NACCHO Aboriginal Health #NACCHOAgm19 #NACCHOYouth19 : Transcript of doorstop media interview with Minister Greg Hunt NACCHO and Chair Donnella Mills at the NACCHO Conference in Darwin

” It’s just a privilege to be here at the NACCHO Conference with Donnella, with Pat, with Senator Sam McMahon.

We’ve made an announcement today of a new funding model agreed by and with NACCHO and Indigenous Australia.

They’ve had deep input. They went through an early draft and had a huge involvement in redrafting, redesigning.

And I’m delighted that we’ll be adding an additional $90 million to help produce better Indigenous health outcomes. That will be supporting our Aboriginal community controlled health organisations, our Aboriginal medical services, 145 of them around the country.

And in particular, it will help as we pursue the goals of ending avoidable Indigenous blindness, avoidable Indigenous deafness and ending rheumatic heart disease and making a difference (inaudible) Donnella, you want to say a couple of words and then?

Introduction at media event from Health Minister Greg Hunt at NACCHO Members Conference Darwin


Yes. Just as- as the Acting Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, we really welcome this announcement.

And I just want to make particular mention with Minister Hunt that we’ve really moved forward on building a genuine partnership.

What we know as Aboriginal and Torres Islander peoples, we are the experts in delivering comprehensive primary health care to our people.

So I look forward to continuing to work with the Australian Government. And again, we welcome this announcement. Pat?


Great. Happy to take any questions.


Minister, can you talk us through the major enhancements to the way the funding is distributed? What are the changes that the organisations will see?


So firstly, it’s a three-year funding. Secondly, there’s a guarantee that every organisation will maintain its existing funding and then that additional funding will be based on a combination of need, cost, and complexity.

And so it’s been designed by and with the Aboriginal community controlled health organisations and services.

And thirdly, the other element that’s there, which is really important, is the indexation of wages. And it’s a fair point to ask whether that should or shouldn’t have been built in previously, but it will be now.


Labor has brought up, I suppose, questions about the timing of these Ministerial visits the past few days, because there’s a public inquiry on- or a Senate inquiry on in Darwin. Was it timed to match with that?


No. This conference was established by NACCHO, their time, their watch.

And I, in fact, adjusted my diary to be here for their conference. And so sort of a little bit embarrassing, I think, for them to be trying to downplay a really important health breakthrough. And as Donnella said, a health partnership.

The timing was set, as it should have been, by Indigenous Australia for Indigenous Australia. And I was privileged to join them on their time, on their watch as part of their conference.


How committed is the Coalition Government to developing Northern Australia? I mean it was- it’s been, you know, years since they- Tony Abbott first announced the White Paper into Developing Northern Australia.

The rhetoric gets brought up election after election, but really is there- is there much of a difference being made on the ground in regional and especially north Australia?


Look, I think the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund has very real possibilities. One of the things which is available under that- we might well be able to support some of the very services that we outlined today.

So the physical infrastructure for Aboriginal community controlled health services does qualify under the NAIF, and that could make a real difference.

Sam, you’ve been very involved in northern development, your thoughts?


Yeah. I mean, look, it has been slower to be rolled out and it has been slower in uptake than we would have liked. And you possibly heard Minister Canavan say that yesterday.

But he and the Coalition Government and myself are very committed to making sure that that gets rolled out.

And not only the NAIF, but some other infrastructure, other things such as health infrastructure. We are very committed to making sure that that northern Australia is taken care of.


Okay. Thank you. So look, ultimately, today is about saving lives and protecting lives in Indigenous Australia, and a partnership that we hope will last the next 20 years. Thank you.


Minister, what are you doing- what’s the Government doing to address the sickness outbreak that has now seen more than three-hundred to three-thousand people affected from Queensland right the way through to Western Australia?


So the Chief Medical Officer has led discussions and led talks with states on- and the territories on precisely that issue.

So we’ve been investing additional funds. The Chief Medical Officer is leading a coordinated national plan with the states and territories on that issue.

And then the third element of course is the AMS, the Aboriginal Medical Services, and their capacity to make that impact on the ground.


Does there need to be a national centre for disease control, do you think?


Well I think what we do have, which is run out of the Health Department, is precisely that.

We have a national approach to disease coordination and emergency management, which comes from the Federal Health Department, it’s actually embedded within.


Was the Government too slow to act on this issue given that that outbreak started in Queensland I think right back in 2014, perhaps even earlier?


Look, we’ve stepped in because some of the states and territories have not done their work. So primarily, the population health control responsibilities rests with the states and territories.

But where there is an issue, which comes because in some cases they may not have stepped up, then it’s our time and our turn and our watch, and we’ll deal with that.


Any state and territory in particular that dropped the ball on this one?

GREG HUNT:         

Oh, I think this was most significantly the issue in Queensland. They were notified, they were warned, and they were very slow to act. Okay, thank you very much.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #PrimaryHealth Care 10-Year Plan . @GregHuntMP Press Release :Our Deputy CEO Dawn Casey and @IUIH_ CEO Adrian Carson on team of experts to provide independent advice on the development of the Plan.

The Morrison Government has appointed a team of experts to provide independent advice on the development of the Primary Health Care 10-Year Plan.

The 10-Year Plan will set a vision and path to guide future primary health care reform, as part of the Government’s Long Term National Health Plan.

Under the Long Term National Health Plan, the Government is committed to reforming our health system to be more person-centred, integrated, efficient and equitable.

The 10-Year Plan will be informed by extensive consultation with patients, providers, experts and the community.

The establishment of the Primary Health Reform Steering Group is the first step in this approach.

The Steering Group will be co-chaired by Dr Steve Hambleton, a practicing General Practitioner and former federal president of the Australian Medical Association, and Dr Walid Jammal, a practicing General Practitioner and Clinical Lecturer at the University of Sydney and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, Western Sydney University.

Other members of the Steering Group are:

  • Dr Tony Bartone, Australian Medical Association
  • Dr Harry Nespolon, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • Dr Ewen McPhee, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine
  • Dr Dawn Casey, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
  • Ms Leanne Wells, Consumers Health Forum of Australia
  • Ms Cathy Baynie, Australian Association of Practice Management
  • Ms Karen Booth, Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association
  • Prof Claire Jackson, University of Queensland
  • Mr Adrian Carson, Institute for Urban Indigenous Health
  • Ms Gail Mulcair, Allied Health Professions Australia
  • Mr Phil Calvert, Australian Physiotherapy Association

As the first step in the 10-Year Plan, the Steering Group will advise on the implementation of the $448.5 million 2019-20 Budget measure, to support doctors to provide more flexible care to Australians aged 70 years and over.

I had the pleasure of discussing the 10-Year Plan with the members of the Steering Group at their first meeting on 17 October 2019. The Steering Group will meet periodically until September 2020.

The next step in the consultative approach to developing the 10-Year Plan will be the establishment of a broad-based Consultation Group with representation from across the sector to help guide and respond to public consultations.

My Department will also be convening targeted consultations and roundtables on key issues to help inform the plan.

I am confident the Morrison Government’s Primary Health Care 10-Year Plan will strengthen and modernise Australia’s primary health care system into the future, and I look forward to building community consensus behind it.


Or to view the Morrison Governments Long Term National Health Plan visit –

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #IYIL2019 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Minister @KenWyattMP Speech Geneva : To us the Declaration reflects economic, social, cultural and political rights that should guide our policies intended to deliver change


” Kaya wangju – hello and welcome in my language, the Noongar language.

To celebrate the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, I commenced in the language of my ancestors. I am Ken Wyatt, Australia’s first Indigenous member of the Australian cabinet and Minister for Indigenous Australians.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the Human Rights Council in this session.

There is power in telling the truth.

In Australia, we are starting a national conversation about truth telling around the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

To me, truth-telling is not a contest of history, but an acknowledgement of what has been, and sharing what was seen.

So let me start here by talking truth with you.” 

Minister Ken Wyatt’s Dignitary address to the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council 18 September : Read full speech part 1 below

“ Language is more than a mere tool for communicating with other people. People simply don’t speak words. We connect, teach and exchange ideals. Indigenous languages allows each of us to express our unique perspective on the world we live in and with the people in which we share it with.

Unique words and expressions within language, even absence of, or taboos on certain words, provide invaluable insight to the culture and values each of us speaks.

Our Language empowers us.

It is a fundamental right to speak your own language, and to use it to express your identity, your culture and your history. For Indigenous people it lets us communicate our philosophies and our rights as they are within us, our choices and have been for our people for milleniums “

Minister Ken Wyatt sharing Australia’s story on preserving and revitalising #IndigenousLanguages at @UNHumanRights Council yesterday @IYIL2019

Part 1

It’s been 10 years since Australia joined the global community to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The truth is… Australia did not support the Declaration when it was first introduced. Over two years we considered the implications, and like other countries, we are still on the journey of what the Declaration means to us.

To us the Declaration reflects economic, social, cultural and political rights. Rights that should guide our policies intended to deliver change that is sustainable and embraces Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their culture.

Although we have already started walking our journey to change the way we protect and uphold the rights of Indigenous people, we know healing won’t actually start until we recognise and acknowledge where our country began. To this end we have set ourselves a goal to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first peoples of Australia.

This is too important to rush, and too important to get wrong.

As everyone here would know, the declaration itself was the product of almost 25 years of deliberation between UN member states and the Indigenous groups.

To achieve our goal we must focus on rediscovering our differences, our incredible history and culture, and integrating traditional knowledge and systems in our current way of life.

We acknowledge that our long struggle to recognise and realise traditional Indigenous systems has been made more difficult by the truth that we have interpreted that connection long ago.

This is a terrible and hard fact to face. We cannot change it. But we are trying hard to heal and to reconnect.

To achieve our goals it’s vital we have unity in our solution. This demands all voices should be heard respectfully. It requires us to solve the problem together … to ‘co-design’.

Soon we will be talking to our elders and communities about what co-design looks like.

The truth is we have problems and some are serious problems. High rates of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and high rates of suicide, particularly of young Indigenous Australians are just two of these problems.

But … we are working to change the statistics.

Australians pride themselves on being honest, hard-working and loyal people. We know we must all contribute to enjoy better outcomes for all of us.

All of Australia’s governments have partnered to work with Indigenous people and communities to develop solutions to our problems jointly.

Our Closing the Gap framework, focuses on community safety, education and employment as enablers for better futures. By addressing the underlying issues we hope to reduce the unacceptably high rates of suicide and incarceration.

Economic rights are also at the heart of our strategies. Our strategies covering demand and supply are designed to cultivate growth and sustainability.

We are offering targeted funding support and levering our own government spending to drive demand for Indigenous goods and services, and consequently drive business growth and create jobs.

For example, the Australian Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy commenced four years ago. In this time over 16,280 contracts, worth more than $2.47 billion, have been awarded to 1,780 Indigenous businesses across a variety of industries and sectors.

On the supply side we’re nurturing the Indigenous corporate sector through a 10-year plan to improve access to business and financial support.

We also recognise the additional struggles Indigenous women can face in setting up businesses. To address this we have provided culturally-safe spaces for women to seek business support and we’ve funded the first Indigenous Women in Business conference.

Economic participation is just one element of the declaration.

Australia’s truth is that while our Indigenous culture and systems are one of the most ancient, sophisticated and complex in the world, they are also evolving, blending our Australian nations together in a peaceful but challenging journey. Similar to our journey towards realising the Declaration.

There is no doubt we are a nation with a lot of challenges to address and we anticipate new ones as globalisation shifts us further into the new community paradigms. We are headed in the right direction … but we are cautious not to run before we have first learned to walk.

We are on that journey and walking together.

We embrace the opportunity to be part of this global community here and we hope you will walk with us to achieve long and lasting change for the better for both Indigenous and non Indigenous Australians but the First Nations of the World.

Thank you Mr President.

Part 2 Panel discussion on Indigenous languages

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

Australia welcomes the International Year of Indigenous Languages and the focus this past year has brought to the importance of Indigenous languages.

Those present at this session today would be aware of the statistics about Indigenous languages:

  • 96 per cent of the world’s 6,700 languages are spoken by only three per cent of the world’s population.
  • Indigenous people comprise less than six per cent of the global population, but speak more than 4,000 of the world’s languages.

Language is more than a mere tool for communicating with other people. People simply don’t speak words. We connect, teach and exchange ideals. Indigenous languages allows each of us to express our unique perspective on the world we live in and with the people in which we share it with.

Unique words and expressions within language, even absence of, or taboos on certain words, provide invaluable insight to the culture and values each of us speaks.

Our Language empowers us.

It is a fundamental right to speak your own language, and to use it to express your identity, your culture and your history. For Indigenous people it lets us communicate our philosophies and our rights as they are within us, our choices and have been for our people for milleniums.

It is in the everyday lives of people who are speaking their own language that a difference can be felt.

In Australia, we are investing in maintaining the knowledge of languages being spoken today, and preserving this resource for younger people, as one way for future generations to connect with their identity, culture and heritage.

We have around 250 original Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Sadly only about half of these are still spoken today. Even more upsetting is that of these, only 13 are considered strong. This places Australia as one of the world’s most top five hot spots for endangered languages.

To address this we are partnering with Indigenous Australians to revitalise languages that are in danger.

We recognise that cultural authority, community control and engagement are paramount to preserving and revitalising Australia’s first languages. This is why the Australian Government insists that it’s first people, our Indigenous voices, that are heard when we develop policies, programs and services around Indigenous languages.

To support this work we are undertaking a comprehensive survey to inform us on the current state of proficiency and frequency and use of languages.

We are also keeping language alive, vibrant and accessible.

Australia has over 20 Indigenous community-led language and arts centres. These centres contribute to strong cultural identities, and community-driven wellbeing activities.

At the national level we are using modern technology streaming platforms to provide a range of content in language — from children’s stories and cartoons to oral histories and news articles.

IndigiTUBE, which has received Commonwealth funding, is such a platform. It is becoming a repository for this content as well as music videos, documentaries and comedy routines.

We encourage Indigenous community radio stations around the country to share the content, and all Australians to access it at home or through the web. Imperatives of incorporating language into government services is a priority.

As we say in Noongar:

“Ngyung moort ngarla moort, ngyung boodja ngarla boodja”

My people our people, my country our country.

At all levels, on all platforms we should be making our languages heard and kept. While we acknowledge that much has been lost, it is not too late to preserve and use Indigenous language – which I hope is the outcome of the International Year.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health #ClosingtheGap #UNDRIP : Minister @KenWyattMP announces he will represent Australia at the #UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week to promote his Government’s priorities that partner with, invest in and empower our mob

Australia’s support of the Declaration reflects our intent to promote and protect the economic, social, cultural and political rights of indigenous people

The Declaration was drafted in partnership with the world’s Indigenous peoples, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the Morrison Government remains committed to observing these rights through our policies and programs

We are changing the way we work in partnership with Indigenous Australians and this is a message we can take to the world.

Our national framework for action to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians, the Closing the Gap strategy, is a priority for the Australian Government and demonstrates our commitment to working in partnership with Indigenous communities.

 I will be discussing our experiences with UN experts and other countries to harness global thinking and research to improve our framework.

Through our advocacy with the United Nations and our recognition of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we can improve the lives of all Indigenous peoples.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, said since Australia supported the Declaration in 2009, our nation’s human rights obligations to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have been clear.

Friday marked the 12th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which established a universal set of rights for the dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples around the world.

Minister Wyatt  announced he will represent Australia at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, from 16 to 20 September, to promote the Australian Government’s priorities that partner with, invest in and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

“This year is our second as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, following the Coalition Government’s successful campaign to secure Australia a seat for the first time. It is in Australia’s national interest to shape the work of the Human Rights Council and uphold the international rules-based order.

“I will be pleased to promote Australia’s pragmatic and constructive approach to protecting and promoting fundamental human rights and freedoms both at home and abroad. Advancing Indigenous rights globally is a pillar of our membership of the Human Rights Council and an objective we pursue through a range of other UN mechanisms.

“I intend to build stronger relationships with like-minded countries by meeting with experts and leaders from around the world to discuss good practices in Indigenous policy, to share Australia’s experiences and learn from other countries’ strategies.

“As one of the largest donors to the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, Australia will continue to play a constructive role in ensuring Indigenous voices are heard in UN meetings and bodies.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health #COAG #ClosingtheGap : Pat Turner ” Today marks a significant step forward in our historic partnership between governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks “

Today marks a significant step forward in our historic partnership between governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks with the agreement that we will work towards a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap to guide efforts over the next ten years.

The conversation on Closing the Gap is changing because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are now at the negotiating table with governments.

The proposed priority reforms are based on what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been saying for a long time is needed to close the gap and we now have a formal structure in place to put those solutions to governments.

If we are to close the gap it will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations leading the way on service delivery. We already know that community-controlled organisations achieve better results because we understand what works best for our peoples.

It is a critical step for the Joint Council to formally recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must share in decision-making on policies that affect their lives.

The Coalition of Peaks are looking forward to engaging with communities around Australia to build support from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the priority reforms and to ensure that their views on what is needed to make them a success is captured in the new National Agreement.” 

Pat Turner, Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, CEO of NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Joint Council speaking after a meeting of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap was held in Adelaide on Friday 23 August

The Joint Council agreed on a communiqué, which is attached.


See Closing the Gap Website

Joint Council makes progress towards new National Agreement on Closing the Gap

A meeting of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap was held in Adelaide on Friday 23 August , between representatives of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and a Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Bodies (Coalition of Peaks).

In its second ever meeting, the Joint Council today agreed to work towards a new National Agreement Closing the Gap.

Importantly, it also agreed in principle to the following three priority reforms to underpin the new agreement and accelerate progress on Closing the Gap:

  1. Developing and strengthening structures to ensure the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in shared decision making at the national, state and local or regional level and embedding their ownership, responsibility and expertise to close the gap;
  2. Building the formal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled services sector to deliver closing the gap services and programs in agreed priority areas; and
  3. Ensuring all mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation to contribute to Closing the Gap.

The priority reforms will form the basis of engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives of communities and organisations across Australia and will focus on building support and what is needed to make them a success.

In another first, the engagements will be led by the Coalition of Peaks, with the support of Australian Governments.

A Welcome to Country for the second meeting of the Joint Council on #ClosingtheGap in Adelaide , co-chaired by the Minister Ken Wyatt and Pat Turner AM, Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks. 

Additional text AAP

Friday’s agreement follows the release in December last year of a set of draft targets by the Council of Australian Governments in a range of areas including health, education, economic development and justice.

They include a desire to have 95 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025, a bid to close the life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians by 2031 and efforts to ensure 65 per cent of indigenous youth aged between 15 and 24 are in employment, education or training by 2028.

The targets also seek to cut the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island young people in detention by up to 19 per cent and the adult incarceration by at least five per cent by 2028.

The refreshed closing the gap agenda will also commit to targets that all governments will be accountable to the community for achieving.

About the Joint Council

The Joint Council was established under the historic Partnership Agreement, announced in March. The agreement represents the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak bodies will have an equal say in the design, refresh, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Closing the Gap framework.

The council is comprised of 12 representatives elected by the Coalition of Peaks, a Minister nominated by the Commonwealth and each state and territory governments and one representative from the Australian Government Association.

See full list in Communique 


The Joint Council will meet at least twice a year, and will develop a workplan to refresh the Closing the Gap framework and monitor its implementation over the next ten years.

For more information on The Joint Council, The Partnership Agreement, The Coalition of Peaks and to sign up for our mailing list, go to: programmes/coalition-of-peaks/


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #VOICE #ClosingtheGap : Read Minister @KenWyattMP ‘LOOKING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK’ – 19TH ANNUAL VINCENT LINGIARI MEMORIAL LECTURE Darwin 15 August 

” What are you going to do tomorrow, in three months’ time and in a year’s time? – good will, while important, will not allow us to complete this journey and positively shift the pendulum.

How can we elevate our successes?

How can we give voice to those who feel voiceless?

And, how can we make sure their voices are heard as loudly as those who come from Canberra and in the media?

I want you to remember these words from Vincent Lingiari:

“Let us live happily together as mates, let us not make it hard for each other… We want to live in a better way together, Aboriginals and white men, let us not fight over anything, let us be mates.”


The Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP

Kaya wangju – hello and welcome, in Noongar.

As a Noongar, Wongi and Yamatji man standing before you, I thank Bilawara for her warm welcome this evening.

I formally acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand, the Larrakia people, and pay, my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

Good evening to all of you who have joined us this evening and in particular, I want to acknowledge my brothers and sisters who, many that I’ve walked, the challenges of change with.

The words of a song that was sung by the much-loved Slim Dusty of Looking Back and Looking Forward was the basis for what I wanted to cover tonight because of several reasons but Slim in particular was loved by Indigenous Australians – Slim was a storyteller.

Since the beginning of our time our nation’s sacred knowledge and identity has been kept and shared in song and in transmission through our stories.

Song is important to our culture, and to Australian culture. Music and the stories presented through songs are understood and loved by all Australians.

In Slim’s case, his songs were heard drifting throughout Australia’s living rooms, pubs, town halls, on the old wireless radio and through the records we played.

Through his songs and storytelling, Slim brought Indigenous Australia into suburbia, into the minds and hearts of the nation and the wider Australian culture.

The words you would’ve heard in his song ‘Looking Forward, Looking Back’ – are very poignant – and help paint an image of modern-day Australia.

I won’t sing it to you, because that’ll sort of distract from the quality of the music, but as Slim says:

Looking Forward, Looking Back.

We’ve come a long way down the track.

We’ve got a long way left to go.

Indigenous Australians, in everything we do, draw on the insights of our journey, the knowledge and wisdom of the past, and use that to embrace our future generations.

As we look back, we see the tracks of those who’ve walked before us.

For each of us, looking back evokes different memories and experiences, but I want us to be able to Look Forward – together – with a united purpose and determination for our children and grandchildren. And whilst for us as well – we have lived our time.

That’s why I’m here, with you, at the 19th annual Lingiari Lecture.

Tonight I will outline how I see us walking together, to advance:

  • Local truth-telling;
  • Constitution Recognition of Indigenous Australians;
  • Giving voice to local communities; and
  • Addressing disadvantage in Indigenous Australia.

So why did I start with Slim?

I’m told that, back in the day, there were juke-boxes here in the Territory that had nothing but Slim Dusty records on them. And as a Slim Dusty and Country Western music fan, I can certainly understand that sentiment.

But the thing that I really admired about him was that he sang about the land, about country, about people and our Australian way of life.

He sang about us, and to us, travelling in the old purple with his caravan to many remote communities and country towns across Australia.

Slim once said the most valuable performance fee he ever received in his entire career was the fee paid by a young girl called Miriam from Daly River here in the Territory.

Miriam and the children of the Daly River Mission wanted to see Slim perform but they couldn’t travel to Darwin to see him.

So together they saved up some money and wrote to Slim offering him an attractive performance fee if he came to their town.

The performance fee they offered was five dollars. But that was good enough for Slim.

He came to Daly, accepted the fee, and put on a show.

Over the course of his life, he visited that community many times. He’d go out to the mustering camp for dinner and share their black tea and bully beef sandwiches.

He’d watch and learn as the women and children showed him how to look for minnamindi.

He learnt how to cook with the honey-bag the kids brought back from the wild bees.

He fished with them; he went shooting with them.

He was invited to corroborees and learned how to make ochre paint.

Knowing us – and really knowing us – meant he could sing about us. He could share our stories in ways we didn’t have the means to and he could tell us stories of other places and people that helped us to understand our neighbours around us.

He sang of Trumby the ringer who couldn’t read or write…he sang of The Tall Dark Man in the Saddle…and of the painter Albert Namatjira.

He sang of a man called Bundawaal, “a King without subjects or crown”; a tribal elder reflecting on past struggles and glories, who couldn’t stop “an alien race without pity or grace” eradicating his people.

The song was based on a story that the local Aboriginal people told Slim while he was on tour.

He was singing about this when hardly anyone else in Australia was talking about us in the same way that he sang.

Slim opened the door for Indigenous people themselves to share the stage in the Australian country music industry, some of these early Indigenous pioneers in the Country Music Industry were people like Auriel Andrew, Jimmy Little and Gus Williams, just to name a few.

Picture a time in Australia, and this is for all the young ones out there, because for many of us here tonight know what it’s like to be told:

Where we could – and could not – sit.

Where we could – and could not – go.

You couldn’t sit on a seat at the cinema – you had to sit on a milk crate at the front of the auditorium or the old chairs.

You couldn’t enter a pub.

But Slim Dusty’s concerts were open to all, and we could sit wherever we liked.

People like Slim helped shift the pendulum.

Throughout our history, advancements in Indigenous affairs have swung like a pendulum.

This pendulum has shifted, back and forth, sometimes bringing meaningful advancement for Indigenous Australians, through events and actions of our own people, such as:

  • Albert Namatjira becoming the first Indigenous Australian to be given restricted citizenship,
  • Charlie Perkins Freedom Ride,
  • The election of Neville Bonner in 1971 to our nation’s Parliament, the first Indigenous Australian to serve in the Australian parliament. If you ever get the opportunity, go to the old museum at the parliament, the Old Parliament, and read his diary entry. He has a pillow on display and the diary entry says “I was never invited to any event, any function. At the end of a day, I would leave my office, go home to my trusted friend, my pillow, and would lay my head down to rest.”
  • Eddie Mabo’s fight and victory for Native Title and land rights, and of course
  • Vincent Lingiari’s Wave Hill walk-off and a strike which led to the Native Land Rights Act in 1976.

These significant achievements shifted the pendulum positively, however this hasn’t always meant the pendulum stayed that way.

While we have succeeded in some areas, in others we have not.

Looking forward, we must address where we have failed.

Where we have failed to permanently shift the pendulum on fundamental disadvantage with Indigenous Australia, on factors such as;

  • The basic right to an education,
  • The value of a full-time job,
  • Access uniformly to health care – and the need to address alarming rates of suicide and mental illness in our community,
  • And much, much more.

As I stand here tonight, looking forward, I am optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead for us – and equally as realistic about the challenges we must overcome.


As we embark on this journey – I am above all else wanting to have and encourage conversations across this nation – through these conversations we become more comfortable with each other, our shared past, present and future.

Truth-telling to me is not a contest of histories; it’s an understanding of history. It’s an acceptance that there can be shared stories around events in our nation’s history.

I recently spoke with an elderly woman who expressed her dismay that her childhood and education hadn’t featured the stories or history of Indigenous Australians.

In particular, she spoke about learning of massacres later in life and used the words to say that she had been lied to as a child.

I responded by saying that she wasn’t lied to, but she didn’t hear or have the opportunity to hear about our history through our eyes.

This is why we share and we need to share our history because it is important that the history of this nation is paralleled to the events that have occurred.

It is not about guilt. It is about acknowledging that there were events that occurred.

And we need to acknowledge that people will come to this debate from various angles, and perceptions of history – none of this is wrong, or should be dismissed or discouraged.

We cannot simply tell our truth through yelling.

It must be done through conversation.

For me, one of the most indelible moments that sparked a national conversation was that in December 1992 when the then Prime Minister Paul Keating delivered, what is now known as the Redfern Speech.

I had the fortune of being there.

The crowd was electrified and noisy, charged with energy and emotion.

I remember a bunch of balloons in the colours of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags bobbed on the roof above Keating’s head, and children dressed in red as they sat on the grass at the foot of the stage, trying to keep still but mostly failing.

Keating’s words that day have entered the history books, so has that speech.

The words most often quoted are his accounting of the deeds of non-Aboriginal Australians. He said:

We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders.”

But it was the next line that caused the strongest reaction from the audience. You couldn’t miss it.

We took the children from their mothers.

Those seven words drew a loud outburst from the crowd.

It was raw emotion.

Yet, it was both positive and negative – but most of all it was a significant moment of truth-telling, by none other than our nation’s Prime Minister of the day.

That shifted the pendulum – and from that shift, in 2008 we saw Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issue an apology on behalf of the Commonwealth Government to the Stolen Generations.

And any one of us here tonight could probably remember where we were, who we were with and the way in which we watched that speech being delivered. But the reactions that were portrayed on the screens, the tears running down the faces of those who were most affected, and the sense of relief became a glaringly obvious moment based on the fact: the truth of the past had been acknowledged.

Whilst this was regarded by some as merely a symbolic gesture, as of 2015 the fact is that there are an estimated 13,800 surviving Indigenous Australians aged 50 and over who had been removed from their families and communities and considered part of the Stolen Generation.

The healing that resulted from this act of truth-telling cannot be quantified.

And while this took time, it does demonstrate that truth-telling today can lead to significant moments of reconciliation in the future.

If we walk together and acknowledge our shared history we can achieve permanent positive change.

Truth-telling is not best served by a national commission or similar interrogation of truth.

We all should know detailed stories of the areas in which we lived. All Australians – sharing the one history.

I personally would rather see an organic and evolving truth-telling, in which we share our stories, our acknowledgement of the events of the past, but the way in which we as a nation of people are melding together for a better future.

There has to be local storytelling of the history of the past. And it must be local, otherwise we gloss over those very elements that are important in country, within region, and we will only tend to focus on national stories.

Every story to do with our country is as equally important as the national stories.

Around kitchen tables, over the BBQ and in the backyard, down at the local football and netball clubs and in pubs – this is where permanent change will come from – not from loud voices in Canberra and the media.

The 2018 Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition heard this first hand, and reported the following:

“A large number of stakeholders agreed that truth-telling is best implemented at local and regional levels.”

A key component of this local truth-telling is the fact that we must be comfortable having these conversations.

And comfortability is a two way street – for Indigenous Australians it means having the ability to speak our truth and have it heard; and for those seeking to understand, we must allow them to ask questions and contribute to the rigour of the conversation – whilst at all times maintaining respect for one another.

Until this happens, we won’t see the shift in the pendulum that we want to see and achieve.

Importantly, truth-telling is also an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Indigenous Australians – we must stand proud and celebrate the progress we’ve made.

Too often the pictures painted are that of setback and failure, which simply reinforces the negative elements of our history.

I want us to lead in a positive manner – I want all of us to lead in a positive manner. And, I want to celebrate our successes and champion those who achieve and do great things. In sport we do that exceptionally well – we acknowledge Ash Barty, we acknowledge Cathy Freeman, and many of our high-level achieving sports men and women.

But we also need to do it for the things that we achieve personally, those matters that we achieve as a community, but as equally important is the success of a child at each stage of schooling. And I’m not talking about achieving significant reform here, which is certainly important.

What I’m referring to is the kid who didn’t finish school getting their first job, and keeping it, and finding themselves contributing member to their community.

We need to celebrate every child who goes to school and receives an education, the foundation of a more meaningful and purposeful life.

These quiet achievements are as much about what defines Indigenous Australia in 2019 as the differences, we all too often allow those differences to divide us.


Looking forward to our opportunity to shift the pendulum – let’s talk about Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians.

Whilst the Constitution belongs to all Australians, it is important for the purpose of the conversations that I’ve spoken about tonight are so critical in achieving what we set out to do.

As I’ve said before – this is too important to rush, and it’s too important to get wrong.

On eight occasions, the Australian people have voted to change our founding document.

The Constitution is like the rule book for sport; it is the rule book of our nation.

On 36 other occasions they’ve been lost – and there 36 issues that have not come back to the Australian people to consider again in a referendum.

The most recent example of this being the 1999 Republic and Preamble Referendum – a campaign that saw a rift in our nation’s fabric – and result where not a single State carried a Yes vote – and often forgotten, is the fact that the vote on the Preamble was rejected by a greater margin than the question of the Republic.

This is not to say we can’t achieve Constitutional Recognition within the term of this Parliament.

But it is important that we learn from the 1999 Referendum, and reflect on how challenging it can be to translate good will into a positive outcome.

Looking back to 1967, and the Referendum put forward by the Coalition Holt Government, 90.77% of Australians voted to embrace our people as part of Australia.

Key to this was bi-partisan support, the simplicity of the question and a clear purpose for holding the Referendum.

I want to be very clear – the question we put to the Australian people will not result in what some desire, and that is a enshrined voice to the Parliament – on these two matters, whilst related, need to be treated separately.

This is about recognising Indigenous Australians on our Birth Certificate.

And I’ll talk about voice later on.

When I was elected in 2010, I was appointed to the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians – we held public conversations in 84 urban, regional and remote locations and in every capital city – as well as the hundreds of meetings and around 3,500 submissions were received.

From this, the Panel reported to government in 2012, and subsequently we had three more reports to government on the same matter.

Each of these reports have looked at a set of words to put to the Australian people.

The words are there in those documents.

Our challenge now is finding a way forward that will result in the majority of Australians, in the majority of states, overwhelmingly supporting Constitutional Recognition. We must be pragmatic.

The Constitution belongs to all Australians, from those in Slim’s home town of Kempsey to those in my childhood town of Corrigin, no one of us can lay claim to the Constitution.

It belongs to us collectively, and it belongs to those who came before us, and most importantly, it will belong to our children and our grandchildren.

I’m not thinking about what I can achieve for myself, or concerned about my legacy, I’m focused on realising recognition for my children, your children and generations to come.

Let me challenge the loudest voices in this debate – now is our opportunity to do this, and it will require understanding and tolerance of all views.

If we don’t seize the opportunity now, it may be lost for all of time – we must not allow this to happen – so I invite you to walk with all Australians on this journey.

It’s not about walking with me, or walking the path of any one individual – it’s about walking in the footsteps of those who’ve come before us, to create a new path for all Australians.

This is not an issue that can be viewed through the prism of political ideologies and all Australian politics have a way to go.

I ask my colleagues, from all sides, to remember what is your first duty as a Member of Parliament – and that is to listen to and represent the views of your community.

There is a lot of work to do on this journey – we haven’t had a referendum since 1999 – and we must educate a new generation on the importance of the Constitution and the significance of the change we are asking for.

This will require all of us to lay the foundation through education and conversation – that is the first step.

I had a young Australian ask me the other day when to expect their ballot to arrive in the mail to post back and wanted to be part of this change.

I had to explain to her the difference between the recent postal plebiscite to recognise same-sex Marriage and the difference between what a referendum is and how it works.

Having these conversations are as important as the conversations we have about why we need to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution and demonstrates the steps we need to consider to achieve this.

Let’s start these conversations, which may seem very basic to us, but are very important to realising success.

The pendulum will shift – but it’s up to us to determine which way.


Let me now turn to voice and being heard.

Having your voice heard is going to look very different to how your neighbour sees their voice being heard.

In Australia today, there are almost 800,000 Indigenous voices – all of equal importance and relevance.

Therein lies the complexity of defining ‘a voice’.

The voice is multi-layered and multi-dimensional.

I see rooted in our elders, who are the basis for our knowledge, culture and lore, and rooted in our communities, and extending through the ways in which all levels of government, service providers and corporations engage and work with our people.

Too often I visit communities and I’m told that their voice isn’t being heard because needs are not being met on the ground and we certainly heard that at Garma for those who were in attendance.

And others, who say that they want their local member of parliament to hear their voice.

How we give voice to these Australians is through conversation and understanding.

Knowing what is happening, knowing what needs to happen – and work with leaders and individuals within our communities to develop the practical solutions that see a shift in the pendulum at the most local of levels.

Having these voices heard is not only a matter for the Commonwealth government – it’s a matter for State and Territories, local governments and service providers.

That’s why I’ve tasked the National Indigenous Australians Agency with changing the way they engage – to ensure that the priority is meeting the needs of local communities first.

I’m often asked about the commitment of the Morrison Government but let me assure you that the Morrison Government is committed to a co-design process so we ensure we have the best possible framework in place to hear those voices at the local, regional and national level.

More will be said in the months to come, and much like Constitutional Recognition, it’s too important to rush, or to get wrong.

This is about ensuring Indigenous voices are heard as loudly as any other Australian voice is.

Again – this is a journey for all Australians to walk, and through conversations we must respect, understand and address all perspectives on this matter.

Giving voice to Indigenous Australians, and realising Constitutional Recognition are the greatest opportunities in our lifetime, but they are not mutually-exclusive.

This must be remembered if we are to shift the pendulum.


But what about shifting the pendulum tomorrow?

There are things that we can be doing, as individuals, as parts of organisations and as members of communities to positively shift the pendulum.

Don’t think that any one action you can take won’t lead to meaningful change – the individual actions of those here tonight, let alone all those across this nation, has the potential to improve lives and outcomes for our people.

We can all shift the pendulum.

And that’s what I’m focused on every single day.

I will be judged as equally on my ability and this government’s ability to create jobs, improve access to healthcare, have young people attend school and succeed, and reduce suicide rates as I will be on delivering Constitutional Recognition.

And this is what drives me.

Every Indigenous Australian who finds a job, every young person that gets to school in the morning, every prevented suicide and instances of Otitis Media for example being treated is what I will celebrate.

And that’s something you should celebrate too. It’s something you can have a direct impact upon.

How do you play a role in shifting the pendulum? Consider that proposition tonight and leave here motivated to shift the pendulum for one person, one family, one community or more.

Many of you will be doing that already, so the question becomes, how can we grow and share that? How can we celebrate that?

We must look at what we do and the good we have the potential for – and to then share these successes as loudly and widely as possible.

By celebrating success, we’re not blinding ourselves to the challenges at hand, or dismissing the levels of disadvantage within Australian Indigenous communities.

We know that people are dying earlier.

We know that our people are committing suicide.

We know that children are being born into a lifetime of poverty.

And, that’s on us as well.

I don’t discount or diminish this in any way.

We owe it to our children, and to future generations to come to create an environment and culture of opportunity and of positivity so that when an Indigenous Australian children is born, they see a world where their dreams can be realised, and where each day is filled with hope and optimism.

Where the face they see in the mirror, doesn’t limit their aspirations.

Where the face they see in the mirror is the face they see reading the 5 o’clock news, the face they see exploring space or one day the face they see leading our nation.

To achieve this future, we must change how we look at ourselves – and we must have others view Indigenous Australians through our successes and not our failings.

Just as disadvantage should not be viewed through colour – success should not be limited by colour.

I asked what we can do tomorrow to shift the pendulum – well, start by celebrating success, by sharing success and by ensuring that one person’s success today is the hope for someone else’s success tomorrow.

But to emphasise the importance of acting and listening at a local level, I want to take us back to the 1967 referendum.

As the referendum votes were being tallied and the nation’s ‘Yes’ vote was starting to emerge, Vincent Lingiari, a Gurindji man and his stockmen were several months into their famous Wave Hill walk-off and strike.

The strike although initially an employee rights action had soon become a national issue as the relationship between Indigenous Australians and the wider community and our national idioms were once again being challenged.

The strike lasted 8 years and that eventually led to the Native Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.

This shifted the pendulum, legislating the right for Indigenous people of the Northern Territory to negotiate over any developments on their lands.


Lingiari’s actions at a local level, culminated in the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s pouring the red dirt of our land through the hands of Vincent.

While this act was symbolic, it put in train a series of events that defines the land rights movement to this day.

The courage shown by Lingiari was not only for him, but for future generations, as recognised by what Whitlam said. And I won’t repeat what Sue shared with us earlier but it was a sign of possession of our lands for our children forever.

I am truly humbled to be here in front of you, delivering the 19th annual Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture – and I thank Charles Darwin University for the opportunity to contribute to this series of lectures, which has helped in its own way, be a form of truth-telling and spark the conversations that we’ve needed since 1996.

To be in the company of such distinguished voices truly is an honour.

And, I don’t want tonight to be about me, but if I could take one moment to say that the significance of being appointed the first Indigenous Minister for Indigenous Australians is not lost on me.

And I thanks the Gurindji people for their faith and for their commitment and I will certainly walk with you to deliver on the things that are important to our people but I will walk with our people across this nation and other Australians.

For young Indigenous Australians out there, across this great nation, dreaming of a career in politics, I hope that my journey can give you hope.

Many of you here know my journey, but just let me share it again for that young person who’s hearing from me for the first time tonight.

I was born in 1952 and raised in Roelands Mission near Bunbury in Western Australia, and the oldest of 10 kids.

My father was a railway ganger. My mother was a member of the Stolen Generations.

And, we lived in a tiny place called Nannine, just west of Meekatharra.

My schooling at first was by correspondence – working a radio with a foot pedal, like an old sewing machine, for two hours at a time.

Soon afterwards, my parents moved to Corrigin.

Education was my turning point, and by going to school, my drive for knowledge and desire to learn is something that I retain and value today.

I have a few other fragments of memory from when I was a skinny-ankled kid running around Corrigin.

There was the time that some people in our town started circulating a petition to get the Aboriginal family that had just moved in kicked out.

The petition failed. The townspeople wanted us to stay and have a fair go.

I also remember a time when I was about ten years old and somebody said to me: you might end up being a politician one day.

And I thought “not in this country will I ever have that opportunity”.

As I grew into a teenager in the mid-60s, I became enterprising.

I worked on farms, I’d catch rabbits, sell the meat to the butcher (certainly not the ones I bruised; I’d cook those) and I’d sell the skins as well.

I used to work on farms too. I’d earn money by chopping wood, doing the fencing, driving tractors during harvesting.

But, it gave me money for myself. I’d keep half my earnings and buy a few things and put some away in the bank. The other half I’d give to mother to help put food on the table for all of us.

This is not a sob story.

To me it sort of felt like freedom.

It gave me a sense of personal responsibility and an attitude of enterprising thinking.

Those experiences living in a country town probably shaped me.

While I was busy skinning rabbits and making a buck, Australia was growing and changing.

I hope collectively we can fulfil the expectation I feel each day, to continue to grow and shape a better future for all Indigenous Australians, and continue the healing of our nation.

I know I don’t walk alone – but I also acknowledge there are many expectations placed on me. And I feel the weight of expectation.

But, I want to take this weight – and turn it into an optimism for what we can achieve – together when we swing the pendulum.


And, I’ll repeat again – everything I have spoken about tonight, from truth-telling to Constitutional Recognition is too important to rush, and too important to get wrong.

I need everyone in this room, and all of those out there who want us to succeed to ask yourselves – what can I do to help us realise our goals?

What are you going to do to shift that pendulum?

What are you going to do tomorrow, in three months’ time and in a year’s time? – good will, while important, will not allow us to complete this journey and positively shift the pendulum.

How can we elevate our successes?

How can we give voice to those who feel voiceless?

And, how can we make sure their voices are heard as loudly as those who come from Canberra and in the media?

I want you to remember these words from Vincent Lingiari:

“Let us live happily together as mates, let us not make it hard for each other… We want to live in a better way together, Aboriginals and white men, let us not fight over anything, let us be mates.”

Let this be the basis for conversations we have. And, remember these important words of Vincent Lingiari.

Take stock every so often and ask yourself – are your actions working for or against shifting the pendulum – on any of the measures we’ve discussed tonight, or on any other significant measures through which we define success and progress.

Let’s remember the importance of learning, listening and understanding when we look back – and through this, we will be able to look forward.

Look forward and work towards realising

  • Local truth-telling;
  • Constitution Recognition of Indigenous Australians;
  • Giving voice to our local communities; and
  • Addressing disadvantage in Indigenous Australia.

Together we can shift the pendulum, help every child out there realise their dreams, and leave a more unified, understanding and tolerant Australia for the generations to come.

Success for me, will be to look back, after all is said and done, and be able to say, as Slim once sang:

We’ve done us proud.

To come this far,

Down through the years,

To where we are,

Side by side,

Hand in hand,

We’ve lived and died for this great land,

We’ve done us proud.

Let us walk together.

Let us shift the pendulum together.

I thank you for the privilege of being here with you this evening.

Thank you.



NACCHO Aboriginal Health News : Minister @GregHuntMP launches Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan that charts the way forward over the next 3 and 10 years : Download HERE

Delivering the world’s best mental health system – stigma-free and focused on prevention, starting with children under 12 – is the major focus of the Australian Government’s Long Term National Health Plan, outlined today.

Under this Plan, we will build a mentally and physically healthy Australia. For the first time, mental health will be rated equally alongside physical health.

The Long Term National Health Plan recognises that depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and psychosis are health problems to be treated just like diabetes, asthma and broken bones.

It charts the way forward over the next three and 10 years in the key areas of mental health, primary care, hospitals, preventive health and medical research.

The Long Term National Health Plan includes:

  • The 2030 mental health vision, including a new strategy specifically for children under 12 years
  • The 10-year Primary Health Care Plan
  • Continued improvement of private health insurance
  • The 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy
  • The 10-year Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) investment plan.

To help inform the Plan, the Government is commissioning a multi-year study of more than 60,000 Australians to provide the most complete picture ever of our physical and mental health.

The Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study will cover mental health, general health, nutrition and physical activity.

Health Minister Greg Hunt launching The Long Term National Health Plan at the National Press Club August 14

Download Read full 30 minute speech HERE

Transcript Minister Greg Hunt Launch Health Plan

Improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a top priority for the Government.

Over four years from 2019-20, we will invest $4.1 billion in dedicated health programs for Indigenous

This represents an annual increase of around four per cent. This will improve access to culturally sensitive comprehensive primary health care, and target areas of critical need to accelerate progress
towards the Closing the Gap targets.

Our focus is on working with Indigenous communities and other governments to ensure programs are working effectively to improve health outcomes, by tackling the social factors which impact heavily on health.

All Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services now report against national key performance
indicators, which are critical for measuring progress towards the Government’s Closing the Gap targets.

We are also funding research and innovation in cooperation with Australia’s First Nations’ people,
including $160 million for a 10-year national Indigenous Health Research Fund.

Up to $25 million will be directed to communities and stakeholder groups to implement proposals at
a local level to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health “

Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan charts the way forward over the next 3 and 10 years in the key areas of mental health, primary care, hospitals, preventive health and medical research

Download the Plan HERE


Mental health

The Government will build a mental health system that is integrated, simplified, trusted and comprehensive.

The new Children’s Mental Health Strategy focuses on the 0–12 age group, and aims to maintain mental wellbeing and prevent mental ill health. It will improve delivery of supports for early childhood, parenting and early education.

We know that half of all symptoms of mental illness begin before the age of 14, and that neuropsychiatric conditions are the leading cause of disability in young people. If untreated, these conditions severely influence how children develop, and how they do at school and in life.

The Children’s Mental Health Strategy will provide a framework to embed protective skills in early childhood, create mentally healthy home environments, support parents, and prevent or treat early childhood trauma.

The expert working group developing the Strategy will be co-chaired by Professor Frank Oberklaid and Professor Christel Middeldorp. Two internationally recognised leaders in child mental health.

Professor Oberklaid, Director of the Centre for Community Child Health at The Royal Children’s Hospital, and Professor Middeldorp, conjoint Professor of Child and Youth Psychiatry at the Child Health Research Centre and Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, are two of Australia’s leading child mental health experts.

The Government will continue to tackle stigma around mental illness and encourage people to seek help – and seek it early.

Enormous progress has been made on destigmatisation, but self-stigma – people’s self-consciousness about their own mental health concerns remains high. It is the main barrier to people seeking help.

As a Government, and through the nation’s leaders, organisations, schools and the community, we will work to ensure there will be no shame – in particular, no shame in our own mental health challenges – when we reach out for help.

The Government is undertaking unprecedented action to reduce the rates of suicide, particularly for our young people and Indigenous Australians. More than 3,120 recorded suicides in 2017 – part of an upward trend over the past decade – is a national tragedy.

The Government will establish a ‘towards zero’ suicide target and culture through a whole-of-government approach driven by Australia’s first National Suicide Prevention Adviser, Christine Morgan.

One of the specific priority areas for the next round of the Government’s Million Minds mental health research mission will be research on suicide prevention. Funding of $8 million will be made available to support this research with a round to be opened for competitive application in November 2019.

We will continue to improve service delivery. Funding of $111 million will establish 30 more headspace centres in this term, taking the total to 145 around Australia.

Funding of $110 million is allocated for the Early Psychosis Youth Services Program; $114.5 million to establish eight adult mental health centres; $63 million for residential eating disorder centres in each state and territory; and $36.7 million to expand Way Back services in selected regions, to support people after attempting suicide.

Between now and 2030, we will establish a network of adult mental health centres.

Australia’s mental health system needs to be better integrated. The Government will work towards a New National Mental Health Partnership with states and territories. This Partnership will be informed by the National Mental Health Commission and the Productivity Commission, which are currently working together on Vision 2030: Blueprint for the Future.

The Partnership will identify individual and shared responsibilities for states and territories, and the Commonwealth.

The goal of national partnerships with each of the states and territories is for a simplified mental health system from prevention to treatment to recovery.

Primary care

The Government will implement the 10-year Primary Health Care Plan.

A key reform is support for GPs to provide more flexible care for patients over 70 with chronic and complex conditions, through a new patient enrolment payment model rather than fee-for-service MBS items.

We will develop genomics testing as the new standard of care. Genomics will transform prevention, prediction, diagnosis and treatment by providing precision medical care, targeting the unique genetic makeup of individuals.

We will progressively roll out universal telehealth, modernising general practice, improving continuity and convenience, and particularly benefiting rural and remote Australia.

We will encourage more nurses to enter the primary care workforce.

We will make pharmacy an even more essential part of primary care. The Government is committed to early and inclusive negotiations for a new Community Pharmacy Agreement.

Through our Stronger Rural Health Strategy, we will better distribute the health workforce, with 3,000 new doctors and nurses and hundreds of allied health professionals to be located in areas of need, especially in regional and rural Australia.

Indigenous health is a key priority. We will complete the next iteration of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan by mid-2020.

Through Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), we will continue to ensure Australians have guaranteed access to subsidised health care and medicines. We have provisioned $40 billion for PBS medicines over the next four years. Of this, more than $10 billion is for cancer medicines. We are also looking at ways to improve subsidised access, including streamlining processes for medicines that offer a real therapeutic advance.

Hospitals and private health insurance

We have begun the next wave of private health insurance reforms. We are working collaboratively with insurers, hospitals and doctors to deliver a better outcome for consumers. Our first round of reforms delivered the lowest premium changes in 18 years.

With $131 billion in record public hospitals funding on the table for the next five years under the National Health Reform Agreement, we will work with states and territories to better coordinate care for complex and chronic conditions, keep people out of hospital, and improve management, including self-management, of people with chronic and complex conditions.

Under our landmark $1.25 billion Community Health and Hospitals Program, we will continue to allocate funds for important health and hospital projects. So far, $100 million in signed bilateral agreements with states and territories has been released for 65 projects, including the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to bring CAR T – cell treatment to Australia ($80 million), Sydney Children’s Comprehensive Cancer Care Centre ($100 million), the Repat Brain and Spinal Centre, South Australia ($20 million), and the Logan Urgent and Specialist Care Centre, Queensland ($33.4 million).

Preventive health

The Government will develop and implement a 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy. This strategy will provide a better balance between treatment and prevention. It will be designed to keep people healthier and out of hospital.

We will continue to lift cancer screening rates across the three current population-based cancer screening programs – bowel, breast, and cervical – and have requested Cancer Australia to investigate the potential for a national lung cancer screening program.

Australia is set to be the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer through vaccination and screening.

We will continue to invest in the National Immunisation Program – $400 million for this year. We will develop a national obesity strategy with states and territories. A $20 million National Tobacco Campaign over four years will continue to reduce tobacco use. Our goal is to reduce smoking rates to below 10 per cent by 2025.

The National Preventive Health Strategy includes an Indigenous Preventive Health Plan. Under this plan, targets for improved health outcomes include:

  • Ending avoidable blindness by 2025
  • Ending avoidable deafness by 2025
  • Eradicating rheumatic heart disease by 2030
  • A 10 per cent annual increase in the number of people having at least one health check a year
  • 60 per cent of pregnant women to have at least one health check in the first trimester
  • Stopping the growth in type 2 diabetes among children and young people within five years.

Medical research

The 10-year, $5 billion MRFF investment plan and the $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund are giving funding certainty to our best and brightest researchers and start-ups. They are reaffirming Australia’s reputation as a world leader in the health and medical research.

A total of 54 clinical trials are now being funded through the MRFF. Within 10 years, we will have established Australia as a global centre for clinical trials.

Eight research missions covering brain cancer ($124.7 million), mental health ($125 million), genomics $500 million), ageing, aged care and dementia ($185 million), Indigenous ($160 million), stem cell ($150 million), cardiovascular ($220 million) and traumatic brain injury ($50 million) are funded through the MRFF. Over time, they will transform health care.

Work on breakthrough treatments includes the $20 million Mackenzie’s Mission to research rare genetic conditions like spinal muscular atrophy and fragile X syndrome, and the $50 million Genomic Cancer Medicine Program.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #ClosingtheGap: Read CEO Pat Turner’s and Download @KenWyattMP speeches from the #Garma2019 #Voice Workshop and watch #TheDrum interview


 ” There is a long way to go yet before we get agreement.  Governments, particularly the Commonwealth, remain determined to pursue draft targets agreed to by COAG last December whereas we want to get the focus on the reform priorities and their implementation.  

Of most concern is that no government has so far been prepared to put new funding on the table.  We need new funding from all Governments to support the new Agreement and supports the reform priorities in particular. 

Nonetheless, I remain optimistic that we can achieve our goal and I seek the support of everyone here today for our mission.   More than anything that is to turn Closing the Gap from a negative feature of our politics of the day to a positive one.

Pat Turner CEO NACCHO Speech at GARMA 2019 Read in full part 3

 Part 1

” The government is committed to deepening partnerships with Indigenous Australians. The partnership between government and the coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations to co-design the Closing the Gap framework and targets is a great example of the way in which we can work together with Indigenous Australians having a seat at the partnership table, as equals, not only with the Commonwealth minister, but equally with State and Territory ministers.

And I want to acknowledge Pat Turner in a particular way for her leadership in this space. Pat has been an integral part of driving this partnership along with her colleagues, which has been a game changer.

The inaugural meeting of the Joint Council of Closing the Gap was held in March this year and this is the first COAG Council to include include non-government members as equal partners in decision making. As of 1 July 2019 the coalition of peak organisations representing 41 organisations sit at the table.

Whilst there is a lot of work to be done, I look forward to working in genuine a genuine partnership in the next phase of Closing the Gap with the coalition of peaks and other members of the agreement.

This agreement has paved the way for governments to engage directly with Indigenous Australians on critical and important issues.”

Minister Ken Wyatt speech at Garma 2019

Download full speech here

Minister Ken Wyatt Speech Garma 2019

Part 2 Watch Pat Turner appearance on The Drum

Ellen Fanning (The Drum, ABC, 2/8/19) and has guests Mick Dodson, Mayatili Marika, Thomas Mayor and Pat Turner, at the 2019 Garma Festival in north-east Arnhem Land, talking about Indigenous rights and the push for constitutional recognition and a voice in Parliament.

Watch full one hour program HERE 

Racheal Hocking from #ThePoint #NITV interviewing NACCHO CEO Pat Turner and AHRC June Oscar at Garma about women’s voices and self determination

Part 3

I want to thank Yothi Yindi for inviting me to this great event on Gumatj land and to start by acknowledging their elders, past and present.

In particular, can I pay my respects to Galarrwuy who has led his people for nearly a generation and has been able to achieve a number of important outcomes.  They include agreements for the Gumatj to mine bauxite themselves and even to build a rocket launching pad!

Us Arrernte people have just agreed to a US multinational building a ground station to receive data from satellites on the site of the Centre for Appropriate Technology in Alice Springs.

It makes me proud that it is Aboriginal people from the Northern Territory leading the way in developing a space industry in Australia.

This is very relevant to the politics of the day which is meant to shape the discussion in this session.  I think all would agree that Closing the Gap is an important feature of the politics of the day as far as Indigenous issues are concerned.

Unfortunately, however, it is largely a negative feature.   Every year, since Closing the Gap started in 2008, successive Prime Ministers have reported to Parliament on how most of the Closing the Gap targets are not on track to be achieved.

We have all become used to this negative narrative, so much so that our achievements, such as in the space industry are being overlooked.

The negative narrative has made an almost an obsessive focus on the targets by successive governments highly problematic for our people.

It is this obsession with the targets which is the cause and has led to Closing the Gap being a negative feature of the politics of the day for us.

I don’t discount the need for targets, but we need to get a much greater focus on what we know will work to make much more progress against them.    If we had a much greater focus on how to achieve the targets, I think the story of Closing the Gap would be a positive one instead of a tale of woe!

This is a good backdrop for me to brief you on the strategy of the Coalition of Peaks.  Made up of some 40 national and state/territory peak organisations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, it is determined to turn Closing the Gap into a positive feature of the politics of the day.

In October last year, a group of us wrote to the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers to ask that the Council of Australian Governments not agree to a new Closing the Gap framework and instead enter into a genuine partnership with us.

To our great surprise, the Prime Minister did ultimately agree to meet us and he agreed to our proposition that COAG and the Peaks, on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, enter into a formal partnership for the next phase of Closing the Gap.

The mainstream politics of the day at that time was dominated by the nearing Federal election and the prospect that there would be a change of government.  Some said that the motive for the Prime Minister to agree was to make sure that Indigenous Affairs was not a negative issue for the Coalition in the lead up to the Election.

However, after a surprise win, the Prime Minister has kept his word and as far as we know remains committed to the formal partnership.  I don’t think his agreement to a formal partnership with us was about politics and I think he should be given credit.

We have made historic progress since the COAG meeting of December 2018 which announced that a formal partnership was to be entered into with representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to finalise the next phase of Closing the Gap.

Of great importance is that for the first time, initiated by us, COAG has signed up to a formal partnership agreement with the peaks to share decision making in the next phase of Closing the Gap.  This is the first time that COAG has done such a thing and if you haven’t seen the Partnership Agreement, I invite you to review it on the COAG website.

The Agreement sets up a Joint Council on Closing the Gap which comprises 12 representatives of the Peaks and 9 government representatives to share decision making.  This is also the first time that a COAG ministerial council has included non-government members. It is co-chaired by Minister Wyatt and I and it has already had a successful meeting.

A secretariat for the Peaks has also been funded for 3 years to enable us to participate equally in implementing the Partnership Agreement and I also want to thank the Federal Government for making this commitment.

With this architecture that we have put in place, we want to find a way to achieve a real partnership in the next phase of Closing the Gap which accelerates improvements in life outcomes for our peoples.  In particular our goal is to stop this tale of woe around the targets.

Why we are doing this goes to 3 simple propositions that all stakeholders publicly endorse:

  1. When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are included and have a real say in the design and delivery of services that impact on them, the outcomes are far better;
  2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to be at the centre of Closing the Gap policy: the gap won’t close without our full involvement; and
  3. The Council of Australian Governments cannot expect us to take responsibility and work constructively with them to improve outcomes if we are excluded from the decision making.

To achieve this, we have already secured agreement to negotiating a new COAG Agreement to replace the National Indigenous Reform Agreement.   This Agreement, signed by governments in 2008 as a result of the leadership of the Commonwealth, was ground-breaking.

It committed all of the governments to working together to closing the gap and included an integrated strategy and agreed roles and responsibilities and of course the targets.  Importantly, NIRA as it is called, was accompanied by a new investment of $4.6 billion dollars in programs and services to help achieve the targets.

NIRA, however, had one significant failing and this was that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the beneficiaries of Closing the Gap, were not parties.  It also fell away in time as all Governments, in the absence of any mechanism to ensure they fulfilled the commitments, slowly forgot about NIRA.  That was a great shame and I believe COAG failed us in allowing NIRA, despite still being in existence, to slowly be disregarded except for those targets.

The Coalition of Peaks believe we need a COAG Agreement to take us forward for the next 10 years but this time around we need to be parties, not just governments, we need to find a way to ensure compliance, through national legislation, and we need to take the focus away from targets.

There is no evidence that the targets drive change, and particularly in Closing the Gap.  Despite every year the annual report from the Prime Minister reporting that most targets are not on track to be achieved, I am still certain that COAG would have gone ahead and approved a new Closing the Gap framework in December 2018, excluding us again, without the intervention of the Coalition of Peaks.

Instead of targets, we have put to the government representatives on the Joint Council that the new Agreement should be underpinned by 3 reform priorities that we think will accelerate the achievement of much better life outcomes for our peoples.

Those 3 reform priorities are

  • Supporting the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in shared decision making at the national, state and regional level; particularly embedding regional ownership, responsibility and expertise to close the gap;
  • Building the formal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled services sector in priority areas to deliver closing the gap services and programs; and
  • Undertaking systemic and structural reform to mainstream institutions delivering services to Indigenous peoples to provide much better services to our people.

So far, I can advise that Governments have agreed to negotiating a new Agreement on Closing the Gap to replace Closing the Gap by December this year and to also examining the possibility of national legislation.  They have also agreed in principle to the reform priorities.

The Coalition of Peaks also put to the Governments that we should lead an engagement process to build support for the reform priorities and they have agreed to this also.  Starting in September, leaders of the Peaks rather than public servants on behalf of governments will be running a series of engagements across Australia and this is the first time that Aboriginal people have been in the driver’s seat on engaging our people on government policy.

However, there is a long way to go yet before we get agreement.  Governments, particularly the Commonwealth, remain determined to pursue draft targets agreed to by COAG last December whereas we want to get the focus on the reform priorities and their implementation.

Of most concern is that no government has so far been prepared to put new funding on the table.  We need new funding from all Governments to support the new Agreement and supports the reform priorities in particular.

Nonetheless, I remain optimistic that we can achieve our goal and I seek the support of everyone here today for our mission.   More than anything that is to turn Closing the Gap from a negative feature of our politics of the day to a positive one.

Thank you

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #NAIDOC2019 News 4 of 5 : New @OzProdCom Productivity Commissioner @RMokak talks about what #NAIDOC #VoiceTreatyTruth means and invites input into a new #Indigenous Evaluation Strategy

” Implementation matters, and considering likely implementation roadblocks – such as capability and culture in agencies and service delivery organisations, data availability, and knowledge translation – will be key considerations for the strategy.

We are also encountering many positive examples from outside government of how evaluation can be used to improve decision making and program implementation.

We have much to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations – such as the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) in South East Queensland.

IUIH has been active in commissioning and conducting research and evaluation to build the evidence base on what works, and demonstrate its impact to the community and government.

Last week, we published an issues paper, which outlines some of the key questions we’d like your help to answer.”

Commissioner Romlie Mokak delivered a speech for a NAIDOC event at the Institute of Public Administration Australia in Canberra July 2019

Download 58 page Indigenous Evaluation Strategy issues paper 


Make a submission HERE

Today, I stand here on the lands of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people. I am deeply grateful for the warmth and the generosity in allowing this country to be home for my family over the past 20 years. I honour your ancestors, your Elders and your young ones yet to come. I honour your sacred places and the wisdom and teachings held and shared in these places.

I aim to speak to two things today – NAIDOC and the Indigenous Evaluation Strategy.

NAIDOC theme — Voice, Treaty, Truth

This year’s NAIDOC brings into focus the theme of Voice, Treaty, Truth: let’s work together for a shared future. The NAIDOC theme, by definition, seeks for all Australians to work together to build our nation’s future. Voice, Treaty, Truth puts forward a proposition to the Australian people – not just to parliament, but to the Australian people — about a shared future.

These three elements from the Uluru Statement from the Heart speak to the call by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a greater say in their lives.

I quote:

When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish.

They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.

We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution….we seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard.

NAIDOC week is a time to commemorate, as well as a time to celebrate. It is a time to remember and honour those who have come before.  To honour those who have worked tirelessly and endlessly for our benefit. NAIDOC week is a time to place our — Indigenous — knowledges, our cultures, our science, our strength, our achievements – at the centre.

NAIDOC invites you into this space – beyond raising flags, beyond exhibiting art, beyond consuming native foods. NAIDOC is not just about NAIDOC week. In fact, the spirit of NAIDOC really is about what we do during those remaining weeks of the year.

25 years in policy

This week begins my 12th week at the Productivity Commission – it is still very much early days for me.

My road to the Commission has been travelled via community, state, Commonwealth and Indigenous organisations. From beginnings in the NSW public service 25 years ago as a junior policy officer in ageing and disability. To the Commonwealth Department of Health — working in Indigenous policy and program areas such as health inequality, substance use and financing.

For the past 14 years heading up national black organisations:

  • nine as CEO of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association
  • the last five as head of the Lowitja Institute (Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Research).

The learning over these years – that those who are most invested and most impacted must not be assigned to policy render. They must also be designers, architects, builders and evaluators for impact and change.

Indigenous Evaluation Strategy

The Productivity Commission has been asked to develop a whole-of-government evaluation strategy to be used by all Australian Government agencies, for policies and programs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The project will have three main components. The commission has been asked to:

  • establish a principles-based framework for the evaluation of policies and programs
  • identify priorities for evaluation
  • set out its approach for reviewing agencies’ conduct of evaluations against the strategy.

The commission has a broad remit to recommend changes to improve the use and conduct of evaluation in Australian Government agencies. This goes beyond guiding stakeholders during the commissioning and conduct of evaluations.

The evaluation strategy should also make recommendations on how evaluation and evidence-based decision making can be embedded into policy development and program delivery. The problems with existing evaluation practice that have motivated this project are not just that evaluations have been rarely or poorly conducted, but stem from the lack of influence of evaluation practice and results on policymaking.

It is clear that the value of evaluation will be limited in the absence of strong and sustainable mechanisms to feed evaluation findings, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, perspectives and priorities, into the policymaking process.

The evaluation strategy must cover both mainstream and Indigenous-specific policies and programs if it is to properly examine those that have most impact on, or potential benefit for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We will make recommendations on how evaluation efforts should be prioritised, both within agencies and across the Australian Government.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples perspectives on what policies and outcomes matter most will be vital when identifying priorities for evaluation.

Early insights

Our project is in its early stages:

  • we will deliver a draft report in February next year
  • and a final report to government in around 12 months from now.

However early discussions around the country have provided insights into the challenges we may face when developing the strategy, and the areas where the strategy can add the most value. The dearth of evaluation of policies and programs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been well-documented. It is clear that evaluation practice in Australian Government agencies varies considerably.

Existing evaluation efforts are often narrowly focused rather than systematic, and many agencies do not publish evaluation reports in a timely manner (if at all). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and voices have been largely absent from evaluation design and conduct. Even where there has been leadership and considerable resources devoted, experience shows that changing the evaluation culture in government agencies is hard.

The then Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (now National Indigenous Australian agency) and the Department of Health are two agencies that have made inroads into better incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and priorities into their evaluation efforts.

Implementation matters, and considering likely implementation roadblocks – such as capability and culture in agencies and service delivery organisations, data availability, and knowledge translation – will be key considerations for the strategy.

We are also encountering many positive examples from outside government of how evaluation can be used to improve decision making and program implementation. We have much to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations – such as the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) in South East Queensland.

IUIH has been active in commissioning and conducting research and evaluation to build the evidence base on what works, and demonstrate its impact to the community and government.

Last week, we published an issues paper, which outlines some of the key questions we’d like your help to answer.

These include:

  • How can Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, priorities and values be better integrated into policy and program evaluation?
  • What principles should guide Australian Government agencies’ evaluation efforts?
  • What should be the priority policy areas for future Australian Government evaluation efforts?
  • How can evaluation results be better used in policy and program design and implementation?
  • What ongoing role should the Productivity Commission have in monitoring agencies’ implementation of the strategy, and in evaluating policies and programs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people more generally?

Further engagement

We are seeking submissions from interested parties between now and 23 August.

You can send us a written submission, make an oral submission or leave a brief comment on our website:

In the second half of the year we will be engaging widely across Australia to inform the development of the strategy. We will travel to urban, regional and remote areas, to hear from individuals, groups and organisations.

We hope to hold a series of roundtable discussions on topics related to the evaluation strategy. This will be to draw on the experience and expertise of people and organisations who have been involved in evaluation or have insights into how policy making and program implementation can be improved.

In closing

As NAIDOC’s impact must surely go well beyond a single week in July.

So to a future Indigenous Evaluation Strategy must have value in a lasting way.

I invite each and every one of you to be an active part of the discussion, debate and design to make this a reality.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health News : Read @KenWyattMP #NPC National Press Club full speech #NAIDOC2019 #VoiceTreatyTruth #UluruStatement #ClosingtheGap

“Kaya Wangju”

I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we’re meeting today, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.

I also acknowledge other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People who are present here today and those who are watching at home.

I also acknowledge: Sabra Lane and the National Press Club for inviting me to speak today.

Our cultural heritage is the essence of who we are – it shapes our thinking, our customs, our social interactions and how we see ourselves as a specific group.

Our bloodlines and our ancient song lines have provided the continuity of connections as individuals, families and communities throughout the passages of time.

This is also evident in Multicultural Australia where we see the pride of the various cultural societies reflected in their festivals and the cultural events they celebrate.

NAIDOC Week celebrates over 60,000 years of history, culture and achievements of Indigenous Australians which commences from the first Sunday in July until the following Sunday each year.

The origin of NAIDOC arose from a letter Mr

William Cooper wrote on behalf of the Australian Aborigines Progressive Association, an umbrella group for a number of Aboriginal justice movements to Aboriginal communities and churches.

Each year NAIDOC is themed to give prominence to a matter of substance to create awareness and celebrate successes and is an acknowledgement of further work that has to be completed. Some of the past themes have included;

  • 2018 “Because of her, we can!”
  • 2006: “Respect the Past-Believe in the Future”

The theme for 2019 is

“Voice Treaty Truth”

Read NACCHO report HERE

The concept of the “Voice” in the Uluru Statement from the Heart is not a singular voice and what I perceive is that it is a cry to all tiers of Government to stop and listen to the voices of Indigenous Australians at all levels.

The voice is multi-layered and includes the voices of individuals, families, communities and

Indigenous organisations who want to be heard by those who make the decisions that impact on their lives.

All they want is for Governments to hear their issues, stories of their land and their local history. They are asking the three tiers of Government to stop and take the time to listen to their voices.

The development of a local, regional and national voice will be achieved.

It is my intention to work with the State and Territory Ministers to develop an approach – underpinned with existing jurisdictional Indigenous organisations and advisory structures established to provide advice to State and Territory Governments. Indigenous Australian leaders are integral to the process and will be equally involved.

The national interest requires a new relationship with Indigenous Australians based on their participation and establishing entrenched partnerships at the community and regional levels.

My Regional Managers will be required to make this happen.

I will turn to the matters of Treaty and Constitutional Recognition later.

In the address to the Welcome to Country

Ceremony, at the opening of the 46th Parliament, the Prime Minister made the following comments which I have used selectively to highlight the changing attitude of our nation.  

Here, 65,000 thousand years of Aboriginal culture meets mere centuries of Westminster tradition, which the Leader of the Opposition and I represent, being here together.

In my maiden speech to Parliament, I said that ‘a strong country is at peace with its past’. This is a work in progress. Being at peace with our past, being at one with our past. …While we reflect on how far we have to go, consider though how far we’ve come.

This year, my Government appointed Ken Wyatt as the first ever Aboriginal person to hold the  position of Minister for Indigenous Australians – and as a member of Cabinet.

The Sunday following the election was National Sorry Day, my wife Anna, read a Face Book post that the Hon Ben Wyatt, WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs had posted about his father Cedric Wyatt.

His father spent a large part of his life in Sister

Kates, after being born at Moore River Native Settlement.

I reflected on my mother and her siblings who had spent their early years of life in missions, separated from each other but they all remained optimistic that the future would yield better outcomes for us – their children.

My thoughts were interrupted with Anna saying

can you hang out the washing and don’t forget to take your phone with you in case the Prime Minister rings you and offers you a job”.

I was hanging up a tablecloth on the Hills hoist clothes line when the phone rang and the Prime Ministers name came up. I answered the phone with good morning Prime Minister.  I thought he might offer me my previous portfolio.

Instead he said, “I want to thank for your support for senior Australians, the Aged Care Sector and Indigenous Health. I would like to offer you the position of the Minister for Indigenous Australians.’

His statement absolutely stunned me – Not Minister for Indigenous Affairs but Minister for Indigenous Australians.

Two thoughts ran through my mind – the Prime Minister has focused on Indigenous Australians which gives a personal and human value to our people and secondly an increased scope of work – combined with his expectations of what he wants to achieve as the leader of our Government.

I choked with emotion at the honour and magnitude of the expectation that would come with being Minister for Indigenous Australians – it took me a full two minutes to answer him. In those two minutes, the emotions of our story as Indigenous Australians welled up in me. It’s hard to express what I actually felt and what it meant to me.

The Prime Minister said ‘I take it your silence means “yes”?’ Then I found my voice, and said ‘yes Prime Minister I accept.

Anna heard the phone ring and saw the expression on my face, she assumed that I had been advised of a death and so she came closer to hear whose voice it was.

She could hear the Prime Minister’s voice and she then understood that he had offered me the position of Minister for Indigenous Australians.

We both knew the enormity of the job but equally the importance of the symbolism for Australia.

We must never forget the significance of symbolism but it must be balanced with pragmatism that results in change for Indigenous Australians.

I want to acknowledge the Prime Minister’s leadership in establishing the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

With the establishment of the Agency on 1 July, we began a new era for the Government to work in partnership with Indigenous Australians. It will provide opportunities for growth and advancement in education, employment, suicide prevention, community safety, health and constitutional recognition.

There is still more to do to find local solutions to make a difference at the community level.

Historically, Indigenous Australians have been told what they’re going to get, and what’s going to happen to them, whether they like it or not.

The Agency will play a critical role in supporting me to meet the changing needs of Indigenous Australians.

I will work in partnership with State and Territory Ministers of Indigenous Affairs to progress work on the Closing the Gap targets and identify good practice and to share and celebrate successful programs and jurisdictional achievements.

We have an incredible opportunity to make a difference as leaders of the Nation if we work together on targeted priorities such as the high incarceration rates.

As I’ve said, the most important thing that I and the Agency will do is to listen – with our ears and with our eyes.

I intend to have genuine conversations, not only with Indigenous leaders and peak bodies, but with families, individuals and community organisations so that I can hear their voices and work together to agree to a way forward for a better future for our children.

To me a child in a remote community is just as important as a state or national leader.

I want to encourage Ministers, Assistant Ministers and as many members of the Australian Parliament to become familiar with Indigenous organisations, communities and families to identify the issues that Government needs to become aware of and ultimately work towards finding solutions.

Outside government, I want to work with corporate Australia. I am asking them to sit with me around boardroom tables – and around campfires – and discuss how they can contribute. A week after I was sworn in, I received a letter from Jennifer Westacott assuring me the Business Council stood ready to work with me to make sure

‘Australia’s First People’s share in the same economic and social opportunities as every other

Australian.’ She invited me to sit down with them at Garma this year to talk about ‘how business can best work with the Government to build prosperity in Indigenous communities.’[1]

That’s a great start to a working relationship that can really drive change.

It’s not my intention to develop policy out of my office but to implement a co-design process with my Ministerial and Parliamentary colleagues – relevant departments and with Indigenous communities, organisations and leaders.I am charged with developing enhanced local/regional decision making through expanding

Empowered Communities and other Regional Governance models.

I want to see our Elders, as well as the young people, being informed and investing in decisionmaking about what is important in their lives. Without that local and regional engagement our efforts won’t succeed and opportunities to make a difference will be lost.

I will be expecting my Agency to implement a codesign approach whereby we will become partners in the design process and helping reform – that will realise better outcomes.

The model for the way in which I want to work to effect change is premised on Mick Copes ‘The Definitive Guide to Consulting Process. That is

Client; Understand the community and the  problem.

Clarify: Find out what is really going on.

Create: Build the best possible solution.

Change: Make it happen.

Confirm: Make sure it has happened.

Continue: Make the change stick.

Close :Close the engagement but maintain the relationship.

Deal With Unanticipated Consequences and

Keep the Momentum

I invite all sides of politics to work with me to ensure we provide the best support and services needed to effect change. (Cite Alice Springs Glasses)

I will work to improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes for young Indigenous people and implement a targeted plan towards zero youth suicide in remote communities.

We’ve all been shocked and grieved by the numbers of Aboriginal people, especially youth, committing suicide.

The fact that Aboriginal people are committing suicide at twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians is one of the gravest and most heartbreaking challenges we face.

Precious lives that should be full of promise, instead filled with despair and disconnection.

We need to address the influence of social and cultural factors if we are to see significant change. We need to listen to young people.

The Prime Minister announced the appointment of

Christine Morgan as our new National Suicide Prevention Adviser to support this priority.

Ms Morgan will work with the Prime Minister’s Department and the Minister for Health to drive a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention, while ensuring prevention services reach Australians that need them and communities are supported

The allocation of $500 million for Youth Mental Health and a Suicide Prevention Plan include $34 million for Indigenous youth suicide prevention.

We need to get the right services to the right people through outreach and frontline services, with tools like the mental health first aid kit.

Young people in the Kimberley have made it clear that suicides don’t happen between nine and five but often after when they are not accessible. They suggested organisations funded for Mental Health and suicide services consider after-hours services to enable youth to access support when they need it in times of crisis. Not a telephone line.

As mentioned earlier I will develop and bring forward a consensus option for Constitutional Recognition to be put to a referendum during the current parliamentary term. I have commenced the process of engaging and seeking the counsel of Indigenous leaders on the best way forward.

We need to design the right model to progress to a point at which the majority of Australians, the majority of states and territories and Indigenous Australians support the model so that it is successful. The Morrison Government is committed to recognising Indigenous Australians in the Constitution, and working to achieve this through a process of true co-design.

Constitutional recognition is too important to get wrong, and too important to rush.

The successful 1967 Referendum was the result of tireless advocacy and an extraordinary nation-wide momentum for change. If we want to see that kind of national consensus again, we need to be thorough and take the time to get it right.

We have allocated $7.3 million for a co-design process to improve local and regional decision making and $160 million has been set aside for a future referendum once the model has been determined.I plan to establish a working group of Parliamentary colleagues of all political persuasions to assist me in considering the role of engaging on many levels to bring forward a community model. The Shadow Minister for

Aboriginal Affairs Linda Burney will be integral to this process.

I will work on approaches to progressing how we address truth telling. Without the truth of the past, there can be no agreement on where and who we are in the present, how we arrived here and where we want to go in the future.

A truth-telling process that allows all Australians to reflect on the place of First Nations people and our shared past has to happen at the national, state and local levels right across our country.

History is generally written from a dominant society’s point of view and not that of the suppressed and therefore true history is brushed aside, masked, dismissed or destroyed. In recent years we have seen more open acknowledgement as more evidence emerges of the brutal realities of the past.  We need to know what happened to the children raised on the Missions and in foster homes and their parents. To see their lasting effect on the way people move through the world decades later.

It’s now 22 years since the Bringing them Home

Report opened the records of child removals and showed people, some for the first time, what happened to Aboriginal families in this country.

We need to hear of the lies they were told, the casual cruelty of the fates they were dealt and the unthinkable loss in their hearts.

Opening those records was painful for all of us, but it was necessary.

It opened hearts and minds. It opened up space in our collective life for understanding, healing and forgiveness.

That’s what truth does. It sets you free.

Only when we tell the truth, and when we are willing to listen to the truth, can we find common ground to walk on. Only then can we begin to trust each other and to walk together, side by side.

With respect to Treaty it is important that State and Territory jurisdiction’s take the lead.

The Western Australian Noongar Land Agreement implemented by the Barnett Government is a Treaty in the true sense.

Treaty models are evolving with work being undertaken by the Victorian and Northern Territory Governments which will address the aspirations of the Indigenous Australians in those jurisdictions.

I am charged with delivering a revised Closing the Gap targets that drive improved outcomes for Indigenous Australians through the Closing the Gap refresh process and arrangements.

In December 2018, COAG agreed to build its relationship with Indigenous Australians, and the Coalition has overseen the first-ever formal partnership agreement between Aboriginal and

Torres Strait Islander peak organisations, the

Federal government, and states and territories.

This will have profound impacts as we move to implementation of the Council of Australian Governments Closing the Gap partnership agreement.

We continue to work on Closing the Gap – the gap between outcomes in health and mortality and life expectancy; in education, jobs and economic security, and other aspects of wellbeing.

A diverse and disparate geography shapes effective service delivery as governments, providers and business navigate the diversity of urban, regional and more than 2,000 remote communities and towns. Cwth – NG Land’s Aged Care

In this setting, we are committed to expanding regional models that give Indigenous Australians a real say on issues that affect them and drive local solutions to improve outcomes.

First Australians regularly state that Indigenous organisations deliver stronger outcomes for their people, through cultural competence, engagement and community confidence.

But equally we need to ensure Indigenous Australians who choose to use other services including mainstream services are a priority for our Government. Since March this year the Community

Development Programme, affectionately known as CDP has been reformed to ensure that communities have a say in the way programme is run through the establishment of Community Advisory Boards.

The CDP is delivered by Indigenous organisations, with a focus on Indigenous people and communities.

I will work closely with organisations and the local communities to consider the way in which the program can be enhanced. – That is to deliver skills and competencies – which are tangible for future employment where opportunities exist.

Around 60% of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and Aboriginals Benefit Account grant funding is provided to Indigenous organisations, a significant increase from 35 per cent before the introduction of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

We have committed an additional $10 million to support the revival and maintenance of Indigenous Australians languages.

This will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians sharing their stories, languages and cultures through national institutions such as the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and the National Museum of Australia.

We are also helping our nation to heal with funding to deliver the support that is needed for surviving members of the Stolen Generation. We are providing funding to the Healing Foundation to support their work, including a comprehensive needs-analysis to better understand the demography of the surviving members of the Stolen Generation.

The Morrison Government is committed to expanding the very successful Indigenous Procurement Policy to include targets based on the value of contracts awarded, not just the number of contracts granted.

There are 1,951 Indigenous registered and certified businesses registered with Supply Nation. At the recent IBA breakfast last week we heard that there were 2000 Indigenous women who are part of the Strong Women. Strong Business platform. Many had been knocked back by the IBA for start-up funding but despite the “no” persisted.

Since 2015, more than 1,530 Indigenous businesses have won over 12,600 contracts under the Indigenous Procurement Policy totalling more than $2.1 billion.

Evaluation is important to ascertain what works effectively. The Indigenous Advancement Strategy Evaluation Framework is systematically strengthening reporting, monitoring and evaluation at a contract, program and outcome level. This is a principle task of Rom Mokak the Indigenous Productivity Commissioner to review and report to Government.

We are implementing a framework to ensure high quality; ethical; and inclusive evaluations can be

used to inform more effective policy and decision making for ongoing improvement of services to ensure we are making a difference.

But even the most well-intentioned modern policies and programs have still tended to take a top-down, command and control approach.  As if Aboriginal people didn’t know what they needed or wanted.

As if proud members of one of the world’s longestlived civilisations had nothing to say, no wisdom to offer, about what would help their families thrive and their communities flourish.

Fred Chaney, former Minister of Aboriginal Affairs in the Fraser Government, put it this way: ‘They were first, and they survived – we should listen.’[2]  I made this commitment on my first day: that I will listen, and that I will walk with Aboriginal people as they find their own paths to health, happiness and success.  In finding those paths, we are not looking out on a trackless landscape. There are tracks and song lines to follow created by people who have gone before, seeking better lives for our people.

We’re starting from the strengths and aspirations already there.

If you think about the fact that 65 per cent of all Indigenous Australians are under 30, you realise what an enormous difference we can make by investing in their futures.

I’ve never met an Aboriginal parent who didn’t want their child to succeed, to be healthy and happy, and to have a rich life and a better life than we as the earlier generations had.

There are heroes in every community, who every day touch the lives of another person.

The mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, uncles and aunties who inspire the little ones around them to become like them:

elders of dignity and pride and grace. Armed with confidence in their culture, they are the custodians of hope.

I’d like to share a story about one of my heroes.

Last Saturday the first statue of an indigenous AFL footballer was unveiled at the 50th Western Derby between West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers at Optus Stadium.

The bronze statue pays tribute to Neil Elvis ‘Nicky’

Winmar, a Noongar man known for his career with St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs in the AFL, as well as South Fremantle in the WAFL, but also for one of the most famous moments in Australian sport.

After the final siren in the round four Saints win over Collingwood at Victoria Park on 17 April 1993 Nicky lifted his St Kilda jumper and pointed to his stomach, his skin. The moment Nicky lifted his jumper the image captured by the photographer portrayed the strong sense of pride for all Indigenous Australians of their culture, historical links to country and that the colour of one’s skin is not a barrier.

By doing this, he made a stand against racism in sport starting the conversation that racism in sport needed to be tackled and was unacceptable behaviour.

Nicky’s actions epitomised an important point in time and I am so proud that his statue has taken pride of place outside WA’s home of football in his home state.

We have non-Indigenous heroes too.

Fiona Stanley and Fred Hollows in health. Nugget Coombs and Sir Paul Hasluck in public policy. There are many more who work with us and alongside us including our teachers, police officers, nurses, corporate leaders and community workers. I value their contributions immensely.

Neville Bonner was the first Indigenous person in the Australian Parliament and Neville and I became friends in his later years.

I’ll never forget being shown around the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, and seeing his pillow on display.

The curator explained that his family had donated his pillow and his diary. In the diary he wrote that in Canberra, he was never invited to a function, or to dinner. He was never invited for a coffee and a chat. He went home every night to his pillow – his only friend.

It’s like the child who is never invited to a birthday party.

What a picture of loneliness. It is so much harder to walk the path of progress when you’re alone.

I take great comfort in knowing I am not alone. Indeed, I couldn’t do this alone. I know the expectations on me are high. I know I won’t live up to all of them.

I will do my best if our leadership and our communities walk with me leaving our footprints for others to follow.

All of us leave footprints in the sand as we take each step in life as we achieve our aspirations and dreams.

They mark the way; they show our past, the distance we have travelled over the years but more importantly if we walked alone or with others in friendship and support.

As I walk this way, I hope the footprints I leave and the tracks I create will allow others to walk the same way, and find it easier than I did.

I’m sure many of you in this room remember the day, almost 20 years ago now, when more than 300,000 Australians marched across the Sydney Harbour Bridge for Reconciliation.

It was a breathtaking moment of solidarity, when Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians walked arm in arm across that iconic bridge, declaring their will to walk arm in arm in our national life as well.

That’s the image that I carry with me. That’s what I see when I look for partners and fellow-travellers on this journey.When I look back along the paths we’ve walked and the progress we’ve made, I can see the faces in that crowd.

And it will be easier, because it won’t be one set of footprints but many. It will be hundreds and thousands of footprints of all sizes, walking in the same direction, side by side working to make a difference.

The sands of this nation bear the indelible footprints of the oldest living culture in the world.

Those who come after them must leave their own tracks. It’s up to us to choose where we make them, and where they might lead. The challenges are many and I invite you to share your generosity of humanity to walk and work with me.

Thank you.


[1] Letter to the Minister from Jennifer Westacott, dated 7 June 2019.

[2] ‘They were first, and they survived – we should listen.’ The Australian, 17 January 2018. This piece was critical of the Turnbull Government’s response to the Uluru statement.