Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Australian Government response to ‘Our Future in Our Hands’

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Kevin Rudd MP, Prime Minister

    The Hon Bill Shorten MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's Services

The Australian Government today announced its support for the establishment of a new national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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

The establishment of the national representative body follows consideration by the Government of the report ‘Our Future in Our Hands’ developed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, and an Indigenous Steering Committee.

We look forward to working with the new body to close the gap in Indigenous life outcomes and opportunities. Indigenous Australians must have a voice if we are to achieve change.

Initially, the new body will focus on forging strong relationships with peak bodies, governments, regions and the private sector.

The Government will provide $6 million for the establishment of the body.

Funding will be administered in the same way as it is for other national peak bodies, respecting the right of organisations to put their view, while requiring them to demonstrate that they are representative and that funding is used responsibly.

The new body will be a company limited by guarantee and will consist of a National Executive made up of eight board members, including two full time co-chairs.

Men and women will be equally represented, and the highest ethical principles for public office holders upheld in line with the report’s recommendations.

The National Executive will be elected by an annual congress of 120 representatives from key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and bodies, as well as individuals and community representatives.

Senior and respected Indigenous Australians will oversee the integrity and ethics of office holders and candidates as part of a new Ethics Council.

The model was developed by the Indigenous Steering Committee after extensive community consultations over 12 months.

The Indigenous Steering Committee will oversee the incorporation of the new body, and the appointment of an interim Ethics Council and interim National Executive.

These interim governance arrangements will enable careful oversight of the establishment of the national representative body to ensure it has the strongest possible foundations which will be critical to its effectiveness.

An additional $23.2 million will be provided for the operation of the body from January 2011 to December 2013.

Apart from the Government’s contribution, the body will also look to broaden its financial support from across other sectors.

Indigenous people called for a strong, responsible and independent voice at the national level to represent the aspirations and goals of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

They want to be represented by a body that is credible and capable of leading, influencing and monitoring public policy development.

The establishment of a national representative body will deliver an important election commitment made by this Government.

The Australian Government congratulates Commissioner Tom Calma and the Indigenous Steering Committee for their tremendous leadership and hard work.