal children are being removed from.”

Story 3 NT Intervention: Australia’s most costly ‘political stunt’

THE Federal Government’s radical plan to forcibly intervene in Aboriginal communities and impose restrictions on individuals was a billion dollar “political stunt”, a former political head has said.

WATCH SKYNEWS COVERAGE

The Northern Territory Emergency Response, known as “the Intervention”, was launched unilaterally by the Howard Government 10 years ago today.

It saw widespread alcohol bans and other restrictions imposed on 73 remote indigenous communities, as well as forced land leases, and changes to welfare under the Northern Territory Response Act 2007. The Racial Discrimination Act was suspended by the Commonwealth so thousands of indigenous people could have their welfare payments put onto “basics cards” for essential items. The Army, federal police and medical professionals were deployed to the communities for logistical support and health checks. The community development employment projects (CDEP) scheme was disbanded which limited job prospects for locals and an already limited support of bilingual education was cut off.

Communities that boasted distinctive ways of life as the oldest living culture in the world were suddenly referred to as “prescribed areas”, then “towns”, with individuals in need of reform.

Mr Howard said the Commonwealth had “responded” because the NT government of the day had failed to take action as recommended by the Little Children are Sacred report on child sexual abuse in NT indigenous communities.

The Intervention has cost Australian taxpayers more than one billion dollars but has largely proved ineffective in making a positive impact on the lives of those it denigrated.

NT’s first Labor chief minister Clare Martin said it was nothing more than a “political stunt” that was rolled out without her consultation when she was in power.

“(Then Prime Minister John Howard) didn’t ring me to say ‘can we talk about a possible intervention’, he rang me and said ‘there is an intervention taking place, I’m not going to talk to you about it, and it’s a done deal’,’ she told Sky News earlier today.

“I was stunned. I had no idea it was going to happen. I don’t think most people in the Territory — Aboriginal people who were the subject of it — they didn’t know it was going to happen, and very quickly you worked out it was mostly a political stunt.”

Ms Martin told the program she offered to fly to Canberra to discuss the plan but Mr Howard told her he was ‘too busy’ to meet.

“I thought for six years I had worked reasonably well with John Howard,” she said.

“I wasn’t in the same party as John Howard, but we always seemed to manage to sort things out, and then to be used as a political strategy like it obviously was, I just felt really deflated.

“My first thought when Howard rang me was to say expletives and resign and then I thought ‘well that’s just not mature’, but I did after that plan when I would leave.”

Ms Martin kept her position in the 2007 federal election then resigned as chief minister in November of the same year.

But she wasn’t the only one critical of the Intervention with the full scale of the blunder quickly revealing itself. It has widely been criticised for not directly involving Aboriginal people and instead giving rise to a remarkable spurt of government-funded activity that went on around them.

Twenty thousand Territorians are now on income management, despite the scheme not meeting its aims, according to a report.

Earlier this week, royal commissioners were told child protection notifications, substantiations and out-of-home placements had all more than doubled since 2007.

About 50 per cent of indigenous children in the NT now come to the attention of the child protection system by the age of 10, the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory heard on Monday.

Aboriginal women from the remote Central Australian community of Ampilatwatja performing at a public ceremony in 2010 to protest against the Northern Territory intervention. Picture: Chris Graham.

Aboriginal women from the remote Central Australian community of Ampilatwatja performing at a public ceremony in 2010 to protest against the Northern Territory intervention. Picture: Chris Graham.Source:Supplied

Signs — like this one outside Alice Springs — were erected in many Aboriginal communities following the rollout of the NT Intervention.

Signs — like this one outside Alice Springs — were erected in many Aboriginal communities following the rollout of the NT Intervention.Source:News Limited

New figures by the Menzies School of Health research that were presented to the Royal Commission indicated the intervention has not made a difference.

“The data that we have shows that since the intervention rates of child protection notifications, substantiations and out of home care have all doubled and so if that’s an outcome we’re looking at, the intervention has really failed to make a difference for that particular outcome,” school spokesperson Sven Silburn said.

Professor Silburn said the lack of proper community engagement, which he said might have given the Intervention a better chance of success, was a “great mistake”.

Footage of children detained at Don Dale recently sparked a royal commission into the maltreatment of youths in detention. It came as the Territory’s incarceration rate hit a 15-year high — the highest per capita rate in Australia — with one per cent of the population behind bars and more than 85 per cent of inmates indigenous.

Federal indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion recently said the Intervention was flawed.

“I think it would have been far better to do some of the same things with the full compliance of the community rather than the community having the sense that it was imposed on us, so yes of course we could have done it better,” Mr Scullion said during a recent visit to the central Australian community of Mutitjulu, which was at the front line of the Intervention.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, community, families have to be at the centre of the decisions, if we’re going to make substantive and sustainable change.”

Central Australian Aboriginal leader Bess Price has been vocal about the high level of violence in central Australian indigenous communities and supported the Northern Territory intervention.

Central Australian Aboriginal leader Bess Price has been vocal about the high level of violence in central Australian indigenous communities and supported the Northern Territory intervention.Source:Supplied

 

Some high profile indigenous politicians and community members have expressed support for the Intervention.

Former Chair of the Northern Territory’s indigenous Affairs Advisory Council, Bess Price previously said the Intervention has “had an impact on the grog, the alcohol, and it’s made life a bit better for the children”.

“It’s gonna take years to fix not everything, but right now, it’s done a huge amount of, you know, change in the way people have thought about children as well in regards to their health and wellbeing,” Ms Price told the ABC in 2011.

Ms Price later came under attack for her comments from indigenous lawyer Larissa Behrendt who used her Twitter account to describe watching bestiality on TV as “less offensive than Bess Price”.

News.com.au has contacted Ms Price for comment.

megan.palin@news.com.au

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : The #NTIntervention 10 years on – history and evaluations

 ” And when the government announced the Intervention and commenced it, they sent in what they called ‘government business managers’ who were, in effect, the old, you know, ‘protectors’ of Aboriginals, the, you know, the old superintendents, the mission managers.

I mean, this is 10 years ago, this is not a hundred years ago, and Aboriginal people were being treated like this. It was almost a violation of every possible human right you could think of.”

Pat Turner AM CEO NACCHO speaking to Nick Grimm ABC (see full Interview Below

 

 Picture above : Powerhouse panel at UTS Sydney last night talking about the 10th anniversary of the #NTIntervention: @KylieSambo @Bunbajee Pat Turner & @LarissaBehrendt #IndigenousX

  ” In August 2007 the Howard Liberal Government enacted the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act, or, “the Intervention”. Liberal politicians marketed it as a solution to problems within Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

These problems include health, housing, employment and justice.  When Labor was in power it continued the Intervention’s major initiatives.

See 10 Years history of the NT Intervention Below Part 2 after the Interview

 Major General David Chalmers, of the Inter-Agency Northern Territory Emergency Response Task Force, and Mal Brough, indigenous affairs minister, are greeted by David Wongway, a member of the Imanpa Local Community Council

 ” In 2008, following the change of government after the 2007 Federal Election, the Rudd Labor Government re-framed the intervention through a new national policy focus on “Closing the Gap”. Rudds’ intention to re-work the Intervention to focus more closely on reforming the welfare system linked closely with the already existing targets of the Close the Gap Campaign.

The aims of the campaign are set out in the 2012 National Indigenous Reform Agreement ”

 The Intervention and the Closing the Gap Campaign see part 3

 ” Evaluating the Intervention is not an easy task. Impartial data is difficult to find and there is a mass of complex and conflicting information. However, by looking at the Closing the Gap targets that were set by the Government and considering human rights concerns, we have provided our assessment. Below we give major features of the Intervention a score out of 10.  We also score it for compliance with human rights.”

Issues with Evaluating the Interventionhow did we work out our grades? Part 4

NT Intervention – nothing has changed for the better: Pat Turner

Hear Interview HERE

NICK GRIMM: Ten years ago this week, one of the defining moments in Australian national life began unfolding in remote communities in the outback.

The Northern Territory intervention was launched by the then Howard government in response to reports of social dysfunction and allegations of endemic abuse of women and children in remote communities.

Since then, the policy has continued under governments of both persuasions.

But 10 years on critics of the Intervention say it’s fixed nothing.

Pat Turner is currently CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

She was previously a CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, ATSIC, and had a long career as a senior Commonwealth public servant.

I spoke to Pat Turner a little earlier.

Pat Turner, can I start by asking you this: Ten years on, what’s the best thing you have to say about the Northern Territory Intervention?

PAT TURNER: (Laughs) Nothing, really, I’m afraid.

It was a complete violation of the human rights of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.

It came out of the blue, following the Commonwealth Government’s reading and response to The Little Children Are Sacred report.

NICK GRIMM: So how would you describe the legacy of the process that began 10 years ago?

PAT TURNER: Well, I think it’s still a shambles.

You know, both sides of politics were responsible.

While it was introduced by the Liberal government, the Coalition under John Howard and Mal Brough, it was carried on also by Jenny Macklin and Kevin Rudd and Gillard and so on.

So the legacy is that Aboriginal people were completely disempowered.

They had the Army going into communities in their uniforms. They had no idea why the Army was there.

You know, to send the Army in at a time like that was just totally confusing. People were terrified that they’d come to take the kids away. There would be no explanation as to why they were going in.

And it wasn’t their fault; it was the way the Government handled it.

The government also, at the time, insisted that every child under 16 have a full medical check. Now, actually what they were looking for, I think, was whether a child had been sexually abused.

And we said, at the time, those of us who were opposed to the way the Government was handling this, “You cannot do that without parental permission. You must have parental permission. You would not do a medical check on any other child in Australia and you should not do that with our children without their parents’ say-so”.

And what’s more, fine, go ahead, do a full medical check, but what are you going to do when you find the otitis media, when you find the trachoma, when you find the upper respiratory diseases, when you find rheumatic heart disease? Where…

NICK GRIMM: All those common medical conditions in those areas.

PAT TURNER: Absolutely, absolutely. And what are you going to do to treat these people?

Because you don’t have the health services that Aboriginal people should have. You don’t have those in place.

And they were paying doctors a phenomenal salary.

They also, of course, introduced the infamous cashless welfare card, called it ‘income management’, where 60 per cent of the income was quarantined for food and clothes and so on.

People weren’t allowed to get access to video, so that was a… and that was fine for X-rated videos and adult videos, but certainly not for entertainment, which a lot of families relied on in outlying communities.

And it had ramifications. I mean, there was a young Aboriginal businesswoman in Tennant Creek whose business went bust because she couldn’t hire out videos.

NICK GRIMM: Well, in your view, can we say that anything has changed for the better in those remote communities?

PAT TURNER: No.

Look, the other thing that happened at the time, Nick, was there was a reform in local government.

So, from the hundreds of Aboriginal community councils that were in place, they all became part of these super shires, nine super shires, so all the decision making at the local community level had evaporated.

And when the government announced the Intervention and commenced it, they sent in what they called ‘government business managers’ who were, in effect, the old, you know, ‘protectors’ of Aboriginals, the, you know, the old superintendents, the mission managers.

I mean, this is 10 years ago, this is not a hundred years ago, and Aboriginal people were being treated like this. It was almost a violation of every possible human right you could think of.

And what’s more, I called it at the time the Trojan Horse to get the land that our people have under freehold inalienable title in the Northern Territory.

And I thought it was a land grab, and I still believe that, you know, the Commonwealth certainly wanted to have a greater say over Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory – as did the Northern Territory Government, by the way.

NICK GRIMM: Yeah, well we’ve talked about the situation on the ground there in the Northern Territory.

What then would you say have been the national implications of the Intervention?

PAT TURNER: Well, I think without the evidence they’ve adopted – you know, Alan Tudge is very keen on the cashless welfare card, as is Twiggy Forrest, who promoted it.

While I see that, you know, there may be, you know, some opportunity for women to buy more food, it’s fine if you have access to fresh produce at a reasonable price that you could expect to pay in a major regional centre like Alice Springs.

You go out to the communities, the prices are at least double if not tripled, and they’re stale, rotten, old vegetables and meats and so on.

So, you know, that’s where government services need to step up through their outback stores and make sure that people are getting really fresh produce all the time, and healthy produce.

NICK GRIMM: Alright, Pat Turner, thanks very much for talking to us.

PAT TURNER: You’re most welcome. Thank you.

NICK GRIMM: Pat Turner is CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

Part 2

” In August 2007 the Howard Liberal Government enacted the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act, or, “the Intervention”. Liberal politicians marketed it as a solution to problems within Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

These problems include health, housing, employment and justice.  When Labor was in power it continued the Intervention’s major initiatives. “

See 10 Years history of the NT Intervention

Intervention was directed at addressing the disproportionate levels of violence in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, as well as the endemic disadvantage suffered in terms of health, housing, employment and justice.

It was also a direct response to the Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle Report (‘Little Children are Sacred Report’) into sexual abuse of Indigenous children. This report was commissioned by the then Northern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin following an interview on the ABC’s Lateline program, in which Alice Springs Senior Crown Prosecutor Dr Nanette Rogers SC commented that the violence and sexual abuse of children that was entrenched in Indigenous society was ‘beyond most people’s comprehension and range of human experience’. The then Commonwealth Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, indicated in his second reading speech introducing the NTNERA that “[t]his bill… and the other bills introduced in the same package are all about the safety and wellbeing of children.”

The Little Children are Sacred Report was the result of in-depth research, investigation and community consultation over a period of over eight months by members of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry. The focus of their inquiry was instances of sexual abuse, especially of children, in Northern Territory Indigenous communities. The findings were presented to Chief Minister Martin in April 2007 and released to the public in June. The striking facts, graphic imagery and ardent plea for action contained in this report saw this issue gain widespread attention both in the media and in the political agenda, inciting divisive debate and discussion.

The NTNERA was enacted by the Howard Government just two months after the report was released to the public, allowing little time for consultation with Indigenous communities. It was framed as a ‘national emergency’ with army troops being deployed to Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. This took place in the lead up to the 2007 Federal Election, in which the Labor Party under Kevin Rudd defeated the Howard Government after four terms of Liberal government.

The Intervention in 2007

The Intervention was a $587 million package of legislation that made a number of changes affecting specified Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. It included restrictions on alcohol, changes to welfare payments, acquisition of parcels of land, education, employment and health initiatives, restrictions on pornography and other measures.

The package of legislation introduced included:

  • NorthernTerritory National Emergency Response Act 2007.
  • Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Bill 2007.
  • Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment. (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Act 2007.
  • Appropriation (NorthernTerritory National Emergency Response) Bill (No. 1) 2007-2008.
  • Appropriation (NorthernTerritory National Emergency Response) Bill (No. 2) 2007-2008.

In order to enact this package of legislation, several existing laws were affected or partially suspended, including:

  •  Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
  •  Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.
  • Native Title Act 1993(Cth).
  • Northern Territory Self-Government Act and related legislation.
  • Social Security Act 1991.
  • IncomeTax Assessment Act 1993.

A raft of reforms and regulations were introduced by this package of legislation, including:

  • Restricting the sale, consumption and purchase of alcohol in prescribed areas. This included the prohibition of alcohol in certain areas prescribed by the legislation, making collection of information compulsory for purchases over a certain amount and the introduction of new penalty provisions.
  • ‘Quarantining’ 50% of welfare payments from individuals living in designated communities and from beneficiaries who were judged to have neglected their children.
  • Compulsorily acquiring townships held under title provisions of the Native Title Act 1993 with the introduction of five year leases in order to give the government unconditional access. Sixty-five Aboriginal communities were compulsorily acquired.
  • Linking income support payments to school attendance for all people living on Aboriginal land, and providing mandatory meals for children at school at parents’ cost.
  • Introducing compulsory health checks for all Aboriginal children.
  • Introducing pornography filters on publicly funded computers, and bans on pornography in designated areas.
  • Abolishing the permit system under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 for common areas, road corridors and airstrips for prescribed communities,.
  • Increasing policing levels in prescribed communities. Secondments were requested from other jurisdictions to supplement NT resources.
  • Marshalling local workforces through the work-for-the-dole program to clean-up and repair communities.
  • Reforming living arrangements in prescribed communities through introducing market based rents and normal tenancy arrangements.
  • Commonwealth funding for the provision of community services.
  • Removing customary law and cultural practice considerations from bail applications and sentencing in criminal trials.
  • Abolishing the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP).

Changes under successive governments

After an initial focus on preventing child sexual abuse, successive federal governments re-designed and re-framed the Intervention. This involved linking the Intervention with the broader ‘Closing the Gap’ campaign, introducing new measures such as the BasicsCard and tougher penalties for the possession of alcohol and pornography. Changes were also made to the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act (see section on Human Rights). The current package of legislation retains the support of the Liberal Government and is due to expire in 2022.

2008 Changes

The Intervention was introduced in 2007 by the Howard Government, but a change of government in September of that year saw the Labor Government under Kevin Rudd gain power. After some consultation and minor changes, the NTNERA and associated legislation were initially maintained.

In 2008 Rudd apologised to the members of the Stolen Generations on behalf of the nation. In 2009, Rudd also declared support for the most substantive framework for the rights of Indigenous peoples, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The previous Howard government had voted against the ratification of this treaty. Article 3 of the Declaration states that:

‘Indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development’.

The failure to recognise this right to self-determination would become one of the major points of criticism for the Intervention.

In 2009 Rudd implemented the BasicsCard.  The card is used to manage income in certain areas of the Northern Territory. It cannot be used to purchase alcohol, tobacco, tobacco-products, pornography, gambling products or services, home-brew kits or home-brew concentrate.

During the period 2009-2010 the Rudd Government committed itself to a re-design of the Intervention, with a focus on reinstating the suspended provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA). The Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of Racial Discrimination Act) Act 2010 (Cth) repealed the ‘special measures’ that had been created under the original Intervention to suspend the operation of the RDA. However, this new legislation still did not comply with the RDA as it continued to discriminate against Indigenous Australians through land acquisition and compulsory income management.These measures overwhelmingly  affect Indigenous people.

The focus of the government then shifted slightly, concentrating more closely on the need to ‘tackle the destructive, intergenerational cycle of passive welfare’ (see then Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin’s second reading speech). The Rudd government explicitly linked the Intervention to the ‘Closing the Gap’ targets, changing the focus of the Intervention from the protection of children from sexual abuse to the reform of the welfare system.

2012 changes

The legislative basis for the Intervention was due to expire in 2012.  Decisions regarding its future had to be made. Under the Gillard Government, the StrongerFuturesin the Northern Territory Act 2012 (Stronger Futures) replaced the NTNERA and extended the Intervention for a further ten years to 2022.  The StrongerFutureslegislation comprises three principal Acts (the Stronger Futures package), plus associated delegated legislation. The three Acts are:

  • Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012;
  • Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2012; and
  • Social Security Legislation Amendment Act 2012.

In 2013, the  Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights examined Stronger Futures and the related legislation in their 11th Report. They noted that although the StrongerFutureslegislative package repealed the Northern Territory Emergency Response (‘NTER’) legislation, it retained three key policy elements:

  • The tackling alcohol abuse measure: the purpose of this measure was ‘to enable special measures to be taken to reduce alcohol-related harm to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.
  • The land reform measure: the land reform measure enabled the Commonwealth to amend Northern Territory legislation relating to community living areas and town
  • camps to enable opportunities for private home ownership in town camps and more flexible long-term leases.
  • The food security measure: the purpose of this measure was ‘to enable special measures to be taken for the purpose of promoting food security for Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory’; modifying the legislation involves a 10 year timeframe with most provisions other than the alcohol measures being reviewed after 7 years.

The key changes imposed under the 2012 Stronger Futures legislation package consist of:

  • Expansion of income management through the BasicsCard and the increase of ‘quarantined’ payments to 70%.
  • Increased penalties related to alcohol and pornography, with as much as 6-months jail time for a single can of beer.
  • Expansion of policy that links school attendance with continued welfare payments.
  • Introduction of licences for ‘community stores’ to ensure the provisions of healthy, quality food.
  • Commonwealth given power to make regulations regarding the use of town camps.

{Sources: SBS Factbox, Stronger Futures in the NT, Listening but not Hearing Report}

Although consultation with Indigenous communities did take place, there was much criticism of the nature of the consultative process and the extent to which it was acted upon. The ‘Listening butnot Hearing’ report by the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning concluded that “the Government’s consultation process has fallen short of Australia’s obligation to consult with Indigenous peoples in relation to initiatives that affect them”.

The Australian Council of Human Rights Agencies has also stated that it was ‘invasive and limiting of individual freedoms and human rights, and require[s] rigorous monitoring’. Amnesty International commented that the new package of legislation was the same as the original ‘Intervention, but with the pretence of being non-discriminatory.’

2014 changes

The current Intervention legislation is not due to expire until 2022. During his time as Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott supported extending the intervention into the future.

In a speech in February of 2014, then Prime Minister Abbott identified the importance of closing the gap through investment in indigenous programs, with a specific focus on school attendance. However, this speech was followed by massive budget cuts to Aboriginal legal and health services, early childhood education and childcare, and the consolidation of 150 Indigenous programs into 5 core programs. While the 2015 Budget reinstated funding to Family Violence legal services, these ongoing cuts are expected to detrimentally affect attempts to Close the Gap of Indigenous disadvantage.

The 2015 Budget modified the  Stronger Futures NPA, redirecting $988.2 million in funds to the new National Partnership Agreement on Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment  (NPA) over eight years. This new NPA prioritises schooling, community safety and employment. This funding also aims to help the Northern Territory Government take full responsibility for the delivery of services in remote Indigenous communities. Additional funding will also be made available to extend the income management scheme until 2017. However, the new NPA has halved the spending allocated to health measures, and means that the Federal Government will have less control over target outcomes.

Government administered funding of $1.4 billion, previously available under Stronger Futures, will not be transferred to the new NPA, but will be delivered by the departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Social Services, outside the NPA framework. The new NPA will be complemented by a Remote Indigenous Housing Strategy that will receive $1.1 billion nationally.

Part 3 The Intervention and the Closing the Gap Campaign

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) had identified six areas of Indigenous disadvantage to target as the basis for the Closing the Gap Campaign. These were:

  1. Early childhood;
  2. Schooling;
  3. Health;
  4. Economic Participation;
  5. Safe Communities; and
  6. Governance and Leadership (see Right to Self Determination below).

The Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory National Partnership Agreement (2009) ceased on the 30 June 2012. The Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory package which started on 1 July 2012 continued to support the Closing the Gap reforms.

The 6th Annual Progress Report on Closing the Gap was tabled in Parliament by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott on 12 February 2014. It outlined the commitments made by the Coalition government, including:

  • Consolidating the administration of Indigenous programs from eight government departments into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
  • Establishing the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council.
  • Increasing indigenous school  attendance  through  providing  $28.4 million funding for a remote school attendance program.
  • Improving indigenous  access to employment by commissioning a review and funding employment initiatives.
  • Supporting a referendum for the recognition of the First Australians in the Australian Constitution.

However, in the seventh annual progress report of 11 February 2015, then PM Tony Abbott labelled progress as ‘profoundly disappointing‘. The report concluded that 4 out of 7 targets were not on track to be met by their deadlines, with little progress in literacy and numeracy standards and a decline in employment outcomes since 2008.

Link to 2012 National Indigenous Reform agreement here.

Part 4 Issues with Evaluating the Intervention – how did we work out our grades? Part 4

Quantity of Evaluation:

The controversial nature of the Intervention and the need for expenditure to be accounted for has meant that there have been a large number of evaluations undertaken regarding various aspects of the Intervention. Within five years of the establishment of the Intervention, by December 2012, 98 reports, seven parliamentary inquiries and hundreds of submissions had been completed. However, the sheer quantity of these reports actually hinders the evaluation process, as it obstructs proper evaluation of effectiveness.

Impartiality of Evaluation:

The majority of evaluations of the Intervention have been undertaken by government departments and paid consultants. Australian National University researchers Jon Altman and Susie Russell suggest that the evaluation of the Intervention, instead of being an independent objective process, has been merged into the policy process and, in many cases, is performed by the policy-makers themselves. This means there is a real risk of evidence being ignored or hidden to suit an agenda.

Independent reports and government commissioned reports have often contradicted each other, with the government seeking to discredit independent reports rather than gathering additional data. This includes independent reports by researchers at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology Sydney, Concerned Australians and the Equality Rights Alliance, all of which have often come to different conclusions than government reports.

Quality and Consistency of Evaluation:

The ‘final evaluation’ of the Intervention under the NTNER occurred in November 2011 with the publication of the Northern Territory Emergency Response Evaluation ReportHowever, the Stronger Futures legislation did not come into effect until August 2012. This left eight months unaccounted for.

Closingthe Gap in the Northern Territory Monitoring Reports are conducted every six months. A significant criticism is that they focus on bureaucratic ‘outputs’ rather than outcomes. Income management studies, for example, have reported on ‘outputs’ such as the number of recipients of the Basics Card or the total amount of income quarantined, rather than focusing on the card’s effectiveness for health and child protection outcomes.

Much of the data collected has also relied on self-assessment in the form of surveys, such as asking individuals to rate their own health rather than collecting and analysing data on disease. Another issue is the ad hoc nature of some reports. For example, the review of the Alcohol Management Plan in Tennant Creek was only conducted once. This makes it difficult to make comparisons over the life of the policy and evaluate the effectiveness of particular measures.

Independent statistical data can be hard to find, since information compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics is national in scope and cannot be translated directly into the context of the individual Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. Indigenous Australians also have a lower median age than other Australians, meaning data on employment rates or incarceration rates can be statistically skewed.

Benchmarks for Evaluation:

ANU researchers Jon Altman and Susie Russell have noted that the “absence of an overarching evaluation strategy has resulted in a fragmented and confused approach”. They found that the 2007 Intervention did not have any documentation articulating the basis of the policy, nor how it should be evaluated. The first document to address this was the unpublished Program Logic Options Report which was developed in 2010; three years after the Intervention began. This means that there are no original benchmarks for evaluation, and that the decision to extend the program in 2012 was made without clear evidence as to its effectiveness. Furthermore, there is a limited connection between the benchmarks proposed in the 2010 Report and those used in later evaluations.

From #Mabo25 to #UluruStatement and #Treaty : Mabo Commemoration Oration : Senator Patrick Dodson

 ” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continue to call for a treaty and a strong Indigenous voice if nothing is done.

These calls only highlight the need for constitutional reform.

Australia cannot move forward while our founding document, our birth certificate, embodies our racist past. The stubborn stains in our racist Constitution must be erased.

  • Eddie Koiki Mabo would expect nothing less.
  • Eddie Koiki Mabo was a great Australian.

We can find the Mabo spirit within each of us, and work together to build a great Australia, free from racism, honorable and just.”

Part 2

 “Last month at Uluru, in the spirit of constitutional conventions from which we had previously been excluded, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gathered.

Their one page document, Uluru Statement from the Heart, issues a series of challenges to the Parliament and the people of Australia.

  • It calls for constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country.
  • It calls for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
  • It calls for a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

A treaty or agreement, whether one or many, would be an acknowledgment flowing from the Mabo decision that terra nullius is a discredited, outmoded legal fiction and that this land was taken from Aboriginal people.”

Senator Patrick Dodson on June 16 delivered  this year’s 2017 ANU Mabo Commemoration Oration at University House. The Mabo Commemoration Oration was held to recognise the 25th anniversary of the Mabo ruling.

In June 1992, the High Court of Australia recognised that a group of Torres Strait Islanders, led by Eddie Mabo, held ownership of Mer (Murray Island). In acknowledging the traditional rights of the Meriam people to their land, the Court also held that native title existed for all Indigenous people. This landmark decision gave rise to important native title legislation the following year and rendered terra nullius a legal fiction.

Senator Patrick Dodson is a Yawuru man from Broome in Western Australia. He has dedicated his life work to being an advocate for constructive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples based on mutual respect, understanding and dialogue. He is a recipient of the Sydney International Peace prize

Image above : On display at Parliament House Canberra in a careful hand with coloured pencils, Eddie Mabo drew this map in the shape of the Island of Mer, noting the family names associated with tracts of the Island, including his own family name.

Full Oration

Thank you very much Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt and thank you for the Welcome to Country. I too join in the appreciation of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people for their welcome to their lands.

It is a great honour for me to be here at the Australian National University tonight to deliver a speech in honour of the late Eddie Koiki Mabo.

  • Mr Mabo was a man of history.
  • He celebrated his Mer and Torres Strait Islander history.
  • He made Australian history.

So it is to history that I will turn to start my remarks.

On 26 January 1788, the British flag was raised at Botany Bay.

The land, now part of the City of Sydney, was the territorial property of the Gadigal and Bidigal people of the Eora nation. It was held and looked after by them, for countless generations.

With a cheer and a tot of rum, to the sounds of fife and drums, the colony of New South Wales was proclaimed.

Over time, other colonies were established in other parts of Australia or by separation of their territory from New South Wales.

• Queensland was one of those.

Over time, the boundaries of the Queensland colony were stretched to include offshore northern islands around 1859.

The lines on the map between Papua New Guinea and Australia included the Murray Islands, the largest of which is Murray Island or Mer.

  • In 1912, the Island of Mer was declared a Reserve under the Land Act 1910 (Qld).
  • In 1936, Eddie Mabo was born in Mer.
  • In 1982, Eddie Koiki Mabo and four other Murray Islanders commenced proceedings against the State of Queensland.

They claimed ownership of parcels of land on Mer as the holders of native title under their customary law.

This litigation, bearing the name of the man we commemorate tonight, transformed the modern Australian common law.

• The case changed our History.

• For the good. On the first floor of our Parliament, I walk past a display of foundation documents of  Australia’s law and society.

This week I watched a group of school children walk through the area on their tours of Parliament House, under a banner that reads, “Parliament is the law-making body which determines the rules of the society by which people live.”

A couple of young boys were looking at a case where a page out of an old-school notebook was on display.

In a careful hand with coloured pencils, Eddie Mabo had drawn the shape of the Island of Mer, noting the family names associated with tracts of the Island, including his own family name.

On the same floor, there are other important documents and paintings on display: The Yirrkala bark petition, the Barunga petition, the Kevin Rudd apology.

Each of these artefacts talks to our most significant national historical challenge.

How can we recognise and acknowledge the fact of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prior ownership of this land we now call Australia?

Mr Mabo’s map and the petitions call for all of us to recognise and acknowledge the fact  of occupation.

• to re-think the received colonial settler narrative. They remind us of the exertion of force by and on behalf of the British authorities.

  • The fact is: the British did not ask permission to settle.
  • The fact is: no-one consented, no-one ceded.
  • The fact is: the judiciary and the legislature have become less generous since The Mabo ruling.
  • The fact is: we need an agreement or treaty to settle not only the ongoing legacy of terra nullius but also the legacy of its existence.

The first peoples were in this land as owners and governors of their respective countries before and when the colonists ‘arrived’ and began to gradually occupy their territories and rule over them. Today those native title holders under the Native Title Act are evidence of their descent from their ancestors and are the living testimony of their prior occupation of their lands and waters.

They and their people proclaim continuing occupation. This land was not, and is not, terra nullius.

The only thing that threatens this is the application of extinguishment written into the Native Title Act. It is more sinister than its existence as a legal mechanism, because in most cases it requires the consent of the very people that hold the Native Title.

This is neither honourable, nor generous.

This is treachery and brings shame to the Mabo name. It belittles the vision and motives of Mr Mabo and the other families who fought and won a seminal victory in the High Court.

The Chief Justice of Australia who heard the Mabo case, Justice Sir Gerard Brennan made this determination on 3rd June 1992 :

  • The common law of Australia rejects the notion that, when the Crown acquired sovereignty over territory which is now part of Australia it thereby acquired the absolute beneficial ownership of the land therein, and
  • accepts that the antecedent rights and interests in land possessed by the indigenous inhabitants of the territory survived the change in sovereignty.
  • Those antecedent rights and interests thus constitute a burden on the radical title of the Crown.

His decision in the Mabo case ruled that:

• the Meriam people are entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of the island of Mer.

Rejecting the notion of “terra nullius”, native title was found to have survived the acquisition of sovereignty.

Of course the High Court as an instrument of our Constitution cannot rule on the issue of sovereignty.

It took ten long years to resolve the Mabo claim. It is a poignant tragedy that Koiki Mabo did not live long enough to hear the decision of the High Court.

  • To celebrate the recognition of what he knew in his heart and mind to be the truth
  • His country was in Mer.

From our viewpoint in history, we see the Case that bears his name as a major landmark, a signpost for our future. But the road is long and at times the travelling is hard going.

The Mabo decision led to an eruption of controversy and alarm, in much of mainstream Australia.

Mabo was an affront to the security provided by the lie of terra nullius.

The Commonwealth Parliament, in 1993, under the Labor Government of Paul Keating, enacted the Native Title Act.

The Act sought to build on the common law as defined in the Mabo case.The integrity around this today raises serious questions.

In my own State of Western Australia, in which more than half of the land was legally unalienated and mineral rich, the Government objected. The State Parliament in Perth passed a law to extinguish native title from the moment of colonisation and challenged the Commonwealth Act.

The High Court upheld the validity of the Native Title Act and found the Western Australian law to be invalid.

On a personal note, that decision enabled the Yawuru people to pursue our own native title interests and reclaim our country. My brother Mick and I have good reason to be forever grateful to Koiki Mabo and his pioneering vision and courage.

Another major milestone took place in 1996. The High Court in the Wik case found that Native Title and pastoral leases could co-exist.

The pastoral leases were a feature of the colonial period, trying to reign in the peacocking of the best lands by squatters.

  • There was at least some consideration by the Colonial authorities of the rights of Aboriginal people to travel over the leases.
  • Such rights themselves became caveats on the pastoral lease until gradually modified.

The Wik case was a simple matter of concurrent and co-existing rights but with the Native Title rights yielding to the leaseholder if there is a conflict. The public reaction by some sectors was ill informed and disgraceful.

So the generosity of the Court already had begun to harden somewhat in the qualification they put on the notion of “concurrent and coexistent” rights.

The Government of Prime Minister John Howard, could have used this decision as a positive step, as an opportunity for advancing reconciliation.

The Howard “Ten Point Plan” led to the 1996 amendments to the Native Title Act, and in the words of his Deputy Tim Fischer, delivered ‘bucket-loads of extinguishment’.

That legislation was in my view intended to reinstate terra nullius or to remove what Justice Brennan called the ‘burden on the radical title of the Crown’.

As a sweetener they also delivered opportunity previously denied except under a statutory land rights Act.

They opened the opportunity for Agreement Making, which unfortunately is too often structurally tied to extinguishment. Indigenous Land Use Agreements could be negotiated under the Act whereby Native Title Holders and other parties could agree on the use of Native Title lands, for mutual benefit and economic development.

Far too often, the price of that opportunity has been too high, in my view, leading to the extinguishment of Native Title, forever and a day, leaving a lingering burden on the shoulders of the native title holders.

Nevertheless, hundreds of agreements have been negotiated and signed across the nation, especially in Queensland, but also in my state of Western Australia, where an ILUA Agreement for the Noongar people, had been hailed as a major landmark, a Treaty in all but name for the people of the South West.

In the Senate this week, the validation of Indigenous Land Use Agreements has been under debate. There is a tension between law-making in the Parliament, the decisions of the Courts and the aspirations of Aboriginal people to negotiate agreements that retain their rights.

The concept of separation of powers is not always empathetic to the sense of justice held by Aboriginal people.

The Noongar agreement came unstuck with the McGlade decision. With the recent amendments in the Parliament this Agreement will go back to the process of registration, for the Noongars to settle.

At every step, the Labor Party has pushed for consultation on these Bills, through a Senate Committee, through submissions and through consultations with representatives of the Native Title Representative bodies.

At every step, we have remembered the legacy of Koiki Mabo and understand the fact that Native Title rights, now recognised in the common law, should not be changed, extinguished or modified at the whim of Government.

They do not exist as a gift of the Parliament, or an act of largesse by the Government of the day.

Native Title rights are ongoing rights, with deep roots into our common law held exclusively by Native Title holders. Amending legislation should always require the ‘free, prior and informed consent of Native Title holders.

The Native Title Act, much amended over time, has evolved in complexity and function. Koiki Mabo would probably have some difficulty understanding how his vision has become brutalised by Parliament.

The Australian Law Reform Commission, in its 2015 review, Connection to Country, has identified key areas of reform that are yet to be implemented by the Government. Indeed, we still await a formal response from the Government to its recommendations.

From my own perspective, as a native title holder, and now as a legislator, I see five key areas where the functioning of the Act requires rework, not least to better align it to the vision of Eddie Koiki Mabo. These are, in summary:

  • The need to rethink the presumption that an Agreement for alternative uses of native title land requires extinguishment of native title rights;
  • The need to rethink the decision-making process required under the Act;
  • The need to improve the fungibility for native title land without needing extinguishment or loss of communal title;
  • The need to address the rights of compensation for the loss of enjoyment, access and use of Native Title lands.
  • The need to change the onus of proof burden from native title applicants to the Crown
  • The Native Title Act can be refashioned to shift the point of balance towards the ongoing rights, interest, needs and concerns of Indigenous Australians. Doing so would restore the Act to its fundamental purpose: to recognise and protect native title, in the interests of Indigenous Australians, and our shared national future.

Last month at Uluru, in the spirit of constitutional conventions from which we had previously been excluded, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gathered.

They set out to deliberate and report back to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, through the Referendum Council, on Constitutional recognition.

Their one page document, Uluru Statement from the Heart, issues a series of challenges to the Parliament and the people of Australia.

  • It calls for constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country.
  • It calls for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
  • It calls for a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

From a Parliamentary perspective, we look forward to the report on those consultations from the Referendum Council at the end of the month. Hopefully working through these issues in the Parliament, in the time ahead, will take place in the spirit of constructive optimism.

To formulate a successful referendum outcome, especially in the next year a bipartisan, indeed, cross party consensus will need to be carefully shaped.

In my personal view, Constitutional reform, a treaty and a strong Indigenous voice have never been mutually exclusive—one does not come at the expense of the others.

• Of course I support an Agreement making process

A treaty or agreement, whether one or many, would be an acknowledgment flowing from the Mabo decision that terra nullius is a discredited, outmoded legal fiction and that this land was taken from Aboriginal people.

It would also pick up the opportunity that was lost when the Native Title negotiations focused solely upon land tenure.

I have never held the view that Mabo was only about land tenure. In fact when my views clashed with the then negotiators I was asked to discontinue any involvement in the process and dutifully left it to those who settled the issues with Prime Minister Keating.

There was no treaty when this land was colonized. In the future a treaty will be a strong step for a mature and harmonious nation. The work of Labor Governments in our States of Victoria and South Australia show it can be done.

Of course we need a strong Indigenous voice.

For too long Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been denied a voice, excluded from decision making processes about their own lives.

Indigenous people want to reset our relationship with government.

  • We want to be heard.
  • We have been calling for this for a long time.

Working to make a Voice effective within the processes of Parliament and capable of support from the whole Australian population in a referendum is a key challenge. A challenge Labor will consider carefully.

We look forward to more information on how the idea of an entrenched Voice can become a systemic, secure and successful legislative reality.

• We need to address the systemic racism that exists in our nation’s founding document, Australia’s Constitution.

We want our past to be acknowledged and we want to be involved in decisions about our future.

The Uluru Statement called for a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First nations and truth-telling about our history.

Many rejected the  idea of any ‘symbolic’ acknowledgement in what they saw as a racist document, the  Constitution.

This may well have been a statement from the heart.

It is time we acknowledged that Indigenous people were not included in the Constitutional Conventions that were held all over Australia in the lead up to Federation.

The Australian Constitution was written by people who thought Indigenous people were lesser beings; a dying race with no sense of land use and development.

  • The dynamic of racism in Australia is institutional and it is structural.
  • The foundations of racism are entrenched, persistent, in this nation’s founding  document.

The question we need to work through is not about choosing between a treaty, a voice or constitutional recognition.

The question is whether Australia is able to move forward towards reconciliation —be that in the form of a Treaty, or an Indigenous voice enshrined in the Constitution —while the nation’s foundation document remains, in its DNA, a flawed and racist document.

I understand this because I was a member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians, which was tasked to report to the Government on possible options for constitutional change to give effect to indigenous constitutional recognition and to assess any legal consequence that might flow.

In 2012, the Expert Panel delivered our report , which made a series of recommendations including:

  • a statement of acknowledgment in the Constitution, relevant to the lawmaking power in indigenous affairs (new Section 51 A);
  • a modification to the wording of the Commonwealth’s lawmaking power in

Indigenous affairs (s 51 (26);

  • a constitutional prohibition on racial discrimination (new S 116A); and
  • the removal of a provision that contemplates states disqualifying people from voting based on their race (s 25).

These recommendations recognise that the Government has the power to make laws about Indigenous people, but the laws must be beneficial and give the Parliament guidance.

It would be a mistake to consider this constitutional reform as merely ‘symbolic’.

Nothing about our Constitution is symbolic. There is not even a preamble that could point us to something symbolic.

The words in the Constitution reference powers that the Parliament uses to make laws.

They are words with real power. They are words that guide the Parliament in making laws and the Courts when they judge the validity of those laws.

Changing powers in the Constitution and giving clarification around how such powers can be used is not mere symbolism, “pretty words”.

Having an Indigenous voice enshrined in the Constitution, without amending the Constitution to remove racially entrenched ideologies, is puzzling.

It seems to assume that an Indigenous voice in the Constitution could be strong enough to challenge the entrenched structural racism which shapes the policies and laws that affect the lives of Aboriginal people without removing the racist elements of the Constitution.

We know these policies and laws. They are the policies of assimilation, of forced social and cultural change. These are the policies that continue to remove Aboriginal people from their families, country and culture.

These are the policies that have caused Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to  make up approximately one quarter of Australia’s prison population, despite making up  just 3 per cent of the total population.

These are the policies which have led to Indigenous Australians dying a decade earlier than non-Indigenous Australians.

  • Policies that repeatedly fail Aboriginal people.
  • Policies that Koiki Mabo challenged with his life and would do so today if he were alive.

It is no coincidence that these policies exist alongside a constitution that is the legacy of a colonial settler narrative, a narrative that saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people as lesser beings and Australia as a land belonging to nobody. If we are going to clean up the mess that racism has made in Australia, in the hope that we might one day achieve reconciliation, we have to do it properly and honorably.

The report of the Referendum Council at the end of this month deserves and requires weighty consideration. If the Referendum Council’s recommendations do not get broad parliamentary support it will fail and there will be no referendum.

If there is broad support then, it requires careful consideration of a Bill and Explanatory Memorandum that can pass through this challenging and complicated parliament.

It requires a question that can be put to the Australian people that will pass the high bar of a referendum.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continue to call for a treaty and a strong Indigenous voice if nothing is done.

These calls only highlight the need for constitutional reform.

Australia cannot move forward while our founding document, our birth certificate, embodies our racist past. The stubborn stains in our racist Constitution must be erased.

  • Eddie Koiki Mabo would expect nothing less.
  • Eddie Koiki Mabo was a great Australian.

We can find the Mabo spirit within each of us, and work together to build a great Australia, free from racism, honorable and just.

Kaliya. Thank you.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #NRW2017 #Mabo25 : Mabo’s legacy lives on 25 years after landmark High Court decision

” Mabo establishes a fundamental truth and lays the basis for justice … Mabo is an historic decision – we can make it an historic turning point, the basis of a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Aboriginal Australians. 

I believe that Mabo gives Australia the opportunity to mature as a nation. Just as there is no economy without environment, development must include justice and human rights.

I am not supposing a utopian dream where in all parties are completely happy and negotiate the perfect solution, but a way ahead toward fair and just solutions which all parties can live with and which do not sacrifice the interest of one over the other.

Most important of all, in the Federal Constitution, it is necessary that there be a recognition of Sovereignty as by that recognition and resulting compensation so that Aboriginal people can regain our dignity and be treated as equal partners in any future development of our land.

Charles Perkins AO 1993 Alice Springs ” Creating an economic template for our  healthy futures.” see full extract part 1 below

He (Eddie) was a fighter for the underdogs, anyone who was deemed to be treated unkindly – he would step up and support them.

“He also became a voice for people who had language difficulties.

To me, he was like a hero of the people.

I was sitting at a hospital in the carpark and I heard on the radio that my dad had won and I went ‘Oh my God he’s won’

And then I just started crying and I looked at my boy and I thought, he did it, he finally did it.”

ON THE morning of June 3, 1992, Gail Mabo was feeding her five-month-old son in her car, when her father’s landmark achievement was broadcast around Australia. Part 2 Below Interview Townsville Bulletin

 ” The High Court’s Mabo decision, 25 years ago on Saturday, triggered widespread celebrations and fresh hope among Indigenous Australians and their supporters, and exaggerated, even vitriolic outrage from some politicians, business leaders, journalists and academics.

These critics foreshadowed various economic and social disasters, including Jeff Kennett’s grossly irresponsible scaremongering that “backyards were at risk”. That was never the case. Little, if any, of this predicted chaos eventuated. Quite the reverse.”

Reforms are urgently needed to the native tile scheme

Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen, AM, QC, was junior counsel to Ron Castan, AM, QC, throughout the Mabo litigation, 1982-1992 Canberra Times 1 June See Part 3 Below

 ” In 1992 the High Court decided in Mabo No 2 that customary native title could be recognised at common law, reversing the longstanding doctrine of terra nullius—that the land of Australia had belonged to no one when the British arrived.

In some quarters the decision was condemned for its activism, and the fear of judicial activism currently haunts debates about Indigenous constitutional recognition.

Many benefits have flowed from the Mabo judgment and the recognition of native title to land—these benefits have been both practical and symbolic.

I can answer the question posed in the title of my lecture in the affirmative.

The Mabo judgment was an agent for change and recognition, though many issues of Indigenous recognition and rights remain unresolved.”

The Mabo High Court judgment:

Was it the agent for change and recognition?

The 2015 Mabo Oration was delivered by Dr Dawn Casey PSM FAHA, (now NACCHO COO ) at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, on 15 August 2015.

To View Website HERE or Download Speech

2015-Mabo-Oration-V 2

Part 1 :  ” Creating an economic template for our  healthy futures.” Dr Charles Perkins speech to NIBEC Business Conference in Alice Springs 1993 see full here

Pictured above Charles Perkins on the 3 June 1992 just after the Mabo judgement announced with then PR Colin Cowell ( Copyright Koori Mail first anniversary Conference )

As we are all aware this is The International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples which was launched in December 1992 in New York at the United Nations. It is a significant beginning to this decade of the 90o. the time is right, the scene is set, our people are ready and willing – this is or could be the decade for the renaissance of the Indigenous people in this country we now call Australia. History is  a guide but still a memory.

The future is ours to create. Today is our tomorrow. All societies have it seem to have one or two opportunities to fulfil their dreams and ours has arrived. We are on the threshold of our great national dream. The just, the good, the compassionate, the prosperous society.

The catalyst to move our people collectively towards this greater future has been granted to us the High Court in the recent Mabo decision. It could not come at a more opportune time, It is our once in a lifetime chance to recreate the society that we all desire.

As the Prime Minister stated in Sydney in December 1992, “We need these practical building blocks of change.

The Mabo judgement should be seen as one of these. By doing away with the bizarre conceit that this continent had no owners prior to settlement of Europeans. Mabo establishes a fundamental truth and lays the basis for justice … Mabo is an historic decision – we can make it an historic turning point, the basis of a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Aboriginal Australians. The message should be that there is nothing to fear or to lose in the recognition of historical truth, of the extension of social justice, or the deepening of Australian social democracy to include Indigenous Australians”.

Within this context the federal government must pursue, as they promised some years ago, the concept of a treaty.

This government must keep its promise to enter into a Treaty with the Indigenous people, particularly in this U.N. Year of the Indigenous People. This would demonstrate to the world that Australians – both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, can exist in cultural harmony and celebrate our common humanity.

History must not be a cross we should carry as a nation, into the future. Our children must inherit a society better than the one we inherited. A treaty is not so much a matter of dollars and cents, it is more spiritual and symbolic. It can be a catalyst which binds us together as a nation, respecting our past but building for the future. Australians must never forget that Australia was Aboriginal land and still is Aboriginal land. A Treaty is the appropriate mechanism for such negotiations. Naturally, such a Treaty can be one of the basic principles for discussions and conclusion with the framework of the recent and further Mabo High Court decision.

As is public knowledge, on 3 June 1992, the High Court made the great leap forward in recognising that Australia and the Torres Strait Islands were not empty “terra Nullius” before the British invasion of 1788, but were peopled by hundreds of Aboriginal nations, each with a distinct, rich and complex culture. The Mabo decision thus take recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture at its starting point, and establishes that Aboriginal and TSI peoples have rights which have their source in traditional customary law rather than the British common law imposed on us in 1788. In this respect, the decision is empowering, as Aboriginal people are not starting with nothing and waiting for rights to be handed out piecemeal at the political him of the government of the day.

The Mabo decision represents an opportunity for some measure of justice to be gained for Aboriginal Peoples who are the most dispossessed of Indigenous peoples of all former British colonies, who are the most jailed race in the world and who have suffered and continue to suffer cultural genocide. However, Mabo is very limited in its “context”, it only addresses the narrow concept of native title and thus is defined in traditional areas.

It is also important to recognise the limitations of the case. Firstly, Aboriginal and TSI Sovereignty is a demand by Aboriginal people that the courts and Parliament of Australia recognise and acknowledge that the “acquisition” of sovereignty by the British in 1788 was illegal under English law at the time and also international law.

And that the acquiring of the land was by dispossession, genocide, ethnocide and it was consequently unlawful, illegal and immoral. Plus the demand that the government of Australia as the inheritors of the British Crown, compensate Aboriginal people for the loss and the damage done to our land and our culture. It is not a demand upon Australian individuals to surrender their land but rather a demand for recognition and compensation by the community as a whole. Sovereignity was not argued by the plaintiffs in Mabo, and therefore Commonwealth and State governments, according to the decision, have ultimate power to extinguish native title at will, subject to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth).

Given these limitations, the hysteria and scare mongering currently seen in the media is put into perspective. Australians will not lose their homes and backyards. One of the most basic principles of Mabo is that once a State Government grants freehold title to a third party (ie. A person or company) , and native title to that area is automatically extinguished. In lay language, once any person buys a bit of land, native title is completely wiped out.

You can see that far from Australia being on the brink of a black coup d’etat, native title is actually quite limited and vulnerable.

The question then arises, where do we go from here ?. The notion of native title coinciding with other interests in land points us toward the answer.

Mabo is about working together, about balance and recognition of Aboriginal and TSI culture as a source of strength and wisdom from which all Australians can learn.

Mabo is also about self-determination – giving Aboriginal and TSI peoples the space and resources to enjoy our culture, work out our own solutions and control our own lives. The imposition of successive waves of government policy has not solved anything for us, but only created more problems.

Some of the most difficult aspects of post-Mabo relations will stem from competing land use in the form of resource development and native title. I do not believe that Aboriginal And TSI peoples are anti-development, if it is done in a way which respects them.

The history of conflict between mining companies and Aboriginal people has largely resulted form the formers deceit, lack of proper consultation and negociation, marginalisation of Aboriginal people from benefits flowing from projects undertaken on their land and disrespect for the wishes of Aboriginal people, for example; in relation to the protection of sacred sites.

Today, Aboriginal people must be equal partners at the negotiating table, we must have our say and governments and resource developers must listen and work out with us proper solutions to these vexed problems in a faire, reasoned and balanced way. I believe that Mabo gives Australia the opportunity to mature as a nation. Just as there is no economy without environment, development must include justice and human rights.

I am not supposing a utopian dream where in all parties are completely happy and negotiate the perfect solution, but a way ahead toward fair and just solutions which all parties can live with and which do not sacrifice the interest of one over the other.

Most important of all, in the Federal Constitution, it is necessary that there be a recognition of Sovereignty as by that recognition and resulting compensation so that Aboriginal people can regain our dignity and be treated as equal partners in any future development of our land.

Part 2 : My father has opened the doorway.

His legacy is not just ours, it’s for everybody

“I was sitting at a hospital in the carpark and I heard on the radio that my dad had won and I went ‘Oh my God he’s won’,” she said.

“And then I just started crying and I looked at my boy and I thought, he did it, he finally did it.”

An overwhelming sense of pride enveloped Ms Mabo who was 28 at the time.

And 25 years later, her father, Eddie Mabo, continues to make a huge impact on her family’s life and the Australian community.

Saturday, June 3, will mark 25 years since the High Court abolished terra nullius – meaning land belonging to no one.

Eddie Mabo, who died five months before the High Court ruling, championed the historic court case to establish the traditional ownership of Australian land.

Ms Mabo said she and her siblings had grown up listening to the significance of land rights.

“He (Eddie) was a fighter for the underdogs, anyone who was deemed to be treated unkindly – he would step up and support them,” she said.

“He also became a voice for people who had language difficulties.

“To me, he was like a hero of the people.”

However in what Ms Mabo called a “knee-jerk reaction from the Government”, a 10-point plan was put in place following the High Court ruling.

Ms Mabo said government conditions regulated land rights so that indigenous people had to “jump through more hoops”.

“But at the end of the day, it’s about how people approach that and how they fight,” she said.

“It’s a longer battle but it’s a battle worth fighting.

“My father has opened the doorway.

“His legacy is not just ours, it’s for everyone.”

Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey said the 25-year anniversary was a reminder that the ruling had “done what it needed to do”.

“The only thing I’d like to see is that it doesn’t stop progress for our future generations, particularly for our kids,” he said.

“We want to share some of the wealth and employment opportunities.

“It’s really important it gives us recognition.”

Mr Lacey said Native Title agreements, once resolved, enabled jobs to be created.

“Adani is going to be a good opportunity for indigenous North Queenslanders,” he said.

“Everyone needs to take a breath of fresh air because at the end of the day we have to provide a future for future generations.

“We need jobs. We need to reassess where we are.

“The only way we’ll close the gap is to give our mob an opportunity, rather than meddling in the social issues – they’re not getting us anywhere.”

Townsville is invited to attend the region’s commemoration of the 25-year Mabo Decision on June 3 at Jezzine Barracks.

The free event will include a performance by the John Butler Trio.

Part 3 :Reforms are urgently needed to the native tile scheme

The High Court’s Mabo decision, 25 years ago on Saturday, triggered widespread celebrations and fresh hope among Indigenous Australians and their supporters, and exaggerated, even vitriolic outrage from some politicians, business leaders, journalists and academics.

These critics foreshadowed various economic and social disasters, including Jeff Kennett’s grossly irresponsible scaremongering that “backyards were at risk”. That was never the case. Little, if any, of this predicted chaos eventuated. Quite the reverse.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson Illustration: Andrew Dyson

The court’s decision – that Indigenous Australians, subject to proof, enjoyed traditional rights and interests in their ancestral land pursuant to their customs and traditions, and that British colonisation had not extinguished these rights – opened up a wide range of possible responses by governments, state and federal.

After 18 months of intensive negotiations, the Keating federal government delivered a three-part response. These were the Native Title Act 1993; an Indigenous Land Corporation and associated Land Fund; and a social justice package.

The social justice package disappeared without trace. The ILC continues to operate, purchasing properties around the nation, transferring title to Indigenous corporations and assisting with their management. As at June 30, 2016, the ILC had purchased 252 properties, totalling around 5.86 million hectares, and granted 191 to Indigenous corporations.

The Native Title Act has delivered valuable results, but it remains a limited, excessively legalistic and inadequate scheme. As many have stated, the act – a heavily negotiated compromise deal championed by Paul Keating – represents a clear failure by the Federal Parliament to exploit anything like the full potential of the Mabo decision.

Following the Wik decision of 1998, the Howard government’s amendments to the act, including then deputy prime minister Tim Fischer’s “bucket loads of extinguishment”, further entrenched these defects.

The scheme’s greatest failing – and a prime area for urgent reform – is that the extensive extinguishment regime, plus legal technicalities built into the claims process, means that Indigenous communities who have lost their traditional connection to their country due to colonisation, and who thus are most worthy of some land-related redress – those located along the eastern seaboard – are cut out of the scheme’s benefits.

Nevertheless, much has been achieved. As of March 2017, 388 determinations whether native title exists have been made by the Federal Court – 308 of those succeeded, in whole or in part. These successful claims cover about 32 per cent of the Australian land mass.

Following strident opposition during the first 10 years by respondents, including by governments of all persuasions, today, native title is a more accepted part of the political and business landscape: much of the 1992-93 fear and trepidation has abated. Thus, over the past decade, many more claims have been negotiated, not forced to trial, delivering savings in cost and effort (but not always time), and many more “consent” determinations of native title. This more co-operative engagement provides a firmer basis for co-existence on the same land between traditional owners and crown grantees into the future.

A second stream of achievement is the negotiation and execution of Indigenous Land Use Agreements between traditional owners and respondents as part of the claims process. Currently, 1172 ILUAs have been concluded under the NTA’s “right to negotiate” regime. These deliver a range of outcomes for all sides: to the (for example, a mining company) respondents, secure access to land and utilisation of its resources.

Recent noteworthy developments include the emergence of regional claims where several claimant groups join together, as one “cultural block” to make one claim to one large, consolidated area. Examples include the Akiba claim, finalised in the High Court in 2013. Here, 13 Islander communities joined together and successfully claimed a large area of seas in the Torres Strait. Akiba also decided, for the first time since 1992, that native title rights can include rights to commercially exploit the land, seas and resources.

A second regional claim concerns the Noongar people in south-west of Western Australia. There, six groups joined together and negotiated a resolution with many respondents by way of six ILUAs and a legislated settlement with the WA government. Significant financial and other benefits were involved.

These regional claims also provide an obvious and potentially fruitful land-base for pursuing domestic “treaties” or “agreements”, which might deliver a measure of self-government to the relevant native title owners. In this sense, 1172 “domestic treaties” are already in place. Further, such “treaty” discussions are now under way with the Victorian and SA governments.

Many problems remain with the native title scheme and reforms are urgently needed. The most glaring failure, to my mind, is the excessively onerous burden of proof imposed upon Indigenous claimants.

Among many suggestions for reform, including reversing the current onus of proof, are recommendations contained in a substantial report of the Australian Law Reform Commission, Connection to Country (April 2015). These are sensible reforms fully consistent with the spirit of Mabo and the NTAct: to recognise, protect, and facilitate the claiming of, native title.

The ALRC’s report was tabled in the Federal Parliament in June 2015. To date, the Turnbull government through the Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis QC, has failed to offer any response, let alone adopt these much-needed reforms. This rejection by silence is simply unacceptable, and is another example of elected politicians refusing to confront political “hot potatoes” – one major factor that triggered the commencement of the Mabo case in 1982.

As we celebrate 25 years on, this disinterest must be replaced by action. Otherwise, grand words about “closing the gap” become yet more cant and hollow hypocrisy.

Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen, AM, QC, was junior counsel to Ron Castan, AM, QC, throughout the Mabo litigation, 1982-1992.

 

 

 

 

 

Prime Minister @TurnbullMalcolm and @BillShortenMP opening #NRW2017 #1967Referendum #Mabo25 by taking a @TheLongWalkOZ to #dreamtimeattheG

 

” But to describe ‘67 as a sudden awakening of our nation to these injustices, minimizes the sacrifices of those families who had survived since European arrival and then contributed year upon year into seeking equality of opportunity.

This is a story of resilience. It is a story of survival. It is a story of persistence and courage.

Every step of the journey to 1967 was built on the last.

It was a campaign that took decades of relentless agitation and advocacy, setbacks and sacrifice, courage and resilience.

So in 2017 we stand on the shoulders of those giants. ‘

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull opening #NRW2017 Melbourne

Download Speech PDF or read in full below

Prime Minister Speech 1967 Ref

 ” But even though we make this progress none of us can really pretend for one minute can we ?.

That racism has vanished from the game – or indeed from the country that we love. Years of legalised and institutionalised prejudice still cast a long shadow, paternalism and neglect are difficult habits hard to break.

So much of our historical narrative needs revisiting and discussion in order to reform and we see that shadow of inequality and diminished opportunity even now in housing, in education, in health, in family violence.

Think about in health, we still have too many of our First Australian Mothers losing babies, or dying in childbirth, we have even as we sit here looking at our progress, First Australians going blind because of a third-world disease We see it in our justice system – where young Aboriginal men are more likely, at the age of 18 to go to jail than to go to university.

As moving as this week of milestones has been, as magnificent as tonight’s game will surely be – I believe the best way our generation can honour the previous generation is by living up to the example that we’ve heard about today.

That means tackling the nitty-gritty of practical disadvantage, it means finding common ground.

Bill Shorten opening #NRW2017 Melbourne

Download Speech PDF or read in full below

Bill Shorten Speech 1967 Referendum

Watch Opening Ceremony #Dreamtime at the G

Or HERE online

VAHS and Gippsland ACCHO Healthy Lifestyle Teams at Long Walk Launch

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Part 1 Prime Minister

I acknowledge that we are here on the land of the Wurundjeri people whose country extends to the north of the Birrarung, and the Boonwurrung people whose country extends to the south.

I pay my deepest respects to them, and their elders past and present.

And I acknowledge the campaigners of the 1967 Referendum, including here today Uncle Syd Jackson and Mr Jason Oakley, and the plaintiffs in the great Mabo litigation, whose 25th anniversary we are commemorating this week as well.

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I’m joined by my Parliamentary colleagues Nigel Scullion, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Ken Wyatt MP, the Minister for Indigenous Health. Ken has actually just left us and said he’s got to go and meet with the AMA – but I think it’d be more entertaining here.

It is good to be joined by Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition.

And of course, the AFL – thank you for the extraordinary leadership you show. 700 AFL players, Richard, I was told a moment ago, Richard and Gill – 82 Indigenous players out of 700. What a great achievement.

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AFLPA-Indigenous-Player-Map-2017

Tanya, thank you for your great speech and your great leadership. Justin Mohamed – CEO, Reconciliation Australia and Tom Calma – Co Chair. And so many dear friends and distinguished guests.

I want to thank for the Welcome to Country – Aunty Zeta and Aunty Carolyne. Thank you so much for welcoming us to your country.

And Aunty Pam – great speech and deadly shoes. Fantastic! So good.

NACCHO/ VAHS ACCHO file photo

And what an amazing performance from the Torres Strait, from the Eip Karem Beizam group, and of course the dancers and the singers, Shellie Morris and Dhapanbal Yunupingu. This is a great occasion.

Thank you all for joining us here today to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, the 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision, and the start of National Reconciliation Week 2017.

On this day exactly fifty years ago, millions of Australians had their names marked off on the electoral roll, stepped into a polling booth, just minutes later walked out, and united made history.

Their overwhelming support at the Referendum expanded Commonwealth powers to make laws relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and enabled all First Australians, who had always been here, as Chicka Dixon just reminded us to be counted as part of the official population.

1967 was a crucial point in Australia’s reconciliation journey, where we consciously moved from exclusion to inclusion, from injustice and pain, towards healing, and where we recognised we were greater united than divided.

For our First Australians had not been treated with the respect they deserved, with the respect you deserved, with laws and regulations controlling, limiting and diminishing your lives.

Generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, a number of whom are here today, who were removed from their families and communities because of the colour of their skin. We acknowledge that this removal separated children from their families, their lands, languages and cultures – cared for by their ancestors for more than 50,000 years.

Indigenous Diggers, returning from war having defended our freedoms, democracy and the rule of law, were denied the full rights of citizenship for which they had so bravely fought.

For our nation’s birth certificate, the Constitution, had declared a Federation from six separate colonies, but had excluded our First Australians – the very people who have cared for this land from time out of mind.

But to describe ‘67 as a sudden awakening of our nation to these injustices, minimizes the sacrifices of those families who had survived since European arrival and then contributed year upon year into seeking equality of opportunity.

This is a story of resilience. It is a story of survival. It is a story of persistence and courage.

Every step of the journey to 1967 was built on the last.

It was a campaign that took decades of relentless agitation and advocacy, setbacks and sacrifice, courage and resilience.

So in 2017 we stand on the shoulders of those giants.

And we are honoured to be joined here by some of the ‘67 campaigners and Mabo plaintiffs and their amilies.

They too stood on the shoulders of the giants that came before them.

In 1925 Worimi Fred Maynard established the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association with the logan “One God, One People, One Destiny”.

In 1938, Yorta Yorta man William Cooper, Bill Ferguson and Jack Patten organised the ‘Day of Mourning’ n Australia Day, as well as the indefatigable Margaret Tucker.

There were giants like Bill Onus, and Ngemba woman Pearl Gibbs.

With each step building on the last, Pastor Doug Nicholls succeeded Cooper as head of the Australian Aboriginals League

After a great career of football and politics Doug was the first Aboriginal person to be knighted, despite been excluded from the change rooms by his team mates simply because of his Aboriginality.

It is fitting the Sir Doug Nicholls Round will be played at the ‘G’ today, to recognise, as we do every year,his contribution to football and the spirit of reconciliation which he embodied.

Here in Victoria, the roots of the referendum movement trace right back to the early 19th century, when William Barak and Simon Wonga, led the Kulin nation in their struggle for their land and their culture

So many champions over so many years – each stream building into the river wide enough to embrace a nation and change its constitution.

Jessie Street, Bert Groves, Joyce Clague, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Chicka Dixon, Dulcie Flower, ShirleyPeisley, Pastor Frank Roberts, Laurie Moffatt, Joe McGuiness.

The Freedom Riders, led by the young Charles Perkins.

Too many to name, these are just a few – but we honour them all today.

On a Monday night in May 1957, thousands of Sydneysiders converged on the Town Hall to watch a documentary that laid bare the harsh reality of life for remote Indigenous communities. It revealed a nation divided.

This was the night Faith Bandler and Pearl Gibbs launched their petition to demand a better deal for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Their campaign began with a couple of thousand signatures and ended just over 10 years later with 90.77 per cent of the population voting ‘yes’ for change.

The campaigners had an unswerving belief that every step would move us closer together as Australians.

So to everyone who, over decades, worked with and for the groups that built and grew the case for the referendum, today we say again thank you.

For the many hundreds of thousands of First Australians who felt the ground beneath them shift thatday, who felt their horizons open up and their status as citizens at long last enshrine the rights it should -the 27th of May 1967 remains the turning point.

And it’s why this week I announced a $138 million education package to further enable the economic and social inclusion for which the ’67 campaigners fought and for which our government is committed to continue and develop and grow.

Every element of our policy is focused on that economic empowerment, the foundation of which as we know, and Syd and I were just discussing this a momentago, is education.

‘67 saw Australians come together in a moment of national unity to properly acknowledge the identity, the culture, the history, the citizenship of our First Australians.

This week we also celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the High Court’s decision to uphold native title rights in the hard-won Mabo case.

The five plaintiffs were fighters for their spiritual and cultural survival – Eddie Mabo, Father Dave Passi, Sam Passi, James Rice and Celuia Mapo Salee.

Each step was built on the last, and importantly, because of the ‘67 change, the Commonwealth could create, could enact the Native Title Act.

Today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights and interests in the land have been formally recognised in over 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass.

The number of determinations under the Native Title Act now outweighs the number of claims currently registered.

Now, this week has seen us look towards another step, with the Referendum Council’s National Convention at Uluru.

As I know better than most, changing the Australian Constitution is not easy. 44 referendums, only 8 successes.

The last remotely controversial amendment to be approved was in 1946.

Indeed, history would indicate that to succeed not only must there be overwhelming support, but minimal, or at least tepid, opposition.

Fundamental to our Constitution is the supremacy of Parliament underneath the Constitution.

Our laws are made by the House of Representatives and the Senate – each democratically elected, with each member and senator representing both their constituency and above all their nation.

The campaigners of 67’s success inspired Neville Bonner to join the Liberal Party and run for Parliament.

He brought his voice to the Senate in 1971 and now there are five First Australians in our Parliament

including the first Aboriginal Minister – Ken Wyatt who was the first Aboriginal man to serve in the

House of Representatives and across the aisle Linda Burney the first Aboriginal woman so to serve in the House of Representatives. And of course in the Senate Pat Dodson, Malarndirri McCarthy and Jacqie Lambie

We thank the delegates at Uluru for their work which will now be considered by the Referendum Council which will in turn advise the Opposition Leader and myself and through us the Parliament.

See NACCHO Friday Post #Ulurustatement

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #treaty : #Uluru Summit calls for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution

It is the Parliament’s duty, and its alone, to propose changes to the Constitution.

But the Constitution cannot be changed by Parliament – only the Australian people can do that.

No political deal, no cross party compromise, no leaders’ handshake can deliver constitutional change.

To do that a constitutionally conservative nation must be persuaded that the proposed amendments respect the fundamental values of the Constitution and will deliver precise changes, clearly understood, that benefit all Australians.

A Referendum will demand politicians to lead, and we will, but a successful campaign for Constitutional

Recognition must ask Australians to acknowledge the humanity of their neighbour – their fellow Australian – and harness support for the proposal with as much resolute solidarity and unity as the campaigners of ’67 did 50 years ago.

Today I believe all Australians acknowledge what we know is true – that prior to European settlement our First Australians spoke hundreds of languages, cared for this country, your song lines crossed the entire nation, your languages carried sacred knowledge, your stories of creation were passed on from generation to generation, and when Aboriginal people lost those songs, those languages, that knowledge, we all lost. We all lost.

But we also acknowledge that despite so much loss, much was saved and you are, we are restoring and recovering languages and cultures, and in doing so, reuniting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and all Australians, with the most ancient human cultures on earth.

Your contribution is not static or frozen in time and we’ve been reminded of that today. It is sewn into the fabric of our modern society and our modern economy, and as Prime Minister I will continue to acknowledge and do all I can to ensure that being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander means to be successful, to achieve, to have big dreams and high hopes, and to draw strength from your identity as an Indigenous person in this great country.

Charles Perkins said that ‘If he wouldn’t have done it, others would have.’

Perhaps he was right. But to those who have championed rights and equality for First Australians over our history, and those who continue that work today, you have never taken progress for granted and for that we thank you.

Your culture, our culture, is old and new, as dynamic as it is connected – on the highest tree top the new flower of the morning draws its being from deep and ancient roots.

Now it is up to us, together and united, to draw from the wisdom and the example of those we honour today and so inspired bring new heights and brighter blooms to that tree of reconciliation which protects and enriches us all.

Thank you very much.

Part 2

THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the 25th Anniversary of the Mabo Decision.

Good afternoon everybody.

I too, would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land upon which we meet,

I pay my respects to the traditional owners and indeed all elders past, present and future.

The Prime Minister very graciously acknowledged a lot of the guests here so I won’t go through the same list but simply echo the Prime Ministers words but I do want to say that as we celebrate anniversaries of half a century ago and a quarter of a century ago, we should also always acknowledge that for over 500 centuries – this is, was and always will be, Aboriginal land.

It would be remiss of me and perhaps even fool-hardy not to acknowledge, not only Auntie Carol and Auntie Zeta but Auntie Pam and perhaps not prominent on her CV but she and I would work together in a law firm — and if you could guess, for anyone who knows Pam she was in charge of nearly everything.

But I have to say Pam, when you spoke about your father, you gave us all a gift, one of the great sadnesses when a parent passes is that you can’t always reconstruct every conversation but what you did Pam, is when you described the folded chairs and the card table and the thermos and the sandwiches and the campaigning, what you did Pam, is you gave us the gift of an inkling of what it must have been like to have him as your father and what a strong man he was so thank you very much Pam.

I also should of course acknowledge the great campaigners of 67, the plaintiffs in Mabo and their proud families, although not all live with us, we are the beneficiaries of their legacy.

We are, I believe, more open and a more open and diverse country than we were 50 years ago.

More honest about our past, more confident about our future.

But this is not just because of the passage of time or mere good luck. It’s because of the people that we’re acknowledging today, there is inspiration in someone’s victory…there are lessons and one thing which I take from what we’ve heard today is that there’s no such thing as passive progress.

Progress is always a struggle.

No-one gave the 67 campaigners anything – it was earned, it was fought for. No-one gave Eddie Mabo and his fellow plaintiffs anything before he started and it wasn’t just contesting the law, the fact that these Plaintiffs believe the Australian justice system which, to be fair and accurate, hadn’t initially been the best friend of First Australians in the previous two hundred years, the fact that they contested it took a great strength of character.

No-one gave the Stolen Generations anything and this week is the twentieth anniversary of the Bringing them Home report indeed, for the Stolen Generations their very existence was arrogantly dismissed.

The inquiry described the stolen generations as tantamount to genocide but you and the stolen generation faced Australia, to make us look at the reality of children taken away from their mothers, from their country, from their families and their culture.

It is very difficult to bring the hard truth of history home and – at long last – we did say

Sorry.

And friends, as we celebrate I’m always conscious of that tension in politics and in life, how much do you talk about the good news and how much do you acknowledge the bad news, how much do you say and admire our progress and how much do we look at the journey we still have to go, it is that truth telling which I still think confronts us now.

We salute the outstanding accomplishments of our fellow Australians who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Australians.

I think of artists and authors and film-makers, I think of fashion-designers, I think of scientists and lawyers and school-teachers, I think of sports men and women.

But we also know, as we admire the progress that real reconciliation demands of us all especially those of us privileged to be in positions of leadership, it demands truth-telling.

Acknowledging that we have further to go, I believe, does not diminish what has been achieved, in fact it honours it and enhances previous struggle. Tonight, a packed crowd will be at the Sir Doug Nicholls Round watching two great teams and like Shaun Burgoyne last night and Buddy Franklin, Shane Edwards will proudly wear the 67 number tonight.

It is isn’t it a long way from when Doug Nicholls was driven from Carlton because of the colour of his skin, when All Australian Polly Farmer was the target of on field abuse each week.

When, my great friend Pat Dodson was playing for the Monivae Firsts in 1965 and 66, he describes himself as a Collingwood six-footer, he wasn’t counted as an Australian, although he captained that team.

And just like Rugby League – AFL is different and I think better, because of generations of Aboriginal stars who have won their admirers with their brilliance and changed minds with their courage.

Nicky Winmar lifting up his jumper and showing the Victoria Park crowd where I once worked, that he was black and proud.

Michael Long who made his stand on Anzac Day 1995. Adam Goodes – unshakeable in his dignity, unmoving in his strength… such a contrast to the cowards who booed him, hiding their prejudice in the crowd and so many other champions.

It’s ironic now, I don’t think anyone could imagine AFL without our Indigenous stars and I congratulate the leadership of successive leaders of the AFL including today Gillon McLachlan and Richard Goyder.

But even though we make this progress none of us can really pretend for one minute can we ?.

That racism has vanished from the game – or indeed from the country that we love. Years of legalised and institutionalised prejudice still cast a long shadow, paternalism and neglect are difficult habits hard to break.

So much of our historical narrative needs revisiting and discussion in order to reform and we see that shadow of inequality and diminished opportunity even now in housing, in education, in health, in family violence.

Think about in health, we still have too many of our First Australian Mothers losing babies, or dying in childbirth, we have even as we sit here looking at our progress, First Australians going blind because of a third-world disease We see it in our justice system – where young Aboriginal men are more likely, at the age of 18 to go to jail than to go to university.

We see it right now in the unacceptable record numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders growing-up in out-of-home care: struggling at school during the day, battling trauma and disconnection at night.

As moving as this week of milestones has been, as magnificent as tonight’s game will surely be – I believe the best way our generation can honour the previous generation is by living up to the example that we’ve heard about today.

That means tackling the nitty-gritty of practical disadvantage, it means finding common ground. Yesterday, delegates from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations said:

“In 67 we were counted, in 2017, we seek to be heard”. It is a powerful message about unfinished business in our country.

On behalf of all Australians, I want to thank the attendees who gathered at Uluru, the hundreds of Aboriginal people who have taken part in 12 dialogues around the nation.

And the thousands of people who have provided written submissions to the Referendum Council. The Referendum Council now has the task of drawing on all of these contributions – and providing a set of recommendations to the Prime Minister, myself and indeed the whole parliament, at the end of June.

It is complex and important work: we owe the members time and those who participated the time and the space to finish their work.

And we owe them an open mind on the big questions – the form recognition takes, on treaties, on changes required to the constitution and on the best way to fulfil the legitimate and long-held aspiration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for a meaningful, equal place in our democratic system.

I’ve had a number of constructive conversations with our Prime Minister including indicating, as far as I am concerned a sincere desire for bipartisanship and a sincere desire to make progress on this issue.

It is important that we combine Government and Opposition to try to work cooperatively, I’m sure we will have further dialogue, both of us will need to think hard, talk to colleagues and the Referendum Council and broadly with the community.

I do not doubt the size of the mountain that we have to climb.

But for any Australian looking for inspiration, I would say ‘look to our history’.

Look at the spirit of ‘67 or the legend of Eddie Mabo.

Look to the strength and the story of the Gurindji at Wave Hill.

Look to the brilliance of Doug Nicholls.

The lesson of Charlie Perkins and the Freedom Riders.

Look to the legacy of those Aboriginal service men and women who have served, fought and died for a country that up to that point didn’t even count them in its census.

Look at: Faith Bandler or Pearl Gibbs or Chicka Dixon, Joe McGinnis or Charlie Perkins and Jessie Street and many others.

And all those other heroes famous and perhaps not so famous who went door-to-door, shopping centre to shopping centre, signature by signature. I said earlier that no one gave these warriors of change, anything. Whatever they have won, they had earned but in fact they gave Australia a gift, 50 years ago.

They gave Australia a gift 25 years ago. They gave us the gift of hope – they gave us the gift of imagination. And it’s now it is our test to measure up.

I am a student of history, I look back and I wonder, what were people thinking, what were the arguments and the tensions and the means, what was going through their minds and what was going through their hearts.

It is incredibly, I think, encouraging that back in 1967 the parliament was full of white men, many born at the turn of the 20th Century, they found common ground to support a Yes vote.

The government didn’t fund a ‘No’ case in 1967.

If those men then, of a certain background and disposition could find the humility to admit that they were wrong, if they could find that wisdom within themselves to challenge their preconceptions and decide what was right…

If they could imagine then, in their circumstances a more equal time for Australia. Then are we in this generation up to it now?

Surely we can imagine a reconciled Australia?

Surely we can imagine an Australia where the gap is actually closed, where justice is colour-blind?.

Surely we can imagine an Australia where every Aboriginal child can grow up healthy, can get the best possible education, equal to every other child and to not have to be separated from their families.

Surely we can imagine now – and deliver now – a future:

Where Aboriginal mothers no longer live with the anxiety that their child could be taken from them.

Where the last stubborn stains of persistent racism are removed, forever – from our not only our hearts and our language but from our laws.

Surely we can deal honestly and decently with issues of reparations, recovery and reconnection where we are capable of having the important conversation about meaningful recognition, about treaties about post-constitutional settlement.

Surely we can imagine a set of circumstances just as there are Aboriginal AFL Champions that will one day have a Aboriginal Prime Minister or an Aboriginal President of our Republic.

But what is the most important, and I think the challenge for us is, for us in particular privilege who have some say in the debate of the day, is the road will be hard and it’s going to require the best thought and the best cooperation.

What it’s going to recognise is this, are we capable of imagining an Australia, where our first Australians are equal to all other Australians because I can already imagine that when our first Australians are equal to all other Australians then we are all better Australians.

Thank you very much.