Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Local Indigenous leaders front and centre in Closing the Gap

The Australian Government has begun an intensive effort to promote Indigenous leadership as part of its commitment to forge a new relationship, based on mutual trust and respect, with Indigenous Australians.

Today, 37 new Indigenous engagement officers discussed their role working with their local communities to tackle a range of issues including housing, employment, health and community safety, with Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin.

Being local people themselves, Indigenous engagement officers have a great grasp of complex, cultural and social issues. They complement the work done by the Government business managers, providing guidance and advice on what can be very sensitive and tough issues.

As well, in the 29 communities identified in the Remote Service Delivery Strategy, Indigenous engagement officers are playing a pivotal role in working with their communities to put together their priorities for future economic and social development.

Across the country, a new wave of Indigenous leadership is emerging, keen to take responsibility for the future of their communities and foster the personal responsibility that is at the heart of family life and the foundation of strong communities.

To promote Indigenous leadership, the Government is also holding more than 50 leadership development workshops over the next six months to foster stronger relationships with hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This month alone:

  • There will be three, two-day national leadership programs for men and women in Cairns and Brisbane for about 175 participants in total;
  • In Alice Springs, we will work with around 80 leaders over two days to begin developing local action plans across the Closing the Gap building blocks including health, education and employment;
  • In Cobar, we will work with 40 leaders from Walgett and Wilcannia to further develop their leadership and governance as we work together to make their services and infrastructure comparable with other towns of similar sizes as part of the Remote Service Delivery partnership;
  • In Tasmania, we will work with Australian Defence Force Indigenous pre- recruits to develop their personal confidence and goals; and
  • In Canberra we will work to build the skills of 30 public servants so they can work more effectively with Indigenous communities

With the employment of additional local Indigenous people as engagement officers, we will have at least 49 officers working in 44 communities across the country, to support the local leadership that’s vital to build strong, independent communities.