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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Meeting Communique: Indigenous Advisory Council, 10-11 May 2017

Meeting Communique: Indigenous Advisory Council, 10-11 May 2017

Indigenous Affairs Indigenous Advisory Council
Friday, 19 May 2017

Indigenous Advisory Council

The members of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council met in Canberra on 10-11 May 2017 and invited Councillor Ted Fraser Nai to attend to ensure the unique perspectives from the Torres Strait Islands can inform Council deliberations.  

The meeting provided an opportunity to receive a post-Budget briefing as well as deliberate on key priority areas for Indigenous affairs. 

Council members joined Indigenous stakeholders at a post-Budget breakfast hosted by the former Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion. The Minister’s overview of the Indigenous specific and cross-portfolio related measures announced in the budget was a highlight. Indigenous leaders appreciated the opportunity to discuss the budget outcomes and agreed to come together again to discuss a forward plan. The breakfast was so successful members agreed it should be an annual event on the Budget calendar with expanded invitations to Indigenous leaders and organisations. 

A summary of key outcomes and key messages of Council deliberations follows:

  • Engagement: As a follow on from the success of the post-budget briefing, a gathering of national Indigenous leaders should occur to enable a discussion on the forward work plan. Recent key engagement activity included:
    • Constitutional Recognition Dialogue in Brisbane; and
    • the Redfern Alliance Workshop on Disability.  
  • Culture: The Prime Minister has made a number of commitments supporting Indigenous culture, including through his Closing the Gap statement in February this year.  The importance of culture, its diversity and the benefits provided to social, emotional and economic wellbeing were reinforced.  It was agreed that culture must be a central focus and seen as an enabler in the design, development and delivery of policies and programs, noted the benefits of sharing, understanding and being proud that the culture of modern Australia is anchored in an ancient civilisation. The Council will work on a framework for enriching and supporting the place of culture in Australia.
  • Embracing Local Leadership: Work being progressed by the Government to support and enable local leadership, decision-making and engagement through regional governance and place-based models e.g. Empowered Communities, was acknowledged. Governments could do more to explore current approaches and identify steps to recognise and activate leaders working in communities and support them to develop and drive local culturally appropriate solutions through existing programs e.g. CDP.  Such an approach would build on the strengths and resilience of communities, and place value on the leadership that already exists within communities.  
  • Quality Regional Data: Supported Government’s commitment towards access to and transparency of regional data. The critical importance of regional data to informing Indigenous leaders and communities to design and deliver effective local solutions was cited and all governments must make accessible quality data at a regional level.  This will enable community leaders to activate locally designed and delivered solutions.  Transparent access to data at a jurisdictional and regional level is also essential to inform future policy directions when setting clear, measurable, attainable and relevant targets for the refresh of the Closing the Gap initiative over the coming year. It was noted that Prime Minister and Cabinet had provided to EC regions comprehensive data packages. The Council asked the Department to consider further ways to enhance transparency and access to regional data to inform local decision-making.
  • Future Work program: Agreed to its work program to focus on key priorities for the Government, including the Closing the Gap refresh.
  • Current and emerging policy priorities, and noting the key summaries detailed above:
    • Native Title: Acknowledged that consultation is being undertaken with the Native Title Council to inform critical amendments to the Native Title Act. It is imperative for Government to work with leaders such as the Native Title Council to progress in a timely and consultative manner.
    • Disability: Members acknowledged the positive feedback on the Redfern Alliance Workshop on Disability and noted a 10-point plan would be released. Governments and communities must seize the opportunities for Indigenous employment, training and business development that are presented with the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, particularly in remote areas. Council will convene a meeting with relevant stakeholders to further explore options.
    • Housing: Council acknowledged the findings of the Remote Housing Review and expressed concern that despite significant reductions in overcrowding investment is required to meet unmet need and maintenance of housing stock. Council emphasised adequate housing is critical to ensure positive outcomes are maintained in health, education, employment and community safety. While acknowledging the challenges highlighted through the Review Council indicated there are opportunities to develop innovative housing solutions. It was recommended Government explore options for local governance and community management of housing, international best practice and ongoing investment and flexible shared funding arrangements between the Commonwealth and states and territories to allow solutions at a local level.
    • Employment: Members noted the positive outcomes achieved through the Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy and supported the notion of broadening this approach including to infrastructure projects. Members emphasised the importance of training and skills development supporting people to develop long-term employment pathways.  Targets and incentives must be considered to encourage governments and corporations to invest locally in Indigenous organisations as a sound business proposition, and smarter pipelines for training and acknowledgement of prior learning developed.
    • Social and Cultural Determinants of Health: Congratulated Department of Health and the Co-Chair of the National Health Leadership Forum, Mr Richard Weston for the national consultations undertaken to inform the next iteration of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Implementation Plan.  The alignment with Closing the Gap was highlighted. Members supported advice that it is imperative to address issues of systemic racism, underlying trauma and embedding culture as a protector and an enabler. National consultations must ensure they are inclusive of rural and remote communities and youth. Council committed to engaging with the Implementation Plan Advisory Group as the process develops.
    • Juvenile Justice and Child Protection: Recognise that this is a shared space with the States and Territories and that the Commonwealth is doing work on early intervention and prevention, homelessness, family and domestic violence and income support.  Expressed serious concern at the increasing number of Indigenous youth entering the juvenile justice system. Addressing this crisis requires Government to work with and activate community and family leadership as a means of strengthening supports and early intervention, particularly within the first 1000 days of a child’s life.  Good practice is taking place in many communities and there are examples of community led initiatives that are already demonstrating success in reducing incarceration.  Council supported further work to target areas of early childhood vulnerability and options for activating communities around the child to support healthy development.

The Council is supported by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and is the first point of contact: Media interviews with members can be arranged through the Secretariat.