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Monday, 23 June 2003
Page: 17179

Mr WAKELIN (2:53 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Would the minister advise the House of the steps that have been taken to foster and support Indigenous leadership?

Mr RUDDOCK (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) —I thank the honourable member for Grey for his question. Obviously the question of Indigenous leadership is an important one for all Australians. There are many Indigenous leaders who are worthy of note. I will not take the time of the House to identify all of them, but I do want to identify some of the programs that are involved in endeavouring to improve the capacity of Indigenous leadership.

Last week I attended a unique meeting here in Canberra; it was the first time since 1996 that the 35 regional council chairs of ATSIC had had an opportunity to meet. I have to say that the younger leadership that is emerging in ATSIC, particularly at a regional level, is first class. The council chairs passed a number of resolutions—a number of positive decisions, I might say—particularly in supporting the government's efforts to improve integrity in the way ATSIC operates and particularly in relation to the separation of powers. I want to commend ATSIC for setting aside half a million dollars for capacity building in relation to ATSIC commissioners and their regional councils in policy development and leadership skills.

One other area that I would like to note is the Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations. The office of the registrar is important, and it is about to change its role from that of a corporate policeman to a more contemporary one in advising and assisting Indigenous organisations on better governance. In positioning itself to take up this role, it has put in place a number of programs to target individuals as well as groups and incorporated bodies with a number of training programs. The first pilot of the registrars' training package will commence in Far North Queensland in mid July, and the first participants are expected to complete their training by December this year.

The last area I want to mention is AIATSIS, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies here in Canberra. The institute has been funded by the Department of Family and Community Services to the extent of $400,000 through the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy to be involved in an Indigenous leadership program. The centre is providing diploma and certificate courses for emerging young Indigenous leaders from across Australia. Equally, the Minister for Education, Science and Training and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, through their National Indigenous Youth Leadership Group, have been playing a very important role in encouraging young Indigenous leaders to come forward and to enhance their skills. These developments, amongst many others supported by this government, are assisting in very tangible ways in building capacity and particularly Indigenous leadership for the future.