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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Meeting Communique: Indigenous Advisory Council, 25-26 October 2017

Meeting Communique: Indigenous Advisory Council, 25-26 October 2017

Indigenous Affairs Indigenous Advisory Council
Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

The members of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council met in Canberra on 25-26 October 2017.

Members welcomed the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, the Minister for Education and representatives from departments. Issues discussed included:

  • Support for Indigenous Housing in urban and regional Australia: discussed preliminary analysis of data on housing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians living in urban and regional Australia which shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians experience poorer housing outcomes than non-Indigenous Australians.  Noted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing does not have a national peak body to represent views. Also discussed issues in relation to rent assistance and social and community housing.
  • Indigenous Grants Policy: supported the increase in Indigenous organisations already delivering services under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and considered options to improve the way grant funded services are delivered to Indigenous Australians. Discussed the importance of flexible options to support sustainable growth of the Indigenous estate, and the need for a more equitable approach to sitting fees paid to directors.
  • Community Development Program: noted proposed reforms presented by the Minister and supported the intention to move to local service delivery with a wages based model. The Council raised the importance of considering the community as a whole ecosystem and providing opportunities to train the local workforce, and give careful consideration to what is cultural obligations in the model.
  • Indigenous Land Corporation: welcomed the consultations on possible reforms to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (ATSI Act) regarding water related activities and the financial sustainability of the Land Account have concluded and the findings and recommendations are now being considered by Government.
  • Constitutional Recognition: Council was disappointed and surprised to read press reports on the Government’s response to the Referendum Council. The Prime Minister and Minister for Indigenous Affairs shared their disappointment at these media reports. Council reiterated its ongoing support of the key elements of the Uluru statement of a voice, truth telling and agreement making, and supports the Government intention to consider these elements through a parliamentary committee process.
  • Employment and activating local employment opportunities: welcomed advice that work to better harmonise mainstream and Indigenous specific employment programs is being undertaken to better support the most disadvantaged job seekers. The importance of ensuring training for people in the justice system is fit for purpose and aligns with opportunities where they choose to do their parole, and more appropriate parole conditions, were discussed. The effectiveness of the Cadetship program was endorsed. Noted there is no peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment body to represent views.
  • Education: welcomed the opportunity to discuss a range of education matters with the Minister for Education, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham including the review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, the importance of the first years of life for future success in education, quality teaching, including increasing the number of Indigenous teachers and the critical role of the Deans of Education in shaping the teacher workforce. The Council discussed the need to ensure that students are armed with the essential skills required for the modern world including problem solving, collaboration and critical thinking, the important role families and community need to play in supporting the learning experience of their children and the value of strong cultural relevance and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history within the Australian Curriculum and cultural training in professional development in the local community by the local community. 
  • Improving mainstream programs for Indigenous families: welcomed feedback on how investment made in mainstream programs is delivering better outcomes for families and children including by ensuring children are safe and well, ready for school and are strong and resilient. Council supported the work being undertaken to build the capacity of Indigenous organisations to deliver these services and noted, in particular, work to increase community place-based approaches, the positive outcomes of the intensive family support services and adjustments to universal programs. Council also discussed approaches to implementation of the Cashless Debit Card and agreed there is a need for a mechanism to change behaviours in some communities. However, there was a diversity of views around the universal application of the Cashless Debit Card.
  • Engagement with Redfern Alliance: acknowledged the importance of engaging with representatives across sectors, as represented by the Redfern Alliance and others, and suggested representatives engage with Council. Encouraged the Minister to continue a dialogue with the Redfern Alliance on policy discussions.  
  • Closing the Gap refresh and 2018 Closing the Gap report: welcomed an update on progress and timing around the Closing the Gap Discussion paper, the proposed program of engagement and the process to develop targets with the jurisdictions.  The importance of engaging with youth on the refresh was also raised. Council noted the 2018 report provides an opportunity to reflect on the past 10 years and look to the future. Proposed referencing the ‘oldest living civilisation in the world’, which is more holistic than just ‘culture’. 
  • Culture: discussed the importance of building a deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and what it means, so policy settings can be structured in a more meaningful way, more consistent with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander governance operating rhythm in communities.

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