Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Government welcomes report on Indigenous progress

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, today welcomed the release of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda’s first Social Justice Report.

This year’s Social Justice Report focuses on Constitutional reform, reconciliation, and community-led responses to alcohol and violence in the Fitzroy Valley in Western Australia.

The report acknowledges the Government’s progress towards Constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians.

The Government has established an expert panel to help lead the process towards the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in the Constitution.

The expert panel will lead a wide-ranging national public consultation and engagement program throughout 2011 to build consensus on the recognition of Indigenous people in the Constitution, before reporting to the Australian Government by the end of the year.

Constitutional recognition of Indigenous people will be a significant step towards building an Australia based on strong relationships and mutual respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The Government is committed to listening to the voices of Indigenous Australians and working with them in new partnerships based on trust, goodwill and mutual respect.

The Government has established the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples to give Indigenous Australians a strong voice and input into policy development.

The report welcomes the Government’s commitment to table an annual Closing the Gap statement in Parliament, our support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and funding support for Indigenous Australians to participate in international human rights forums.

The Prime Minister tabled the Closing the Gap Report 2011 in Parliament on Wednesday.

The Government has set clear targets for closing the gap in life expectancy, early childhood, health, education and employment.

We recognise that ending the disadvantage caused by decades of underinvestment will take time.

Our unprecedented investments are beginning to change the lives of Indigenous people by delivering improved services, better houses and healthier communities, but a sustained effort is required.

The report welcomes the Government’s redesign of Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) and discusses the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RDA).

As part of the redesign of the NTER the Government fully reinstated the RDA last year to restore dignity and help Indigenous Australians to take ownership of their lives and to drive change in the Northern Territory.

The redesign of the NTER followed extensive consultations with Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory. This included over 100 community meetings, 11 workshops with regional leaders and key stakeholder organisations, and numerous face-to-face discussions.

The report also highlights the successful community-led initiatives in the Fitzroy Valley in Western Australia and encourages Government to meaningfully engage with communities. The report acknowledges the importance of the National Partnership on Remote Service Delivery.

Under the Remote Service Delivery Strategy, all Australian governments have signed up to a concentrated and accelerated approach to tackle deep-seated disadvantage.

Under the strategy, local communities have been working with governments to develop Local Implementation Plans which set time lines for specific actions to be taken by responsible parties, including government agencies and the community.

With government, communities and individuals working together we can make closing the gap a reality.