NACCHO political debate: Do you have a suggestions for a new arrangement in Aboriginal affairs


Suggestions for a New Arrangement in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Affairs

Please find attached the proposal Suggestions to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott for a New Arrangement in Aboriginal Affairs written by Co-Chair Indigenous People’s Organisation (IPO) Network of Australia Ms Dea Thiele MPH.

DSC_0602 3

Picture above Dea Theale  at the Alta global indigenous preparatory conference for the world conference on indigenous peoples 2014,

This proposal on election eve  is provided to NACCHO members and stakeholders for information and discussion and is not endorsed by NACCHO.

We welcome debate and invite you to leave your suggestions comments or feedback below

 First Proposal

In respect to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples, to close the gaps in life expectancy, infant mortality rates and other continuing markers of disadvantage, the Federal Government needs a new arrangement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.

While it is noted that ATSIC was of concern to the government of the day, there was not, as the ATSIC review clearly articulated, the need to dismantle the organisation. Political will is needed to allow Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples to be socially and politically included into all aspects of the Australian system that impinge on their health, wellbeing and economic development.

Given the range of social determinants that impact on the health, spiritual, social, emotional and environmental wellbeing, including the economic development of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples, ATSIC, could not be held responsible for the disparities between Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians. It is a shared responsibility between Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Government and non-government sectors, which requires long term commitment and resources commensurate with need.

It is widely known and acknowledged that Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples are the most disadvantaged population group in Australia. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill 2004 abolished ATSIC, and to dismantle the national body without due planning, consideration, consultation and negotiation with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples has left a huge gap in transparency, monitoring and accountability of all programs that impact on Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The right to self-determining structures is clearly supported and articulated by a number of United Nations international treaties, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Serious and effective engagement means we need a nationally elected Aboriginal Authority/Commission or a similar structure that is underpinned by a legislative framework that is based on the principle of self-determination that will fully discharge a broad range of functions efficiently and transparently for the benefit of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander People being held accountable for the administration of such a body.

Failure to include and effectively engage the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander population and organisational representatives from the beginning and right throughout the policy process risks the development of inappropriately targeted and ill-conceived policy and at worst, may be inappropriate, unhelpful, unsustainable and ineffective for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS Self Determination in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Affairs

1. Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples have an inalienable right to a nationally elected self-determining organisation that fully discharges the widest range of functions efficiently and transparently for the benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. It follows the need for a new arrangement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.

2. Real and effective consultation in partnership with Aboriginal communities must inform the entire process of development of a broad based nationally elected Aboriginal self-determining organisation. Aboriginal communities could be represented by their existing bodies in health, land, law and childrens’ services.

These organisations and individuals could nominate others where any additional expertise might be needed. This national structure could stand in the position of the board of commissioners in order to ensure that service delivery to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples is governed by self-determining rather than government controlled processes.

Dea is available for comment and interview on +61 448 123 444.

NACCHO Aboriginal health and our political future : So which side of politics will end Aboriginal disadvantage

Kev and Tony

Article by Amanda Cavill

While Indigenous Australians make up a small percentage of Australia’s population, they are vastly over-represented in a number of alarming ways.

WATCH NACCHO chair  Justin Mohamed and National Congress Kirstie Parker on SKYNEWS

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a lower average life expectancy, higher child mortality rates and a higher likelihood of living in poverty, according to FaHCSIA.

In the lead up to this year’s election, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said he wanted to see Parliament revisit a referendum on recognition of Indigenous people in Australia’s constitution within two years.

Labor has also pledged funding through national partnerships agreements for health, education and housing, committed to a Cape York welfare reform trial and funded a series of land and sea ranger programs to boost jobs.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has also announced new targets to help close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“One: to make sure that we get more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into higher education. Two: that we will set ourselves a new closing the gap justice target, because incarceration rates are too high, and thirdly: we’ve announced disability targets making sure that Indigenous people get the access they need to Disability Care Australia”, Ms Macklin said.

The Coalition supports many of the government’s policy initiatives.

VIEW the Coalition policy released yesterday

It too has pledged to changing the constitution to acknowledge Aboriginal people, with a draft amendment to be put forward within 12 months.

However, if elected, the Coalition says it would elevate Indigenous affairs by moving the portfolio into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Coalition leader Tony Abbott has also promised to set up an Indigenous Advisory Council, headed by former ALP president Warren Mundine.

The council would be made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous representatives and would meet with the government three times a year, while Mr Mundine would meet the prime minister and Indigenous affairs minister every month.

Mr Abbott said the disadvantage faced by Indigenous people is the result of a flawed system.

“What we’ve got to do is develop new governance arrangements where things happen a lot more quickly than they seem to at the moment.  Now I don’t want to underestimate the difficulties of this, but I think that we start getting places more quickly if it’s not just the government dictating to Aboriginal people, but the government, allied with people like Warren Mundine, making it happen”, Mr Abbott said.

And, if elected, Tony Abbott said he would spend a week each year in Aboriginal communities – as he has been doing for years already – but as prime minister would take senior decision-makers with him.

Income quarantining would remain but, unlike Labor’s policy, would not be linked to school attendance.

He has promised on-the-spot fines for truancy, job training trials based on mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s model, and greater help for Indigenous people to develop businesses and own homes.

Katter’s Australia Party, which is expected to retain leader Bob Katter’s lower house seat and win at least one senate seat, is highly critical of the major parties’ plans.

Bob Katter said they are policies that won’t work.

“They believe that whitefellas should go in there and build all these houses for them, and fix everything up for them.  You know, I have the exact opposite position.  Mahatma Gandhi had it right; ‘Even though we may not be able to run India as well as the British Raj, it is infinitely more important that Indians run India, even though we may not be able to run it as well'”, he said.

Meanwhile The Greens said they will use their expected balance-of-power position in the Senate to pursue compensation for the Stolen Generation and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution.

The party opposes income management, welfare quarantining, and Labor’s scheme to link welfare payments to school attendance.

The party wants a justice target in the Closing the Gap program and action to reduce alcohol supply, for example through a minimum price or fewer liquor licences and stronger measures to boost Indigenous health.

Greens Senator and former GP Richard Di Natale says the first step to improving health in remote Indigenous communities is training more Aboriginal health workers.

“We’ve got a huge investment in infrastructure that would ensure that we get more people from an Indigenous background trained and becoming health professionals.  I worked for two years at an Aboriginal health service in the Northern Territory and one of the best things about that service was that Aboriginal people were coming into a place where they were getting care from their Indigenous brothers and sisters. That’s so critical”, Di Natale says.

NACCHO political alert: Peak Aboriginal organisation lashes Abbott and ticks off Labor

Congress Mob

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (Congress) has written to its 172 member organisations and almost 6500 individuals members, asking them to hold major political parties accountable for their policies and pledges regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the 2013 federal election.

An open letter by Co-Chairs Les Malezer and Kirstie Parker (pictured above top left) provides an overview of the policies and pronouncements both before and during the election campaign of the Australian Greens (Greens), Australian Labor Party (ALP), the Liberal Party of Australia and the Nationals (the Coalition).

Congress wrote to the parties in August asking for responses on key principles outlined in our document ‘Rights, Respect and Recognition: Congress’ Expectations of Australia’s Political Leadership’.


The responses from the parties are published on the Congress website.


PATRICIA KARVELAS From: The Australian  September 04, 2013 12:00AM

THE peak body representing Aborigines has criticised Tony Abbott for his lack of commitment to the organisation and failure to acknowledge the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in an evaluation of the major parties that was sent to its members.

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples questioned the major parties on their commitment to advancing the interests of Aborigines.

It says the ALP supported the UN declaration in April 2009, and in 2010 gave moral and financial support for the establishment of the congress, but “regrettably the ALP has yet to address the declaration to any meaningful extent”.

The congress said it was not aware of the Coalition having made any official announcements on the UN declaration or the rights of first peoples.

“The Coalition has not expressed support for representation and decision-making,” it said.

It noted that the Opposition Leader had instead made commitments to manage indigenous affairs from the portfolio of prime minister and cabinet, and to establish an indigenous advisory council headed by Warren Mundine. Mr Abbott had also pledged to spend time in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as prime minister and this promise extended to his ministers.

They say that the Coalition says it will change the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 to accede to freedom of speech and remove legal remedy to racial vilification.

“No party has yet committed to the proposed reforms of the Constitution that were recommended by the expert panel, particularly to the reform to prevent laws that are racially discriminatory.

“The ALP and the Coalition remain focused upon intervention in the Northern Territory through the Stronger Futures laws despite strong concerns identified by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights over breaches of Australia’s international human rights obligations under the race convention.

“The ALP has reinstated the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 to apply to the Stronger Futures laws but congress considers that this is not a sufficient response to end discriminatory provisions”.

On closing the gap they say the Coalition supports the continuing strategy but “it is unclear whether the Coalition would maintain or extend existing programs”.

They write that the ALP has made some changes to the Native Title Act 1993 during the last two terms of government, but “arguably not in ways that improve the return of lands, territories and resources to ownership and management by the First Peoples”.

“In particular, the ALP has not reversed the onus of proof, as has been widely recommended. The Coalition has made no commitment to increasing ownership of lands, territories and resources but Warren Mundine, who would chair a Coalition Indigenous advisory council, has flagged changes to Aboriginal statutory bodies including land councils, regional councils, homeland councils, and corporations”.

“None of the major parties have provided detailed proposals to advance the land rights aspirations of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples”.

They say the major parties are mostly silent on the cultural interests of the first peoples and offer no major policy developments or investments.

“By providing this overview to you, Congress does not seek to tell you how or whether to vote in the federal election. It is your decision. We hope that the information that we have provided adds to your understanding of the political landscape and gives you ideas as to how to influence the Parliament of Australia to respect the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples”.


5 key questions to political leaders

1.How will you work with Congress to ensure our legitimate role as a national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is respected?

2.What measures will you take to ensure the rights and purposes set out in the

3.How will you support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to achieve self-determination?

4.What support will you provide Congress to fully participate in the development, implementation and monitoring of government laws, policies and programs, including through COAG?

5.What steps will you take to ensure that policies and strategies that affect us have the agreement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

“We are not telling people how to vote or whether to vote in the federal election, and we have not endorsed any political party over another,” said Co-Chair Parker.

“Rather, Congress has provided our members with information to help them ask key questions of their local candidates in the federal election, draw their own conclusions about policies, and cast an informed vote on Saturday.

“Congress’ role is to promote and protect the identity and rights of the First Peoples, and this includes informing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of election promises by the next Australian Government.

“We are pleased the major parties remain committed to achieving equality through ‘Closing the Gap’ strategies,” said Ms Parker.

“We applaud this approach to set targets and to measure performances.

“The parties accept close scrutiny and accountability against housing, education, employment and health goals, and Congress notes that the ALP and the Greens now also accept our proposal to incorporate justice targets in the strategies.

“But achieving equality in social indicators is only one of six priority areas.”

Co-Chair Malezer said the most important objective, from the view of Congress, is the commitment to implement in Australia the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The Declaration upholds our right to self-determination and embodies the framework for development of Indigenous Peoples through community-based decision-making.

“Self-determination is essential, and our history in Australia proves centralised and unrepresentative government in Canberra cannot succeed, no matter how many advisors exist.

“Congress remains concerned that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are still harmed through racism at the individual and institutional levels.

“Constitutional reform to prohibit racism is recommended by Congress but the parties remain vague on the details for Constitutional reform.

“It is important that Congress members and our supporters are well informed and motivated about the important Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policies of the next Australian government.

“We believe the performances during this election period are not up to the standard we deserve and should expect in this land,” said Mr Malezer.

The five questions are contained in the document: ‘Rights, Respect and Recognition: Congress’ Expectations of Australia’s Political Leadership’ and can be downloaded from


NACCHO political alert: NACCHO calls on both parties for greater control of Aboriginal health

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Transcript from World News Australia Radio

Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations have entered the election fray, releasing a major plan they want political parties to commit to.

At a national summit in Adelaide, the organisations challenged both sides of politics to promise to give Aboriginal communities greater control over health programs.

Karen Ashford reports.

Trust us – that’s the message from the leaders of some 150 Aboriginal controlled health agencies, who contend a community-driven approach to Indigenous health can deliver results the mainstream can’t.

Ngiare Brown (pictured above) is research manager for the National Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisation, or NACCHO.

She says governments have to be prepared to try something different if Australia’s to make any headway on addressing indigenous health disadvantage.

“I think it was Albert Einstein wasn’t it that said insanity isn’t that when you do the same things over and over and expect a different result?”

NACCHO thinks it would be smarter for Australia to embrace its 40 years of community health provision that it says delivers results – and they’ve produced a ten point plan to take it further.

The plan focuses Indigenous leadership, to drive health reforms and find innovative ways of closing the gaps on Indigenous health between now and 2030.

Ngiare Brown says it’s a much-needed departure from the traditional mainstream model.

“There is an ever changing line up of politicians and bureaucracies and in systems, so we’re having the same sorts of conversations over and over again. So if we’re able to demonstrate and articulate those principals and provide the kind of evidence and structural approach to that change, it should be independent of any change of government, any change in politics, any reform of the system that’s outside of that, because we in fact are one of the most consistent leadership processes and a demonstration of community control that this country has. In fact whilst there’s the revolving door of politics, Aboriginal community control is one of our strongest and most consistent national vehicles for positive change. ”

The NACCHO plan, presented to more than 300 delegates at its inaugural Primary Health Care Summit in Adelaide comes hot on the tail of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report card which has given Aboriginal-controlled health organisations a big tick.

The report credited those organisations with making significant improvements in areas like diabetes management, increase child birth weights and better maternal health.

NACCHO chairman Justin Mohamed says the only thing missing is political attention, with indigenous health hardly mentioned so far in the federal election campaign.

“I think to be honest both parties at different times do talk about Aboriginal community control, do talk about Aboriginal health, but I think what we’re seeing in the election process at the moment is that I would like to see more of the parties to let us know what their platform is or what their thoughts are around Aboriginal health, not just health in general.”

Mr Mohamed argues that Aboriginal community-controlled health bodies have proven their expertise and efficiency, and whoever wins government on September 7 must show greater faith in the sector.

“I think that this is a time that things are changing. Our stakeholders and other groups that are working in health are actually saying to government that Aboriginal community controlled health works, you need to give them the keys to the vehicle and let them drive it, and results will show with that. And we’ve seen the results in recent reports that Aboriginal community control delivers results in health.”

A big slice of the conference was devoted to governance.

“You certainly need to be aware of potential risks to your operations” (fade under)

Much of the program was devoted to discussing how community health bodies could make sure they’re accountable.

Ngiare Brown says the sector is tired of paternalism and keen to prove they can be trusted with the purse strings.

“I think we’ve become far more sophisticated. So in the past it has been very much the attitude for example of politicians and departments that they’re doing us a favour by providing us with funds and resources, but we’ll still maintain that control – we are actually able to demonstrate that we’re focused on governance, we’re focused on our internal capacity to be able to lead, to understand business models, to be able to be responsible for funding and other resources, and we demonstrate that at more than 150 services across the country as well as at a national level. ”

Meanwhile, Justin Mohamed won’t say whether he believes Labor or the Coalition is leading in promises on Indigenous health, instead committing to work with whoever wins.

“We need to see results. We aren’t worried about being a political football and thrown around and showcased, or rolled out when it suits – we want to see results, and we just can’t afford to take sides, it’s about we want results and we need to have whoever is in power to give us those results and work with us.”

NACCHO Aboriginal policy political alert: Download National Congress’ expectations of political leadership

Kev and Tony

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples says this federal election offers political leaders an opportunity to start a new, more genuine relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Photo above The Guardian online

Download the 5 pages document here

Congress’ Expectations of Australia’s Political
Leadership in the 2013 federal election

“Congress remains prepared to work together with government on an agenda driven by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations, and one based on good faith, respect, accountability and constructive public dialogue,” said Congress Co-Chair Les Malezer.

“This does not preclude input from individuals with special insight where appropriate or required.

“Our Peoples have the right to an independent national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander body, consisting of representatives chosen by themselves, as a means of political development in accordance with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” he said.

Co-Chair Jody Broun said, “As Australians consider who they’ll vote for in the 2013 federal election, we ask them to do so with a better understanding of the fundamental rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to insist upon a government that will protect and promote those rights.

“Overcoming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and economic disadvantage requires a long-term inter-generational commitment and investment through community-controlled programs which are monitored and evaluated in a culturally-appropriate context.,” he said.

Key commitments Congress seeks from all parties • Constitutional Reform: commitment to recommendations prepared by the Expert Panel for the Government. These reforms represent an opportunity for substantive recognition and protections.

• Education: support and resourcing for targeted education programs through Closing the Gap initiatives.

• Health: fully support new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan and continued support for Closing the Gap initiatives.

Health Equality

Congress and the National Health Leadership Forum have been actively involved in the development of and support the priorities and vision of the new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan.

We recognise the centrality of culture to the health of our Peoples, and the need for a health system free of racism.

We call on political parties to commit to fully support new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, including implementation that includes communities, Governments and health organisations to ensure the most effective rollout and monitoring of the Plan,continued support for achievements through Closing the Gap initiatives and investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes, and

renegotiating a National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health that ensures the full roll out of the Health Plan.

• Children: All parties to commit to halving the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care by 2018.

• Justice: a commitment to developing justice targets and justice reinvestment approach.

• Native Title: To reverse the onus of proof and review agreement negotiation process.

• Culture: Support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and commitment to a national indigenous cultural authority to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural and intellectual property rights.

NACCHO political debate alert :Aboriginal policy- check out where the parties stand

    Indigenous health   

According to the latest census figures from 2011, there are 548,370 people in Australia who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

From the ABC website Anna Henderson CLICK here for page

NOTE: Provided for the information of NACCHO members and stakeholders but not endorsed in anyway

In the Northern Territory just under 27 per cent of the population identified as Indigenous.

Across the rest of the country, the proportion of the state or territory population who identified as Indigenous was 4 per cent or less.

But Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remain over-represented in prison system, have lower average life expectancy, higher child mortality rates and a higher likelihood of living in poverty.

Earlier this year, then prime minister Julia Gillard delivered the latest report card on the Government’s efforts to close the Indigenous disadvantage gap. She said the Federal Government’s investment in the portfolio has been unprecedented but she noted eliminating disadvantage would take a sustained commitment over many years from all governments, the business sector, non-government organisations, Indigenous people and the wider community.

What aspects of Indigenous Affairs policy do the major parties agree on?

Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous People

The major parties have given in principle backing for this goal. Former prime minister Julia Gillard originally agreed to hold a referendum by the 2013 election but shelved that plan because of a lack of public awareness about the issue.  Instead an Act of Recognition was passed in Federal Parliament in February 2013 on the anniversary of the national apology with a two-year sunset clause for holding a referendum. The Coalition has also committed to put forward a draft amendment to the Constitution within 12 months of winning government and establish a bipartisan process to assess its success. There are some differences of opinion between the parties about the exact wording that should be used to make the constitutional amendment. Federal Parliament has established a Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. They are working with the funded group Recognise.

Despite the bipartisan agreement to hold a referendum, the issue became political divisive in July when Kevin Rudd announced his intention to hold a referendum within two years and asked the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to “join that journey”. Mr Abbott reacted by pointing out the Coalition’s one-year timeframe for an amendment means an Abbott government would act more quickly on the issue than a re-elected Labor government.

Closing the Gap

The major parties have backed Labor’s 2008 targets:

  1. Close the life expectancy gap within a generation.
  2. Halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade.
  3. Ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four-year-olds in remote communities within five years. The Government says this will be met this year.
  4. Halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for children within a decade
  5. Halve the gap for Indigenous students to stay on for Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates by 2020
  6. Halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians within a decade

Indigenous representation in Federal Parliament

All parties have expressed interest in ensuring there are Aboriginal and Torres Strait representatives holding seats in Federal Parliament. The Coalition welcomed the first Indigenous Lower House MP, the member for the WA seat of Hasluck Ken Wyatt at the last election. The former prime minister Julia Gillard intervened in local preselections in the Northern Territory this year to appoint a “captain’s pick” for the top spot on Labor’s NT Senate seat, Nova Peris. She will be the first Aboriginal woman to represent the party in the Federal Parliament if successful. The Greens have a policy aim to ensure Aboriginal people have political representation, and the party has recruited a number of Aboriginal candidates for this year’s election.

Economy and jobs

The major parties have all promoted the idea of ensuring Aboriginal people living in remote communities have access to a job. The high unemployment rates in the communities are partially due to the lack of economically viable industry in those areas. Labor has been promoting private investment to create jobs. The Coalition is also focused on the need for economic investment and has flagged the prospect of flying workers in and out of nearby resources projects so they remain connected to their home country but are also earning money to support their families. The Greens policy emphasises the importance of Aboriginal communities determining the kinds of economic projects they have in and around their communities.

What are the key differences between the major parties?

The Indigenous Affairs portfolio

Under Labor the portfolio has been held by Minister Jenny Macklin. The Coalition has appointed NT Senator Nigel Scullion as its spokesman. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has announced that if elected, the portfolio would become part of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Senator Scullion would remain as spokesman but Mr Abbott says he would also effectively be the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs. The Greens have also had a spokeswoman Rachel Siewert appointed to oversee the portfolio.

The Northern Territory Intervention

The Coalition announced an Intervention into the Northern Territory under former Prime Minister John Howard. Labor changed some elements of it when it implemented the Stronger Futures legislation. The Greens want to rescind those laws.

Homelands (also known as outstations)

In the 1970s, family groups in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia began to reject the mission and settlement communities where they had been relocated, and wanted to move back to their traditional and ancestral lands. The remote Homelands have been an ongoing political issue because it is expensive and inefficient to provide services to them. It is estimated that thousands of people are continuing to live in the Homeland environment, particularly in the Northern Territory. The Federal Government was responsible for Homelands until the former Liberal prime minister John Howard handed responsibility to the NT government as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response in 2007.

As part of Labor’s 2012 Stronger Futures package, the Federal Government has committed $206 million for basic services in the NT, including water, power, roads, sewerage and other infrastructure. The Coalition’s Indigenous Affairs spokesman Nigel Scullion has criticised the Government for not providing enough funding for adequate service provision. He has also stated the Government should not be funding the services and they should be paid for with council rates. The Greens have a strong view that Aboriginal people should have government support to maintain a connection with their traditional lands.


Labor is hoping to seal a deal with all the states and territories, along with the Catholic and independent sectors on its Better Schools package as recommended in an expert report conducted by David Gonski. The report outlines a funding formula with a base figure for all students and extra loadings. Some of those loadings are specific to remote areas and Indigenous students. The Coalition has sent mixed messages about whether it would honour the deal in government but it is unlikely unless most, or even all, schools sign up. The Coalition is more likely to extend the existing funding model if elected. The Greens say remote communities should have access to government services and the party advocates for culturally appropriate education incorporating language and culture.

What we know


  • Want to see parliament revisit a referendum on recognition of Indigenous people in the constitution within two years
  • Close the Gap targets, agreed to by COAG in 2008. Results collated and presented in parliament each year by the PM
  • Funding through national partnerships agreements for health, education and housing
  • Stronger Futures package of measures in the NT
  • Cape York welfare reform trial
  • Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people – latest progress report
  • Funding land and sea ranger programs


  • The Indigenous Affairs portfolio would be move into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Changing the constitution to acknowledge Aboriginal people – draft amendment would be put forward within 12 months
  • If elected Tony Abbott would spend a week each year in Aboriginal communities and take senior decision makers with him
  • Consideration of tailored governance processes for different communities
  • Concentration on creating economic opportunities
  • Look at fly in, fly out job prospects for Indigenous people in remote communities to work in the mining industry
  • Attendance data for all schools would be published (not just Indigenous schools, to avoid stigma)
  • Income quarantining- supported but not linked to school attendance. Instead it is proposed there would be on-the-spot fines for parents.
  • Encourage longer term postings at remote schools and clinics and aim to attract high quality teachers and health professionals
  • All larger Indigenous communities would have a permanent police presence


  • Compensation for the Stolen Generation
  • End the NT Intervention
  • Close the Gap targets
  • Recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution
  • Respect the link between Indigenous people and the land
  • Comply with international agreements on Indigenous rights including he Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Aboriginal people have the right to self determination and political representation and must partner in programs and services that affect them
  • Aboriginal people should benefit financially from their cultural heritage and the biodiversity of their lands and waterways
  • Dispossessed Aboriginal people have a right to be assisted to acquire or manage land and waterways that belong to them
  • All Australians including those living in remote communities have the equal right to essential government services
  • Protection of Aboriginal cultural traditions
  • Culturally appropriate health, housing and infrastructure
  • Culturally appropriate education incorporating language and culture
  • Allowing Aboriginal people to control their own education system when they want to
  • Qualified interpreters at hospitals, courts and government meetings
  • Rescind Stronger Futures legislation
  • Full implementation of recommendations from key Indigenous Affairs reports
  • Strategies to deal with impacts of climate change on indigenous communities
  • Food security for Aboriginal people in remote areas
  • Long term sustainable funding for land and sea ranger programs

What don’t we know about the major parties’ policies?

Policy release

The major parties had not released their full Indigenous Affairs election policies by the middle of the year, though Mr Abbott and Ms Macklin have delivered key speeches outlining their vision for the portfolio this year. The Greens have a policy document on their website and have flagged the prospect of some further announcements before the election is held.

What we don’t know

  • Whether the Coalition would be open to changing the structure of the powerful land councils
  • How the Greens would fund the full suite of policies that have been put forward

Key reports on Indigenous Affairs

Bringing Them Home

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

NT, WA and SA Coroner’s recommendations on petrol sniffing

The Little Children are Sacred report

HREOC reports on petrol sniffing, suicide

The Evatt Review

NACCHO NATSIHP news: $12 billion Aboriginal health plan to be launched today

  • SNAICC Kids Low Re


Projected funding for health programs specifically designed for and targeted at Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders is estimated to be about $12 billion to 2023-24.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health services will continue to be supported to fulfil their pivotal role in improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes.”

A DRAMATIC expansion of the health system to focus on indigenous children’s health and to include broader issues of child development is the central plank of a 10-year Aboriginal health plan to be unveiled today.

Please note as soon as the report is released

1.You can download it from NACCHO resources

2.Read our Chair Justin Mohamed’s response

The plan, which dictates where state and federal governments should focus their efforts, aims to deliver the policies required to eliminate the indigenous life expectancy gap by 2031.

It commits governments to give more attention to and increase spending on “difficult and distressing issues of violence, abuse and self-harm”.

Indigenous Health Minister Warren Snowdon (pictured below last week opening Male Health Summit) will say today that the health plan places priority on social and emotional wellbeing and the issues that impact on it, including alcohol and other drugs. It also focuses on improving the wellbeing of indigenous people with a disability.

Ross river 2013 086

The Rudd government says the 10-year National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan is “free of racism and inequality” and provides the “necessary platform to realise health equality by 2031”.

“Importantly, in this health plan we signal the need to expand our focus on children’s health to broader issues in child development,” Mr Snowdon will say. “We have much more work to do in developing robust research and data systems. I am also resolved that we will tackle the difficult and distressing issues of violence, abuse and self harm.” The government will commit to “drive health system improvements and maintain a clear priority on primary healthcare system reform”, he will say. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health services will continue to be supported to fulfil their pivotal role in improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes.”

The government will report annually to parliament about measures and targets aligned to the new plan.

“The health plan provides a clear focus on strategies to address racism and to empower people to take control of their own health,” Mr Snowdon will say. “While we need to continue to strengthen healthcare we also need to enhance our focus on specialist care and hospital care in the secondary and tertiary systems.”

A series of 17 nationwide consultations was held with Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, communities and groups, with more than 140 written submissions and a series of roundtables to gather expertise on a range of issues relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Projected funding for health programs specifically designed for and targeted at Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders is estimated to be about $12 billion to 2023-24.

Mr Snowdon will also use the launch of the health plan to reiterate his call to state and territory governments to publicly commit their contributions to the new National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes.

NACCHO political alert: Parties lack vision on health policy as election looms according to Grattan Institute

Rudd and Abbott

Dr Stephen Duckett is Director, Health Program at the Grattan Institute

From the Australian Financial Review

Health policy typically rates as one of the top election issues and one where Labor has a historic advantage.

Yet in this election, apart from a stoush about what will happen to Medicare Locals, both government and opposition have been surprisingly quiet, neither articulating a clear vision about what they stand for, and how that differs from their opponents.

Sure the budget had the usual sprinkling of goodies, dressed up as a coherent program about cancer, or whatever, but publicity about that has evaporated and it is hard to see the opposition coming out against these media-friendly initiatives.

Previous elections have seen some big ideas on the table; 2007 for example, saw then opposition leader Kevin Rudd promising to fix the Commonwealth-State blame game and Labor’s lead over the Liberals on health surged.

The reality of failed delivery in government saw that advantage dissipate, despite prime minister Rudd’s extensive consultation with people around Australia on the topic. Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton has described Mr Rudd’s “big picture” reforms turning into “passport photo-sized” delivery.

So what should be on the agenda for 2013?

Elections typically see parties focus on popular policies which will help them garner votes, appeal to sectional interests and/or their base, and get them across the line. These are typically the short-term, one electoral cycle fixes.

Once in government, they also need to focus on important strategic issues that are probably not election winners that can be explained in a 10-second sound bite. But the quality of a government can be measured by whether it is prepared to think beyond the current cycle and start addressing these longer-term needs.

My choices for the key short-term issues for the election are about access to care. Waiting times for public hospital care, both inpatient and outpatient, are too long. There are also problems with access to general practitioners both in terms of waiting times and out-of-pocket costs that make visits unaffordable.

Voters expect parties to be fiscally responsible and in the health sector that means standing up to vested interest and cutting waste. There are big dollars to be saved here, reducing Australia’s sky-high pharmaceutical prices being a $1.3 billion dollar example.

Important as these issues are, the election should also be about assessing who can better handle the long-term strategic issues. These are typically issues which are complex and for which there are no simple solutions. My candidates here include: repositioning the health system to care better for people with chronic illnesses (and to prepare for the increased prevalence of these conditions in the future); improving access to the right sorts of mental health care; and improving the health status of the most disadvantaged in our society (including indigenous people). All of these issues need to be considered in the context of real questions about the financial sustainability of states and an understanding that levers for change are sometimes held by the wrong level of government.

The long-term issues are the critical ones for our future, too often buried in the short-term, sound-bite-friendly, fixes. I’m not suggesting that parties should articulate a clear vision to fix these problems in the campaign. But they do need to recognise that not everything in the health system is going to be perfect after a three-year go at the levers of power. Voters should be confident that they are willing to set the foundations for long-term change, not just the address the short-term priorities.


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NACCHO political alert: What is the future of Aboriginal leadership and activism ?

Image:  The next generation. Aboriginal students cheer in celebration after watching Prime Minister Kevin Rudd deliver the apology to Aboriginal people for injustices committed since white settlement on February 13, 2008. (Photo by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images)

How loud will the Aboriginal voice be as activism looks to the future?

The Aboriginal ‘voice’ seems quieter than in previous decades.

But as Ann Arnold discovered this NAIDOC week, the lack of a strong national representative body, and the dispersal of Aboriginal policy across government departments, hasn’t made life easy for activists.


A decade or two ago, Aboriginal leaders like Mick Dodson, Pat Dodson and Lowitja O’Donoghue were household names.

Firebrands like Michael Mansell and Gary Foley regularly caught our attention.

And the ALP was seen as the party more naturally aligned with Indigenous causes.

Now, the Liberal Party has its second Aboriginal Federal parliamentarian —Ken Wyatt, from Western Australia. The first, so long ago now, was Senator Neville Bonner in the 1970s.

The Labor Party has never had a Federal Aboriginal MP or Senator.

In the Northern Territory’s CLP government, the Chief Minister Adam Giles is Aboriginal, as is one of his ministers, Alison Anderson. She defected from the Labor Party, was more recently an Independent, and has four portfolios.

“Everyone needs someone sticking up for them. That’s what the National Congress can do for Aboriginal and TI people. It’s the mark of a country’s maturity to enable people to have a voice.”

      Kirstie Parker, Editor, Koori Mail

Another newcomer in that government is Bess Price, an outspoken supporter of the Northern Territory intervention. She’s the CLP member for Stuart, comprising most of the Territory’s west, and held for the past thirty years by Labor.

Despite the Territory’s thirty per cent Aboriginal population, compared to three per cent nationwide, the NT ALP has never fielded an Aboriginal federal candidate. That was one reason why Julia Gillard, as PM, overrode the local branch and in January installed the athlete Nova Peris at the top of the Labor Senate ticket.

Epitomising the changeable political realities is the stance of Warren Mundine. The former National President of the ALP quit the party last year, and has said that he would welcome the opportunity to work with Tony Abbott should he become prime minister.

More recently, Mundine talked on National Indigenous Television about Kevin Rudd’s return as leader. ‘How amazing is Kevin Rudd!’ he exclaimed.

As a result of the apology to the Stolen Generations, Mundine said, Rudd is ‘immensely popular in the Aboriginal community, in fact I haven’t heard anyone saying anything bad about him’.

Given there’s some Aboriginal disillusionment with Labor over its dearth of Indigenous candidates and its continuation of the Northern Territory intervention—a policy which divides Aboriginal people—it’s not surprising, perhaps, that some allegiances are shifting.

 Warren Mundine told The Australian: ‘I will walk with anyone who is going to help us as a nation achieve the outcomes that we need to achieve for all Australians. And I don’t care what politics they are.’

The splintering of the Aboriginal vote is one of the reasons there are less likely to be recognised, national Aboriginal spokespeople. The loss of ATSIC, dismantled by the Howard Government, is another. It was as chair of that body that Lowitja ‘Lois’ O’Donoghue became so well-known.

Pat Turner, a former CEO of ATSIC, and Australia’s most senior Aboriginal government official to date, believes there’s now a gap. ‘There’s no focal point for Aboriginal people,’ she says. ‘That collective voice has dissipated.’

Turner is a critic of The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the entity intended to replace ATSIC, because it is not perceived to have had much impact. ‘I’m not a fan of it. I can’t see what they’ve done.’

Before ATSIC, Pat Turner was deputy secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and deputy CEO of Centrelink. She rarely made her views public. Now retired in Alice Springs, she shakes her head as she watches policies unfold. When the NT intervention was announced, in 2007, she came out swinging, furious that Aboriginal communities would be controlled in ways that would never be applied to other communities, and without consultation.

But if there hasn’t been sustained, unified protest at the intervention from Aboriginal leaders, Turner believes it’s partly because of the ‘whole of government’ funding model now in place. Instead of dealing with one department—Indigenous Affairs—groups have to make their case with numerous government departments.

While Pat Turner agrees with the principle that every department should fulfil its obligations to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, there are practical problems. ‘Every department has its own guidelines, performance indicators, requires a financial report, and a progress report.’

‘If you’re [an Aboriginal organisation] administering over one hundred grants, you can imagine how burdensome that is.’

It means leaders are overstretched as well as wary of damaging their government ‘partnerships’ through criticism.

Turner observes that community leaders are tending to operate more locally now, finding they can achieve more within their regions than on a bigger scale.

There are of course many Aboriginal voices that are still loud and spectacularly clear. Linda Burney, Larissa Behrendt, Noel Pearson, and Marcia Langton come to mind; all integral to this country’s intellectual and political fabric, and engaging in multiple ways—writing, debating, speaking in various forums.

Tom Calma, Mick Gooda, Tanya Hosch, Aden Ridgeway, and Sam Jeffries are some of the more versatile leaders. There are dozens of others, spread across the professions, the arts, business and sport.

That is the good news story. According to John Maynard, a historian of activism: ‘We have educated lawyers, doctors, people in a variety of areas, so the real smart, street savvy Aboriginal political activist has probably diverted into different areas.’

Professor Maynard, an ARC Research Fellow based at Newcastle University, nonetheless worries that the Aboriginal voice does not appear to be so strong. He believes that ironically, it’s one of the side effects of land rights and native title.

‘We’ve been steered off to localised battles, fighting over money and land. That has stopped people thinking bigger and nationally. We need a united voice to come together.’

The prevailing reconciliation template may also have diverted some energy away from advocacy.

John Maynard’s grandfather Fred Maynard was a prominent activist in the 1920s, albeit one who has been under-appreciated historically. In 1924 he was calling for citizenship, an end to the forced removal of children from families, for Aboriginal people to be in charge of Aboriginal affairs, and for government to respect cultural knowledge.

Fred Maynard also wanted every Aboriginal family to be given 40 acres. Had that been done, his grandson believes, much of the hardship that has been endured since would been averted.

Professor Maynard is the deputy chair of  AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies). Mick Dodson is the chair. At an AIATSIS conference this week, Maynard will present a session on activism, celebrating the heroes, and actions, of the past—Charlie Perkins and the Freedom Ride; the Garindji walk off at Wave Hill; Chicka Dixon who in the late ‘60s was ‘inspirational’.

‘Paul Coe, Gary Foley, Michael Anderson—there were a whole host of articulate, confident outspoken activists,’ Maynard says. ‘Their strategies were amazing’.

For the 21st century, though, the focus needs to be different. ‘We’d like to unearth some coming through now into politics, probably mainstream politics.’

Kirstie Parker, the editor of the national newspaper the Koori Mail, agrees the strategy has to be different now. ‘A couple of decades ago, there was one pan-Aboriginal view. Governments were not paying their dues to Aboriginal people’s views. We were fighting for basics.’

Now, she says, activism has to have a fluid definition. ‘You’re active for a cause. How you do that is irrelevant. We need people in every realm.’

‘If it’s worked, people respond to it. If they don’t, it hasn’t.’

But still, that missing national voice concerns Parker. She has been on leave from her editor position to campaign for the position of female co-chair of the National Congress for First Peoples. Voting closed last Friday.

Parker doesn’t see the Congress as ideal, but worth putting her energy into.

‘Everyone needs someone sticking up for them. That’s what the National Congress can do for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.’

‘It’s the mark of a country’s maturity to enable people to have a voice.’

‘None of us are big, healthy or robust enough independently to not be threatened by political whims—ill-thought out decisions by government like blanket discrimination under the NT intervention.’

There are still hankerings though in some Aboriginal quarters for another act of powerful symbolism. The 50th anniversary of the Yirrkala Bark Petitions is being celebrated as part of this NAIDOC Week. That the Yolngu people, in 1963, brought those petitions from the Northern Territory’s Gove Peninsular to Parliament House seeking recognition of their traditional lands and a say over mining rights was surely an inspiring act of defiant dignity.

Hear Phillip Adams in discussion with Kirstie Parker, Pat Turner and John Maynard on Late Night Live.

NACCHO health and constitution news: Is it time for the “historical wrong” of the Australian Constitution corrected ?


Uncle Bob Randall, who fought for native title recognition for Uluru in the 1980s, now wants the “historical wrong” of the Australian Constitution corrected.

Picture above: Uluru traditional owner Bob Randall, left, Aaron Pedersen, Sally Scales and Sophia Pearson mark the arrival of the Journey to Recognition to Uluru in the NT. Picture: Kelly Barnes  Source: The Australian

What do you think ?

Refer NACCHO health and politics:Aboriginal health and the Australian Constitution ,how do we fix both ?

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AS the desert sun sinks through the spinifex, a dozen people pause to watch the sunlight up the red rock of Uluru.

The sunset’s kaleidoscope of colours is a long-anticipated milestone for the group, which has marched 2300km for the cause of Aboriginal recognition since a cold Melbourne morning in May.


“We were so overwhelmed,” said Jill Gallagher (pictured above) , the 58-year-old chief executive of the Victorian Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisations who drove all the way to Uluru from Melbourne. “It is exciting and overwhelming, and the journey that we’re on about recognition – it just all came together.”

More than 3000 people have joined the Journey to Recognition, which calls for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to be recognised as the First Peoples in Australia’s Constitution.

The convoy left Adelaide last Wednesday, heading north through Port Augusta and Coober Pedy, and stopping at small towns and communities alongthe way. They are part of a national relay – inspired by former AFL champion Michael Long’s Walk to Canberra nine years ago – that started in Melbourne in May and is scheduled to finish in Arnhem Land on August 1.

Uluru’s traditional owners joined with the travellers in the nation’s desert heart yesterday to reflect on the journey’s success, which has seen an upswell of support across the country. Bob Randall, a traditional Anangu owner of Uluru who lives in its shadows at the community of Mutitjulu, was there to welcome the convoy.

“The way to deal with this is to make the Constitution strong with its rightness, not strong in its wrongness.”

Both sides of politics have backed a referendum on the issue, with Tony Abbott walking the first leg of the march in May and Kevin Rudd continuing Labor’s support for the movement.

The referendum had been intended to take place at the federal election, but was delayed during a volatile parliamentary term.

Aboriginal actor Aaron Pedersen, from Alice Springs, also joined the march yesterday.

For Pedersen, a descendant of the Arrente and Arabana people, the journey is about drumming up support for change to ensure a successful referendum, expected some time in the next parliamentary term.

“This is about planting the seeds,” he said.

“Referendums aren’t very successful in Australia, but I think with all the momentum of saying sorry (to the Stolen Generations), we’ll keep the momentum going.”

Sally Scales, a 25-year-old traditional owner of South Australia’s Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, said she hoped the marchers could bring about the change needed to stamp out racism.