NACCHO News Alert : NT Chief Minister Adam Giles steps in to right Indigenous inaction



Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles — Australia’s first indigenous head of government — has taken personal responsibility for delivering a major overhaul of indigenous policy three years after Aboriginal voters installed the Country Liberals.

In a tacit admission that strateg­ies to date have not worked, an indigenous-specific agency will be re-created, undoing one of Mr Giles’s first acts in office when he scrapped the Departmen­t of Indigenous Advancement and sparked an Aboriginal backbencher revolt.

Report by Amos Aikman The Australian

Public service heads will be put directly in charge of driving economic reform in 13 remote communities from July 1, and the government has adopted new targets for departments and contractors to hire more indigenous staff.

Changes to procurement, agreed to by cabinet, would see more locals employed delivering roads and housing projects funded in next year’s budget, Mr Giles said, including through rebuilding work in Arnhem Land following Cyclone Lam in February.

While Mr Giles denied that the government — which has been wracked by instability since he took control in a partyroom coup seven months after the August 2012 poll — had failed the Aboriginal voters who elected it, he ­acknowledged not everything had gone smoothly. The Country Liberal Party won power exclusively with gains in the bush.

“I think there has been a lack of implementation of a range of different policy areas,” he said. “While some agencies have been working pretty hard, others haven’t. And there’s been a bit of a lack of leadership.”

That can be read as a rebuke of his ministers, who were tasked with using their portfolios to drive change in individual communit­ies before departmental chief exec­utives were told to take over under a reformed Community Champions program. Mr Giles said things would be different now he had taken charge.

“I’m driving this. I’m personally driving this,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m staking my political reputation on it, not at all. … I’m passionate about economics, not just social agendas. I’m a big supporter of investing in health and education and all that, but you have to balance it with investing in culture, environment and landscape, and economics.”

The changes began after the Chief Minister reinstated the ­indigenous affairs portfolio in the CLP’s 14th reshuffle, following a botched attempt to oust him as leader earlier this year.

While success in areas such as health, housing and education were interrelated, Mr Giles said, it was jobs that needed most attention. He said the federally funded Remote Jobs and Communities Program was failing and a version of the work-for-the-dole program should be returned.

“In the main, I’ve had a gutful of RJCP,’’ Mr Giles said. “I don’t think it’s working. I think it’s time that Commun­ity Development Employment Projects or a model the same as CDEP needs to be brought back.

“I don’t believe in training for a job … it’s not training first, it’s job first — particularly because we’ve got highly unskilled people.”

The Territory’s government intend­s ­to double indigenous employment in the public service to 16 per cent by 2020 — the public service workforce is now about 25,000 — and has set a target to create an extra 2000 private-sector jobs by 2017.

Public contractors, who get a bonus for hiring indigenous workers, are now being assessed both at the procurement stage and once the work has been completed.

“Contracts like Tiger Brennan Drive extension here (in Darwin) now, it’s got 23 per cent or 26 per cent indigenous employment, which would’ve been unheard of before,” Mr Giles said. “When I got the Department of Tourism, (there were) 100 staff exactly (but) not one was Aboriginal. In 2015, it doesn’t matter which government is in, I don’t think that’s very good … when you consider that we do a lot of promoting Aboriginal images.” A small grants program to support tourism infrastructure, a new Indigenous Tourism Advisory Council and business-development staff based in urban centres are all designed to get Aboriginal people ready for the tourism boom Mr Giles expects in 18 months.

He recruited about 30 “new and emerging leaders” via advertisements to join a First Circles advisory group to inform cabinet and public service Community Champions about community priorities. The group met for the first time last week.

The approach could prove challenging if established leaders do not accept First Circle members as appropriate points of contact.

Thirteen communities — Milingimbi and Ramingining, Galiwin’ku, Maningrida, Groote Eylandt, Gunbalanya, Borroloola, Ngukurr and Numbulwar, Wadeye, Tiwi Islands, Hermannsburg, Utopia and the Yulara region — will get the most attention.

“You can’t do all 1000 discrete communities at once,” Mr Giles said. “It’s still too hard to drive that change in very small communities collectively.”

Under long-term decentralisation plans, Mr Giles hopes to give regional and community authorities more control over schools and health clinics. He also indicated that the Territory would accept the federal government’s offer of a $155 million payout to take full responsibility for servicing outstations and homelands.

“Yeah, it wasn’t enough. But if we have to take the responsibility on, we will,” the Chief Minister said.

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NACCHO congratulates Nova Peris: the first Aboriginal woman elected to Australia’s Federal parliament.

Nova 2 Pic

The chair of NACCHO Justin Mohamed today congratulated  the new senator for the NT Nova Peris who has become the first Aboriginal woman to win a seat in Australia’s Parliament.

Whilst this news had hardly any coverage here in Australia there was extensive coverage internationally

Here are two of those reports

SYDNEY (AFP) – Former Olympian Nova Peris has become the first Aboriginal woman elected to Australia’s national parliament, a welcome achievement for the centre-left Labor Party which lost power in the polls.

Employment and workplace relations minister Bill Shorten, who is considered the frontrunner to become Labor’s next leader, said despite the loss, there had been a range of good candidates elected to serve, including Peris.

“That’s a good accomplishment,” he said Sunday of her election to represent the Northern Territory in the Senate. “And it backs up our accomplishment in terms of jobs for indigenous Australians.”

Olympian Peris won gold in field hockey at the 1996 Atlanta Games before switching to athletics to win gold in the 200m and 4x100m relay at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.

Her pre-selection ruffled feathers though, with one conservative Aboriginal politician saying Labor had been shamed into pre-selecting an indigenous candidate and compared the politically inexperienced Peris to a “maid” inside Labor’s house.

Others were angered that her pre-selection bumped out Labor’s long-serving Northern Territory Senator Trish Crossin.

In her victory speech on Saturday, Darwin-born-and-raised Peris said that federal politics had the same cruelness of elite sport and admitted she had thought “long and hard” about whether to enter the arena.

“I thought: ‘Can I do it?'” she told supporters on Saturday night.

“Sometimes in life you’ve got to back yourself and I’ve got a bit of a history of backing myself with my sporting career.”

Peris, who identifies with the Kiga People of the East Kimberley, Yawuru People of the West Kimberley (Broome) and Muran People of West Arnhem land in the Northern Territory, is set to be sworn in as a senator at the next sittings in Canberra.

Aboriginal woman’s Aussie Senate bid brings abuse

VIEW story here From the Washington Post

Facing the prospect of becoming the first Aboriginal woman to win a seat in Australia’s Parliament, Nova Peris said Sunday that she was targeted during her campaign by the worst onslaught of racial abuse she had ever endured.

After then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard hand-picked Peris in January to head the center-left Labor Party’s Senate ticket in the Northern Territory _ an almost unbeatable position that virtually assured her place in Australian political history _ she was bombarded with hate letters and emails that were so extreme she passed them to police.

“It’s not a nice feeling to be judged and looked down upon because of the color of your skin,” Peris said Sunday. “I had a string of letters and emails sent to me and they were horrific. And my husband was really, really upset.”

“They were pretty nasty. The worst I’ve ever seen in my life,” she said, declining to go into details.

But the threats did not deter her, and the 1996 Olympic gold medalist hockey player contested the Senate seat in elections Saturday. She appeared comfortably ahead in vote counting Sunday, but was not yet ready to claim victory.

“It’s like waiting for the result of a photo finish,” said Peris, comparing her anxious wait for the count to be finalized to her days as a world-class sprinter.

Aborigines are a minority of only 600,000 in Australia’s population of 23 million. The lack of Aboriginal representation in Parliament is a growing embarrassment for the leaders of major political parties.

No Aborigine had sat in Parliament before Neville Bonner arrived in 1971. The conservative Liberal Party senator, who had little formal education, was the only Aborigine in Parliament for the next 12 years before he was voted out.

In 1999, Aden Ridgeway, a senator from the minor Australian Democrats party, became the second Aborigine in Parliament, lasting for a single six-year term.

Liberal Ken Wyatt next won a seat in the House of Representatives in 2010, although a constituent later wrote to complain that he had not advertised his Aboriginality in the campaign. The constituent said he would not have voted for Wyatt if he had known.

Wyatt was re-elected Saturday to a second three-year term in his Western Australia state electorate, with an increased majority.

Adam Giles became the chief minister of Peris’ home state last year, and became the first Aboriginal head of a government.

Aborigines are the poorest ethnic group in Australia, suffer poor health and lag behind in education. They die years younger than other Australians on average and are far more likely to be imprisoned.

Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott has promised to work for a week each year as the nation’s leader in an Outback Aboriginal settlement to draw attention to indigenous struggles. He failed last year in a bid to recruit an Aboriginal woman lawmaker from the Northern Territory government to contest a federal seat.

Peris, a 41-year-old who competed in two Olympics _ as a hockey player in 1996 and as a sprinter in 2000 _ said she experienced racism throughout her sporting career. But the racism was worse in Australia than when she traveled internationally to compete.

She said she was pleased, however, that Australia’s major sporting bodies no longer tolerate racism of competitors or spectators.

“Racism is just ignorance,” she said. “Australia certainly has come a long way when you look at the reforms that have happened in the highest levels of sports. There’s no place for racism.”

“We’re talking about human beings, and it’s all about how we contribute to society and what are we doing today to make Australia a better place for the kids,” she said

NACCHO political alert: Senator Nigel Scullion says many reasons to be positive


Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister Senator Nigel Scullion’s (pictured above centre) opinion piece published in the Koori Mail:

PLEASE NOTE: NACCHO welcomes all contributions from all political parties throughout the 2013 Election campaign

All too often in indigenous affairs people focus on the things that are not working, the problems. But, in this Reconciliation week and in the spirit of the Recognise campaign let us be positive, because we have many good reasons to be so.

Indigenous Australians have been making leaps and bounds forward against all the odds for decade after decade. I believe now with young indigenous Australians grasping better futures and with their fresh approach, the environment is changing yet again for the better and the rate of progress is going to accelerate.

It is useful for us to recognise just how diverse Australia’s Indigenous population is .There are around 670,000 people that identify. Less than 100,000 live in those very remote parts of Australia, from the deserts to the coastal rainforests and the islands of the Torres Strait. Some of them live a very traditional life, they might speak very little English, and they may still follow their traditional customs. Others are living a more Western-style life working with a mining company perhaps, owning their own house and so on.

People are often surprised to learn that Sydney has the largest concentration of Indigenous people in the country – around 50,000 people. While some of them might not be living on their traditional lands, they will tell you that they are no less an indigenous person than their brothers and sisters in very remote parts of Australia.

So when we talk about policies we need to take into account the diversity and avoid falling into the trap of thinking that governments have all the answers. It is a fact that Indigenous Australians have often succeeded in spite of government. In most cases they are doing it for themselves

It will be obvious to everyone that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have excelled beyond measure in the sporting arena in of art, film, theatre and dance. Indigenous Australians involvement in the political life of the country has a long and proud tradition and is growing rapidly. Adam Giles – an indigenous man -is now chief Minister of the Northern Territory.

When I was a young fellow there were two Aboriginal university graduates in this country Charles Perkins and Margaret Valadian. Now there are more than 25,000 indigenous graduates and the number is growing rapidly. Today there are over 10,000 indigenous students enrolled in university. There are over 150 indigenous medical practitioners.

Indigenous household incomes are growing with many indigenous Australians making their own way quietly with no assistance from government. Around 40 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now own or are buying their own homes.

I travelled recently to an isolated homeland community called Baniyala. A beautiful quiet place with a school and a few houses, a shop, a clinic and not much else. A small family group of about 80 people had moved back to their traditional country to pursue a life away from the hassles of the larger centres in the area.  Brendan has a full-time position as a ranger.  He gets a good wage with annual leave and superannuation. Two of Brendan’s children are doing their higher School certificate at a Kormilda boarding school in Darwin. He is renting a house and he now wants to lease the land so he can buy his house.

There are many stories like Brendan’s and there are many Indigenous organisations making life better for their indigenous brothers and sisters. Recently I met with the people from the Indigenous health services for Brisbane. Indigenous people choose to go to these health services because they feel comfortable and they get an excellent professional service. These Aboriginal Medical Services are funded through mainstream programs such as MBS like other medical clinics. They get funding for some specific indigenous programs but that is at the edges. They are operating a very professional and cost effective medical service business for a niche market and everyone’s a winner. We need policies that support that sort of work.

Policies should be about getting behind Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, recognising their individual capacities, and removing barriers that might limit their aspirations. Sometimes the roadmap is simply those ingredients that make a better life for any other Australian.

Welfare is killing people. Noel Pearson and the Cape York Institute and other Aboriginal leaders in Australia have developed a model of reform that could be expanded. School attendance is a major problem. We should be funding education systems on the basis of school attendance not school enrolment and we should require parents to send their kids to school. On Aboriginal land you cannot own your house-we must change that. When we spend government money we should make sure it creates jobs for aboriginal people. We need more of the money the government spends hitting the ground and actually benefiting the people it is meant to reach. We spend too much of the money on public servants and administrators that frankly add little value. We must stop that.

Indigenous people are a diverse group they will chart different courses depending on where they live and their circumstances. To that end decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible and we should devolve decisions of government wherever we can. Governments have a limit in terms of what they can do. Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander Australians want to write their own stories. More government can sometimes mean more strings attached .And government departments with the best intentions can end up disempowering people. We need to work against this.

Finally there is the movement to recognise indigenous Australians in our Constitution. Some might see this as a symbolic gesture only. They think it will have no impact- so what is the point they say. If we get this right as a nation we will be able to work together to write a new story for all of us. If we change the Constitution, if we get it right, it will mean something, it will make a difference , it will be a significant tool in overcoming indigenous disadvantage. It will make all of us feel better about ourselves and it will complete us as a Nation.

Media Release

Thursday, 20 June, 2013

NT Stronger Futures a flop

Today’s NT Stronger Futures progress report confirms the Gillard Government has failed to close the gap for Northern Territory Aboriginals in education and employment, Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister Senator Nigel Scullion said.
“This report is full of Government propaganda but shows that over seven years Labor dropped the ball on the intervention and failed to empower Indigenous Territorians by getting people off welfare through economic development.
“They key requirements for economic development are education and real jobs, neither of which Labor offers.
“The jobs Jenny Macklin gloats about in the report are Government welfare jobs, such as night patrols and other make work programs that simply reflect the continuing level of dysfunction in Indigenous communities.
“Macklin celebrates jobs in government service delivery by creating a bureaucrat’s paradise rather than a real economy.
“Macklin should explain why Indigenous education results have gone backwards under Stronger Futures, with atrocious NT NAPLAN figures, such as Year 9 persuasive writing where only 3.3%.of very remote Indigenous students in the NT met the national standard or Year 7 persuasive writing where it was just 7.1%.
“Any minor gains in early childhood development are nothing to do with Stronger Futures. Claims about achieving access to pre-school programs are just more smoke and mirrors.
“The Coalition will empower Aboriginal people through economic development, not create more welfare jobs and a bureaucrat’s paradise,” Senator Scullion said.

For further information contact Senator Scullion:
• Darwin electorate office (08) 8948 3555
• Canberra Parliament House office (02) 6277 3867
• Media adviser Russel Guse 0438 685645