I want a new engagement with Aboriginal people to be one of the hallmarks of an incoming Coalition government and, if elected, this will start from week one with the establishment of a Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council.
The establishment of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council will help to ensure that the Australian Government’s indigenous programmes achieve real, positive change in the lives of Aboriginal people.
The Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council will include indigenous and non-indigenous Australians with a broad range of skills including experience in the public sector, business acumen, and a strong understanding of indigenous culture.
The Council will inform the policy implementation of a new Coalition government.
It will focus on practical changes to improve the lives of Aboriginal people. While many Aboriginal people are fully participating in Australian society, too many are not. Preserving Aboriginal cultures, as well as building reconciliation, means doing more to ensure that children go to schools, adults go to work and the ordinary rule of the land operates in Aboriginal communities.
I am honoured that Mr Warren Mundine has agreed to chair the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council.
Mr Mundine is from the First Australian Nations of Bundjalung and the Gumbaynggirr people on the North Coast of NSW. He has had considerable involvement in local, state and national government, including a term as National President of the Australian Labor Party.
Warren Mundine’s expertise is widely recognised and he has played leadership roles in indigenous policy, business and community positions. He is a natural leader and a forthright advocate for indigenous Australia.
I hope to be a Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and am delighted that Warren Mundine has taken up the call to be part of this journey. If lasting change is to be achieved in this area, it has to be broadly bi-partisan and embraced by Aboriginal people rather than simply imposed by government.
The Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council will meet three times a year with the Prime Minister and senior government ministers. The Chairman of the Council will meet with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Affairs each month.
The Chairman will be part-time and supported by a secretariat seconded from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Today’s announcement builds on other commitments the Coalition has made on indigenous affairs such as:
- An incoming Coalition government will move Indigenous Affairs into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet so it has the full focus of the Prime Minister and across-government implementation.
- Senator Nigel Scullion will be in Cabinet solely focussed on indigenous affairs, as the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.
- An acknowledgment of Aboriginal people as the first Australians would complete our Constitution rather than change it. Aboriginal people need to know that they will never be regarded as just an historical footnote to modern Australia. Done well, such an amendment could be a unifying and liberating moment, even surpassing the 1967 change, or the Apology, so it is worth making the effort. Within 12 months of taking office, an incoming Coalition government would put forward a draft amendment and establish a bipartisan process to assess its chances of success.
- Trips to remote indigenous communities will continue to be part of my annual routine should I become Prime Minister.
- A Coalition government would also work with the Australian Employment Covenant and GenerationOne to train 1,000 indigenous people for guaranteed jobs. We will provide $10 million to fund four trial sites in an innovative and common sense approach to employment and training for indigenous Australians.
Australians yearn to see practical and genuine improvement in the lives of Aboriginal people.
There is so much goodwill. The challenge is to convert this into change for the better. In this area, the problem is not so much under-investment as under-engagement. I am confident that this will change with someone of Warren’s standing at my side.