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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

National Indigenous Australians Agency launches

National Indigenous Australians Agency launches

Indigenous Affairs
Friday, 05 July 2019

National Indigenous Australians Agency

Moana Prescott, Ray Griggs, Ian Anderson and Andrea Kelly at the launch of the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

The inaugural staff of the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) came together in Canberra and by livestream across the country to launch the Agency on Monday 1 July 2019, in an event that signalled an exciting future for Indigenous affairs policy in Australia.

Ngunawal Elder Uncle Wally Bell began proceedings by explaining that a Welcome to Country is more than just a ‘welcome and enjoy yourself’ on the Ngunawal lands that take in Canberra. Instead, a Welcome to Country is something that Ngunawal lore tells him he must do to make sure people are safe when they travel and live on the lands of his ancestors. In order to offer this protection, Uncle Wally called in Ngunawal language, calling on his ancestral spirits to check on the large group of staff present at the launch. ‘May the spirits be with you – today, tomorrow and always,’ Wally concluded.

Ngunawal Elder Uncle Wally Bell began proceedings delivering a Welcome to Country. 

Newly-appointed NIAA Chief Executive Officer, Ray Griggs AO, CSC began his speech with an Acknowledgement of Country in Ngunawal language and urged staff to ‘unlock the potential of our organisation and go forward as one team – the National Indigenous Australians Agency.’ Ray asked staff to take a moment to consider that this is the first time the Indigenous affairs portfolio will be led by an Aboriginal Cabinet Minister, and to think about what that meant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and our role as Agency staff.

Ray also asked NIAA staff to reflect on the Executive Order signed by the Governor-General, which outlines our responsibilities quite clearly, and how we could best deliver on both the Prime Minister’s and the Minister’s priorities. While the Executive Order outlines what the Agency is expected to deliver on for Government, it does not tell us how we will do this.

The final speech of the launch was delivered by Andrea Kelly, Assistant Secretary of the Culture Branch. Andrea’s touching speech used her family’s story to highlight the impact that an organisation like the NIAA can have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Andrea began her speech by explaining that her kinship runs through her Waramangu grandmother and her Larakia grandfather, as well as the connections she has to Arrernte country through her second grandfather. Andrea reflected on her successes over a 28-year career in the public sector but reminded the audience that the world the public sector inhabits is one that denied her great-grandmother, grandmother and mother basic human dignity because they were Aboriginal. ‘I am proud that I am part of a new agenda for Indigenous Australia,’ Andrea said and also expressed the pride she has working for the first Aboriginal Cabinet Minister, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians.

Andrea called on her NIAA colleagues to embrace the opportunities presented by the establishment of a ‘stand-alone Agency with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities at its heart.’

‘We have the power and influence in our right to truly shape and inform the policies that impact the lives of our people every day, whether they live in the city or in urban areas, in the bush or in remote,’ Andrea said. ‘Today, I am especially proud that as of now I can say I work for the National Indigenous Australians Agency. 

The launch was ably hosted by 2019 Graduate and Ngiyampaa Woman, Moana Prescott.