Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

A voice for Australia’s First Peoples

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, addressed delegates at the inaugural meeting of the National Congress of Australia’s First People in Sydney today.

The Australian Government is taking unprecedented action to Close the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

This is beginning to change the lives of Indigenous people by delivering improved services, better houses and healthier communities.

However, the Government cannot do this alone. Closing the Gap will only happen in partnership with Indigenous people.

The Government looks forward to working with the National Congress as part of this process and to hearing more from the National Congress about their members’ views on a range of issues, including Constitutional recognition for Indigenous people and Closing the Gap.

A key role of the National Congress will be to help shape future policy directions.

Earlier this week the National Congress learnt from the experiences of the National Congress of American Indians – an example of a representative organisation which serves the broad interests of tribal governments and communities and helps inform Government decisions that affect tribal government interests.

The Government supported the development of the National Congress in April last year in response to the report Our Future in Our Hands’ by the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Dr Tom Calma, and an Indigenous Steering Committee.

The Australian Government has committed $29.2 million over five years to establish the National Congress.

The Australian Government is committed to a relationship with Indigenous people grounded in good faith, goodwill, mutual respect and responsibility.

In supporting the National Congress, the Government takes another important step towards working with Indigenous Australians to Close the Gap and, together, shape our shared future