NACCHO political NEWS : Australian’s of the Year, Warren Mundine, Noel Pearson, Marcia Langton, Andrew Forrest and Adam Goodes


“I live in a racist country, “To understand what it means to be indigenous, you need to understand that we come with baggage,” he wrote. “Every one of us. And every one of us has a choice as to how we deal with it – some of us have not yet come to terms with that choice, or circumstances have made making the right choice difficult, if not impossible.

Adam Goodes from his life story see below

Champions of Aboriginal  advancement earn THE AUSTRALIAN  top honour

DEEDS to build a nation, endeavours to forge a future, actions roaring louder than words.

The five joint winners of The Australian’s Australian of the Year, Warren Mundine, Noel Pearson, Marcia Langton, Andrew Forrest and Adam Goodes, have transformed indigenous Australia not through the things they have said but through the things they have done.


PLEASE NOTE: This news coverage is provided to NACCHO members and stakeholders for their information ( not endorsed by NACCHO )

Related Article to the INTRO : NACCHO report Pat Anderson   Racism is a driver of Aboriginal ill health

They are our nation’s indigenous game changers, five leaders from five corners of this beautiful, complex continent who have towered over tokenism and paper-thin promises to find change so real you can see it; change so true that you can raise your right arm and point to it, in the same way that Sydney Swans powerhouse Goodes pointed to how far we still have to go that historic night at the MCG in May when a 13-year-old girl called him an ape.

“Actions are massively louder than words,” bellowed a delighted Mr Mundine, head of Tony Abbott’s indigenous advisory council. He paused, took a breath. “This year,” he said with an impassioned whisper. “This year, we are on the cusp.”

Beyond that cusp is a future where indigenous Australians close the gap on black and white numbers in employment, incarceration and education. Grab yourself a pen green, gold, red, black, yellow and scribble the words of Mr Mundine across your 2014 calendar: “This is the year that we really are going to break through.”

And somewhere down the track, on the right side of change, Mr Mundine will stand and marvel at those who forged the future with him, heart and hands.

Professor Langton, the tireless indigenous scholar, has been spearheading a full national review of indigenous employment with the support of Mr Forrest, a man whose money-where-his-mouth-is commitment to indigenous Australia has seen his Minderoo Foundation donate upwards of $270 million to causes such as indigenous education and the GenerationOne movement to create sustainable indigenous employment.

Dual Brownlow medallist Goodes’s commitment to Australian football was matched this past year only by his commitment to his people, co-running the GO Foundation with fellow Swans great, Michael O’Loughlin, to guide young indigenous Australians into education, employment and healthy lifestyles. “And, well, what can you say about Noel Pearson?” said Mr Mundine of the original game changer for 21st century indigenous Australia. “He speaks for himself really. He’s the bloke who opened up this area for us. He forever changed things for the better for indigenous people. He made these conversations real.”

Mr Pearson, the pioneering lawyer, academic and founder of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, said that when you take up the mantle of leadership of a suffering people you face three choices. “You use the reality of suffering as the basis for pursuing your idealistic aims,” he said. “You focus on ameliorating the suffering and forget about ideals. Or you tackle suffering in the here and now whilst always keeping sight of your future ideals. I hope I follow the third choice.”

He said he decided to focus on the suffering in front of him rather than long-term ideals.

“I made a decision I could not just pursue long-term ideals at the expense of current suffering. In fact it seemed to me that too many leaders were sacrificing the present for some future dream. It was almost a kind of millennial dreaming, that I could not subscribe to.

“I would rather contribute to supporting families to get healthy and educated, so that these strong, young leaders of the future can take us to Canaan’s shore. The suffering and the loss of our future potential is too tragic to ignore. We have to tackle the practical conditions into which our children are born, and create pathways to strength and advantage.”

Professor Langton said the pathways out of disadvantage and poverty were education and employment.

“The facts are clear: without normal levels of literacy and numeracy and real jobs and careers, too many indigenous people remain excluded socially and economically, unable to live like other Australians in safe houses, unable to raise their children to aspire to their dreams, and vulnerable to arrest, imprisonment, removal of their children, illness, depression and suicide,” she said. “It need not be like this.”

Goodes has spent 16 years in a stellar AFL football career promoting pathways for indigenous kids, always with an emphasis on choices: the choice to succeed, the choice to break the curse of welfare, the choice to call out the girl who shot that loose and hurtful word from the crowd in the dying minutes of the Collingwood Magpies versus Sydney Swans game of May 24, 2013. He accepted The Australian’s honour yesterday with the same grace and understanding he showed the young Australian girl who found herself at the centre of a national racism debate. He pointed to his joint winners, a handful of his heroes who came before him. “It’s a huge honour to be associated with great leaders and motivators in the indigenous field,” Goodes said.

Then he hinted at the post-football career in indigenous politics so many have hoped for him.

“I look forward to doing work with all these inspiring leaders.”

Mr Forrest, the Fortescue Metals Group chairman, was deeply moved by the honour, speaking through a crackly midnight phone line from Davos, Switzerland, where he had announced to leaders at the World Economic Forum his deal to give the Pakistani state of Punjab “pro bono” access to Australian technology converting lignite coal into diesel, which he hopes will free 2.5 million Pakistanis from slavery.

“I feel really honoured and humbled,” he said. “There are so many other Australians I can think of who deserve this more than myself but I also thought instantly that I accept this award on behalf of others: the 300-plus companies committed to employing indigenous Australians.

“I also think the real heroes in this are those indigenous people who, by their thousands, have joined those companies and turned their backs on welfare even though we have created a community and an expectation that indigenous people are encouraged to go to welfare almost as a livelihood.”

Mr Forrest spoke of a momentum he had seen building across indigenous Australia that might just be strong enough to break through this year, with support of a “government which is prepared to get out of the road of its people and just encourage its people”.

“I feel there is a complete impatience now with welfare as an industry and welfare as a solution and there’s a self-belief which I share that our indigenous Australians are a completely precious part of Australia who, given the opportunity and burdened with the same expectations, can meet expectation and succeed and it’s through them that we get rid of the disparity,” he said.

They were thoughts echoed by Mr Pearson. “The mindset is changing and I think we have crossed the Rubicon,” he said. “But it is important to realise that the mindset we want is not an entirely new one. In many ways we are returning to a mindset of the parents and grandparents of my generation, the people who were the bedrock of Aboriginal survival. This was the mindset before the passive welfare era of the past 40 years.

“You look at the old leaders from the 1930s to the 60s. They were workers and nurtured strong families, and would have been horrified at what we allowed welfare to do to our people. The whole responsibility paradigm that we have been pushing would not have been foreign to them.

“I lay no claim to charting a new course. I am just honouring what my father and grandfather would have thought about our rights and responsibilities. I find people of that generation were the same right across indigenous Australia. It was welfare that unravelled our people, and we have to rebuild.”

In his office in Circular Quay, in Sydney Cove, where a British flag first flapped in the Australian breeze on January 26, 1788, Mr Mundine reflected on his 58 years on Australian soil.

“The first 13 years of my life were spent under the NSW Aboriginal Protection Act,” he said. “The Aboriginal Welfare Act, that’s gone now. Native title, land rights legislation, anti-discrimination acts, the access to university. When I was a kid you could count on one hand how many Aboriginals were at university or had gone to university. Now it’s in the thousands. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, a whole range of professions. Dancers and musicians in the arts, incredible actors. Aboriginal art spreading across the world.

“We’ve still got a long way to go but you can’t deny that we’ve also come a hell of a long way.”



THE first choice he makes is to turn around. “Nah,” he tells himself. “This isn’t happening.”

May 24, 2013, in the dying minutes of the Sydney Swans versus Collingwood Magpies opening match of the AFL’s annual Indigenous Round, Swans powerhouse Adam Goodes chooses to turn his 100kg, 191cm frame towards an MCG crowd of 65,306 people and face the 13-year-old girl seated on the boundary fence who just called him an ape. He then chooses to point his right arm straight towards the crowd. This muscular, thick-boned weapon of a limb has contributed to 5797 disposals, 1829 handballs and 409 goals in a thrilling 16-year career. But now it’s a spotlight. It’s a thing of incandescence, a thing of fire. He then chooses to remove his mouthguard and call to a dazed steward resting against the fence with his arms folded across his kneecaps. “Mate,” he says. “I don’t want her here. Get her out.”

The moment takes 19 seconds to unfold. And 200 years to arise.

Adam Goodes was named the NSW Australian of the Year two months ago. On Australia Day eve he could well be named our nation’s Australian of the Year or this newspaper’s Australian of the Year. He’s been recognised as much for his community work – domestic violence awareness ambassador, working with kids in youth detention centres, establishing the Go Foundation with his cousin and fellow Swans great Michael O’Loughlin to create indigenous role models in all walks of life – as for the courage he showed that night at the MCG and the compassion he showed the girl thereafter. “I’ve had fantastic support over the past 24 hours,” Goodes said at the time. “I just hope that people give the 13-year-old girl the same sort of support because she needs it, her family needs it, and the people around them need it. It’s not a witch-hunt. I don’t want people to go after this young girl. We’ve just got to help educate society better so it doesn’t happen again.”

He’s had seven months to think about that night at the MCG, to turn it around in his mind, to chew on it with his closest friends and family. He pauses for a moment, silent and thoughtful. “Everybody has choices,” he says. “It’s about how you learn from those choices you make.” Choices.

Horsham, 300km north-west of Melbourne, 1994. Lisa May was a single parent raising three sons, the Goodes boys, Adam, 14, Jake, 12, and Brett, 10. Lisa May had separated from the boys’ father 10 years previously, and had recently chosen to escape from an abusive partner. She chose not to be a victim, not to wallow in a past that saw nine of her 10 siblings taken from their parents; saw her removed at the age of five from her parents at Point Pearce, an indigenous town on the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, 70km from Wallaroo where Adam Goodes was born on January 8, 1980. She chose to devote her life to her sons.

“I’m very grateful to have a mother who wanted something better for her children than what she had growing up,” says Goodes. “There were sacrifices she made to make sure we went to school. To make sure we did our homework. To make sure we were well fed. I have no doubt she’s proud of us, but we’re forever indebted to her for those sacrifices she made for us.”

At 14, Goodes had a room filled with posters of the black US basketball star Michael Jordan. There was a time when he was climbing out his bedroom window to run to the local phone box to call the police to report domestic violence. But he could relax in his room, fantasise about “air”, hang time, the wonder and grace of a Jordan slam dunk.

On his first day of high school he passed a bus shelter where some kids offered him a puff on a joint; he politely declined. In class he met a kid named Dion resting his feet on a Sherrin football. At lunch the boys from the bus shelter asked him to sit with them but he refused because he’d chosen to go to the oval this ordinary lunch break to kick that oddly-shaped ball with Dion. Some time in that hour-long lunch break he leapt above the shoulders of his school friends and found his hang time, his own air, and Dion’s Sherrin slipped into his chest, sure and right, like it belonged there, like a newborn baby with its mother. “Not many cartilages left in my knees to give me that air up there anymore,” laughs Goodes today.

Some friends and family chose to drag 15-year-old Adam Goodes down. His dad, who separated from the family when Adam was four, had a European heritage. Adam’s own cousins called him “coconut”. He didn’t know what they meant. “Black on the outside, white on the inside,” his mum told him.

Playing for the North Ballarat Rebels in the TAC Cup under-18s, he outmuscled, outplayed an opponent, won a free kick. The opponent had nothing left in him but cheap and easy words: “F..k off you black c..t.”

Goodes chose football as his revenge. Be the best footballer they’d ever seen. Be Gilbert McAdam. Nicky Winmar. Michael Long. Be AFL’s Michael Jordan.

At 17, he was standing with his mum at Melbourne airport, about to fly to Sydney to begin his career with his beloved Swans. “This is the start of great things to come,” said Lisa May. “Don’t forget you are bringing Mama home a Brownlow.”

“I think I get a lot of my personality from my mum,” Goodes says. “She’s very modest about the job she done with all of us boys. She’s never blown away too much by anything we do because she’s always seen the good in us and she’s always believed we could do anything we wanted to do. She’s definitely given us that vision that we can do anything. Anything really is possible.”

Young Adam Goodes would bring Mama home two Brownlows.

Choices. Moments. Turning points. Former Sydney Swans coach Paul Roos watches footballers make choices every day, on field and off. Decisions that turn a game, change the course of a season, alter a career for better or worse. Roos says the greatest myth in the daytime telemovie narrative of Adam Goodes is that greatness fell upon him simply by strapping on his boots, pulling his red and white socks up and jogging on to the SCG. “He needed to be coached. He wanted to be coached. He wanted to learn. It didn’t come as easily to him as some people think. He had to learn his craft. He wasn’t a natural leader. He had to learn to lead. And we worked hard.”

Roos recalls Goodes coming to see him after the 2002 season when he finished third on the list of the Swans’ best and fairest players. Says Goodes: “The biggest disappointment for me at that time was not making the team leadership group and I’d just finished third in the best and fairest the year before. I thought that I’d improved with my consistency as a player and the leadership group was announced and there was 12 players in it and I wasn’t one of them.”

Some players of his talent might have opted for implosion, gone on a bender, skipped training, mouthed off. Goodes chose to quietly knock on his coach’s door and ask him to outline the ways in which he might better his chances the following year, correct his mistakes. “We sat down and had a discussion and one of the first things I asked was, ‘Do you want to be a leader?’?” recalls Roos. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I do’. And I said, ‘OK, well that’s good’. Not everyone wants to be a leader. It’s a myth in footy clubs that everyone wants to lead. I said there are things you need to work on, and behaviours.”

“They wanted to see more leadership from me on the training track and they wanted to hear my voice more in team meetings,” says Goodes.

“To his credit, he took that on board,” says Roos. “And the next time we voted he was in the leadership group.”

In the year that followed that discussion he was named team best and fairest and won his first Brownlow Medal. “I think it’s about how much do you really want something,” says Goodes. “How much do you want to sacrifice to get the best out of yourself? Once you commit in your mind what that is, you will do anything to get that.”

Roos and Goodes continued to have discussions that grew deeper and wider in theme. They talked about Goodes’ background, his family’s struggles. Roos soon saw a man who could not only inspire his team, but also his country. “I was always encouraging him,” Roos says. “From my point of view it was ‘if you are going to be a role model for the team you will also be a great role model for everyone, including your own people’. Adam tries to live his life by reaching his potential. He delves deeper into who he is and who made him what he is. It’s Aboriginal people, it’s European people, it’s every nationality. All kinds of people helped make Adam Goodes the great person he is.”

December 2004, and 24-year-old Adam Goodes sat at a table with future indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough in a French restaurant in Canberra. Also there was Sue Gordon, Western Australia’s first Aboriginal magistrate and chair of the new National Indigenous Council, which Goodes would join. Goodes had been exploring his aboriginality, studying a Diploma in Aboriginal Studies at Sydney’s Eora TAFE. Gordon told Goodes how it felt to be removed from her mother at the age of four in 1947 because she was part-Aboriginal. Goodes listened intently as Gordon told a story that mirrored his mother’s but one he’d never fully heard. “He’s quite deep,” Gordon says. “What I found was he was very keen to learn about Aboriginal issues across Australia. He wanted to understand the history. He was educating himself. But at the same time he didn’t realise that he was becoming a mentor to younger Aboriginal people.”

Today, Goodes and Gordon love each other like family. “I’ve watched him grow from a young footballer to a man to a captain,” she says. “He’s a fine man and he has a cross to bear far greater than some of them.

“That young Collingwood fan that night, that’s a sign that there are still pockets of people who don’t address the issues within a family. It really hurts. There are still a lot people who don’t fully understand it.”

He was magic that night. The thing that’s often forgot about Adam Goodes and the Swans-Magpies game of May 24, 2013, was how well he played, how much he contributed to the first Swans victory over the Pies at the MCG in 13 years. He kicked his 400th career goal that night. He gave his heart and soul to the 65,306 football fans in the crowd. Curling kicks from the outside of his right boot that could have landed on a coin. Bullet handballs that ignited 70m corridor plays. Goal-square marks of such timing and precognitive positioning it felt like his opponents were running in sludge and he was running on air. He found the ball that night like a bee finds nectar. He was a butterfly. He was a bloodhound.

He believes Australian rules football had its origins in marn grook, the game played by his Aboriginal ancestors in which players kicked and jostled for a stuffed animal skin “ball”. “The tallest men have the best chances in this game,” read a passage in 1878’s The Aborigines of Victoria by Robert Brough-Smyth. “Some of them will leap as high as five feet from the ground to catch the ball.”

He believes he was born to play the game. His bone structure, the size of his calves and thighs, his height-to-weight ratio. “When I play football, it’s something that becomes instinctive for me,” he says. He considers the game the “purest expression” of his Aboriginality. And there was no better example of this than on May 24, 2013, at the MCG. He was instinctive. He was electrifying. He was unstoppable. Until he chose to stop.

In 2008, Goodes was asked to contribute an essay to a hardback AFL history called The Australian Game of Football Since 1858. Goodes wrote a disarmingly frank and insightful history of indigenous Australia’s connection to the great game, drawing on everything he had studied, everything he had heard first-hand from scholars such as Sue Gordon and survivors like his mum. He wrote about his hero Nicky Winmar and the day, April 17, 1993, when ceaseless racial taunts caused him to lift his St Kilda jersey and point at his skin. “I am a human being,” Winmar said after the game. “No matter what colour I am.” Goodes wrote about the day in 2002 when one of the game’s most high-profile players called him a “f..king monkey- looking c..t”. He wrote about what it’s like to live “half-caste”, about “being the object of racism so many times that you lose count”. He left nothing off the page like he leaves nothing of himself on the football field when the siren sounds.

“I live in a racist country,” he wrote. “To understand what it means to be indigenous, you need to understand that we come with baggage,” he wrote. “Every one of us. And every one of us has a choice as to how we deal with it – some of us have not yet come to terms with that choice, or circumstances have made making the right choice difficult, if not impossible. But the choice – and the opportunity – remains there, right in front of us.” He titled his sweeping epic The Indigenous Game: A Matter of Choice. Anyone who has read it understands why he chose to stop that night at the MCG, why he turned around to spotlight the “ape” taunt that was flung at him so carelessly and foolishly, just like all those countless taunts that came before it. There was nothing knee-jerk about it. His whole life informed his reaction.

“It takes time to build that confidence to do that,” he says. “I think when you’re proud of something and you’ve always stood up for yourself, and when you get to that place, you’re very sure of who you are and what you stand for. And no matter how old that person was or where that happened to be, my reaction would have been exactly the same.”

That three-letter word did the impossible. It made Adam Goodes forget how much he loved Australian rules football. “Yeah,” he says. “It was disappointing. I don’t know if it would have been different if I had actually stayed on the ground. Because the coach just wanted me to rest the last three or four minutes off the ground that game. It just sort of all hit me once I was on the boundary, just sitting there thinking about it. Yeah, I just didn’t want to be out there anymore.

“When something cuts you to the core it’s very emotional, a very disappointing feeling. Something that you don’t want to have anybody go through and you certainly don’t want to be the reason that person is feeling like that. That’s what I take from the experience,” he says. “I think it’s important for people to stand up for who they are and where they come from. But to be able to do it in a way that cannot only help that person but help the people around them.”

The disappointment was deepened five days later when Collingwood club president Eddie McGuire – a man who had shaken Goodes’ hand in the dressing rooms after the incident with the girl, assuring him his club had a zero-tolerance policy on racism – made a remark on radio linking Goodes to the promotion of the King Kong musical. In some ways, the McGuire comment was a sharper blow, coming as it did from an adult professional, a seasoned journalist and businessman. Goodes was deeply hurt by it. He could have lashed out in the media, returned fire with a few stinging comments of his own. But he chose to go deeper, calling for big-picture understanding, a universal hauling of “the baggage”, a few more hands to carry the cross he has to bear.

“I think what I’ve learned in my journey is that sometimes you pick the wrong way as well,” he says. “You try not to make that bad decision again. You’re not going to make the right choice every time. I’m definitely one of those people who has made a lot of mistakes. It’s about how you deal with them and how you learn from them that really builds your character and how you can build your sense of self-belief and morals.”

But remember, he stresses, “we’re only 200 years old”. He thinks about what might have happened to a “half-caste kid” like him 100 years ago. He thinks about the Kahlin Compound, a Darwin home established in 1913 where, he says, “they took these half-caste kids away because they thought they could better assimilate these kids into mainstream Australia … because they had some white European blood in them”.

“In these camps they were trained to be domestics,” he says. “So no doubt we’ve come a long way since then.

“I’m very happy with the Australia I’m living in right now. We have a fantastic people that want very similar things. It’s a place where you can raise your family and they will be created as equal and be seen as equal. I think there are a lot of people out there doing fantastic things in the community. But we’re never gonna live in a perfect world and nor would we want to. I’d hate to think everybody got along and agreed on everything because that would be a pretty tame life, I believe. But we’ve got to work on each other’s mistakes.”

NACCHO political alert : Aboriginal ‘industry’ muddies the waters as January 26 approaches.


A hallmark ideology of the Aboriginal industry is its insistence on blaming colonisation and “white” governments for the problems facing Aboriginal people today.

We are sure to be reminded about this by the Aboriginal industry as January 26 approaches.”

View article re image above ALDI and Big W

Anthony Dillon is a researcher at the University of Western Sydney and co-editor of In Black and White: Australians All at the Crossroads. As published in The Australian (views are not endorsed by NACCHO)

IN the past week, two high-achieving Aboriginal men have written for this newspaper on Aboriginal issues. Both Warren Mundine and Ben Wyatt talk about the need for diversionary programs that can be used to prevent juvenile offenders from going to jail, and hopefully into jobs and education or training.

Mundine argued: “Legal aid is vital, but it deals with the problem at the tail end.” I believe Mundine is correct and that too much of the energy invested in Aboriginal affairs focuses at the tail end.

This is fine, but I think we should be focusing on preventing Aboriginal people of all ages from engaging in antisocial behaviour and crime in the first place, something on which I think both Mundine and Wyatt would agree.

I want to focus on an approach that deals with the underlying causes and contributors to the high incarceration rates. Such an approach will be useful to dealing with many other problems that plague Aboriginal people, such as unemployment and homelessness. As an analogy to the problems facing Aborigines, imagine a river that is dirty and polluted.

You can try all sorts of clean-up strategies downstream, but you will be forever performing the same strategies unless you identify the source of the problem upstream and clean that up.

There are many problems upstream, but clearly the major one is a factory upstream that is dumping waste into the river. Common sense dictates that efforts should be directed upstream if it is clean water downstream that is desired. I would argue that the “Aboriginal industry” is the factory. By Aboriginal industry, I mean the collective mindset produced by those promoting the view that Aboriginal people are totally distinct from the general population, requiring separate services and separate solutions to the problems they face.

Some of these people work in positions specific to addressing Aboriginal issues while others are contributors, in one form or another, whether they be commentators, journalists or activists.

Obviously, to clean up the water downstream – which in this analogy means addressing poverty, crime, unemployment and sickness – means closing down the Aboriginal industry or at least giving it a major overhaul, which will mean removing the incomes and pedestals of many.

This is not likely to happen any time soon. The words of American writer and activist Upton Sinclair resonate here: “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

I am not suggesting that all players in the Aboriginal industry are less than helpful, as I have met some amazing people (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) who work tirelessly to close the gap.

Speaking of the gap, while there may be some evidence of it closing slowly, such as the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people as a whole catching up with the health and wellbeing of non-Aboriginal people, I suspect there is a broadening of the internal gap.

That is, among those who identify as Aboriginal, much of the improvement has been with those who were already relatively advantaged. For many of those Aboriginal people living in extreme poverty, the gains have not been as substantial as for their more advantaged cousins.

This problem of an internalised gap is recognised by Tony Abbott. Nicolas Rothwell reported in this newspaper that there was a need to highlight the distinction between remote and urban Aboriginal societies, their circumstances and their needs. It is in remote communities that there is the most need, and it is in these communities that the actions and ideologies of the Aboriginal industry impact the most.

While some consideration of Aboriginality should be given, the focus should be on need, and those in most need are more likely to live in remote areas, where they lack access to opportunities and services that most of us take for granted.

A hallmark ideology of the Aboriginal industry is its insistence on blaming colonisation and “white” governments for the problems facing Aboriginal people today. We are sure to be reminded about this by the Aboriginal industry as January 26 approaches.

Demonising government with words such as “genocide”, “assimilation” and the like simply makes it less likely that those Aboriginal people most in need will embrace any opportunity or service provided by the government.

Another pillar of the industry is its strident insistence that culture, often a romanticised version bearing little resemblance to authentic Aboriginal culture, be given absolute priority. Matters of culture are fine, but not at the expense of child safety and family wellbeing. The hearts of thousands of Australians break whenever we read how a child’s safety has been compromised, sometimes with fatal outcomes – all because placing a child with Aboriginal carers was considered more important than safety. We read daily of fears of another “Stolen Generation”.

When considering how best to close the gap on unemployment, ill-health and dysfunction, it is surely education and jobs that must be priorities, not culture. Individuals can decide for themselves what role culture plays in their lives, and I am all for people embracing and expressing their culture in a way that suits them, but this must not be focused on at the expense of jobs and education.

Let’s focus upstream so that we get better results downstream. If this means overhauling the Aboriginal industry, or at the very least giving it a major shake-up and wake-up, so be it. Surely what really matters is the lives and the potential of Aboriginal people.

Anthony Dillon is a researcher at the University of Western Sydney and co-editor of In Black and White: Australians All at the Crossroads.

NACCHO 2014 political news: Warren Mundine warns of budget pain for Aboriginal funding


“We won’t solve Indigenous crime and justice problems with isolated decisions or with ideology. We need considered strategy based on facts and consistent, committed implementation. With governments working together and focused on outcomes and what works, we can deal with this problem and save governments a lot of money. That’s pragmatism.”

From “When ideology trumps pragmatism, everybody pays” Warren Mundine opinion piece (see full article below )

Welcome to NACCHO News Alerts for 2014 .

Warren Mundine warns of budget pain for Aboriginal funding

PATRICIA KARVELAS  The Australian 3 January 2014

WARREN Mundine has declared it unrealistic to expect indigenous affairs spending to be immune from budget cuts and that, despite his new role as head of Tony Abbott’s indigenous advisory council, he can’t cast a “force field” to exempt Aborigines from the broader budget agenda.

In an exclusive interview and writing in The Australian today, the indigenous leader said that, although he actively opposed the cuts to Aboriginal legal aid announced last month, his opposition was not ideological and he wanted spending to be subjected to an audit to examine if it was delivering the outcomes promised.

Mr Mundine also revealed he would spend this year pushing for state and territory governments to have “mandatory diversionary programs” to push juvenile offenders into jobs and education.

Indigenous academic and leader Marcia Langton, who is heading the Abbott government’s indigenous jobs review with Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest, said yesterday she backed auditing programs to ensure they made a real difference to the lives of indigenous people.

“I support social-investment approaches, especially for children and youth,” Professor Langton said.

“The legal aid approach by itself will do little to lower indigenous prison incarceration and juvenile detention rates. Early childhood health and education programs should be top priority.”

Mr Mundine said that, if a diversionary program succeeded and a young person went on to stable employment, “this means a lifetime of paying taxes rather than a life in and out of detention and welfare at taxpayers’ expense”.

“Yet governments shy away from effective diversionary programs because they fear being labelled weak on crime,” he said. “Another example of ideology trumping pragmatism.”

The government announced in its mid-year economic and fiscal update last month that $13.4 million would be taken out of indigenous legal aid over the next four years. The cut was reduced from $42m, after the government decided to spread the pain to non-indigenous legal aid in the wake of a strong campaign by indigenous activists and Mr Mundine. Labor has sought to personalise the cuts and claim that Mr Mundine, a former Labor Party president, was not a strong enough advocate for stopping the cuts.

Mr Mundine’s comments today are aimed at critics who he says are wrong if they expect he can insulate indigenous affairs from the budget razor gang.

Annual public spending on indigenous Australia jumped to $25.4 billion in 2012, according to the Productivity Commission. Mr Mundine said he believed that funding should be effective and not defended for the sake of it.

“Legal aid is vital, but it deals with the problem at the tail end,” he said. “We need to tackle this problem right at the beginning, with swift and early intervention for first offenders through diversionary programs, even if they are minor offences. We also need to look at how we make communities stable and safe so they don’t become breeding grounds for anti-social behaviour. Education and the jobs are the key.”

Mr Mundine said many young Aborigines’ problems started well before they engaged in criminal behaviour.

“When you meet kids who tell you the only time they’ve attended school is in detention and that they prefer detention to being at home, then that tells you their home and family environment is completely dysfunctional,” he said.

“If parents aren’t sending their kids to school or giving them a safe and stable home life, that sends off loud warning bells that we need to act.”

He said the federal government played a secondary role in the area, as crime and punishment were the responsibility of state and territory governments.

“I want to see state and territory governments introduce mandatory diversionary programs into jobs and education for juvenile offenders,” he said. “This is something we should look at for all juvenile offenders, not just indigenous people.”

Mr Mundine said he was not proposing “letting offenders off with warnings or community service”.

“We need to actively divert offenders on to a … path that requires them to work hard and take personal responsibility.”

He said a lot of the criticism of the decision to cut legal aid funding was based on the presumption that reducing funding would lead to increased indigenous incarceration. “That was the ideological principle through which the decision was judged.

“There was a lot of anger and indignation but not much discussion of the actual outcomes the defunded services have achieved and how those services correlate to incarceration rates. Some critics appeared more interested in opposing a budgetary decision of a government they don’t like based on political opinions.”

He said he objected to the cuts because he wanted his new council to review indigenous legal services as part of the broader review. “I engaged in a public battle with Treasury over the proposal,” he said.

“Ultimately, Treasury spared a substantial amount of legal services from defunding but identified others to make up the budget saving figure, including to some family violence programs.”

Professor Langton said the focus this year must be on what worked, not ideology. She said results from the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) showed education gaps.

“Place-based approaches that involve the community are needed,” she said. “The Family Responsibilities Commission in Cape York has demonstrated a highly effective approach that other communities are requesting. The truancy officers program instituted by (Indigenous Affairs) Minister (Nigel) Scullion will help with attendance rates but more is needed. The Cape York Agenda programs are working at Aurukun and it is important to note that success and replicate these successful measures in other low socioeconomic areas.”

Mr Mundine said there were thousands of initiatives across the country aimed at eliminating indigenous disadvantage. “Yet the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people isn’t closing,” he said.

He said indigenous people had Mr Abbott’s ear and a seat at his table and warned it should not be wasted or scoffed at.

When ideology trumps pragmatism, everybody pays

Online copy The Australian

IN debates on social issues there are usually two sides: one based on ideology and the other on pragmatism.

Ideologues focus on principle and theory. Their ideas are based on their ideals. If something doesn’t work, they often blame poor application or resourcing.

Pragmatists accept reality and that compromise and setbacks are unavoidable. They care about results over theory. They support things that work. Too often, vocal activism on indigenous issues is dominated by ideologues.

Before the federal election, the Coalition announced spending cuts to indigenous legal services. I engaged in a public battle with Treasury over the proposal.

Ultimately, Treasury spared a substantial amount of legal services from defunding but identified others to make up the budget saving figure, including to some family violence programs.

I remain unhappy with the final decision. But, practically, once the line item had been included in pre-election figures it was going to be extremely difficult to get it reversed. The reality is that Australia’s budgetary position is unsustainable. Government is spending more than it raises in revenue, forecasts have been consistently wrong and there are structural budget deficiencies.

Initiatives for indigenous people aren’t immune from this problem. It’s unrealistic to expect me, or the Indigenous Advisory Council, to cast some sort of force-field over indigenous spending to exempt it from the broader budget agenda. Pragmatists understand that we must work within this reality. Ideologues don’t.

A lot of the criticism of the decision on legal aid funding was based on the presumption defunding undoubtedly will lead to increased indigenous incarceration. That was the ideological principle through which the decision was judged. There was a lot of anger and indignation but not much discussion of the actual outcomes the defunded services have achieved and how those services correlate to incarceration rates.

Some critics appeared more interested in opposing a budgetary decision of a government they didn’t like based on their political opinions.

Treasury wasn’t focused on the functions being cut or the outcomes they delivered; it was focused on the dollars.

But ideologues fell into the same trap; they, too, were focused on the dollars.

I objected to the decision because I want the IAC to review indigenous legal services as part of the broader review, identify what is delivering outcomes, develop a strategy on how services should be structured to address crime, incarceration rates and the needs of victims, and work with state and territory governments to implement.

A strategy that works will deliver savings far greater than hasty tactical cuts will ever deliver. We can deliver both outcomes and spending reductions. In fact, we must.

There are thousands of initiatives across the country aimed at eliminating indigenous disadvantage. Yet the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people isn’t closing. If the present framework for addressing indigenous disadvantage were working, there would be less need for special services and therefore progressively less funding required to address the problems.

We also know there’s inefficiency in indigenous programs and that a lot of the money is spent on bureaucracy and administration. I meet indigenous people nearly every week who complain about it.

Removing inefficiency, duplication, bureaucracy and red tape will also mean lower spending.

That’s why money isn’t the main issue. The No 1 issue is the outcomes achieved for indigenous people; outcomes such as real jobs, school attendance and closing the gaps in health, education and incarceration.

Here’s an example. About 10 years ago, I sat on the NSW attorney-general’s juvenile crime prevention committee. Research presented to the committee pointed to a common conclusion – send a juvenile offender to detention and in most cases you have them for life; they’ll invariably be in and out of the system forever. However, put them into a diversionary program (where they instead go into a job or education that they must complete instead of jail) and in most cases you never see them again.

If a diversionary program succeeds and a young person goes on to stable employment, this means a lifetime of paying taxes rather than a life in and out of detention and welfare at taxpayer expense. Yet governments shy away from effective diversionary programs because they fear being labelled weak on crime. Another example of ideology trumping pragmatism.

There’s a mountain of research on indigenous incarceration, its causes and effects, and many ideas for solving the problem. Some have been tried and tested. Ironically, much of the work and expertise in this area that has informed me in recent months originates from National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services – one of the bodies that Treasury is defunding.

We won’t solve indigenous crime and justice problems with isolated decisions or with ideology. We need considered strategy based on facts and consistent, committed implementation. With governments working together and focused on outcomes and what works, we can deal with this problem and save governments a lot of money. That’s pragmatism.

Nyunggai Warren Mundine is the chairman of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council and executive chairman of the Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce.

NACCHO political news :Aboriginal organisation to defy Tony Abbott funding cut


The leaders of the national representative body for indigenous people have vowed to continue as a ”fearless” voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, despite the Abbott government indicating it is likely to cut its funding.

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples was set up in 2010 with an initial Commonwealth funding allocation of $29.2 million over five years. While it was envisaged that the organisation would become financially self-sufficient over time, it is yet to reach this stage.

From Dan Harrison SMH

In the May budget, the Gillard government provided a further $15 million in funding to flow over three years from July next year, but Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion met the group’s co-chairs on Wednesday and told them it was unlikely they would receive the $15 provided for by Labor.

But in a statement issued late on Thursday, Congress co-chairs Kirstie Parker and Les Malezer promised the organisation would continue to fight.

”The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples promised its members and supporters today that it will continue as a strong, fearless national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples,” the statement said.

”The new government has shown that they do not support real decision making for our families and communities through a national representative body chosen by our Peoples, for our Peoples.”

The statement said Congress would hold urgent meetings with members and would continue to build partnerships with other Australians to build a sustainable financial base for the organisation. It would also continue to increase its membership.

Labor’s spokesman on indigenous affairs, Shayne Neumann said the move brought into question Tony Abbott’s promise to be a Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

Mr Neumann contrasted the treatment of Congress with the government’s decision to provide $1 million to set up an indigenous advisory council chaired by former ALP president Warren Mundine.

”What Tony Abbott is proposing to do is slash funding to a body of elected indigenous representatives while spending $1 million to establish a hand-picked Ministerial Advisory Committee in its place,” he said.

Mr Mundine said this was ”nonsense” as his committee was not intended to be a representative body, but was created to provide policy advice to government.

Stressing he was expressing a personal view, Mr Mundine said he had always thought the funding provided to Congress was excessive, and in a tight budgetary situation, the additional funding promised by Labor could be better spent on other priorities in the indigenous affairs portfolio.

Senator Scullion said no decision had been made about the organisation’s funding, and the decision about future funding would be made as part of the budget process, after the Commission of Audit reports.

”However, I did stress that it was highly unlikely that funding would be approved as the government moves funding to frontline services to focus on delivering real outcomes for first Australians,” Senator Scullion said.

”I felt it appropriate to advise Congress of this as early as possible so it could make plans for the future,” he said.

Senator Scullion said he had encouraged the organisation to use the $8.3 million remaining in its reserves to prepare for the future.

”There remains a role for Congress but it is important that it build membership from its current level of approximately 7500 and look to other sources of financial support in the future,” he said.

In April, Senator Scullion said he did not believe the organisation should receive Commonwealth funding because it made the peak body dependent.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda wrote recently that Congress should be given time to establish itself.

”Organisations evolve over time and I believe that Congress has the fundamentals for robust representation and good governance,” he wrote in his annual native title and social justice report.

In its submission to the Commission of Audit, Congress said while it had not yet achieved financial self-sustainability, it continued to ”work assiduously towards that goal”.

”Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples take the view that government has certain obligations towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and this includes supporting a strong, sustainable, representative voice for our Peoples,” the submission by Congress said.

Read more:

NACCHO Aboriginal health : Mundine “Racial vilification legislation is not about freedom but about how we think about race “


In the coming months, Australia will have a polarising debate on the federal government’s decision to amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, one that will test the government’s working relationship with indigenous people and other minority groups.

Nyunggai Warren Mundine  Opinion article Sydney Morning Herald 18 December

Pictured above  Justin Mohamed and Matthew Cooke with Warren Mundine (centre)  at the recent Garma Festival

The government believes the law goes too far in limiting free expression. Its decision was triggered by the censure of Andrew Bolt for articles suggesting ”fair-skinned” people of mixed indigenous and non-indigenous descent could not genuinely identify as indigenous, should not take part in indigenous arts and cultural awards and chose to identify as indigenous for personal gain. Bolt described these individuals as ”the white face of a new black race – the political Aborigine”.

All political traditions limit free speech; conservatives support censorship on moral and national security grounds, for example. The government’s job is to balance individual freedoms with legitimate restrictions to protect people from harm. Balance is achieved through consistent, principled reasoning, not reacting to single events. I’m concerned this is not happening here and I question whether the government would take similar action over other groups.

Take, for example, British National Party chairman Nick Griffin’s statements that black people cannot be British. Griffin believes British people of African or Asian descent are ”racial foreigners”; that British-born people of Pakistani descent are not British but remain of ”Pakistani stock”. Griffin has been convicted of inciting racial hatred. In 1998, the Howard government denied him entry to Australia.

Griffin imagines a continuing, authentic Briton and believes the absorption of non-white people into Britain and mixed marriages is leading to ”bloodless genocide” of the British race. This is obviously nonsense. Foreigners have been settling in the British Isles for thousands of years, through bloodless and bloody means alike.  British identity is defined by national laws and based on descent and citizenship, not genetic purity.

Indigenous people are also from tribal nations, with membership based on kinship and descent. Traditional laws are complex, highly developed and unique to each nation. Traditionally, these laws defined the nation’s members and regulated how people could interact. They also regulated how outsiders fit into the community.

I’m not part of a ”black race”. I’m from the Bundjalung nation and a descendant of the Bundjalung, Gumbaynggirr, Yuin and Irish peoples. My children and grandchildren are also Bundjalung, including those with ”fair skin”. For me, it’s just as offensive to say any of us aren’t Bundjalung as it is to say a black person cannot be British.

Bolt clearly does not see this parallel. He dismissed Mick Dodson’s call for a treaty because Dodson’s father is Irish. ”Sign a treaty with yourself, Mick,” he wrote. Yet I’m sure Bolt would not describe Britain as signing a treaty with itself when it agreed the Treaty of Versailles with Germany, even though Britain’s King George V was ethnically German and Danish. Likewise, a treaty in Australia would not be between black people and white people. It would be between the Commonwealth and indigenous tribal nations.

Bolt’s articles actually adopted the same logic as Griffin’s. The difference is Britain is a sovereign nation able to define its people through its laws. Indigenous nations were invaded and colonised and their traditional laws are not recognised. This difference is not relevant when it comes to defining racial vilification.

Jewish people are a nation of people originating from a common geography, genealogy, language and religion. They were also dispossessed of land and sovereignty and dispersed over thousands of years, yet they maintain their identity as a people and nation. Judaism is not just a religion; there are many secular Jews. Traditionally, Judaism is defined primarily by matrilineal descent: a person is Jewish if born to a Jewish mother. Israel’s law of return allows any Jewish person to migrate there.

Imagine if Bolt wrote that people with Jewish matrilineal lineage were not authentically Jewish and disputed their right to migrate to Israel because they did not resemble the Israelites Moses led out of the desert. Undoubtedly, he would warrant censure under section 18C. But I doubt this would prompt  a repeal of those laws.

It’s legitimate to question if people who are not disadvantaged are receiving benefits at the expense of those who are, but ”indigenous” is not synonymous with ”disadvantage”. Bundjalung law does not require that I have been discriminated against to be recognised.

Skin colour makes people a target of bigotry. However, bigotry is not always based on skin colour. I know ”fair-skinned” people who have hidden their indigenous ancestry to avoid discrimination. Indigenous people of mixed descent do not necessarily escape disadvantage or its consequences through their families. Some have suffered more.

Initiatives for indigenous arts, culture and language are not welfare. Their purpose should be to foster indigenous cultures and maintain them as they evolve. Skin colour and disadvantage are irrelevant for an award open to people of indigenous descent. Likewise, if the purpose is to break disadvantage, the question is whether the recipient meets the relevant disadvantage test. Being of indigenous descent is not, of itself, enough.

I doubt the government would repeal section 18C to protect the right to describe black Britons as ”the black face of a new white race” or to call people ”political Jews” because they do not have the same skin colour as Abraham. The problem is Attorney-General George Brandis does not regard Bolt’s articles as being in the same league.

This debate is not really about individual freedoms; it’s about perceptions of race and racism. The problem is not section 18C; it’s ignorance of the sophistication of indigenous laws and cultures.

I am pleased the Attorney-General has promised to consult before introducing legislation. I hope the federal government will listen and keep an open mind. Amending section 18C would send a dangerous signal. I believe it would be a mistake.

Nyunggai Warren Mundine is an aboriginal activist and former Federal President of the ALP.

NACCHO political health news : Abbott Government cuts to impact on Aboriginal health


Closing the gap requires a coordinated approach at the state and federal levels as the challenges faced by Aboriginal people are interconnected.You can’t improve overall health outcomes without also looking at the social determinants, things like housing, education and poverty. Similarly, you can’t improve health outcomes while the numbers of Aboriginal people in our jails continues to rise,”

Said NACCHO chair Justin Mohamed .(see press release below) pictured above with Shane Duffy NATSILS

Congress calls upon the Prime Minister to show leadership and understanding of the need for increased capacity in our organisations and communities.  He can demonstrate that by ensuring the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services is retained and strengthened,”

Said Co-Chair National Congress Les Malezer.(see press release below)


Yesterday the Federal Government delivered the Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2013-2014.
Here are some things from the report as they relate to Aboriginal Affairs and Aboriginal Health and Health more broadly.
-The Indigenous Carbon Farming Fund
-Remote Indigenous Energy Programme
-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Programme ($1.0 m in 2013-2014)
-Office of the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services
-$27m from the Healthier Communities Priority Infrastructure Programme
-$5m Chronic Disease Prevention and Services Improvement Fund
-National Rural and Remote Health Infrastructure Programs – 22.3m
-Public Health Program – $6mil
-$45 mil for Vocation Training and Employment Centres for 5000 Aboriginal job seekers under the Generation One model
-$5 for Empowered Communities based on Jawun Model.
-$1mil for Indigenous Advisory Council (Chaired by Warren Mundine)
-$40mil of redirected funding to re-open Indigenous Employment Programme in remote areas

NACCHO Press release

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chair, Justin Mohamed, said cutting legal services made no economic sense when you take into account the wider implications of incarceration on issues such as employment, education and health.

“The fact is people in our jail system often suffer from poor mental and physical health,” Mr Mohamed said.

“Incarceration also can have broader impacts on the health of those left behind – on the imprisoned person’s family and broader community.

“With rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people increasing, we should be doing everything we can to turn around the huge numbers of Aboriginal people in our prisons.

“NACCHO supports the good work of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services – both who play an important role in keeping our people out of jail.

“They provide education and early intervention support and advice which can mean the difference between a life of incarceration and one that makes a contribution to the community.

“The Federal Government need to rethink their position and recognise how crucial a national voice on Aboriginal legal policy is in reducing the disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal people in the justice system.

“Aboriginal peak bodies understand better than anyone the issues their people face and the factors that contribute to them entering the justice system.

“Taking that voice from the mix to save a few dollars will just hamper future efforts to improve outcomes across a range of factors including health, education and employment.”

Mr Mohamed said closing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people needed an integrated approach.

“Aboriginal people make up more than thirty percent of the prison population, despite being only a fraction of the Australian population.

“Closing the gap requires a coordinated approach at the state and federal levels as the challenges faced by Aboriginal people are interconnected.

“You can’t improve overall health outcomes without also looking at the social determinants, things like housing, education and poverty. Similarly, you can’t improve health outcomes while the numbers of

Aboriginal people in our jails continues to rise,” Mr Mohamed said.

National Congress Condemns Cuts

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (Congress) strongly opposes the decision by the Federal Government to cut funding to community controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.
The government’s ‘hit or miss’ funding cuts to our organisations, at the beginning of their term and before the completion of their highly-publicised inquiries, endangers the collaborative approach offered by the Prime Minister.
Today’s news that the national body for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services is to be defunded is a significant blow and does not reflect an effort to engage in partnership.
Having a national body for the legal services increases the skills, experience and effectiveness of all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, and brings greater efficiency to the expenditure incurred by those legal services.
“Congress calls upon the Prime Minister to show leadership and understanding of the need for increased capacity in our organisations and communities.  He can demonstrate that by ensuring the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services is retained and strengthened,” said Co-Chair Les Malezer.
“Our Peoples must be self-determining and will not accept Governments making decisions on funding priorities without us.
“Removing our capacity for policy reform and advocacy to legal assistance programs delivered by Aboriginal, community and legal aid services will affect the most marginalised and vulnerable members of our community.
“Congress supports organisations controlled by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to continue representing our interests and to provide expert advice on service delivery,” said Mr Malezer.
Congress recently made a strongly worded submission to the National Commission of Audit which reinforces our fundamental principles of self-determination and community decision making.
“Significant under investment by successive Governments makes our Peoples predicament comparable to some developing countries, “said Co-Chair Kirstie Parker.
“We cannot accept any reduction in Commonwealth spending on housing, remote infrastructure, legal services, community safety, native title, languages and culture, when investment and capacity building is what’s clearly required.
“We will continue to work with the Commission to engage with all of our members.
“Community input and ownership are highlighted as keys to achieve improvements by the Government’s own landmark reports – including the Department of Finance Strategic Review of Indigenous Expenditure (2011) and the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key indicators 2011 report,” said Ms Parker.
Contact Congress : Liz Willis 0457 877 408  NACCHO Colin Cowell 0401 331 251

Government avoids scrutiny by cutting Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous ServicesGeneral for Remote Indigenous Services.

“This cost cutting measure from the Government is deeply disappointing and will further undermine efforts to deliver on our Closing the Gap commitments,” Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues.
“The role of Coordinator General is to ‘monitor, assess, advise and drive progress relating to improvements in government service delivery in 29 remote Indigenous communities across Australia’.
Removing this role will directly affect the ability of the Government to monitor and report on the implementation of policies.
“This cut is a comparatively small amount of money that the Government admits will be used to either save money or fund other, unnamed policies.
It isn’t even being reinvested in other programs to help people in remote Australia.
“Decisions such as this make a mockery of Tony Abbott’s comments about being the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs, as once again his Government seeks to avoid scrutiny and accountability for its policies,” Senator Siewert concluded.

NACCHO News: THE Abbott government will strip funding from peak Aboriginal body


NATSILS chairman Shane Duffy said last night the cuts would deny essential legal services to even more Aboriginal people.

Source: News Limited

THE Abbott government will strip funding from the peak Aboriginal legal aid organisation and policy positions in its state affiliates, but has moderated the extent of cuts to at-the-coalface services following an outcry from the indigenous community.

The Coalition today will announce the defunding of the peak National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and all law reform and policy officer positions within each state and territory affiliate, saving $9 million over three years.

However, this represents a backdown after the Coalition went to the election promising cuts of $42m over three years to take effect from the 2014-15 financial year.



NATSILS chairman Shane Duffy said last night the cuts would deny essential legal services to even more indigenous people and further entrench them as “second-class citizens” in their own country.

Mr Duffy said that at a time when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration rates were at alarming highs and continuing to rise, the funding cuts were short-sighted.

“Without a national peak body and state-based law reform and policy officers, governments around Australia will have no access to informed, evidence-based frontline advice in regards to the effectiveness of the justice system,” Mr Duffy said.

“Justice-related costs are spiralling out of control around Australia, and removing the ability of frontline services to provide government agencies with accurate policy advice will only serve to make our system more ineffective, inefficient and increasingly costly.

“Cutting funding at the policy level in order to save money is simply a false economy.”

Mr Duffy said that the small saving of $3m a year was nothing compared to the impact such cuts would have on the ground.

“Without the advocacy work of a national peak body and state and territory-based law reform and policy officers, more people are going to end up in prison. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

“The funding cuts directly target our ability to work with governments to address the underlying causes of why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are so disproportionately represented in our justice system. There is no one else to fulfil this role if we are prohibited from doing so.”

Mr Duffy said that the funding cuts would also affect the level of prevention and early intervention services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

He said with the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, headed by Warren Mundine, reviewing all government expenditure, it was unclear why the legal aid cuts had already been decided on.

“The fact that the government has pre-empted this review calls into question the commitment Tony Abbott has for the council that he has specifically created to advise him on such issues. This isn’t what you would expect from a Prime Minister who has positioned himself as the Prime Minister for indigenous Australians,” he said.

Last night there was huge pressure on Mr Mundine, who has said he does not support the cuts, to intervene.

NACCHO political news: Is this the first time Aboriginal people have been so close to the top of the political agenda ?

“His commitment to Indigenous people is the nicest thing about him, (referring to Mr Abbott.)  There is good will there and he might not get it right but we should give him a chance.”

Fred Chaney speaking at the recent NACCHO AGM in Perth

Des Martin (pictured above), Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia, a peak body representing 20 of that state’s Aboriginal Medical Services, says there is truth in that statement because this is the first time Aboriginal people have been so close to the top of the political agenda.

Des Martin wrote this report from the recent National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation’s Members Meeting for CROAKEY

When former politician Fred Chaney told a packed room, most of whom were Aboriginal, that Tony Abbott has good will and a genuine personal interest and investment in the needs of Aboriginal people, I wasn’t sure what would happen.

These were risky statements to make, given the depth of mistrust many Aboriginal (and non-Aboriginal) people have for politicians past and present: sometimes due to policy and sometimes down to empty promises and token gestures.

Perhaps though, there is some truth there. We should respect him and if Warren Mundine wants to be Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs then we should let him and more importantly take him seriously.

Mr Chaney has known Tony Abbott for a long time and he openly admits the Prime Minister has changed a lot since those early days of politics.

“His commitment to Indigenous people is the nicest thing about him,” he said when referring to Mr Abbott. “There is good will there and he might not get it right but we should give him a chance.”

Mr Abbott was unable to attend the NACCHO annual members meeting in person, due to Parliament sitting, but he wrote a letter to the delegates about what he hopes will change under his new government: while it is comforting that there have been improvements in life expectancy, the ten year gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is still disturbing.

It must be our goal to eliminate this gap within a generation. Our health is in many ways a reflection of our communities. That is why we have to ensure that children go to schools, adults go to work and the ordinary rule of the land operates in Aboriginal communities.

When one of his senior bureaucrats was later pressed on what the statement about ordinary rule meant, particularly when he used changed the rule to law in his own presentation, there was no clear definition.

NACCHO Chairperson Justin Mohamed tactfully suggested it would be a good idea to clear that up. Any politician who wants to work seriously with Aboriginal people should know, it matters what that statement means and if the word law is going to be frequently transposed, do you mean law or lore?

Whatever the definition Mr Abbott did explain that a new level of engagement at every level of society is needed, to ensure that Aboriginal people receive better educational, employment, housing and health outcomes and that’s why he has brought Indigenous Affairs under the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC).

The move to DPC is one that many in our sector are worried about. There is fear that the attention and momentum we have picked up is going to be lost under a pile of other Aboriginal (and non-Aboriginal) issues that DPC must deal with.

The concern for us still lies with the use of Medicare Locals and what threat that poses to Aboriginal Medical Services.

While Samantha Palmer, First Assistant Secretary for the Indigenous Health Service Delivery Division said that Medicare Locals won’t replace ‘urban Aboriginal Medical Services’ some aren’t so sure. And to get picky, that statement doesn’t include regional or remote services, what about them?

Sandy Davies, a Director of the Geraldton Region Aboriginal Medical Service echoed what many at the conference likely thought: “Unless we prove the strength of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector, Abbott will utilise Medicare Locals.”

Well I’ll tell you what I know about the strength of our sector.

First, there are 150 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS’) around Australia and together we serve nearly half the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population: that’s 350,000 people across the country.

The Redfern Aboriginal Medical service in Sydney was established in 1971 and was the first Aboriginal community controlled health service in Australia and it helped establish others around the country.

Bega Garnbirringu in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia recently celebrated its 30 year anniversary and Perth’s first Aboriginal Medical Service: Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Inc. just had its 40year anniversary.

As a sector, ACCHS are responsible for 75% of the improvements in Aboriginal people’s health outcomes since 2008 when closing the gap began. ACCHS are more than comparable to mainstream services for identifying risk factors, performing health checks, care planning and treating individuals.

It has proven itself as a successful health model. Now we just need to make sure this new government is well aware of that fact.

There are some concerns also that Warren Mundine’s focus is on economic empowerment of Aboriginal people. He’s right in many ways though: having a better economic status can improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities and he’s also right to target the mining industry. It is an employer of many in Western Australia, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.

But the ACCH Sector is actually the biggest employer of Aboriginal people Australia-wide. So not only do we care but we employ.

Having the visibility and level of representation for Aboriginal people at a federal level means that Aboriginal people are at the top end of the political agenda and this has never happened before. Aboriginal people are still facing incredible hardship despite improvements in health, employment and economic status but politically this is an exciting time in history.

I just hope the promises are kept.





The first meeting of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council was held in Canberra yesterday.

Chaired by Warren Mundine, the 12 Council members bring a broad range of views and experience to the table.

Terms of Reference for the Council were also released with an emphasis on practical advice on policies and programmes that could improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.


While the Council’s remit is broad, I have asked Council members to focus on improving school attendance and educational attainment, creating lasting employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians in the real economy, and empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The Council will meet three times a year with the Prime Minister and relevant ministers and the Chairman will meet once a month with myself, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Hon Alan Tudge MP.

I look forward to working with the Council to ensure we focus on positive actions to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


Colleagues, it is a real honour for me to be here for the first meeting of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council.

I am really thrilled to have assembled such a group.

I am delighted to have such a strong Ministerial team in this area.

I am thrilled to have Ken Wyatt as part of my parliamentary team, but I really am determined, as I know each one of you is determined, to make a difference, not just to the symbolism, not just to the funding but to the practical outcomes on the ground for Aboriginal people.

I want to really thank every one of you for joining this council, because not only will we do the right thing by the indigenous people of Australia, but we will do the right thing by all Australians because indigenous disadvantage, indigenous alienation is not just a problem for indigenous people; it is a problem for our country. We all know that we will never be truly whole as a nation until these issues are better addressed in the future than they have been in the past.

That is not to deprecate the good will; it’s not to deprecate the good sense of many of our predecessors. But while there has been some symbolic change, while there has been – at least in recent times – an abundance of good will and much, much money we haven’t yet got with the practical changes on the ground that we need if Aboriginal people are truly to be first class Australians, and first class people in their own country – and that’s the objective

Now, Warren and I have been working together and occasionally knocking our heads together for some years now. There are other people around this table like Peter Shergold and Richie Ah Mat, who I go back a long way with.

I think we’re going to do a really, really good job. I am confident that we really can make a difference and so let’s start.

Let it not be said in three years’ time that this was just another talk fest. Let people be able to say in three years’ time that practical change is happening, and it’s happening because of the conversations, because of the discussions, and yes, occasionally because of the disputes that we will have around this table and resolve satisfactorily to the benefit of our nation.


Thanks Prime Minister. Look, we’re very honoured. We know your own personal commitment to this area. You are very strong and it’s great to have a Prime Minister – and this is no criticism of the previous Prime Minister – who was actually raised in our meeting earlier, that every Prime Minister in our lifetime has left office and they have always said that one of the saddest things is they didn’t do enough in this area.

So, having you from day one, to have this commitment to indigenous people and the Australian nation it is really great to have you on board.

I’m honoured that you chose me to lead this incredible group. You have assembled an amazing group of people and we’re up for the challenge; we’re up for the battle.

It is an enormous task but it’s an achievable task and you can believe that we can lay the foundations, some very good foundations and very good structures in place to deliver in this next three year period.

The Council’s Terms of Reference are attached.

5 December 2013

Terms of Reference


1.The Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council (the ‘Council’) will provide advice to the Government on Indigenous affairs, and will focus on practical changes to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


2.The Council will provide ongoing advice to the Government on emerging policy and implementation issues related to Indigenous affairs including, but not limited to:

a. improving school attendance and educational attainment

b. creating lasting employment opportunities in the real economy

c. reviewing land ownership and other drivers of economic development

d. preserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures

e. building reconciliation and creating a new partnership between black and white Australians

f. empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including through more flexible and outcome-focussed programme design and delivery

g. building the capacity of communities, service providers and governments

h. promoting better evaluation to inform government decision-making

i. supporting greater shared responsibility and reducing dependence on government within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

j. achieving constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

3.The Council will engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including existing Indigenous advocacy bodies, to ensure that the Government has access to a diversity of views. The Council will also engage with other individuals and organisations, as relevant to the Government’s agenda.

4.The Government may request the Council to provide advice on specific policy and programme effectiveness, to help ensure that Indigenous programmes achieve real, positive change in the lives of Aboriginal people.

5.The Council will report annually to the Government on its activities, via letter to the Prime Minister.


6.The Council will have up to 12 members, including a Chair and Deputy Chair. Members will be both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

7.The Chair will be a part-time paid position. Other members will be paid sitting fees and costs related to meeting attendance.

8.Membership will be for a term of up to three years, subject to an annual review of membership by the Prime Minister, following consultation with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

9.Members will have a strong understanding of Indigenous culture and bring a diversity of expertise in economic development and business acumen, employment, education, youth participation, service delivery and health.

10.The membership will include representation from both the private, public and civil society sectors and be drawn from across Australia, with at least one representative from a remote area.

11.New members will be appointed by the Prime Minister following consultation with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.


12.The Council will meet three times annually with the Prime Minister and relevant senior ministers. One meeting will be held in Canberra, with the location of other meetings to be determined by the Council to support a shared understanding of the issues impacting upon Indigenous communities around Australia.

13.The deliberation of the Council will be confidential, but the Council may choose to issue a statement after its meetings.

14.In addition to minister-level meetings, the Council may decide to meet up to an additional three times per year.

15.The Chair of the Council will have monthly meetings with the Prime Minister, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.

16.The quorum for Council meetings will be at least six members, including the Chair or Deputy Chair.

17.The Council may also convene working groups as necessary, to consider particular issues in depth and report back to the full Council. These working groups may consult external experts in the field to inform their deliberations. Unless otherwise agreed by Government, working groups will meet on a non-remunerated basis.

NACCHO political news: Tony Abbott picks leaders for ‘the Indigenous dozen’ council

Abbott and the Mandine

TONY Abbott has recruited 12 of the most powerful business and indigenous figures in the country to provide advice on Aboriginal economic reform, including Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly and Rio Tinto managing director David Peever.

The council includes NACCHO’s  Dr Ngiare Brown, one of the first group of Aboriginal medical graduates in Australia

The Weekend Australian has obtained the full list of Mr Abbott’s hand-picked appointees to the Prime Minister’s indigenous council, which will be led by Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine and give him bold ideas to closing the disadvantage gap.

PATRICIA KARVELAS From: The Australian – See more

The membership is stacked with people who have business and reform experience, with the Prime Minister deliberately steering away from the usual faces in indigenous affairs.

Other appointees include Andrew Penfold, the chief executive of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, which provides scholarships for indigenous children to attend elite schools, and, as foreshadowed in The Australian, Peter Shergold, chancellor of the University of Western Sydney and former secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Indigenous panel Mrs Kelly described being asked to join the council as an honour and said she was grateful for the opportunity to contribute.

“My goal is to work with council members to drive actions to improve education, health and employment in indigenous communities,” the Westpac chief executive said. “Corporate Australia has an important role to play in doing more for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Leading indigenous members will include Richie Ah Mat, who is involved in the Cape York Welfare Reform agenda, and Bruce Martin, a Wik man from Aurukun and chief executive of Aak Puul Ngantam, an organisation that represents families in Cape York. Mr Abbott has also invited a giant of the reconciliation movement, Leah Armstrong, a Torres Strait Islander who is the chief executive of Reconciliation Australia.

However, Cape York leader Noel Pearson is not on the powerful council. The Weekend Australian can reveal he was approached prior to the election about participating but told Mr Abbott he had other priorities.”I told the Prime Minister … my preference was to work on school reforms for the benefit of disadvantaged children generally, rather than indigenous people alone,”

Mr Pearson said. “I think poor white kids deserve a good education as much as our own kids. I think Warren Mundine will do a good job leading the council on indigenous policy.”

Ngiare Brown, one of the first group of Aboriginal medical graduates in Australia, will participate, as will Kalgoorlie indigenous man Daniel Tucker, who is managing director of Carey Mining, the largest 100 per cent indigenous, privately owned and managed contracting company in Australia.

Koori woman Josephine Cashman, managing director and founder of Riverview Global Partners, has also been invited. Indigenous artist Djambawa Marawili of the Yolngu people will also have a seat at the table.

A spokeswoman for Mr Abbott said that in choosing members, the Prime Minister – in consultation with Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, parliamentary secretary on indigenous affairs Alan Tudge and Mr Mundine – considered both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians from all parts of Australia.

“The council brings a diversity of views and experience to the task of ensuring our programs achieve real, positive change in the lives of Aboriginal people – changes that can increase participation, preserve Aboriginal culture and build reconciliation,” the spokeswoman said.

“To do this we must ensure that children go to school, adults go to work and that the ordinary law of the land operates in Aboriginal communities.” The council will meet three times a year with the Prime Minister and senior ministers, starting next month, and will inform the policy implementation of the government. Mr Mundine said the council needed corporate heavyweights to deliver big reforms.

“Each member of the council brings skills, experiences and knowledge that we need to meet our terms of reference and end the disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia,” the former ALP national president said. Mr Tudge said: “This is an exceptionally capable group of individuals. They bring a wealth of experience including knowing what it takes to attract and support indigenous people into jobs, so critical to ending the disparity.” –