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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1951


Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (19:45): I want to acknowledge the words of my three parliamentary colleagues in speaking on this motion. I think one of the most important things that should always be remembered is that when the Hon. Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister delivered the apology it served as a catalyst for the change that occurred within the immediacy of that apology—and that was the healing process. It was a bringing together of so many Australians who have walked together for some time, building relationships and forging change. But I think the more important element to this was the reform work that commenced after that, and that reform work was the COAG reform agenda, because out of that came a number of initiatives. There were seven agreements under financial relationships with the states and territories, but more importantly there were 26 national partnership agreements. All of them have measures that are both tangible, that have reality to them and that go to the core of the delivery of government services.

I also believe that Sorry Day now should be a celebration of the jewels in the crown of achievement that is occurring across this nation. I think, importantly, there are many things that are now working, driven in partnership or driven exclusively by people whose passion to make a difference is transforming the mindset that prevailed for a long time.

The other important thing in all of this is that the long-term thinking and beneficial gain that will be made through the initiatives implemented by the government will have a long-term consequence in that they are enabling young Aboriginal Australians to walk a pathway that many of us of my age fought for. In that journey what they will achieve in closing the gap will be much more significant because they have helped shape it as well.

One of the greatest things we can do is to look at all of the agreements and at the national partnership agreements and then measure the success of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders against all of those measures, not just the Indigenous ones. When we measure against the societal measures for each of the NPAs and each of the agreements and we have gap-closure in those fields then I believe we can truly say that we are closing the gap.

As one of my colleagues referred to, 75 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live within urban populations. In many senses when you look at the NPAs they are targeted and focused on rural and remote regions. I have no problem nor challenge with that, but if we are to address the urban context then the application of the seven agreements and the national partnership agreements will certainly see us close those gaps. But we have to change our thinking in respect to it. We should not talk about mainstream services, because mainstream services really are government services; it is how we access Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into that whole gamut and that whole range of services that states and territories and Commonwealth governments provide through the agencies.

I would rather see at the end of 10 years that we can tick that off in the national partnership agreements and we can honestly say as a nation, 'We have made substantial gain and progress.' Because when we say that and we can tick off on that it means we have achieved the closing of the gap based on merit and not based on the fact that we have had to pour more money into targeted national Indigenous agreement arrangements. They should complement the work we do for broader society. Certainly the discussions we had at different times when the expert panel was meeting was on one of the other elements that I think is absolutely critical, and I made some comments this morning in the chamber—that is, we have to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as equal partners at any table at which we negotiate new arrangements, the delivery of services, policy development and the things that will make a difference to their lives. I hope that in 20 years time we have Australians looking for an Indigenous family heritage linkage and they can proudly say, 'We have Aboriginal heritage within our family.' (Time expired)

Debate adjourned.