Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Rudd and Bligh Governments to Deliver Cape York Welfare Reform

Joint Media Release with:

  • Anna Bligh MP, Premier of Queensland

Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin and the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh met today to finalise an historic agreement to work together to help improve the lives of Queenslanders living in remote Indigenous communities.

Premier Bligh said the time had come to work even harder to tackle the problems caused by drug and alcohol abuse in remote communities.

Ms Macklin said both Governments had committed to moving ahead as quickly as possible with the welfare reform trials in four Cape York communities – Aurukun, Hopevale, Coen and Mossman Gorge.

“While both Governments understand there are no simple solutions to the issues confronting Indigenous Queenslanders, today’s meeting is the beginning of a new co-operative approach between the two levels of Government,” Ms Macklin said.

“The Commonwealth will support the Queensland Government as it drafts the legislation necessary to establish the Family Responsibilities Commission. The Queensland Government will introduce legislation in February to allow the trial to begin.

“When underway the trial will focus on key issues including health, child safety and improved housing and education,” Ms Macklin said.

Ms Bligh welcomed the Commonwealth Government’s commitment of $48 million to support the welfare reform trial, and said the Queensland Government would commit an equivalent amount in increased funding for health, education, policing justice and child safety resources in Cape York communities.

The Commonwealth and Queensland Government have agreed to work together to improve the level of co-ordination and co-operation in the delivery of services in Indigenous communities. With the framework to place a priority on increased law enforcement, enhanced financial incentives, improved health outcomes, child safety, youth and family support, diversionary activities, improved education opportunities and better housing.

At a local level the services provided by both levels of government will be co-ordinated through a new single local agreement which identifies the responsibilities and commitments of all parties.

Queensland’s remote Indigenous communities have been part of a ground-breaking trial of alcohol management plans since 2002.

“The interim results show that while these plans, supported by the local mayors and councils, have improved the safety of women and children, violence and abuse are still far too prevalent,” Ms Bligh said.

“I know that Ms Macklin is as committed as I am to bringing normality, peace and security to every one of Queensland’s Indigenous communities.”

The Premier said dealing with the tragic results of alcohol and drug abuse and pushing ahead with the Cape York welfare reform trial had the potential to make a positive difference to the lives of thousands of people.

Ms Macklin said the Commonwealth’s commitment of an additional $50 million in funds nationally for drug and alcohol services in remote communities would be used to address the immediate problems of violence in some communities.

“Queensland’s share of the additional $50 million in funding for remote communities announced by the Prime Minister will help fund vital alcohol and drug rehabilitation and detoxification services in the 19 discrete Indigenous communities across the State,” Ms Macklin said.

Premier Bligh said Queensland’s share was a vital part of her renewed push to further toughen the rules on the use of alcohol and illegal drugs in Indigenous communities.

“The interim report I received this week on the effect of Alcohol Management Plans shows that while they have improved the safety of children, we still have a long way to go to improve the lives of people living in Queensland’s Indigenous communities,” the Premier said.

“I will meet with the 19 Mayors in early February to discuss what further action we can take to stop the violence and harm caused by alcohol and drug abuse.

“We’ll be looking at increasing police enforcement and drug and alcohol rehabilitation and detoxification as part of plans to introduce even harsher bans, including the possibility of total prohibition.

“Communities who step-up to the challenge and work with us to crack-down further on the evils of alcohol and violence can expect the lion’s share of the new funding,” the Premier said.

“Today is the beginning of an historic new era in Federal and State co-operation on this difficult issue. The stakes are high – we’re focussed on the lives and futures of young Indigenous children,” Ms Macklin said.