Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National Reconciliation Week, Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Meeting with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Northern Territory Emergency Response, Closing the Gap – Doorstop

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

JOURNALIST: Minister Macklin, tell me about launching Reconciliation Week today.

JENNY MACKLIN: I’m so pleased to be here at Narrabundah College to launch the 2011 National Reconciliation Week. It is a very, very special week this year because it is all about talking recognition. Talking recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Australian Constitution and it’s so great to see so many young people who want to be part of that talk. Who want to, in their first vote on a referendum, vote ‘yes’ for national recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in our Constitution.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you’re going to be meeting with Navi Pillay later on today…..

JENNY MACKLIN: No, I met with her yesterday.

JOURNALIST: Oh, you met with her yesterday? Can you tell us the outcomes of that, that meeting?

JENNY MACKLIN: I had a very constructive meeting with the High Commissioner yesterday. We spoke about many issues concerning Indigenous Australians. She started the conversation recognising the significance of the National Apology, just how important the National Apology was for reconciliation between Indigenous Australians and other Australians. How important it is that we pursue Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians here in our country, and of course, she also talked a lot, we talked a lot about a range of issues to do with the Northern Territory Emergency Response. It was very constructive.

JOURNALIST: She was very critical about the Intervention in her presentation in Sydney on Monday night. Did that come up and how are you acknowledging that?

JENNY MACKLIN: We went through a number of the practical issues that are part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response. Why it is that we see the need for the Commonwealth to continue to be heavily involved in the Northern Territory because of the significant levels of disadvantage in the Territory. The fact that we have so many children not attending schools, so many children not getting the level of education that they need, so many Aboriginal people of course suffering from violence and alcohol abuse, so many Aboriginal people not being in the workforce. So we went through each of these issues and talked about them in some detail.

JOURNALIST: Almost five years after the Intervention began, is it good enough that those conditions that you’ve just outlined are still the case in the Northern Territory?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think we all have to recognise that we’re dealing with extreme levels of disadvantage and it was recognised when the Emergency Response started that it would take some time to overcome these very serious matters. Of course, the Government recognises that. We also understand how important it is to work with Indigenous Australians, particularly Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, as we take the Emergency Response forward.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you’ve been talking about moving Closing the Gap from health to education, you’ve also mentioned cracking down on the (inaudible) even further. When are we going to see these policy ideas that you’ve mentioned become legislation?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, what we’re doing right now is of course preparing the way for very constructive consultation with Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory about the next stage of the Emergency Response. I think that’s the number one message that we’ve heard that people do want continuing investment in health and education, policing, making sure that people have employment opportunities. But they also, of course, want to make sure that we consult properly. So before we make any announcements we intend to do just that.

JOURNALIST: What’s your working relationship with people like Ken Wyatt given that you’re on opposing sides in the Chamber?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think you can see today we have very strong shared interests in reconciliation. I’m very, very pleased that he’s part of the Expert Panel advising the Government on Constitutional Recognition. He has a very real commitment to Closing the Gap, and I congratulate him for his contribution.