NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Self Determination : How to improve health outcomes for Indigenous peoples in New Zealand , Canada and Australia by making space for self-determination #VoiceTreatyTruth

Indigenous public policy fails consistently. The research evidence is compelling. Across post-settler colonial societies like New Zealand, Australia and Canada, schooling is not as effective for Indigenous citizens, employment and housing outcomes are not as good, and health outcomes are worse.

In Canada, the government says the solution lies in stronger nation-to-nation relationships between the state and First Nations. In Australia, the federal government proposes stronger consultation to “close the gaps in Indigenous disadvantage”.

In New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi is broadly accepted as an agreement offering solutions to policy failure. It protects the Māori right to self-determination and obliges the state to ensure that public policy is as effective for Māori as it is for everybody else.

Last week, the Waitangi Tribunal affirmed both these general principles in respect to health policy, but in its comprehensive report on the primary health care system, it found that despite clear intentions, the state fails to deliver good outcomes for Māori. “

Associate Professor of Political Science, Charles Sturt University

From The Conversation

Lack of self-determination

In effect, the tribunal found the state fails because it does not stand aside to allow Māori self-determination to prevail. Self-determination is a right that belongs to everybody. Under the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which New Zealand accepts as an “aspirational” document, self-determination means that:

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, Indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions (Article 23).

Under the Treaty of Waitangi the right to self-determination may be expressed in at least two ways. Firstly, the treaty affirms Māori rangatiratanga, or chiefly authority over their own affairs. Secondly, it gives Māori the “rights and privileges of British subjects”.

The latter was a relatively meaningless status in 1840, when the treaty was signed by representatives of the Crown and Māori tribes. But in 2019, citizenship has replaced subjecthood as a substantive body of political rights and capacities for many New Zealanders, though not always for Māori.

Read more: Explainer: the significance of the Treaty of Waitangi

Proposal for Māori health authority

The tribunal’s Health Services and Outcomes Inquiry report is explicit. Poor Māori health persists because health policy doesn’t honour the treaty. Solutions, it says, lie in the treaty partnership between Māori and the Crown.

The idea of a treaty partnership is well established in New Zealand policy. But the tribunal report reinforces the idea that it is an unequal partnership, with the Crown acting as a senior party and crowding out space for Māori policy leadership. On the other hand, it makes at least two potentially transformative recommendations.

The first is that the Crown and Māori claimants in health care agree on a methodology for assessing underfunding of Māori health providers. The tribunal found that underfunding is in breach of the treaty and one of the variables that explains poor Māori health outcomes.

Secondly, the tribunal recommended the Crown and claimants “explore the possibility of a standalone Māori health authority”. This authority could become the principal funder of primary health services for Māori citizens. Māori health providers would make bids for contestable funding to the authority which, unlike District Health Boards, would have a predominantly Māori membership.

The authority would assess self-defined Māori health needs against established Māori cultural values. It could also have the capacity to commission research and contribute to national policy debate.

Māori at centre of policy decisions

This parallels a recommendation made to Kevin Rudd’s government in Australia in 2009 by a National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission.

Services would be purchased from Aboriginal community controlled health services, mainstream primary health care services and hospitals, and other services. The authority would ensure that all purchased services meet set criteria including clinical standards, cultural appropriateness, appropriately trained workforce, data collection and performance reporting against identified targets such as the national Indigenous health equality targets.

The proposal’s rejection was never fully explained. But it remains instructive to New Zealand as a way of making Māori policy work through self-determination.

Independent Māori decisions about which health programmes to fund, and from which providers, potentially brings Māori people and values to the centre of the policy process. It means that Māori people are not the subjects of state policy. They become its agents, exercising meaningful citizenship and the right to take responsibility for their own affairs. The concept of Māori as junior partners to the Crown is replaced by decision making authority.

An independent funding agency could also strengthen democratic accountability to Māori people who would not need to wait for an invitation to join the policy process, but would be at its centre. Liberal democracies exclude Indigenous people and perspectives as a way of protecting majority interests. But as the tribunal found, exclusion can explain why policy fails.

Meanwhile, Indigenous Australians have proposed a constitutionally enshrined “voice” to parliament, a truth telling commission and treaties between Indigenous nations and the state to acknowledge enduring Indigenous sovereignty. Victoria and the Northern Territory have started the process of treaty negotiation, but last year, a new government in South Australia “paused” the negotiations begun by its predecessor. It didn’t think that treaties could contribute to better lives for Indigenous people.

In Zealand, the treaty is not a panacea for better lives for Māori. But in 2019, it remains as the Māori government minister, Sir Apirana Ngata, put it in 1922.

[It] is widely discussed on all marae. It is on the lips of the humble and the great, of the ignorant and of the thoughtful.

Ultimately, the treaty’s transformative capacity depends on how it is interpreted, especially whether self-determination is allowed to trump partnership.

NACCHO and ACCHO Members #NAIDOC2019 Good News Stories : 5 of 5@NACCHOChair #NSW @Galambila @ahmrc #Vic @VACCHO_org @VAHS1972 #QLD @QAIHC_QLD @Apunipima #SA @AHCSA_ #WA @TheAHCWA #NT @DanilaDilba @CAACongress #Tas

1.1 National : NACCHO supports the pledge this week by the Coalition Government to hold a national referendum on constitutional change to recognise Indigenous voices in the constitution.

1.2 National : Our Acting NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills this week was on the panel at the NAIDOC Corporate breakfast in Cairns talking #VoiceTreatyTruth

1.3 National : The new National Indigenous Australians Agency was launched on 1 July 2019

2.1 NSW : The team at AH&MRC celebrate NAIDOC week

2.2 NSW : Huge NAIDOC Week turnout at Galamibila ACCHO and Ready Mob Picnic in the Coffs Harbour sunshine

2.3 NSW: Greater Western ( Sydney ) AMS Thanks the South Sydney Rabbitohs for a sharing NAIDOC Week

3.1 VIC : Parliamentary Secretary for Health (VIC) shares a NAIDOC morning team with Team VACCHO

3.2 VIC: Deadly day at the annual NAIDOC March in Melbourne that started at VAHS ACCHO 

4.1 QLD : Apunipima ACCHO Cape York coverage of Cairns NAIDOC celebrations

4.2 QLD : The QAIHC AOD Our Way 2 Project aims to address the use and harms of crystal methamphetamine (Ice) and other substances.

5. WA : Midland NAIDOC is AHCWA’s main event for the week, where all of our staff were on hand to help out for the day.

6. SA : Good news story about AMIC Mums and Bubs trainee Cherie Burnett who is currently doing her studies at AHCSA.

7.1 NT : The Danila Dilba ACCHO Darwin Mobile team went down to Mindil Beach with the Mobile Clinic for Larrakia Nation’s Road Safety Barbeque.

7.2 NT : Congress Alice Springs NAIDOC Sports and Family Fun Day

8.TAS : It’s NAIDOC Week, so here’s nipaluna (Hobart’s) weather in palawa kani

How to submit in 2019 a NACCHO Affiliate  or Members Good News Story ?

Email to Colin Cowell NACCHO Media 

Mobile 0401 331 251 

Wednesday by 4.30 pm for publication Thursday /Friday

1.1 National : NACCHO supports the pledge this week by the Coalition Government to hold a national referendum on constitutional change to recognise Indigenous voices in the constitution.

We welcome Minister Wyatt’s call to all Australians to join him on the journey to constitutional recognition of Australia’s First Nations peoples and support the creation of a voice for Indigenous Australians to influence the Australian Parliament.

NACCHO stands ready to do our part in achieving the best possible outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout Australia, and we will continue to take a leadership role in the Coalition of Peaks Partnership with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on Closing the Gap.”

NACCHO Chief Executive Officer, Ms Patricia Turner AM said after the Ministers speech. Pictured above Left to Right with Pat : Tom Calma Co Chair Reconciliation Karen Mundine CEO Reconciliation and Donnella Mills Acting NACCHO Chair 

” Truth-telling about Indigenous Australians’ experience of colonisation is not a new idea, says Pat Turner, who heads the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).

“I think our people have been engaged in truth-telling in many different forums over many decades,” she said. “It’s a question of whether there is a willingness in the greater Australian population to come to terms with the history of Indigenous people since colonisation.”

Ms Turner , who along with Mr Wyatt is co-chair of the joint council on Closing the Gap questioned the Minister’s seeming failure to commit to an Indigenous “Voice” of the kind envisaged in the landmark 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart.

“People want more clarity on what the Minister means when he refers to hearing the ‘voices’ of individuals, families, communities and organisations.

What does that mean? The Uluru statement was very clear on having a more formal voice at a national level”, she said.

Additional text Pat Turner interview with SMH 10 July READ In FULL HERE

Pat will be a panellist on the ABC The Drumshow on Friday 12 July at 6pm.

Download full PDF Copy of NACCHO Press Release HERE

Read the Minister’s full National Press Club speech HERE

Or watch replay on ABC TV I View HERE

The NACCHO executive team attended the National Press Club conference by Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians for NAIDOC Week 2019.

1.2 National : Our Acting NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills this week was on the panel at the NAIDOC Corporate breakfast in Cairns talking #VoiceTreatyTruth

Pictured below from Left to Right Founder of IndigenousX LukeLPearson , Donnella Mills ,Joann Schmider CQ Uni and Former NACCHO Chair 2001-03 Pat Anderson ( now Chair Lowitja Institute )

1.3 National : The new National Indigenous Australians Agency was launched on 1 July 2019

2.1 NSW : The team at AH&MRC celebrate NAIDOC week

2.2 NSW : Huge NAIDOC Week turnout at Galamibila ACCHO and Ready Mob Picnic in the Coffs Harbour sunshine

CEO Reuben Robinson ( Left ) with team Galambila member 

Watch Channel 9 interview with Reuben HERE


2.3 NSW: Greater Western ( Sydney ) AMS Thanks the South Sydney Rabbitohs for a sharing NAIDOC Week


3.1 VIC : Parliamentary Secretary for Health (VIC) shares a NAIDOC morning team with Team VACCHO

VACCHO Exec were joined by Karen Heap VACCHO Chair and CEO of Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative ( And NACCHO Board Member) , Anthony Carbines Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Tiana Koehrer and Allara Pearce

3.2 VIC: Deadly day at the annual NAIDOC March in Melbourne that started at VAHS ACCHO 

4.1 QLD : Apunipima ACCHO Cape York coverage of Cairns NAIDOC celebrations 


4.2 QLD : The QAIHC AOD Our Way 2 Project aims to address the use and harms of crystal methamphetamine (Ice) and other substances.

Phase 1 of the project involved training 480 frontline workers, mostly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisations in 22 communities across Queensland, to better support clients and families impacted by problematic Ice and other substance use.

Phase 2 of the project is currently in the planning stage. Jermane Herbohn and Rita Francis have recently started at QAIHC as AOD Project Officers joining Eddie Fewings, AOD Manager. More information about the QAIHC AOD Our Way 2 Project will be released shortly.

#QAIHCdelivers #IndigenousHealth

5. WA : Midland NAIDOC is AHCWA’s main event for the week, where all of our staff were on hand to help out for the day.

Hundreds of our mob visited Midland Oval and joined us celebrating the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The event was free and combines cultural activities, live entertainment, youth zone, family friendly attractions and FREE food.#NAIDOC2019

6. SA : Good news story about AMIC Mums and Bubs trainee Cherie Burnett who is currently doing her studies at AHCSA.

7. NT : The Danila Dilba ACCHO Darwin Mobile team went down to Mindil Beach with the Mobile Clinic for Larrakia Nation’s Road Safety Barbeque.

Larrakia Nation put on a breakfast and their Arts in the Grass program, NT Remote Alcohol and Other Drugs provided community education, Orange Sky was there with their free laundry and shower service van and OneDisease came along to engage with the community. It was fantastic to see all of these services coming together to provide support and to see the community members enjoying this fresh dry season morning!

7.2 NT : Congress Alice Springs NAIDOC Sports and Family Fun Day

See more pics Here

8.TAS : It’s NAIDOC Week, so here’s nipaluna (Hobart’s) weather in palawa kani

Listen Hear 

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.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #Makarrata : Two essential reports to understand #NAIDOC2019 #VoiceTreatyTruth , a factual account of the #UluruStatement dialogues and the process

“In Aboriginal culture, healing after a conflict begins with a process of truth-telling.

The Yolngu Matha term for this is Makarrata — a peacemaking process. In Aboriginal ways of being, recognition of wrongs of the past sparks greater understanding on both sides of the conflict.

 From this, we can develop a resolution, and a coming together of the parties involved in peace.

As we celebrate NAIDOC week this year, the Morrison government has a unique opportunity to make history by dealing with our troubled history.

The time is ripe to address Australia’s problematic past between settler colonials and the Aboriginal peoples through the process of Makarrata.

When we speak of Makarrata, what we’re talking about is a process that ultimately allows the restitution of wellbeing and happiness.

The kind of healing that addresses the deep wounds created by unresolved colonial history.

And we begin by acknowledging that this isn’t just an ‘Aboriginal problem’ but a shared scar that’s worn by the nation as a whole.”

Victoria Grieve-Williams is a Warraimaay historian and Adjunct Professor, Indigenous Research, RMIT University from NITV Makarrata: The Aboriginal healing process we should all know about : Full report below part 3

Part 1 : Download below the final report from the Referendum Council 

“ A Declaration of Recognition should be developed, containing inspiring and unifying words articulating Australia’s shared history, heritage and aspirations.

The Declaration should bring together the three parts of our Australian story: our ancient First Peoples’ heritage and culture, our British institutions, and our multicultural unity.

It should be legislated by all Australian Parliaments, on the same day, either in the lead up to or on the same day as the referendum establishing the First Peoples’ Voice to Parliament, as an expression of national unity and reconciliation.

In addition, the Council reports that there are two matters of great importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as articulated in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, that can be addressed outside the Constitution.

The Uluru Statement called for the establishment of a Makarrata Commission with the function of supervising agreement-making and facilitating a process of local and regional truth telling.

The Council recognises that this is a legislative initiative for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to pursue with government. “

Download the 183 page report HERE


Or read online

Part 2


We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.

This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.

How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?

With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.

Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.

These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.

We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. 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.

Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.

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. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

Part 3 Marching for Makarrata: The Aboriginal healing process we should all know about

The progress so far

Originally published Here

The recent appointment of Ken Wyatt as our first Minister for Indigenous Affairs has been a step towards the right direction. His mother is a member of the Stolen Generation so he knows firsthand the impact of history. Wyatt is also a steady and productive force who commands respect across many groups. He has a knowledge of customary law and the power it can wield to restore wellbeing. He is also proactive about meeting with Aboriginal cultural leaders.

Wyatt’s leadership could show that peacemaking practices can be powerful. The call for peacemaking is not new. For decades, there has been an official call for a Makarrata, most recently in the Uluru Statement From The Heart.

“Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle,” says the 2017 Uluru statement, “It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.”

Indeed, it has been clear to the First People that this customary Aboriginal way of ensuring the differences and wrongs of the past are addressed appropriately has been way overdue.

The bias of ‘history’

History as we know it is a concept developed out of the West or the Global North. It’s often told through the lens of a colonial past and has evolved as a means to record the deeds of great white men. In this sense, western history serves a function to legitimise the building of nation states.

In this limited, inherently biased approach, incidences of murder, rape and other genocidal acts were often covered up or kept secret. They are minimised by the fact that the current nation-state was born of them. In some cases, these acts of cruelty and genocide are erroneously seen as ‘necessary’ and best forgotten.

This is not to say that there are only such biased accounts of history in Australia. The institution of history in Australia is marked by the large number of historians who have championed the Aboriginal case for a just and proper settlement over recent decades. They have worked on revising earlier inaccuracies, using documents and oral testimony to provide alternate histories that highlight the impact of colonial racist violence and the impacts of racial segregation.

But it can be argued that they are still working within the parameters of western history-making until they can incorporate Aboriginal ways of dealing with history. And we cannot hope for foundational changes to our relationship to the settler colonial state until we properly integrate Aboriginal theory, ethics, values and methodologies into this. This is what “Aboriginal history” is truly about.

The need for Aboriginal history

Aboriginal philosophy incorporates a very different theory and approach to history. For Aboriginal people, any difficult history is not forgotten until it is dealt with — and then it is truly left behind.

History is with us, it impacts on our lives now, until it is addressed. And we will not belong to the nation state until our history is incorporated into the narrative of the nation and resolved.

Culturally, Aboriginal people have engaged in history in a functional way, in that it has not been used as a celebratory or foundational narrative. Stories are retained to ensure historical wrongs are addressed and when they are, they are no longer told. People with authority and knowledge lead the resolution of disputes, the wrongs are righted, including through ceremony, and then everyone can move on. The business of the past is then declared to be finished.

Aboriginal approaches to time and history are instructive. In this way, the methodology of the Makarrata is a way to address the injuries of the past – in order for all parties to move on.

Makarrata is about self-determination

The process of Makarrata needs to be led by Aboriginal cultural leadership across the nation, by those who understand the true spirit of this process that can go by many other names. It is important that the whole difficult history be revealed, that every Aboriginal person has the chance to speak to a Makarrata commissioner, whether in public or in private, be heard and with permission be recorded for later reference.

Aboriginal commissioners need to oversee the ways in which this information is managed. The end product should allow those events in which Aboriginal people were truly victims to be balanced by the development of other stories, of friendships, co-operation and understanding into the future. Self-determination is key.

Makarrata success stories

An example of this process is demonstrated in the documentary  Dhakiyarr vs. The King whereby the Yolngu descendants of Dhakiyarr who disappeared, presumed dead, (on his way home from Darwin) retold and reinvestigated the events leading up to his death. They included the family of the policemen who he had killed, the Court House in Darwin where he had been denied justice. They told the story in full, incorporating the descendants of the people involved and performed ceremony at specific important locations, to acknowledge the true history and put it to rest.

The documentary has since been shown around the world to critical acclaim. It continues to be a powerful example of the way Aboriginal people can deal with the wrongs of history and allow everyone to move on with increased wellbeing.

Another example is the annual pilgrimage to the site of the Myall Creek Massacre in New England NSW, where Aboriginal and settler colonial Australians come together to acknowledge a very difficult history and put it to rest. This has proven to be a profound experience of resolving the injuries of the past for all who have made the journey.

As an Aboriginal historian, the prospect of using Makarrata to right historical wrongs is exciting  — a once-in-the-lifetime-of-a-nation-opportunity that would potentially lead to greater wellbeing, hope, and most importantly –- true healing.

Victoria Grieve-Williams is a Warraimaay historian and Adjunct Professor, Indigenous Research, RMIT University

National NAIDOC Week runs 7 – 14 July 2019. For information head to the official site. Join the conversation #NAIDOC2019 & #VoiceTreatyTruth 

NACCHO #ClosingTheGap Aboriginal Health and #UluruStatement #Makarrata : #NAIDOC2019 Week : #Voice #Treaty #Truth. Donna Ah Chee @CAACongress Let’s work together for a shared future

This NAIDOC Week we need to lift our gaze and consider the bigger picture reforms required to take the next step forward.

A Voice to Parliament; agreements or treaties; and a process to enable systematic truth telling.

All of this is achievable, and all requires deep listening from the Australian community and a commitment to action if we are to all move forward together as a single, unified nation.”

Donna Ah Chee CEO Congress ACCHO Alice Springs

Voice. Treaty. Truth. This is the theme for NADIOC Week 2019, and the words have never been more relevant; especially in Central Australia.

The movement for constitutional recognition culminated in 2017 in a National Constitutional Convention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at Uluru. From this convention rose the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Put simply, this statement sums up where Aboriginal people see ourselves standing now and what we believe needs to be done to move forward for social justice; Voice, Treaty, Truth.

As Professor Megan Davis recently wrote “The Uluru Statement from the Heart was tactically issued to the Australian people, not Australian politicians. It is the people who can unlock the Australian Constitution for Aboriginal people, as they did in 1967, and the descendants of the ancient polities can unlock what is sorely lacking in this country, a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.”

Co-chair of the Referendum Council, Alywarre woman Pat Anderson said powerfully: “We need real change, because we, First Peoples, have something unique to offer this country. Our peoples have been here 65,000 years or more. Over these immeasurable periods we have developed a profound wisdom about this land and about what it means practically and spiritually to live here. We know this place. This is our place, and there is no doubt about it.”

Despite the enormity of the demands that Aboriginal people could make as peoples who never ceded sovereignty over the lands on which we now all live, our major demand is simply the right to be consulted about the legislation, policies and programs that are meant to help us.

The experience that Aboriginal people have had having been on the ‘underside’ of Australian history places us in a unique position from which to consider the laws and policies before Parliament and make suggestions for improvements that could make Australia a better place for all of us.

Having a constitutionally enshrined Voice in parliament would mean that the people who have actually experienced real poverty and hardship would finally be able to use this lens to consider the laws and policy decisions proposed in Parliament.

Just this week we heard from Kerry O’Brien on being inducted into the Logies Hall of Famefor his outstanding contribution to journalism, that “the failure to reconcile Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia remained one big glaring gap in this nation’s story.” While lamenting the “awful racism this country is capable of”, he said that the Uluru Statement— which endorsed a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous representative body — offered hope for the future. Why is this seen by so many to be so important?

Relative to their numbers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are politically marginalised in Australia. The seventy years following Federation saw not a single First Nations representative elected to any Australian parliament, only changing in 1971 when Neville Bonner entered the Australian Senate.

Since then only 38 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been elected to any of the State, Territory or Federal parliaments; 22 of these being in the Northern Territory. Even today, the unprecedented four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people we have seated in our national parliament only reflects 1.8% of all representatives.

A small number already, made even smaller when compared to the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 3% of the Australian population, a number that is rising.

The systemic under-representation of Aboriginal people is mirrored in senior decision-making roles within public services across Australia. It is a powerful contributor to the lack of an accountable, informed, and sustained approach to Aboriginal issues, and the limited success in reaching the Closing the Gap targets.

Since the now famous Whitehall studies of the 1970s, ‘the control factor’ has been recognised as an important contributor to patterns of disease. The evidence shows that the less control people have over their lives and environment, the more likely they are to suffer ill health. Powerlessness is an identified risk factor for disease for Aboriginal Australians.

Aboriginal peoples’ lack of control of their lives is expressed at a national, systemic level through the absence of a national political representative institution; at a community level through their marginalisation from decision-making about programs that affect their own communities; and at an individual level through their experience of racism.

You only have to look at the poor implementation record of inquiry after inquiry into issues surrounding the health and wellbeing of the nation’s First Peoples for evidence of the absence of any real political influence.

Over the last three decades we have seen (most significantly) the National Aboriginal Health Strategy (1989), the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1991) and the Bringing Them Home report (1997). They are among numerous other Royal Commissions and parliamentary inquiries into issues surrounding Aboriginal disadvantage resulting in recommendations that have not been fully implemented. I often think there needs to be a Royal Commission into the failure to implement so many Royal Commissions.

A genuine commitment to ‘Closing the Gap’ must include the establishment of a national representative body for Australia’s First Nations, as was recommended by the Referendum Council after extensive consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia.

This must come alongside a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making and truth-telling between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Such changes, foreshadowed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart,have the support of the overwhelming majority of Aboriginal people and would provide the basis for substantive change in Aboriginal lives, as opposed to mere symbolic recognition.

This NAIDOC Week we need to lift our gaze and consider the bigger picture reforms required to take the next step forward. A Voice to Parliament; agreements or treaties; and a process to enable systematic truth telling. All of this is achievable, and all requires deep listening from the Australian community and a commitment to action if we are to all move forward together as a single, unified nation.

First published in the Centralian Advocate July 4 2019

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ClosingtheGap #Voice At opening of 46 th Parliament leaders @ScottMorrisonMP @AlboMP pledge co-operation on recognition

“There are two tracks: there’s the practical track, which is about young people not killing themselves. And I must say, that’s my higher priority,

And there is also this important constitutional track, which is important for the country.

That will happen at a pace in which there’s agreement.”

Prime Minster Scott Morrison opening 46 th Parliament

Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese have pledged to work together on indigenous recognition as the new term of parliament begins.

But the prime minister rates stopping Australia’s young indigenous people from killing themselves as a far higher priority than constitutional change.

His government committed $7.3 million in the budget to design options for a Voice to Parliament, saying it would hold a referendum once the model was settled.

But while Labor highlighted constitutional recognition as part of its election campaign – releasing a plan for a Voice to Parliament and regional assemblies at its campaign launch – Mr Morrison talked more about youth suicide and mental health.

“I must admit my more immediate priorities in indigenous affairs is stopping young indigenous people committing suicide in remote communities, ensuring that they are going and staying in school, that there are employment opportunities for their parents, and that they’re safe in their communities,”

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt – the first Aboriginal person to hold the portfolio – and Mr Morrison speak often about this practical agenda and the closing the gap initiatives.

However, there are still strong sections of the indigenous communities for whom recognition and the Voice to Parliament proposed in 2017’s Uluru Statement are just as important.

Asked how he would engage an electorate that has become largely disillusioned with politics and convince voters that change was needed, Mr Morrison said firstly parliament had to work as a whole to achieve it.

“I’d like to see it come to fruition, I always have,” he told AAP.

“The leader of the opposition and I, when we had our first initial conversation when I rang to congratulate him, this is an area that I think we can probably work together.

“But there’s expectations of indigenous Australians as well and how they marry up with … what can be taken forward.”

Mr Albanese told the welcome to country ceremony ahead of Tuesday’s opening of parliament that indigenous recognition is the first agenda on which parliament needs to co-operate.

“We will work with you. This thing can be done,” he said in remarks addressed to Mr Morrison.

“We have been welcomed to this country today in such a generous spirit by such a hopeful heart and we should respond with courage, with kindness and with determination.

“Forty-five times we have opened the parliament in this country without a voice to parliament for the first nations of this great land. This 46th parliament should be the last time in which we do that.”

PRIME MINISTER’s : Welcome to country speech 

Our Parliament meets on Ngunnawal land.

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 and I acknowledge Anthony as I do all of my Parliamentary colleagues, the Deputy Prime Minister who joins us here today.

We gather in respect – acknowledging the Ngunnawal elders, the ancient ceremony of fire and smoke that will commence shortly has become part of the tradition of this building, and thankfully so.

It was just over a decade ago that the first ever smoking ceremony accompanied the opening of Parliament, and I thank the Speaker and the President of the Senate for their continuing support of this as it shall always be in this place.

We couldn’t imagine this day without this ceremony. And nor should we.

It is appropriate that at the entrance of our parliament, just beyond the Great Verandah is the beautiful mosaic on the forecourt.

Michael Nelson Jagamara’s Possum and Wallaby Dreaming.

Brush tail possums.

Red kangaroos.

Rock Wallabies and more – Jagamara’s Dreaming ancestors all gathering for an important ceremony.

Stirring in its subtlety.

As the artist said himself, the 90,000 hand-guillotined granite pieces present, and represent a place ‘where all people come and meet together, just like we do in our ceremonies to discuss and work things out together’.

And that captures the work, the job of this place: to ‘work things out 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 and I welcome him here this morning.

And I’m pleased, as I know the Leader of the Opposition is, that he is joined in the Parliament by the Member for Barton, Linda Burney, and Senators Patrick Dodson; Malarndirri McCarthy and Jacqui Lambie. But together, between Linda and Ken, I think Anthony and I are both very optimistic about the partnership that can be forged.

Indigenous important voices that I’m confident will be joined by many, many more in the years to come.

It was a different story at the official opening of what we now call the Old Parliament House back in 1927.

Not a single First Australian was invited to celebrate.

However that didn’t stop two men.

Jimmy Clements – better known as King Billy – and John Noble.

They left their home at Brungle Mission near Gundagai and began a long walk to Canberra.

They trudged over the mountains.

Until they arrived in the nation’s capital.

The 80 year old King Billy stood firm in front of the new Parliament and protested ‘his sovereign rights to the Federal Territory’.

The police ordered him to move on – fearing his shabby clothes and the dogs at his bare feet would offend the sensibilities of the Duke and Duchess of York who were in attendance.

An incredible thing happened.

The crowd, Australians, took King Billy’s side.

They called on him to stand his ground. He did.

A clergyman declared that he ‘had a better right than any man present’ to be there, and that was true.

King Billy won that fight.

And the next day, he was among those citizens officially presented to the Duke and Duchess.

His long walk to Canberra paid off.

Almost eight decades later, footballing great Michael Long would also begin a long walk to Canberra – and would famously meet with the then Prime Minister John Howard to discuss issues facing Indigenous communities.

As Michael’s wife Leslie put it so well ‘when one person starts walking, someone will walk next to them…and they’ll say ‘I believe in that too – I’ll walk with you.’

So here we are. Walking together.

All Australians, Indigenous or not, walking together side by side.

Towards reconciliation.

Towards equal opportunities.

Towards Closing the Gap once and for all.

Walking in the same way a determined, steely eyed, 80 year old Wiradjuri man walked to Canberra almost a century ago.

We have a long way to go. We know. But we will walk that journey together.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News : @pmc_gov_au Minister @KenWyattMP ( NIAA ) National Indigenous Agency Marks A New Era of Co-Design and Partnership to #ClosetheGap with Ray Griggs CEO

“Establishing this agency solely dedicated to the advancement of Australia’s First Nations is a significant opportunity for the Government to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the ground to provide opportunities for growth and advancement, in education, employment, suicide prevention, community safety, health and constitutional recognition.

Over my life I have seen progress made but there is still more to do to find solutions and make a difference at the community level.

The NIAA will play a critical role in supporting me, as the first Indigenous Cabinet Minister and Minister for Indigenous Australians, to meet the changing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their leaders and communities

All of us must work together with State and Territory Governments to bring about change and close the gap in Indigenous communities.”

Minister Ken Wyatt

The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) was officially established today as an Executive Agency under the Prime Minister’s portfolio, marking a new era of co-design and partnership.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP said the new agency represented a fundamental change in the way of doing business with Indigenous Australians by forming partnerships with Indigenous Australians at all levels, from children in remote communities to peak national organisations.

Minister Wyatt also announced that the inaugural Chief Executive Officer will be Mr Ray Griggs AO, CSC whose entire career has been in service to Australia and its peoples.

See NACCHO post for background

“NIAA is privileged to have such an experienced leader at the helm,” Minister Wyatt said.

“Ray Griggs will lead a dedicated team of some 1200 staff committed to making a significant contribution to an Australia that respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and peoples.”

Chief Executive Officer Ray Griggs, said evolving the Indigenous Affairs Group of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet into an Executive Agency in its own right was a natural progression.

“This change provides the opportunity to enhance the way we work across Government and ensure we have better coordination across the Commonwealth on matters that affect Indigenous Australians,” Mr Griggs said.

Minister Wyatt said he was looking forward to strong working partnerships with all levels of the team at NIAA to walk and work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Together we can build on our shared successes but also do many things differently, to deliver real change,” Minister Wyatt said.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #LowitjaConf2019 Speech  : Donnella Mills Acting Chair NACCHO and John Paterson CEO AMSANT presents the Coalition of ACCO Peaks on #ClosingtheGap


We have started the task of determining an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander position on Closing the Gap. We know that Closing the Gap needs to be more than a set of targets. What we need is a radical shift to the way governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at all levels of policy design and implementation. We also want to place Aboriginal Community Controlled Services at the heart of delivering programs and services to our people.”

Donnella Mills, the Acting Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation or NACCHO, and John Paterson, the Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, an affiliate member of NACCHO, and convener of the Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory.

I wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we are meeting on. I wish to acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

I would also like to acknowledge and welcome other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may be attending today’s session and acknowledge their lands and culture.

We thank the Lowitja Institute for bringing us together again to think, speak and be First Nations solutions for global change, and for giving us the opportunity to speak with you today about the work of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations across Australia on Closing the Gap.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have historically been excluded from decision-making on the policies and programs that directly affect them and the communities in which they live. This is despite evidence which demonstrates that the only way to improve our people’s health and wellbeing is with their full participation in the design and delivery of services that impact on us. And despite our collective repeated calls over many years for full participation in decisions that impact on our lives.

Today we want to share with you how a group of Aboriginal community controlled organisations have exercised political agency by leading the way, challenging the possibilities and imagining a future of shared decision-making with governments on policies and programs that impact on our people and our communities.

You may remember that in 2007, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), comprising leaders of federal, state and territory, and local governments, committed to ‘closing the gap’ in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australians. They also committed to a range of targets to end the disparity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians in areas like infant mortality, employment and education.

This was the first time that Australian Governments had come together in a unified way to address the disadvantage experienced by too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Commonwealth Government at the time also made an unprecedented investment in programs and services to ‘close the gap’.

Despite this unprecedented coming together of Australian Governments and investment, Aboriginal people were not formally involved in Closing the Gap, it was not agreed by us and it was a policy of governments and not for our people.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people felt that Closing the Gap presented the issue of our disadvantage as a technical problem built around non-Indigenous markers of poverty. This only served to hide the extent to which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ disadvantage is a political problem requiring deep structural reforms.

Closing the Gap did not address the biggest gap that we face: the gulf between the political autonomy and economic resources of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people.

The policies and programs that then followed whilst making some difference to our peoples lives did not achieve their potential. Now ten years later we have not made the progress against the closing the gap targets that had been hoped.

In 2017 the Commonwealth Government embarked on a ‘refresh’ of the Closing the Gap framework and undertook a series of consultations. The consultations were inadequate and superficial. There was no independent report prepared on their outcomes. The lack of transparency and accountability surrounding these consultations were very disappointing, but not surprising.

As the ‘refreshed’ Closing the Gap strategy was being prepared for sign off by the Australian Governments, our dismay and disappointment galvanised a small group of community controlled organisations to come together to write to the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers asking that it not be agreed.

We weren’t going away, and there were three important messages that we wanted governments to hear. These were:

  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.

By staying strong and consistent in our messaging, our voices could not be ignored. In late October 2018, we were invited to meet with the Prime Minister, who acknowledged that the current targets were ‘government targets’ not ‘shared targets’, and that for Closing the Gap to be realised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had to be able to take formal responsibility for the outcomes through shared decision making.

On 12 December 2018, Australian Governments publicly committed to developing a genuine, formal partnership between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments and Indigenous Australians through their representatives on Closing the Gap and that through this partnership a new Closing the Gap policy would be agreed.

The initial fourteen organisations then became almost forty, as we brought together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks bodies across the country to form a formal Coalition to negotiate a new Closing the Gap framework with Australian Governments. We include both national and state and territory based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks representing a diverse range of services and matter that are important to us as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to Closing the Gap.

As a first step and through our initiative, we negotiated and agreed a formal Partnership Agreement between the Council of Australian Governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations which came into effect in March 2019.

The Partnership Agreement sets out that the Coalition of Peaks will have shared decision making on developing, implementing and monitoring and reviewing Closing the Gap for the next ten years. This is an historic achievement.

It is the first time that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks have come together in this way, to work collectively and as full partners with Australian Governments. Its is also the first time that there has been formal decision making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Australian Governments in this way.

A key commitment of the Partnership is the creation of the new Joint Council on Closing the Gap. The inaugural meeting of COAG’s Joint Council on Closing the Gap took place on 27 March. Noting that it is the first Council established by COAG that has representatives from outside government, it marked a historic step forward in the working relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and governments.

It is not an easy path that we are on and there are many challenges.

The Coalition of Peaks are strengthening their own governance and it is not always easy coming together by teleconferences to work through our positions as we navigate our distances and the pace in which we need to work to stay in front of Australian Governments with their many resources.

We are committed to being transparent and accountable to each other through consensus-based decision-making. This has helped us build trust in each other, in our agreed processes of negotiation and representation, and has made us a strong and effective force to be reckoned with.

Australian Governments are also slow to change, and despite agreeing to the formal partnership with us, we are yet to see them fully embrace what it means to have us at the table and respond to our propositions.

We have started the task of determining an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander position on Closing the Gap. We know that Closing the Gap needs to be more than a set of targets. What we need is a radical shift to the way governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at all levels of policy design and implementation. We also want to place Aboriginal Community Controlled Services at the heart of delivering programs and services to our people.

The Coalition of Peaks have also agreed with Australian Governments that they will lead consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities across Australia on a new Closing the Gap framework later this year. This will be the first time that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies will lead consultations with our own peoples on government policy.

Whilst the road is challenging, by presenting governments with alternative model for engaging with us, an historic new model of power sharing has been forged.

In conclusion, I’d like to share with you some of the key learnings of partnering for success and keeping governments accountable to community health priorities.

Throughout our negotiations with government, we learned the importance of staying strong and presenting a unified voice. Our membership may be large and reflective of very diverse organisations. But this diversity is also a strength, as long as we are willing to stay true to our common.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See full details Part 3 Below 

Part 1

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

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

And all distinguished guests joining us today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It failed. The townspeople wanted us to stay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, crucially, we’ve travelled together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those things scar you. Of course they do.

But they don’t define you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the reason we’ve come so far.


That’s the force that will take us forward.

Thank you.


Part 2 : Continued from opening :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing the Gap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nyoongar man’s burden

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

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

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

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

“An independent report refuted those claims.”

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

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

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

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

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

Wyatt’s rise from days of Rabbit-Proof Fence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 3

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

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #NRW2019 #ClosingTheGap Refresh #Voice #UluruStatement : Will @KenWyattMP ‘s powerful taxpayer-funded Indigenous commission be run by “elected Elders “

A POWERFUL taxpayer-funded Indigenous commission run by “elected Elders” would have a say over Federal legislation and launch investigations into departments under secret laws drafted by new Minister Ken Wyatt.

In the first leak of the new Morrison Government, the Indigenous Australians Minister provided Scott Morrison with his plans of a new Indigenous-led bureaucracy that reviews government policies, activates taskforces, probes complaints about agencies from “empowered communities” and informs “itself on any matter in any way it thinks fit”.

Mr Wyatt, then aged care minister but angling for the Indigenous Affairs portfolio, sent the draft laws to Mr Morrison on February 14, saying his blueprint “(provides) an overview of a potential way forward to address the issue of constitutional recognition”.

As reported today 30 May by The Courier Mail

Mr Wyatt was yesterday sworn in as Indigenous Australians Minister and is the first Indigenous Australian to hold the portfolio and be elevated to Cabinet.

Timing of the leak was noted by some Coalition insiders, and will today force Mr Wyatt to defend his plan, and the Government’s handling of Constitutional Recognition, in his second day in the job. The issue of recognising Indigenous Australians in the Constitution, and the potential for a referendum, has been on the Coalition’s agenda since 2015.

Mr Wyatt’s proposed solution is not official Government policy, and any movement on constitutional recognition will have to go through party room and Cabinet.

Mr Morrison’s office would not comment last night but is understood to be committed to a proper process to a complex issue.

Last night Mr Wyatt said: “We are committed to getting an outcome on recognition, but we need to work together across the aisle and across our communities to get an outcome that all Australians can get behind and we’ll take as long as is needed to achieve that”.

Under Mr Wyatt’s draft Makaratta Commission Act, the commission will provide input into policies that affect indigenous Australians, including employment, justice, health, education, child safety and native title. The draft legislation enables:

  • “Maximum participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the formulation and implementation of government polices, programs and services that affect them”;
  • The investigation of complaints from an “empowered community” or Indigenous organisation over issues not consistent with an agreement made with Commonwealth agencies or businesses, and;
  • The holding of public seminars and workshops, and establishment of working groups and taskforces.

The Commission will have a chairman, nine elected elders from every state and territory, plus up to 10 other Associate Makarrata Commissioners. It is likely it will need a large number of support staff. It does not say how the nine Elders will be elected but says the Prime Minister may consult with Cabinet and the chairman on appointing associate commissioners. Their pay will be set by the Remuneration Tribunal and is likely to be well into six figures.

Mr Morrison does not have a firm plan for constitutional recognition.

The plan means the Commission will not be enshrined in the Constitution, which could cause a split within indigenous Australia and the Labor Party, which had pledged at the election to enshrine a “Voice for First Nations people in the Constitution”.

More than 250 indigenous leaders met in 2017 at Uluru to provide the then Turnbull government with the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It called for a First Nations voice in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making and truth telling between governments and indigenous Australians.

The Courier-Mail exclusively revealed in 2017 that the Turnbull Cabinet had emphatically rejected its Referendum Council’s plan borne from the Statement from the Heart.