NACCHO National News: Indigenous issues address by Minister Nigel Scullion to Nationals Federal Council


“This is a mighty dream, full of risks, but we should never allow our expectations to lower because that would create two Australia’s – one with high expectations for a child’s future and another with low expectations.

That inequity is wrong. Indigenous Australians should have the same expectations that non-indigenous Australians have: a proper education for their children, a decent job and safety in their home and community.

Everything flows from meeting these three objectives.”




I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet.

Today I will make a few remarks on the state of the Senate and the contributions of my Senate colleagues. Then I will take you on the journey that is Indigenous policy and pay a visit to constitutional recognition

For Senate text see LINK

Indigenous Affairs

I would now like to take you on a journey into Indigenous affairs. This is important because so much is happening – and the Nationals have always taken a keen interest in Indigenous affairs because they share many of the rural and remote challenges and opportunities.

Like a few in this room I’m sure, I didn’t really think that the Apology we made in 2008 would matter.

I couldn’t see the apology helping at all to close the vast gap on vital issues such as Indigenous life expectancy, remote children’s education, housing, decent work for adults and community safety.
All the symbolic trumpeting was wonderful, but I could not see what difference it could make.

How wrong I was.

The changes to the way Aboriginal people as individuals and as communities saw themselves after that apology were extraordinary. Clearly, those who would diminish the importance of symbolism as something that doesn’t have a role to play in practical outcomes are quite wrong.

Symbolic change must happen if practical changes are to succeed.

They go hand in hand. The government’s response to the Forrest Report will give us the practical policy future while constitutional recognition of our Indigenous peoples will give the matching symbolic change. They are twin engines in a plane that we must bring in to land together.

The case for recognition is very clear. Imagine there is a race and the winner is never acknowledged as having crossed the line first. In fact the second place getter gets all the accolades. The winner doesn’t even get to stand on the podium. That is quite wrong, obviously. And it is quite wrong for our Indigenous peoples to be left off the constitutional podium as well.

We started on the first day we were elected to change the future of Indigenous Affairs in the biggest shake-up of the bureaucracy in decades. One of the first acts of the new government was to bring the administration of more than 150 Indigenous programs and services from eight different government departments into the department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The Prime Minister effectively became the overall Minister for Indigenous Affairs, as well as having me as a Cabinet Minister dedicated to Indigenous Affairs and a Parliamentary Secretary. As for Labor, they gave the shadow portfolio to Shayne Neumann. The Member for Ipswich also has to shadow the large portfolio of Ageing. Following criticism of Neumann by aboriginal elders, the editor in chief of The Australian described Shayne Neumann as having “no idea what he is talking about”. The picture is of a Shadow Minister who is not across his brief and has lost both the support of elders, communities and the national media.

We faced dealing with 150 different programs and services. We inherited a structural mess. A former community organisation in Yuendumu had 34 separate funding agreements requiring a report on average once a week. There has been far too much waste for far too long in Indigenous Affairs.

Billions have been spent on housing under Labor but overcrowding remains chronic.

We turned those 150 lines of funding into five streamlined areas with total funding of $4.8 billion and named it the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

The five areas are 1) jobs, land and economy; 2) children and schooling; 3) safety and wellbeing; 4) culture and capability; and 5) remote Australia strategies.

From this we distilled the essence of Coalition action, our mantra, which is: to get children into school – which is our number one priority, adults into work and the creation of safe communities.

They are the core of everything. We are already implementing the $46.5 million Remote School Attendance Strategy across 73 schools in 69 communities. Over 500 local indigenous jobs are also created in terms of School Attendance Supervisors and Officers. A key part of the Forrest Review is effectively already at work via our $45 million Vocational Training and Employment Centres (or VTECs) training for jobs model. These VTECs have guaranteed jobs for the people who undergo the right training. So it’s goodbye to training or training’s sake which has been the problem in many communities. Now we’ve linked up employers, trainers and Indigenous job seekers in a demand driven model. 4,074 jobs have already been created this way with another thousand expected by the end of the year. Indigenous people are entering the workforce in a range of industries – hospitality, tourism, construction, mining and transport.

Safer communities are essential for Indigenous families to be happy and healthy. We will continue to support the efforts of Indigenous communities to combat alcohol fuelled violence so all community members, particularly women, children and the elderly can live peacefully and safely. The government is helping end petrol sniffing by expanding the roll out of low aromatic fuel across Northern Australia and building storage tanks in Darwin. The government is also investing $54.1 million in police infrastructure so there is a 24 hours police presence for the first time in some remote communities. There is also $2.5 million for Community Engagement Police Officers and $3.8 million towards the ongoing Northern Territory’s Child Abuse Taskforce.

Already we are seeing these practical measures make significant inroads. But it’s a long and winding road, this highway to better lives for Indigenous peoples. Many have tried and failed despite major investments. The only way to succeed is to involve the Indigenous people at the decision making level. The Government committed to provide $5 million to support a nine month design phase of the Empowered Communities initiative. Indigenous leaders report encouraging outcomes, particularly in relation to community acceptance of the need to take increased responsibility in key areas such as school attendance and employment. Significant consultation with Indigenous groups across all eight Empowered Communities regions has been occurring.  I look forward to receiving the final Empowered Communities proposal from the Indigenous leaders later this year.

Unless Indigenous people own the reforms nothing will change. Engaging Indigenous people in delivering solutions and services is critical to empowering communities and doing business in the new way. So it’s a mindset thing on both sides. And they don’t happen overnight. But I believe that we have started well. We have a Prime Minister who believes passionately in improving the lives of Indigenous people on a practical level – children to school, guaranteed jobs for adults after training and communities where families have decent housing and the option to buy their own home, where substance abuse and domestic violence have disappeared.

This is a mighty dream, full of risks, but we should never allow our expectations to lower because that would create two Australia’s – one with high expectations for a child’s future and another with low expectations. That inequity is wrong. Indigenous Australians should have the same expectations that non-indigenous Australians have: a proper education for their children, a decent job and safety in their home and community. Everything flows from meeting these three objectives.

As The Nationals look to private enterprise as the solution to a healthy economy, so too is it the solution to Indigenous employment. Corporate Australia is offering many opportunities for Indigenous employment. The first example is that of Andrew Forrest who has just completed a report for the government on employment and training. Before this he established the Australian Employment Covenant that attracted over 60,000 job pledges from 338 employers. Over 15,000 of these jobs have been filled. A real breakthrough in pioneering a demand-driven approach where the employer provides the job and the job seeker is trained to do it. The Business Council of Australia membership placed 3,500 Indigenous people in jobs and traineeships in a year. Some of Australia’s best known companies are also engaged in providing real jobs and training, such as Woolworths, Coles, the Commonwealth Bank, Transfield and the CopperChem mine in Cloncurry. Then there are the business opportunities being built up by local Indigenous people. I tell you this because it’s important to get the message out that there are positive stories happening and lessons being learnt on how to make real jobs which is the ultimate solution to welfare dependency.

I’ve outlined what I believe to be a realistic way through the years of mismanagement and waste in Indigenous affairs. The key is relationships with people at the grass roots. The Nationals have always been good at that and naturally understand it because they too have experience in being a long way from decision makers. The Nationals’ seats are generally the poorest seats and contain significant numbers of Indigenous people. If we can stand up and say ‘Yes’ to constitutional recognition then we are saying ‘yes’ to recognising people who we’ve grown up with or worked beside or gone to school with.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the first inhabitants of this country, and recognising them in our Constitution presents an historic opportunity to acknowledge their unique culture and history, and their enormous contribution to this nation.

The vote of conservatives is of vital importance in the debate on constitutional recognition. It will only succeed with bipartisanship.

Our own former Nationals’ Party Leader John Anderson has been recruited to head a panel to conduct a review into public support for Indigenous constitutional recognition.

The review panel will work with the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to progress the government’s commitment towards a successful referendum.

The joint select committee, chaired by Ken Wyatt, the first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives, was formed to work towards a parliamentary and community consensus on referendum proposals, and report on how to achieve a successful referendum.

The review panel is required to provide a report to me by September 28.  When the time is right and informed by these two reports, the government will release a draft amendment. We must get it right because if the referendum fails, it would be a body blow to our fellow Indigenous Australians. Indeed, the whole nation would falter, would be diminished.

When you leave this Council, I would like you to ask yourself this question:- Is it honourable to support Indigenous recognition in Australia’s founding document? If it is, (and I strongly believe it is), then I will do everything possible to see that it succeeds in my local community.

It will quite literally take a ‘National’ sense of honour to see this through.

If we get this right as a nation, we will be able to work together to write a new story for all of us.

Thank you.

NACCHO political news alert : Federal government inquiry to only look into alcohol misuse and violence in Aboriginal communities.


AAP Update from earlier reports

The federal government is planning an inquiry into alcohol misuse in Indigenous communities across the nation.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion is in early talks with the chair of the House of Representatives’ standing committee on indigenous affairs Dr Sharman Stone.

Alcohol-fuelled violence in indigenous communities will be considered for the inquiry’s terms of reference.

Earlier on Wednesday Senator Scullion told ABC radio the federal government was planning a wide-ranging inquiry into alcohol-fuelled violence across the country – from downtown Sydney to remote outback communities

However, the coalition government later put that down to a misunderstanding, with a spokesman for Senator Scullion saying the inquiry would only look into alcohol misuse in indigenous communities.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion announces parliamentary inquiry into alcohol-fuelled violence

The Federal Government will hold a national inquiry into how to tackle increasing rates of alcohol-fuelled violence.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion says the terms of reference will be wide-raging, and will include everything from an evaluation of the Northern Territory’s scrapped Banned Drinker Register to reducing violence outside Sydney’s pubs.

The inquiry will consider solutions tied to both the supply of, and demand for, alcohol.

Senator Scullion says alcohol abuse is so severe nationally that it is time for politicians to abandon one-eyed solutions.

“We become welded to one end of the spectrum and we have a polarised argument, this is the only way,” he said.

He says the Government is still deciding which parliamentary committee will be the best forum for the bipartisan national inquiry.

“This sort of inquiry that can look at alcohol management measures in all its shapes and forms,” Senator Scullion said.

“I think it can inform us to make sure that the regulators and law makers across all the jurisdictions of Australia have the very best evidence under which to ensure that all our management plans in the future are effective and really change those negative aspects of alcohol consumption.”

The Australian National Council on Drugs says the inquiry must focus on the price, promotion and availability of alcohol, not just on pubs and hotels.

The council’s executive director, Gino Vambuca, says the two big retailers must also be examined.

“People often talk about the responsibility of the individual, that’s true but there’s a responsibility on the alcohol industry and in particular Coles and Woolworths,” he said.

“As major retailers look at their practices and start to look at what they do and so that’s what the inquiry should focus on as well as the hotels and bars and clubs.”

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