Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

COAG Indigenous Trials

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) trials operating in eight Indigenous communities across Australia will be built on as part of the Government’s Blueprint for Action in Indigenous Affairs, Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, announced today.

"The trials, administered jointly by the Australian, state and territory governments, began in 2002 and explored new cooperative and flexible ways of working to reduce Indigenous disadvantage," the Minister said.

"The trials involved a genuine and concerted effort by Australian and State government agencies, and the communities themselves."

Each of the trials has been independently evaluated and a synopsis report commissioned to draw out the key lessons (attached).

"The trials have helped build important relationships between government agencies and communities. However, too much bureaucracy, too many plans and too many committees have often resulted in limited outcomes.

"While acknowledging the limitations of the trials, there have been many successes. For instance, during the trial at Balgo in Western Australia crime rates reduced dramatically as a result of a new place management approach and in the APY Lands innovative nutrition programmes have been established.

"Importantly, in Murdi Paaki, the Regional Assembly Chairman, Sam Jefferies acknowledged that ‘the whole of government approach to Indigenous Affairs has changed mindsets’.

"Following the evaluation of the trials we can now incorporate lessons learned into the new ‘place-based approach’ to the way we do business with Indigenous communities in the future.

"The place-based approach will involve the Australian, state and territory governments continuing to work directly with Indigenous communities in the future, but on the basis of ensuring a better understanding amongst all parties of what is being sought and how practical and important outcomes can be achieved."

The Minister stressed that commitments made during the trials would be honoured.

In the APY Lands, the Department of Health and Ageing will continue to take a lead role in seeing through its commitments and the Department of Education, Science and Training will remain a key player in the Murdi Paaki region.

Wadeye in the Northern Territory remains an area identified for intensive government effort, while the APY Lands have been identified as a priority community in partnership with the South Australian government.

Agreements were made with state and territory governments in 2006 for more place-based approaches in Galiwinku (NT), Alice Springs, Mornington Island (QLD) and Kalumburu (WA). Other sites are being negotiated with state and territory Governments. Our approach will draw on the lessons learnt from the COAG trials and follow the principles that underpin the Blueprint for Action – respecting culture, high standards and expectations, focussing on people and families, services and opportunities based on need and working in partnership.

"The Howard Government is determined to ensure that Indigenous Australians are able to lead independent lives and benefit from the economy in the same way as all other Australians," the Minister said.