Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Signing of the Murdi Paaki Regional Partnership Agreement

Location: Dubbo, NSW

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I acknowledge the people of the Wiradjuri nation on whose land we are meeting today.

I would also like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present and to other Indigenous Australians who are here today.

Thanks Sam Jeffries and members of the Murdi Paaki Assembly for being here today.

It’s a great day for everyone who worked on developing the agreement -the Australian and New South Wales Governments – but most of all the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly.

It’s a landmark agreement – the first Regional Partnership Agreement to be signed in NSW.

A blueprint for a new era of economic self-reliance and independence.

Reaching out to Murdi Paaki communities stretching across western NSW.

With better co-ordinated services delivered where they are needed.

And government investment to sustain development.

Building strong partnerships between government and Indigenous people across a range of areas.

  • economic development
  • the environment
  • employment and training
  • health
  • law and justice
  • culture and heritage
  • and, so importantly, education.

We all know the power of education to transform lives.

Education is critical to the Government’s targets to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Just last year government and local communities participated in the Murdi Paaki Education Forum in Cobar.

It was a resounding success – focusing on our targets to improve school retention rates and education achievement.

We want to support young Indigenous people to become tomorrow’s leaders.

Encouraging them to take on leadership roles with programs like the Murdi Paaki Aboriginal Young Leaders Program, which has been running for two years and will continue under the RPA.

I met some of the 40 young people who are involved in the program when I went to Walgett last year.

Most were still at school – a few were job hunting.

My message to them was speak up and be heard.

We need them to speak up and we need to take account of what they say.

Another way we are building leadership across the region is though the ongoing training workshops offered by the Leadership and Governance Project.

The agreement we’re signing today builds on Murdi Paaki’s impressive record in community governance and engagement.

With initiatives like the Aboriginal Strong Women’s project helping Aboriginal women tackle health, children’s education, alcohol misuse and family resilience issues.

By increasing understanding of local council operations and processes to build strong partnerships and involve Aboriginal people in the development of new projects.

All these are steps forward as we work together to bring about the changes that will close the gap.

Change will take time.

It will take all of us working together. It will take all our efforts, all our determination and all our resources.

It means we have to re-think the old ways of doing things and come up with new solutions driven by new partnerships

This was the message from Joseph Flick when the Prime Minister and I went to Walgett early last year.

Joe’s advice to us was: “Take the blinkers off and look for new options”.

New ways of doing things because the old ways have failed.

The willingness to look at all the options because there is no universal solution.

Recognising that we have to structure what we do to suit specific communities and their circumstances.

That there has to be the flexibility to respond to changing needs.

That’s what this agreement does.

It also reaffirms the Government’s support for the leadership shown by Murdi Paaki and our determination to continue working with you to build a strong, independent future for local Aboriginal people.

Congratulations on the signing of this historic Regional Partnership Agreement.