NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #UluruStatement : Tom Calma and @marcialangton face a challenging task : the design of an #Indigenous #voice that has divided Australians before they even know what it is.

I try to see and understand other points of view,” 

There is danger in just always consulting people with the same views … You might not agree with them but their views might represent an entire group of people and if that is the case you have to hear them.

It’s a very complex task that we have. It’s got to be recognised that it’s not simple and there are multiple layers to this. What we have got to do is look at mechanisms that are going to work and are going to have some longevity.

I can say with confidence that the majority of Australians want to know more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and they have a greater respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture. “

Tom Calma was a crucial voice in the volatile days after the Cronulla race riots, through the Northern Territory intervention and during the tumultuous demise of the Aborig­inal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

From the Australian 20 December 

As Australia’s race discrimination commissioner from 2004 to 2009, he used skills honed as a social worker and later as a senior diplomat in India and Japan.

Now 65, Calma faces what may be his most challenging task yet: the design of an indigenous voice that has divided Australians before they even know what it is.

Calma, an Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan and Iwaidja tribal groups in the Northern Territory, knows there is not much time.

He is co-chairman of a 19-member senior advisory group that has until October next year to present Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt with a new way forward in indigenous affairs. Wyatt’s advisory group met last month for the first time. The second meeting is in February, when work begins with two new co-design groups

He is working side by side with distinguished indigenous academic Marcia Langton. The first associate provost at the University of Melbourne also has been a formidable advocate on almost every major issue affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people since the 1970s, from land rights and deaths in custody to violence against women and children.

A member of the Gillard government’s Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indig­enous Australians, Langton has clear thoughts about what she considers a broken federal system that fails the most vulnerable indigenous people. “We are consistently excluded, government after government, from our citizenship entitlements,” she says. “Plain and simple citizenship entitlements.”

Langton cites indigenous communities where residents cannot safely drink the water. At Buttah Windee, 760km northeast of Perth, residents sold art and crowd-funded last year to fix water found to contain more than twice the safe level of uranium.

“This is why we have these intransigent gaps,” Langton says. “We have this recurring problem of our federal system being unable to deliver citizenship entitlements to Aboriginal citizens. It is a separate problem from constitutional recognition.”

States refusing to pay

States have to do their part, Langton argues. “It’s not about (the states) doing more,” she adds. “The problem is they have always done less than they should do.

“They have taken the view, contrary to our Constitution, that they don’t have to provide any services to indigenous people and they have flicked it to the commonwealth. Aboriginal people are the victims in this endless political football game.”

Langton, a descendant of the Yiman and Bidjara nations of Queensland, says the “core issue” dates back to 1901.

“The commonwealth has ended up paying for what the states should have been paying for all along,” she says. “You end up with the states refusing to pay for these responsibilities that they are constitutionally required to fund, so they under-invest in indigenous education, indigenous housing.

“It goes right back to the colonial times when the writers of the Constitution were trying to invent the commonwealth and come up with this arrangement that en­abled NSW and Victoria — the two states with the biggest white populations — to commandeer most of the taxes.

“And the way that they did that was by making it unconstitutional to count Aboriginal people because the remaining Aboriginal populations were in the states such as Queensland, NT and Western Australia.

“We still have that problem from Federation of the states trying to avoid using taxes collected by the commonwealth being distributed to services intended for Aboriginal people.”

Calma, Langton and the rest of the advisory group in February will meet the members of two new groups appointed to help them figure out how the multiple layers of the voice can work, from remote communities and small towns to Canberra.

Senior indigenous figures Noel Pearson, Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Marcia Langton at the Garma Festival in August. Picture: Melanie Faith Dove
Senior indigenous figures Noel Pearson, Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Marcia Langton at the Garma Festival in August. Picture: Melanie Faith Dove


A local voice

It will be the job of one of those groups to advise how to give a voice to indigenous people at a local and regional level. The other will focus on national representation.

Already, Langton and Calma agree that the multi-layered structure that becomes the voice should work with, not against, existing indigenous organisations that function well. And they understand that indigenous people favour elected representatives.

The voice is one of three key reforms set out in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. That document was the culmination of 13 dialogues with indigenous people around Australia and it called for voice, treaty, truth.

It was the end of a process that many consider was started in 2007 when John Howard, the prime minister at the time, promised a referendum seeking to amend the Constitution to “recognise the special status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first peoples of our nation”.

He lost office soon after but the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians led to the popular Recognise campaign. In 2015, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten established the Referendum Council to ask the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community about constitutional recognition.

Uluru grumbles

After consultations with 1200 indigenous people, the answer came in the form of the Uluru statement.

It was not exactly what the government wanted to hear. There were grumbles — some quiet and some not so quiet — that the Referendum Council had wandered outside its brief. There, in black and white, was a formal call for a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament.

Turnbull quickly rejected this because, he said, it would become a third chamber of parliament and “neither desirable nor capable of winning acceptance at referendum”.

But there was significant support, including from some inside government. Mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto got on board. Woolworths — Australia’s biggest employer — and two former High Court chief justices backed the Uluru statement.

On Australia Day this year, Wyatt — who was then indigenous health minister — wore a T-shirt printed with the words “We support the Uluru Statement” at a celebration of indigenous music in Perth’s Supreme Court gardens. The mission-born Noongar man posed, smiling, for a photo with Fraser government indigenous affairs minister Fred Chaney and their friend David Collard, a Noongar man.

Wyatt’s show of support for Uluru might have been considered defiant — even provocative — except that he was widely believed to be on his way out of politics. He had told journalists he would like to be the indigenous affairs minister if the Coalition was returned at the May election and if he held his very marginal seat. This declaration was met with polite silence because very few believed either of those things was likely.

But the Coalition won. And Wyatt, who had worked hard in his electorate despite his responsibilities in the portfolios of aged care and indigenous health, did better than cling on to his key seat of Hasluck. He was returned with a 3.3 per cent swing towards him and within weeks he was Australia’s first indigenous minister for indigenous affairs. He changed the job title to Minister for Indigenous Australians.

Wyatt must have felt the weight of expectation immediately. He was cheered when he announced that the Morrison government had committed to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians in this term of government. He was jeered when it became clear the Morrison government had no intention of including a second question about whether the voice should be in the Constitution too.

Wyatt has said he is being practical about what is likely to succeed and what is not. Repeatedly, he has stressed that Australians are conservative when it comes to changing the nation’s “birth certificate”. Of the 88 nationwide referendums held since Federation, only eight have succeeded.

“Our challenge now is finding a way forward that will result in the majority of Australians, in the majority of states, overwhelmingly supporting constitutional recognition. We must be pragmatic,” he said in August.

Key players

So what becomes of the voice? The Morrison government clearly still wants one, just not in the Constitution. It has committed $7.3m to what Wyatt calls a “co-design” process.

Wyatt’s handpicked senior advisory group includes some of the most recognisable names in indigenous affairs — Cape York leader Noel Pearson, Gumatj clan leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Yawuru leader Peter Yu from the Kimberley and current and former social justice commissioners June Oscar and Mick Gooda.

Not all appointments to the group were expected and not everyone is on the friendliest of terms. Chris Kenny, Sky News broadcaster and columnist for The Australian, was surprised and pleased to be invited.

He has written that the description of the voice as a “third chamber” has been particularly damaging and was never a justifiable way to describe an advisory body. In that sense, Kenny is in agreement with many of his fellow advisory group members. Group members whose politics do not align are committed to co-designing the voice, The Australian has been told.

Langton and Calma believe the group can work well together.

Langton has strong ideas, but she also stresses she does not want to be prescriptive or rule anything out because others on the group may have different ideas.

“A great deal of damage can be caused to indigenous people if we don’t get this right,” Langton says.

Calma is not apprehensive about encountering opposing views. He describes it as “an opportunity to bring them onside or modify your own views maybe”.

“You look at what we have built with Reconciliation Australia as an example,” he said.

“The more people become informed, the more they understand the issues, the more likely they are to come on board.”

“I can say with confidence that the majority of Australians want to know more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and they have a greater respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture.”

ATSIC’s shadow

Wyatt has previously said the voice should not be a resurrection of ATSIC, the representative body killed off by the Howard ­government in 2005 after a corruption scandal at the top of the organisation.

Langton agrees ATSIC was flawed, but not for the reasons most people might think. “There is a lot of resistance to anything that looks or smells like ATSIC,” she says. “There is a misinformed view. It’s a shame that this still persists 14 years after the demise of ATSIC.

“The problem of the alleged corruption of two commissioners that the then prime minister made so much of was not the problem … The problem was ATSIC did not do the job that it was intended to do from the beginning because there were flaws in its design and its implementation.

“It was an early experiment. Back then there were high hopes ATSIC would be the answer so there was a great deal of enthusiasm, and rightly so, and it deserved a better chance than it got. I really believe that.”

Langton has not given up hope that, once defined, the voice could still be constitutionally enshrined. Asked if she felt other Australians would want that too, she says: “I do. If they understand the problem and it’s put to them in a way that makes sense to them, yes.”

NACCHO Announcement 2020

After 2,832 Aboriginal Health Alerts over 7 and half years from NACCHO media will cease publishing from this site as from 31 December 2019 and resume mid January 2020 with posts from

For historical and research purposes all posts 2012-2019 will remain on

Your current email subscription will be automatically transferred to our new Aboriginal Health News Alerts Subscriber service that will offer you the options of Daily , Weekly or Monthly alerts

For further info contact Colin Cowell NACCHO Social Media Media Editor

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Media Alerts : 1.Today 18 Nov watch @HealthJusticeAu Webinar features our @NACCHOChair Donnella Mills 2. Listen to our CEO Pat Turner 2019 review interview @abcspeakingout 3.Watch Rachel Perkins deliver the first 2019 Boyer Lecture


1.Health Justice Partnerships webinar today 18 November features our NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills 

Monday 18 November – 2:30pm – 4:00pm AEDT 

A quiet revolution is taking place across Australia and it’s transforming the way some of the most vulnerable in our community access legal services. In a practitioner-led movement, community lawyers have been moving out of their offices and into the most unlikely of places – hospitals and community health settings – to collaborate with health services and their patients to address unmet, health-harming legal need.

Known as health justice partnerships (HJPs), these collaborations work by embedding legal help into healthcare services and teams.

Health Justice Partnerships will explore the growing body of evidence that shows there are groups of people who are vulnerable to intersecting legal and health problems, but who are unlikely to turn to legal services for solutions.

Facilitated by Jason Rostant, a panel examines what takes a HJP partnership beyond ‘status quo’ services in terms of purpose, structure, activity and resourcing.

Panellists include:

  • Donnella Mills, Lawyer, Lawright and Chair, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (NACCHO
  • Tessa Boyd Caine, CEO, Health Justice Australia
  • Jane Cipants, Director Client Service, Legal Aid
  • Sandra Gates, Director Allied Health and Clinical Support, The Royal Women’s Hospital

*Panelists subject to change

Get to know

  • Legal problems that affect health
  • The definition of a health justice partnership
  • Evidence supporting the HJP model
  • Create partnerships with existing local social resource providers and expand capacity to address social needs
  • The development and sustainability of the community service sector

Register here to watch the Webinar 

2.Our CEO Pat Turner interviewed by  Larissa Behrendt on Speaking Out 16 Nov


Pat Turners 2019 Year in Review Features include

1.Closing the gap / Have Your Say consultations

2. Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has urged the senior advisory group co-designing an Indigenous Voice to Government to take hold of the “moment in time” before them to change the lives of Indigenous Australians.

3. Yuendumu police shooting: Indigenous groups demand action

4.New $90 Million funding for our ACCHO’s

Listen here to Interview

3. Leading filmmaker Rachel Perkins echoes the Uluru Statement from the Heart in the first of her ABC Boyer Lectures:

Watch on IView

I am reminded of the distinguished poet and stateswoman, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, when she wrote:

“Let no-one say the past is dead.

“The past is all about us and within.”

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains images of people who have died.

Watch the full speech see link below

Watch Rachel Perkins deliver the first 2019 Boyer Lecture on ABC iview

For Indigenous people have not lost from our minds the history of our nation, not only its deep past of thousands of years, but also the events on April 29, 250 years ago, when James Cook ordered his men to fire upon the two men on the shore.

It is likely they were Gweagal warriors, who stood before him in defence of their family behind them on the beach. Cook’s action signalled the Crown’s intentions; the transfer of a continent, from one people to another, by force if necessary, a phenomenon we politely call colonisation.

Our generation wasn’t standing on the deck of the Endeavour or on the shores of Kamay Botany Bay in 1770, just as we weren’t present during the massacres as the colonial frontier progressed from south to north.

However, as my father Charles Perkins, the Indigenous leader who came to prominence in the 1960s for leading the Freedom Ride, said:

“We cannot live in the past, but the past lives in us.”

The past has made us. We are its inheritors, for better or worse, and this is now our time.

How we move forward from this moment will set the course of relationships between Indigenous people and their fellow Australians into the future.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #Ulurustatement : The Senior advisory group co-designing the Indigenous Voice to government has meet for the first time : Includes today’s Editorial from the The Australian and @KenWyattMP speech

 ” Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has urged the senior advisory group co-designing an Indigenous Voice to Government to take hold of the “moment in time” before them to change the lives of Indigenous Australians.

The minister led the first meeting of the consultation body made up of 19 people at Old Parliament in Canberra on Wednesday.

The senior advisory group is seeking to shape a framework towards developing options for an Indigenous voice to all levels of government. 

But his actions have earned some backlash for already taking enshrining the voice in the constitution off the table.

Mr Wyatt called on the leadership group to embrace their opportunity to “enact meaningful” and “long-lasting change” for Indigenous Australians and the entire nation.

“All of us have been around for a long time – we have seen communities grow but we’ve seen them struggle,” he said.

“We talk about community control – but I don’t see it on the ground.

The bottom line is for the elder in the community, the child … the family – that’s where we have to make the difference.”

Introduction and photos from NITV Online

Download the Ministers press release and opening speech HERE

Minister Wyatt Press Release speech the Voice

Read all 30 plus articles Aboriginal Health and the Uluru Statement 

Editorial from the Australian ( Please note we have not edited spelling ) 

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt is a man for constructive action in preference to the grand gesture.

After 12 years of false starts, arguments and setbacks under both sides of federal politics, the minister is pushing quietly and methodically towards the establishment of an indigenous voice to government.

Mr Wyatt, the first Aborigine to lead the ministry responsible for his people and our first indigenous cabinet minister, is a pragmatist.

In a sector where empty symbolism has sometimes overshadowed practical outcomes, that is a refreshing advantage.

At the first meeting of the co-design panel for a legislated “voice to government” at Old Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday, Mr Wyatt cautioned, sensibly, that overreaching could spoil a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In his Lingiari memorial address in August, he ruled out including a voice to parliament in the Morrison government’s referendum on constitutional reform.

That stance, in contradiction of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, has disappointed some of his high-profile countrymen.

It has bolstered the chances, however, of such a referendum on recognition being passed not only by a majority of voters in a majority of states, as it should, but by a thumping majority.

Recognition, when it comes, needs to unite rather than divide the nation.

As Mr Wyatt puts it, the referendum will be about “recognising indigenous Australians on our birth certificate”.

Scott Morrison, like Malcolm Turnbull, does not want the voice to be seen as a “third chamber” of parliament; that would be neither desirable nor acceptable to most voters.

Mr Wyatt prefers the term “voice to government” rather than “voice to parliament”. His idea that it could advise local and state authorities, as well as the commonwealth, is a good one. To be effective that voice, or voices, as he says, need not be constitutionally enshrined. What his people want is to be heard.

On Thursday, Greg Brown reported Mr Wyatt’s clear message for indigenous leaders who were angry the voice would not be included in the Constitution:

“Reflect back on the history of our people and think of every time you challenge and move forward; we have done it incrementally and then when we have gained the incremental achievement we have gone on to build bigger and better things.” His people were “at the beginning” of the process.

After consolidating, others could take up the baton for the next stage.

Against that backdrop, the minister deserves credit for drawing many of Australia’s most distinguished and outspoken indigenous leaders, including supporters of the Uluru statement, on to his Senior Advisory Group. Members of the group include indigenous lawyer Noel Pearson, land rights leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu and co-chairs Marcia Langton and Tom Calma.

Participants have decades of experience working for their people across a range of sectors.

To mention a few, Tony Wurramarrba from Groote Eylandt negotiated a comprehensive mining agreement with BHP Billiton on behalf of traditional owners, and led negotiations with the commonwealth and Northern Territory governments to deliver housing, infrastructure, health and education in the region.

Peter Buckskin, from South Australia, is a former teacher, academic and ministerial adviser.

Josephine Cashman is a NSW entrepreneur and lawyer. Marcia Ella-Duncan chaired the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council and is a member of the Netball Australia Reconciliation Action Plan. Vonda Malone is the first female mayor of the Torres Shire Council.

Pat Turner, with 40 years experience in business, academe and government, is at the forefront of community efforts to improve Aborigines’ health outcomes in the Northern Territory. ( NACCHO Correction should read Australia wide )

These and other indigenous panel members are ideally placed to speak for the communities they know and love.

The panel also includes non-indigenous people with understanding and skills to enhance the exercise.

Jesuit priest and lawyer Frank Brennan has long been a staunch advocate for indigenous people. The Australian’s associate editor and Sky News presenter Chris Kenny has written extensively on indigenous issues.

He accepted his appointment “to make sure indigenous Australians” at the grassroots “get a fair go”.

Beyond constitutional recognition and a voice to government, Mr Wyatt also envisages a process that would provide a sharing of a history between indigenous and non-indigenous people across the nation.

It is a worthwhile goal. After years of uncertainty and dashed hopes, Mr Wyatt and his colleagues are on track, although stumbling blocks and disagreements in such a sensitive process are inevitable.

But from the perspective of indigenous people whose health, education, jobs, welfare and quality of life often fall far short of what non-indigenous people expect, the panel has a major responsibility to build a system to represent their voices well, helping to facilitate practical reconciliation.


Detail of advisory council from NIT

Professor Tom Calma AO – Kungarakun and Iwaidja heritage

Co-Chairing the Senior Advisory Group (SAG), Professor Calma has extensive experience advocating for Indigenous Australians.

From 2004-09, he was the Race Discrimination Commissioner and from 2004-10 he served as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

He also currently serves as Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia.

Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM – Yiman and Bidjara heritage

The SAG’s other Co-Chair, Dr Langton attended Australian National University and was the first Indigenous honours graduate in anthropology.

She is accomplished in many areas, including social, cultural and land rights, political and legal anthropology, as well as Indigenous engagement in the minerals industry.

Dr Langton was also the first woman to Chair the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) Council.

Professor Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO

Professor Brennan is a human rights lawyer and Jesuit priest commonly known for his involvement in the Wik debate of 1998.

He chaired the 2009 National Human Rights Consultation and was awarded Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his services to Indigenous Australians, specifically in areas of law, reconciliation and social justice.

Professor Brennan has also authored books on Indigenous issues such as The Wik Debate and One Land One Nation.

Professor Peter Buckskin PSM – Narungga heritage

Professor Buckskin has plenty of experience at an elite level, having served as Commissioner of the Australian Commission to UNESCO, Chair of the South Australian Aboriginal Education Consultative Committee and Dean of Aboriginal Engagement and Strategic Projects at the University of South Australia.

In 2001, he received a Commonwealth Public Servant Medal (PSM).

Ms Josephine Cashman – Warrimay heritage

With over two decades of experience as a lawyer and entrepreneur, Ms Cashman works in areas promoting inclusive economic development and positive change in society.

She founded the Big River group and was an inaugural member of the Prime Minsiter’s Indigenous Advisory Council.

Ms Cashman was also an invited speaker at the UN Human Rights Council session addressing violence against Indigenous girls and women.

Ms Marcia Ella-Duncan OAM – Walbunja heritage

Ms Ella-Duncan was the first Indigenous women to represent Australia in Netball and has been inducted into the Netball Australia and Netball NSW Halls of Fame.

A Director of Netball Australia, Ms Ella-Duncan is also a member of the association’s RAP working group.

From 2009-17, she also chaired La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Ms Joanne Farrell

A retired Rio Tinto executive, Ms Farrell has experience in leading interaction with key stakeholders while overseeing global Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) systems and processes.

She has led many partnerships with Indigenous communities in employment, economic capacity building, skills development and agreement making.

Mr Mick Gooda – Gangulu heritage

With over 25 years of representing Indigenous Australians under his belt, Mr Gooda has a vast knowledge of the cultural nuances and situational diversity of Indigenous Australians.

Mr Gooda has experience in urban, rural and remote areas, and has also served as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

Mr Chris Kenny

At times a controversial commentator on Indigenous affairs, Mr Kenny is a Sky News journalist and an Associate Editor at The Australian.

He has reported for Channel Nine, Network Ten and the ABC as well as working as a media adviser and Chief of Staff for past foreign minister Alexander Downer.

Cr Vonda Malone – Kaurareg heritage

Breaker of glass ceilings, Cr Malone is the first female Mayor of the Torres Shire Council, first female Torres Strait Islander Australian diplomat and the first female Torres Strait Islander complete the UN’s Indigenous Fellowship Program.

Cr Malone has 22 years’ experience with the Federal Government, particularly in foreign affairs, was the founding Chair of the Torres Health Indigenous Corporation (THIC) and is Chair of the Torres and Cape Indigenous Councils Alliance (TCICA).

Ms June Oscar AO – Bunuba heritage

A big name in WA’s Kimberley region, Ms Oscar (pictured above) currently serves as Social Justice Commissioner.

She has also served as ATSIC Commissioner, Kimberley Land Council Deputy Director and Chair of the Kimberley Language Resource Centre.

In 2018, Ms Oscar was awarded NAIDOC’s Person of the Year.

Ms Alison Page – Walbanga and Wadi Wadi heritage

Award-winning Producer and Designer, Ms Page is the founder of the National Aboriginal Design Agency and founding CEO of the Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance.

She has experience working with Indigenous communities, particularly in delivering architectural services that are culturally appropriate, and was on the Expert Panel for the Federal Government’s Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians.

Mr Noel Pearson – Guugu Yimidhirr heritage

Prominent lawyer and land rights activist, Noel Pearson is a name well-known in the Indigenous affairs space.

Mr Pearson helped establish the Cape York Land Council in 1990 and Founder of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership.

He is a strong advocate for social and economic development and has served on the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians.

Mr Benson Saulo – Wergaia and Gunditjmara heritage

The first Indigenous Australian to be Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations, Mr Saulo has extensive experience in the Indigenous youth space.

Appointed Director of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy in 2012, Mr Saulo works to engage young Indigenous Australians from across the nation to create campaigns around issues such as mental health and climate change.

He is also the Head of Partnerships, Investments at Australian Unity and is Group sponsor of the organisation’s RAP.

Ms Pat Turner AM – Arrernte and Gurdanji heritage

Leading the way for better Indigenous health outcomes as CEO of NACCHO (National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation), Ms Turner has over 40 years’ experience in senior leadership positions.

Some of her esteemed roles include being current Co-Chair of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, the inaugural CEO of NITV and the longest serving CEO and only woman CEO of ATSIC.

Professor Maggie Walter – Palawa heritage

Representing descendants of Indigenous Tasmania, Professor Walter is both a Professor of Sociology and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Aboriginal Research and Leadership at the University of Tasmania.

She researches and teaches in the disciplines of inequality and race relations and is a founding member of the Maiam Nayri Wingara Australian Indigenous Data Sovereignty Collective and the Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA).

Mr Tony Wurramarrba – Warnindilyakwa heritage

An experienced negotiator with multninational corporations and State and Federal Governments, Mr Wurramarrba currently chairs the Anindilyakwa Land Council.

He has negotiated deals with BHP Billiton on behalf of Traditional Owners and has worked extensively with the Federal and NT Governments on investment into education, housing, health and infrastructure.

Mr Peter Yu – Yawuru heritage

Another well-known name across the Kimberley region, Mr Yu has 35 years’ experience in Indigenous advocacy at all levels.

He was a key negotiator for the Yawuru Native Title Agreement, Executive Director at Kimberley Land Council throughout the 1990s and was Chair of the WA Aboriginal Housing Board.

Mr Yu currently serves on the Board of the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA Ltd) and is Deputy Chair at Broome Future Alliance Ltd.

Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM – Gumatj and Galpu heritage

Chair of the Yothu Yindi Foundation and Gumatj Corporation, Dr Yunupingu has years of experience fighting for Indigenous land rights.

From 1977, Dr Yunupingu also chaired the Northern Land Council for 25 years.

A fierce advocate for Indigenous Australians, Dr Yunupingu said at this year’s Garma Festival that Australia’s Constitution would be thrown into the saltwater if constitutional recognition was not achieved.

Minister Wyatt has said the SAG will advise him on different model options to ensure Australia’s First Nations people are heard at all levels of government.

The past few weeks have seen Minister Wyatt travel to the Northern Territory and Queensland to listen to people on the ground, committing to the notion that he will be the “Minister for all Indigenous Australians” who makes sure “all of their voices can be heard loud and clear.”

“It will be a historic occasion that will mark a shift in the way government and Indigenous Australians work in partnership to shift the pendulum and advance positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

By Hannah Cross NIT


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #UluruStatement : Our CEO Pat Turner to attend the first meeting of the 20 member Senior Advisory Leadership group on an “ Indigenous Voice “ at Old Parliament House this week

Over the past few weeks I’ve travelled to Queensland and the Northern Territory to listen to Indigenous Australians – I am committed to being the minister for all Indigenous Australians, and want to make sure that all of their voices can be heard loud and clear,” 

The best outcomes are achieved when Indigenous Australians are at the centre of decision making.

We know that for too long decision making treated the symptoms rather than the cause.

Mr Wyatt said when launching the consultation process he wanted a group of individuals “to have the rigorous discussions” The Morrison government has committed $7.3 million for the process.

I would like to get the opportunity to establish the bodies and the process and look at all the models and how they might work, and then at a future time look at – and this is the government’s role – to look at constitutional enshrinement or whatever,” Calma told the Guardian late last month

Both Calma and Langton support constitutionally enshrining the voice to parliament, but have said they are willing to work with the process to see what can be achieved.

CEO of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Pat Turner AM will be instrumental in the discussions and has previously said the long-term solution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination requires a strong commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. “

Read over 30 NACCHO Uluru Statement articles Here

Media Coverage 

Originally published here 

The Minister for Indigenous Australians has announced a list of twenty names that will become members of the Senior Advisory Group that will charged with tasked with guiding the Co-Design process towards developing options for an Indigenous voice to government.

The list includes Uluru Statement from the Heart Advocate, Noel Pearson, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO, Pat Turner, and the first international Indigenous netballer, Marcia Ella-Duncan.

Last week, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, announced he would be creating an elite committee that would oversee a co-design process to work towards realising an Indigenous voice to government.

The top committee will be responsible for developing two lower consultation groups at a local and regional, and national level to assist in putting forward models for consideration.

Indigenous Academics Professor Tom Calma and Professor Marcia Langton have been named co-chairs of the Senior Advisory Group and will oversee a committee made up of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Members include:

  • Professor Tom Calma AO
  • Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM
  • Professor Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO
  • Professor Peter Buckskin PSM
  • Ms Josephine Cashman
  • Ms Marcia Ella-Duncan OAM
  • Ms Joanne Farrell
  • Mr Mick Gooda
  • Mr Chris Kenny
  • Cr Vonda Malone
  • Ms June Oscar AO
  • Ms Alison Page
  • Mr Noel Pearson
  • Mr Benson Saulo
  • Ms Pat Turner AM
  • Professor Maggie Walter
  • Mr Tony Wurramarrba
  • Mr Peter Yu
  • Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM

The first meeting of the Senior Advisory Group will be held next Wednesday 13 November at Old Parliament House.

As the group prepares to kick off 12 months of consultations, there are some notable inclusions and absences.

Many prominent Indigenous Rights advocates are wary of the co-design process, saying the only meaningful form of recognition is through a constitutionally enshrined advisory body, truth-telling process and Makarratta commission, as called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

CEO of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Pat Turner AM will be instrumental in the discussions and has previously said the long-term solution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination requires a strong commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Lawyer and activist, Noel Pearson, has been selected for the group, following on from his role in the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians and the Referendum Council.

He is one of numerous former panel members to be part of the next consultation process.

Other prominent names in the recognition conversation however have been left out, including Professor Megan Davis, a former member of the Referendum Council, and Thomas Mayor, a vocal advocate of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Minister Wyatt has previously described outspoken advocates of the Uluru Statement as ‘influencers’, and claimed he preferred to listen to “grassroots” Indigenous voices.

His list includes representatives from across the country.

Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda and current Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar are also part of the group.

Representing the next generation will be Benson Saulo, the first Indigenous person to be appointed to the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations and 2014 NAIDOC Youth of the Year.

Sky News political commentator, Chris Kenny was also appointed to the committee.

Members from remote communities include Eastern Arnhem Land leader, Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM and Yawuru man from Broome, Peter Yu.

Mr Wyatt said the group will ensure that all Indigenous people are heard.

“It will be a historic occasion that will mark a shift in the way government and Indigenous Australians work in partnership to shift the pendulum and advance positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” he said.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #UluruStatement : Tom Calma and Marcia Langton have been appointed by the government to help co-design a process for an Indigenous voice to parliament with commitment of $7.3 million for the process

“I am committed to being the minister for all Indigenous Australians, and want to make sure that all of these voices can be heard loud and clear.

 We need to get it right. Models will be workshopped with communities across urban, regional and remote Australia.

The best outcomes are achieved when Indigenous Australians are at the centre of decision‑making. We know that for too long decision-making treated the symptoms rather than the cause.”

Minister Wyatt said the process of consultation about designing the voice to parliament needed to reach the 800,000 Indigenous Australian voices – not just the First Nations leadership

Minister full Press Release

Read all 30 plus Aboriginal Health and the Uluru Statement articles published recently by NACCHO

Originally published in The Guardian

The Morrison government will today kick off a co-design process with Indigenous people on the voice to parliament, with the new phase to be led by the prominent Indigenous leaders Tom Calma and Marcia Langton.

The minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, says the government intends to convene a senior advisory group, co-chaired by Calma and Langton, to “ensure that Indigenous Australians are heard at all levels of government – local, state and federal”.

But the government has already ruled out enshrining the voice in the constitution, which was the original proposal from the Uluru statement, and Langton – charged with leading this new phase – is already on the public record arguing that the voice should be constitutionally enshrined, not simply legislated, which is the Morrison government’s position.

Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement of next steps by Wyatt, the Central Land Council also flatly rejected the government’s proposal to legislate the voice. Delegates met near Uluru on Tuesday and passed a resolution opposing symbolic recognition. “We want to be part of designing the voice to parliament,” the CLC resolution said. “We demand that it be protected in the constitution.”

The chair of the CLC, Sammy Wilson, said the Morrison government would struggle to “win over Aboriginal people in the heart of the nation for its plans” because “the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission is still fresh in the minds of our members”.

Langton has previously cited the abolition of Atsic as the reason why the voice needs to be enshrined in the constitution, as per the Uluru statement.

Wyatt said it was time that all levels of government took steps to empower both individuals and communities “and work in partnership to develop practical and long lasting programmes and policies that both address the needs of Indigenous Australians and ensure that Indigenous voices are heard as equally as any other Australian voice”.

The government envisages a two-step co-design process. Phase one will see two groups, a local and regional co-design group and a national co-design group, develop models “to improve local and regional decision-making and a national voice”. Phase two will involve consultation and engagement to refine models with Indigenous leaders, communities and other stakeholders.

With Wyatt’s announcement of the co-design process imminent, the shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, told Guardian Australia last week Labor would persist with trying to land a bipartisan position on the voice to parliament and constitutional recognition even if the Coalition refuses in the first instance to enshrine the voice in Australia’s founding document.

Labor supports the position outlined in the Uluru statement, not the version the government has flagged. But Burney speculated that Scott Morrison might eventually offer a two-stage process where “perhaps he would look at enshrinement down the track”.

However, government conservatives have already made it very clear they will not cop constitutional enshrinement of a First Nations voice.

The Liberal MP Craig Kelly told Guardian Australia when Wyatt put the voice on the agenda during Naidoc week that setting up separate structures, even if the representative model was legislated rather than constitutionally enshrined, risked creating “a reverse form of what South Africa was a few years ago”.

Rightwing thinktanks like the Institute of Public Affairs are also opposed on the same rationale as conservatives like Kelly.

From Ministers press Release

“It’s time that all governments took better steps to empower individuals and communities, and work in partnership to develop practical and long lasting programmes and policies that both address the needs of Indigenous Australians and ensure that Indigenous voices are heard as equally as any other Australian voice.”

The Senior Advisory Group will be made up of up to 20 leaders and experts from across the country, drawing on a range of skills and experience. Separate regional and national co-design groups will also be established to develop models to enhance local/regional decision-making and a national voice to governments to test across the country.

Professor Calma AO is the Chancellor of the University of Canberra and has previously served as the Race Discrimination Commissioner and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

Professor Langton AM is a previous member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians (2012) and has been appointed as the first Associate Provost at the University of Melbourne.

The Morrison Government has committed $7.3 million for the co-design process.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #UluruStatement #FirstNationsVoice #Treaty #ClosingTheGap : Read full Speech @LindaBurneyMP HC Nugget Coombs Memorial lecture Darwin NT

Tonight it is my intention to speak about four things.

The first being a very consistent theme of mine but also one of the fundamental tenets of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and that is the importance, the art of truth-telling.

I want to secondly focus on some of the policy challenges in my Shadow Portfolio of Indigenous Australians and Families and Social Services.

Thirdly, I want to focus on what I believe to be the defining discussions for the 46th Parliament, and the enshrinement of a First Nations Voice to the Parliament.

And finally, of course, to reflect on the story, values and legacy of Herbert Cole Nugget Coombs and the lessons he leaves us for the way forward for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike.

However, before that, it is important from an Aboriginal worldview for you to be able to place me, and know a little of my story. In doing so I share a little of the Wiradjuri story.

The Hon Linda Burney MP, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Speaking in Darwin  3 rd October HC Nugget Coombs Memorial lecture 

Picture above : As a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation, Ms Burney was the first Aboriginal person to be elected to the NSW Parliament and the first Aboriginal woman to serve in the Australian House of Representatives.

Linda’s commitment to Indigenous issues spans more than 30 years.

During her state political career she served as minister in a number of senior portfolios including as minister for Community Services and later as Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

The HC Nugget Coombs Memorial Lecture is presented by The Australian National University and Charles Darwin University, and named in honour of Dr Herbert Cole (H. C., better known as “Nugget”) Coombs 1906-1997.

Nugget Coombs was an Australian economist and public servant probably best known for his role as Governor of the Reserve Bank from 1960, and who, in his post-retirement years, made a significant contribution to enhancing the rights of Australia’s Indigenous peoples, especially to land. Coombs was Chancellor of The Australian National University (ANU) from 1968-1976.

Read full Speech HERE

Ballumb ambol Larrakia yindamarra Ngudu-yirra bang marrang.

We gather this evening on the lands of the Larrakia Nation.

In acknowledging the Larrakia let us honour and remind ourselves of your care and custodianship of country.

I do this in my language – that of the Wiradjuri Nation of South West New South Wales.

Larrikia – a country that extends from Cox Peninsula in the west, to Gunn Point in the north, Adelaide River in the east and down to the Manton Dam area in the south.

Like all First Nations the Larrakia’s story is as ancient as it is modern.

Larrikia continue to practice and preserve stories and culture; and continue to care for the land and water around us. Thank you.

I recognise this evening, Richard Fejo, Chair of the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation.

And I thank you, Bilawara Lee, for your welcome, and for having us on your country.

Welcome to country is a very old and an important ritual: Practiced for thousands of years by First Nations people when they go to other people’s countries, seeking permission, showing respect.

When we acknowledge country, remind ourselves of the three handfuls: The handful of truth; the handful of social justice for First Nations people; and the handful of equality and justice for all.

I am grateful to you all for attending the Nugget Coombs Memorial Lecture this evening. This lecture is presented in a partnership between the Australian National University and Charles Darwin University. I am acutely aware that this lecture is a major public event.

I would like to recognise and thank Professor Brian Schmidt AC, the vice Chancellor of ANU for your invitation to present tonight. I am truly touched.

Can I also recognise Professor Simon Maddocks, the Vice Chancellor of Charles Darwin University.

I wish to acknowledge Council members and staff from both universities.

Some of you I know personally.

A very, very, special recognition of Professor the Hon. Gareth Evens AC QC. Gareth, I know this is one of your final official events as Chancellor and you will receive many accolades. Let me add to them.

Tonight it is my intention to speak about four things.

The first being a very consistent theme of mine but also one of the fundamental tenets of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and that is the importance, the art of truth-telling.

I want to secondly focus on some of the policy challenges in my Shadow Portfolio of Indigenous Australians and Families and Social Services.

Thirdly, I want to focus on what I believe to be the defining discussions for the 46th Parliament, and the enshrinement of a First Nations Voice to the Parliament.

And finally, of course, to reflect on the story, values and legacy of Herbert Cole Nugget Coombs and the lessons he leaves us for the way forward for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike.

However, before that, it is important from an Aboriginal worldview for you to be able to place me, and know a little of my story. In doing so I share a little of the Wiradjuri story.

Wiradjuri territory is shaped like a fan. It sweeps across the catchments of the Lachlan, Macquarie and the Murrumbidgee Rivers. In the language of the Wiradjuri these three rivers are called Galari, Wambuul and Marrambidya. I am of the Marrambidya Wiradjuri.

The Wiradjuri were the first inland nation to experience the brutality of British colonisation and invasion.

The resistance of the mighty Wiradjuri leader Windradyne and his warriors was so strong that martial law was declared in Bathurst in 1823 – two thirds of the Wiradjuri around Bathurst were murdered – around 1,000 people or so – during the four months of martial law. To compound the damage even further, gold was discovered at Bathurst in 1851.

Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu describes the way of life for the Wiradjuri prior to settlers.

He says that it was possible for one to have driven a horse-led sulky though the land because of the way that the Wiradjuri had tended the land.

The wide-spread introduction of hooved animals post-settlement destroyed the top soil and destroyed the fertility of the land.

The shocking practice of poisoning flour and waterholes was first practiced on my people.

Some of the place names in my country tell the story.

Poison Waterhole Creek – near Narrandera.

Murdering Island between Griffith and Darlington Point.

The essence of Aboriginality is connection to country and where you stand in it. It also reminds us of the injustices perpetrated on the First Peoples in the so-called building of our nation. It is the telling of truth.

Nugget Coombs in my mind was one of Australia’s greatest public servants and a truth teller. I do not say this lightly. He served no less than eight Prime Ministers in one way or another: Curtin, Chifley, Menzies, Holt, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam and Frasier.

I did not know Nugget Coombs personally – so it was important I spoke to people who knew him and worked alongside him in preparing this address.

The man we honour tonight was born at the turn of last century.

My great aunt and uncle Letitia and William Laing who raised me were born around the same time.

They were a brave, non-Aboriginal brother and sister. Neither of whom ever married.

They lived through two world wars and the depression, defining events that shaped our nation and those within it.

It shaped them well.

I know the principles that defined this generation. I am a product of them: pragmatic, frugal, compassionate, respectful, resourceful, humble and appreciative.

Nugget was also born, like me, in a small country town.

He was born in Kalamunda – a derivative of the Noongar words “a home in the forest”. Today it is a semi-rural outer suburb of Perth’s east.

Being born in the country also shapes you, as does the circumstances you were born into.

What I do love about Nugget is he didn’t mind mucking in, in fact assumed great responsibility in the home as a very young person, as I had to.

This too shapes you and is something I can very much relate to from my own experience.

Why do I share these stories? I share them because I think too often we don’t value our own story.

All of our stories make up the rich tapestry of this land.

“Why are you called Nugget?” asked Robin Hughes in a 1992 TV interview.

An 86 year old Herbert Cole Coombs replied:

Well in Western Australia, in the country, Nugget was a kind of generic name for a creature, a person or a dog or a horse you know, which was short in the legs and stocky build…

Nugget Coombs leaves a legacy as an extraordinary public servant – beyond Governor of the Reserve Bank – and an extraordinary advocate for Indigenous Australians, and held dear by us.

Patrick Dodson – who has previously delivered this oration – said of Nugget that he was a man committed to Indigenous self-determination; committed to treaty; and committed to ensuring Indigenous Australians had a choice: of economic participation as well as maintaining connection with country and culture – not one at the expense of the other.

I also spoke to Warren Snowdon who knew and worked with Nugget. Warren said that when you look at the issue of treaty and self-determination – these are not new issues. People like Nugget and Judith Wright have been championing them since the 70s, some four decades ago.

You can see, as a result of both nature and nurture, his interests, values and attitudes – of fairness, justice, equality – both socially as well as economically – which paved the way for his achievements in the advancement of Indigenous Australians.

His academic record in high school is described as unremarkable. This makes me smile when I reflect on my own school report cards.

In a July 1919 report card, he is said to not have done particularly well in his exams but possessed a good deal of ability.

He did love his cricket and Australian Rules football – and he excelled in it.

After graduating from Perth Modern, Nugget became a pupil-teacher at Busselton, which was struggling economically at the time.

He became particularly conscious of the economic challenges facing families through his students, and he developed an interest in regional development – an important experience for his life to come as a senior economist for the nation.

His classrooms for him became economic microcosms of the community – a sample size of the have and the have-nots; children of different occupations, suburbs and wealth – indicators of the wellbeing of the local community, humanised.

He understood the power of education.

He understood that the distribution of wealth was central to ensuring that individuals were able to guarantee a roof over their head, food on the table, or an education for their children – and ultimately, ensuring the peace and wellbeing of a nation.

This is something I could really relate to when I reflect on my own teaching career in the Western suburbs in the early 1980s – such disadvantage and poverty profoundly shaping my worldview.

He studied at the University of Western Australia and then the London School of Economics.

Coombs was appointed the Director for Rationing, and later Post-War Reconstruction, working directly under Ben Chifley.

In June 1944, he advocated for the end of gender discrimination in the workplace in an address to the Council for Women in War Work.

This precipitated not only economic changes, but seismic social progress too.

Nugget Coombs was appointed Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in January 1949, but less than a year later, Robert Menzies became Prime Minister.

Coombs was a Labor appointee, but was to straddle both sides of politics. And he navigated the partisan divide with success and great political dexterity – a critical point I have learnt and done.

In 1960, he was appointed the first governor of the Reserve Bank by a Menzies Government.

He was unable to ignore the troubling truth: the divide and disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

It was not until after his retirement as Reserve Bank Governor that he pursued this seriously and with full attention as a policy legacy.

Perhaps it was his growing up in both urban and regional settings; perhaps it was his ability to understand wealth distribution, and how it could be used to address social challenges; perhaps it was his unique ability to bring both sides together and navigate partisanship – but Coombs was appointed Chair of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs in late 1967 by Prime Minister Harold Holt.

Nugget’s appointment took place before the backdrop of the 1967 Referendum – a campaign that had been a decade in the making.

It followed the path of the activism and agitation that had come before it: the day of mourning protests in 1938; and Charles Perkins and the freedom rides of the mid-1960s.

And it, in turn, blazed a trail for subsequent progress and change – the parallels and echo of history that we can see in this current discussion about the Uluru Statement and a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.

Of course, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Within two months of the Council’s establishment, Holt disappeared.

Nugget was then said to have clashed with Prime Minister William McMahon, who he felt was never sincerely or genuinely committed on Indigenous affairs – especially on land rights.

It was Prime Minister McMahon’s speech on 26 January 1972 – and his refusal to recognise Indigenous land rights – which led to the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in front of what is today Old Parliament House.

But perhaps one of the more notable examples of his agitation from within was the Yirrkala land dispute.

In late 1968, the Yirrkala People commenced proceedings in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory against the Commonwealth and Nabalco Pty Ltd, a bauxite mining company who were granted mining rights by the Commonwealth on traditional lands on the Gove Peninsula.

The Department of the Interior was determined to defend the claim against the Commonwealth in the court.

Coombs however, through the Council for Aboriginal Affairs sought to take heat out of the increasingly politicised court case by urging the Commonwealth to settle the matter out of court.

Coombs had the political aptitude to see the long term political ramifications this would have, not only for Indigenous land rights, but for Indigenous-non-Indigenous relations.

And in April 1971, the court found in favour of the Commonwealth and against the traditional owner plaintiffs.

Meanwhile however, public opinion had turned in favour of the traditional owners. There was now appetite among the mainstream Australian community for some sort of recognition or compensation for traditional land rights.

Labor was elected federally.

And Gough needed Nugget’s gravitas and continuity of institutional memory – especially with Labor having been out of office for 32 years.

He was ahead of his time in every way.

He was able to envision a totally different societal order and system – one which valued the needs of an individual with, and not above, a community; one which valued the needs of a community with, and not above, the environment.

Rather, as former Governor General William Deane said he advocated for:

their right to be different… to conduct their society in accordance with their ways of thinking, educate their children in relation to that and to conduct their own ceremonies.

He believed that Indigenous Australians ought to have the opportunities to participate economically without it being at the expense of their connection to culture and country.

This is so relevant still.

These lessons from Nugget Coombs are no more relevant for us than on the question of the Uluru Statement, constitutional recognition of a First Nations Voice to Parliament and Treaty making.

When the Prime Minister appointed the first Aboriginal person to the portfolio of Indigenous Australians, he sent an important message to the Australian community –

A message that he was prepared to act on the Uluru Statement and make history.

We were all overjoyed – Ken Wyatt is a good and thoroughly decent human being.

The Uluru Statement called for three things:

  • A constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament;
  • Truth telling; and
  • Agreement making – through a Makarrata Commission.

Agreement making is, of course, code for Treaty.Labor embraces the Uluru Statement in its entirety.

The central premise of the Uluru Statement is forward looking.

On the 10th of July, when Ken Wyatt spoke at the Press Club, he set out a path for delivering on the Uluru Statement from the Heart and committed the Government to:

  • Starting a co-design process for a First Nations Voice to Parliament;
  • Establishing a Parliamentary working group – so we could move forward in the spirit of bipartisanship; and
  • Truth-telling.

Fellow travelers, it is five minutes to midnight on this issue.However, just hours after Ken delivered his speech, the Prime Minister backgrounded the media – ruling out a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.

He is now saying – I think – that he would support a referendum to recognise First Australians symbolically, but not enshrine a Voice.

We still don’t know how the co-design process will work.

There is still no Parliamentary Working Group.

And we don’t yet know what the Government plans to do to take the next step on truth telling.

I, along with my Labor colleagues, continue to offer bipartisanship and collaboration.

But we are running out of time – especially if the Government is to deliver on their commitment of a referendum this term.

And there is a real risk the Uluru Statement will fade into the pages of history.

That it will be remembered as a noble moment, but not a turning-point.

It really is five minutes to midnight.

The next federal election is due in the first half of 2022.

And a referendum would most likely take place by the second half of 2021.

Before holding a referendum, there would need to be time for a successful campaign.

This will take months and would need to start in 2020.

Prior to a campaign, time needs to be allowed for co-design of a voice, consultation and agreement on a question. This can’t be unreasonably rushed.

And there must be time to pass an act of parliament to set the referendum question.

It is now the final quarter of 2019 – there are already Christmas decorations in the shops.

Bipartisanship is still on the table – contingent on the broad support of First Nations people.

We will work with the Government, but we will not wait for them.

I say to the Prime Minister very directly: this could be your moment, a great legacy; something to be truly remembered by.

If a proper process of co-design is not started by early next year, Labor will start our consultations with communities across Australia on the way forward.

Because this is what we do – we listen to First Nations people.

That is why we have already stated the principles on which we think a Voice should be based.

  1. It should be democratically elected;
  2. Gender representation should be equal;
  3. Young people should be at the table;
  4. It should be advisory only and non-justiciable – in line with the Uluru Statement
  5. It must be secure and permanent.

Security of the Voice is paramount – that is why the Uluru Statement called for it to be constitutionally enshrined.Because we have seen before how easily the institutional voice of First Nations people has been taken away, by the Government of the day.

We all know what happened to ATSIC.

And in the spirit of bipartisanship – I want to set out a starting point for the co-design process the Government has promised.

This is not a policy prescription.

Ken Wyatt has said the Voice should be multi-layered. He is correct.

Its basis must be regional – a reflection of the great diversity in First Nations peoples and cultures.

As a starting point, the Voice could be based, for example, broadly on the old ATSIC boundaries.

There would need to be adjustments, of course, to accommodate existing organisations.

The regional functions of a Voice should be significant – helping to shape, co-ordinate and influence service delivery, across all levels of government.

These regional bodies could be like a clearing house – providing accountability, direction and co-ordination for service delivery.

They could be an authoritative point for consultation and help ensure the overall investment of public funds into communities gets results.

They would not be responsible for service delivery.

They could fill a gap that currently exists, give communities insight and influence.

The national Voice to Parliament could be elected from regional bodies.

At the national level, the Voice could provide the Parliament with advice on legislation and programs that impact First Nations Australians.

It would be a point of accountability of government effort.

But it could also deliver annual statements of priorities, and respond to requests from the Parliament for advice and direction.

The Voice could also scrutinise the effectiveness of programs from a First Nations perspective, something that is fundamental to practical self-determination.

And it could work in partnership with other organisations, like the Productivity Commission, universities and departments and peak First Nations organisations.

The Voice must remain grounded and accountable to the regional bodies from which it is drawn.

We need to reinvigorate our national process of truth telling.

As our holders of stories pass on, so too do the stories.

Truth telling is most effective when it is local, because that is where the stories are.

Local governments should play a big part. The surviving Local Reconciliation Groups could be renewed.

This week I was on the Eyre Peninsular in South Australia and was told the story of the Waterloo Bay massacre –

And the unveiling one year ago of a monument that tells the story of up to 200 defenceless Aboriginal people being forced off a cliff at gun point.

There was intense debate in the community about this monument – with some wanting to use the word ‘incident’ rather than ‘massacre’.

In the end, the Elliston Council decided, by a single vote, to tell the truth.

This was not easy. It was painful and difficult.

But important for the whole community.

And I am told that the process has been healing.

Without openly talking about the past, and understanding it, it is almost impossible to understand some of the barriers, the intergenerational trauma and how to move forward.

The recognition of Myall Creek massacre in the Gwyder region of News South Wales is another powerful example of the transformative power of truth.

On the 10th of July 1838, a group of Wirrayaraay people were attacked by convicts and settlers when they were preparing a meal –

They were slaughtered and their bodies burned. One boy survived.

But now, the descendants of those who murdered, and the descendants of those who were killed come together each year.

I attended the first year of the commemoration.

It is an incredibly raw, moving and brave acknowledgement that is pulling together the edges of the great tear that has occurred in that community.

Myall Creek was also the first time in Australia that perpetrators were brought to justice – they were hung.

Of course – this is not only a local responsibility.

State and federal governments need to urgently resource truth telling.

Libraries, museums and cultural institutions must be better able to help communities capture the stories that have shaped out nation.

Critical too is a national resting place, and better support for the repatriation of remains to country.

I have stood in a leaky warehouse in Adelaide, which contains a room with literally thousands of remains waiting to be taken home.

Truth telling is difficult.

But it can build for Australia a stronger, collective national pride: we are all custodians of the oldest continuing culture in the world.

It is for everyone.

The Uluru Statement also called for agreement making – for treaty.

And it requires long-term commitment.

And first, communities and governments need to be Treaty-ready.

This the work Mick Dodson and Ursula Raymond are doing here in the Northern Territory – and overseas experience shows that getting ready can take some time.

Ultimately, there will probably be many treaties. Ken Wyatt is correct about this.

The issues dealt with will be diverse – like First Nations are diverse. And agreements with state and territory governments will primarily be where the rubber hits the road.

And Victoria is already leading the way.

But this isn’t only the business of the states.

As Mick Dodson, the NT Treaty Commissioner said earlier this week:

Regarding a treaty, Mr. Wyatt says it’s important for states and territories to take the lead in treaties. I trust he’s not implying that the Commonwealth can wash its hands on treaty-making nationwide — the Federal Parliament must be involved.

In recent years, Labor has reformed our Caucus processes to strengthen the First Nations voice in our decision making.

We have a First Nations Caucus Committee, Chaired by Malarndirri McCarthy – your own Senator here in the Territory.

And I have both the Shadow portfolios of Families and Social Services and Indigenous Australians.

Warren Snowdon and Patrick Dodson are assistant shadow ministers in the portfolio.

I strive to work by these principles: mutual trust, truly listening, self-determination, investing in need, rewarding excellence, collaboration, and developing evidence-based policy.

I also seek to achieve bipartisanship wherever I can – so long as it is not a race to the bottom.

By working in this way, Labor has developed principled and evidenced positions on the future of the Community Development Program, the Cashless Debit Card and Newstart.

At Garma earlier this year, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said:

I know there are real concerns about the CDP program. It has been punitive and unfair and has caused much hurt in communities…

That is why Labor promised before the recent election to abolish CDP and establish a new program… [and] that it might have some of the same features as the old CDEP…

We remain committed to our proposal.

More than 12 years after the Howard Government’s Northern Territory intervention, it is also clear that broad-based, mandatory income management has not worked.

And on that basis, Labor does not support the Government’s plan to roll out the Cashless Debit Card across the Territory.

A plan which could see the Minister quarantine 100 per cent of social security payments with the stroke of a pen.

The Card should be voluntary, except in certain circumstances, like child protection or family violence – it should be a case management approach.

Unless a community genuinely decides they want the Card, after an informed and proper process of consultation.

Consistent with self-determination, if a community does want to try the Card, we respect and support that.

Labor supports an increase to Newstart – and that matters to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people –

It matters too for regional economies, where so many people who must rely on Newstart live.

The work the peak organisations are doing with governments on closing the gap is really critical, and I support this process.

Labor wants to work with the peaks and the Government to make Closing the Gap meaningful and enduring.

And we look forward to being brought into the process.

The Uluru Statement is a tangible and modest ask.

And consistent with this, I have outlined some ideas today that would be a sound starting point for that discussion

Nebulous concepts like’ multi-layered’, ‘ground-up’ and ‘varied’ simply don’t cut it in the community conversations I have been part of.

People want a proposal to grab hold of, to change, and ultimately to campaign for.

They want it to be a permanent Voice.

This is why I have put forward a proposal with a clear regional basis, an electoral process and gender parity.

This is too important to descend into a political scrabble.

I offer my comments tonight in the spirit of encouragement and bipartisanship, because Labor doesn’t want the glory – we just want it to happen.

Now is the time.

The Government is clearly in search of a big story, of an agenda: and I say, take this one, it’s ready to go.

The Prime Minister has already shown leadership in appointing Ken Wyatt – and it is now Scott Morrison’s responsibility for follow-through.

The stars are aligned, in this moment.

There are advocates within conservative politics, Labor is absolutely on-board with the Uluru Statement; business is ready and willing; states are leading; and eminent legal minds like Justice Murray Gleeson have also lent their support.

Let us continue Nugget Coombs’ life’s work in striving towards justice, equality and fairness through empowering those who yearn for it.

We are standing on the shoulders of giants. Let us get on and do it.

NOTE – I wish to acknowledge the efforts of Daryl Tan in helping me to prepare this paper.


Linda Burney MP profile image

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