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Where to next for Indigenous Australians: speech to the Evatt Foundation Lunchtime Seminar

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Ey_Att Foundation Lunchtime Seminar


Speech Notes for Daryl Melham MP Federal Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs

28 August 1996

Blaming Indigenous people has been a hallmark of the Howard government's approach since it was elected to office. John Howard's first Press Conference after Cabinet met involved a savage attack on ATSIC, raising allegations which were in no way vindicated in subsequent Audit Reports. Ever since, the pressure has been unrelenting. They have sought to lay the foundation for the savage budget cuts which they inflicted on Indigenous people last week.

I say to the Coalition: this is not the 1950s. Whether you like it or not, you're going to have to deal with Indigenous people as equals. Indigenous people, like all citizens possess rights under Australian lawile courts have shown their willingness to protect those rights. The way forward for government is to accept and respect those rights, rather than to attack them.

Leon Davis - mining giant RTZ-CRA's Chief Operating Officer - in a luncheon address to Australian business in Europe on 14 August 1996 said:

What the past tells us is that Australian history did not begin 200 years ago. Ignoring that fact has caused a lot of misery for Aboriginal Australians. There is now a consensus that for Australia to function as an effective society, all Australians need to come to terms with the obvious consequences of white settlement__ There is no doubt that our current native title legislation is complex and parts of it will need to be improved But as I have said before, the sentiments behind the native title act are a credit to its architects and its core tenets deserve to stand, even though translating them into workable legislation has been difficult.

It is generally acknowledged, however, that 200 years of history have left an indelible mark on the psyche of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. there have been so many false dawns in our long relationship. So we should not be surprised that some Aboriginal leaders meet overtures from politicians or business leaders with distrust. The welcome fact is not that some fair and open approaches get a hostile reception; but rather that so many don't.

An essential part of a stable and mature relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians must be non-Indigenous Australia's acceptance of Indigenous people's difference.


Our legal system ignored their land ownership, our Constitution ignored their

existence until 1967 and our social and cultural ignorance expressed itself first in violence and later in generations of paternalistic oppression.

We are the poorer for our tunnel vision.

When I looked at the budget I was reminded of what Dr FIC 'Nugget' Coombs said about assimilation: It is (Indigenous peoples) demand to preserve their dfference which apparently we cannot tolerate. Ever since it became apparent that Aborigines were not going to 'die out ... the essence of (government) policies remain the same... They must be assimilated... by the denial of access to resources for activities outside the mainstream.

The government's budget cuts to Indigenous affairs spending involve precisely the denial of access to resources for activities outside the mainstream.

The sad fact is that in the Budget the axe fell viciously on cultural, sporting and communications funding. This funding is essential for cultural maintenance and the continuation of the Aboriginal social revival which has been building across the country for a number of decades.

Give examples here. eg Communications network, Cultural programs, Australia council.

The more general cuts will hit community organisations often mortal blows. The ATSIC cuts mean that around 400 community organisations throughout the country will hit the wall. But behind the statistics is a real and tragic human cost. And many tragic human stories.

Just yesterday r received a copy of a letter from the Enmaraleek Association in Broadmeadows, Victoria. As a result of the Budget, Enmaraleek have had their $160 000 administration funding removed. The result will be that the following badly needed services will be lost to the community which they serve: • horticultural apprentice scheme • CDEP • adult education classes • Neighbourhood House • community bus program • rental housing and housing support service • emergency relief program • ground maintenance traineeship • Homework centre for primary students • Homework centre for secondary students • Community Corrections

So much for the government's promise to 'quarantine' essential services in health,

employment, education and training.

Despite all their talk about fostering economic independence and self-sufficiency, the government has done just the opposite. They have thrown thousands of Indigenous people on the scrap-heap. Their own budget figures testify to it.

it seems the government would prefer Indigenous people to take unemployment benefits rather than develop skills and contribute to community infrastructure. They have allowed for over $56 million dollars extra spending on welfare payments as a result of cuts to the CDEP program. CDEP is funded by diverting welfare money to community development projects. They are throwing Indigenous people out of work and onto the dole queue.

Just recently we celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the heroic Wave Hill walk-Off when the Gurindji people walked off Wave Hill Station and set up camp at Daguragu, and then waited almost ten years - often against huge odds and at great personal cost -to have their land returned to them. Since then there have been Court decisions and legislative enactments which have gone some way to recognising and redressing the historic disadvantage inflicted on Indigenous Australians.

The Woodward Royal Commission, the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act in 1976, the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 which provided the foundation for kfabo (I) and (2), and the Native Title Act in 1993 are some of the highlights of the great Australian awakening - the maturing of the nation.

(Quote Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Act).

Reconciliation is at the Crossroads with the election of the Howard government.

The government are way behind the nation on this one. They are way behind the more enlightened members of the business community, they are way behind the Governor General and the High Court, and they are way behind Indigenous people who have always - it seems to me - known the way to go.

(Quote CAR Opinion Polling)

Just over a week ago Tracker Tilmouth - Director of the Central Land Council - spoke at the opening ceremony for a Conference in Old Parliament House to mark the 20th anniversary of Land Rights in the Northern Territory. Tracker said:

Governments come and go but we will always be here and we look forward to the future with hope,



P.O. Box 396, Sroacimaadorn 1047 Telaphoile. 302 ?IQ

Cr/uQ,-7c. ,

21 August 1996

Entuaraleek threatened closure

Ensnareleek. Associatiou Incorporated is an Aboriginal conunuaity group in Elroadrrieadows which currently financiall y supports 50 Aboriginal families, it also MkSt.,5 a further 30C families in the region -with a range of community services, including support and referral set viu-es, housing, cduowion, employment and training

Enmaraleek receiv . es its administration funding through the Aboriginal & Torres Strait islander commission (ATSIC). This funding is vita l— Without the positions of adrainistra.tor, bookkeeper, receptionist and project officer and the funds for phone, etdi icity, office supplies, etcetera, none of the prograrns which Enmaraleek administers can fimction A saving to the government of $160,000 per year jeopardises a further $500,000 per annum of community programs, and reutoveo from the local Aboriginal. community over Si million of assets, rnainly in rental hung. It will force over 40 people out of work and training programs on to unemployment benesits, causing devas tat ion wi t hin famMes and the cornmimity generally_

Some of the funded programs which will be forced to close because of this miruiless oat include;

an horticultural apprentice scheme * Community Development & Employment prowl= * adult education classes *Neighbourhood House

* conurnmity bus program rental housing and housing support service * emergency relief progarn ' ground maintenance trait:Lem/up * Homework Centre for Primary Students

Homework Centre for Secondary Students *Community Corrections

Bernaraleek provides information to schools, communit y groups, local councils, churches

and other community groups regarding Aboriginal issues When the proposed funding Cuts go ahead, none of these services will own:Mile


PC. Box $5. Rrttorneadows 3047. Telephone: 302 2742

1/10tv --,0



Over the past 6 years, Eranaraktk has built a ytrong community base. It has developed a

plant propoption enteiprise which is now lauded as a model for CDEP pro,garns in Victoria. It is pnothe a imula.gement course in adult educatioa. It has developed assets and valuable skills over the past six years which will now be lost This is a shameful W11514.

Eninaraleek is used by the local AboriO p al people as their own reference and $upport

centre, enabling them to Air, access to mainstream and Aboriginal services in a non-threatening environment Many of the activities and services organised by Earnaraleelc are totally unfunded, and are veturitarily provicleil in acknowIedsement of circumstances of bciginai people in the area.

The mindless, meagre "saving" of Si 60,000 will wipe cut an entire community venture. It is an unprecedented attack on Australian families.

We urgently seek your support i fighting this senseless destruction- For further information, please contact The Administrator, Enmaraleek Association Inc

ve said the CDEP, which has rapidly grown

ars, will be undermined despite the quarantine existing spending on salaries made in capital and administrative costs



Page 1

Category: Australian News Priority: LOW Date: 28-AUG-1996 20:10

FED: PELHAM SAYS GOVT THRCW1NG INDIGENOUS PEOPLE CUT OF WORK APCRIGaNAL MELHAM CANBERRA, Aug 28 AAP - The government was fording indigenous people onto the dole instead of helping them develop skills, opposition Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs spokesman Daryl Melham said today.

Be told the EVatt Foundation that budget papers showed the government had frozen numbers in the Community Development Employment Program ((DEP), which provides work and training, and boosted funding by $56.9 million for social security over four years.

"Despite all their talk about fostering economic independence and self-sufficiency, the government has done just the opposite. They have thrown thousands of indigenous people on the scraphead. Their own budget figures testify to it," Mr Melham said.

Under cuts to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanth.r. Commission (AUSIC) the government has frozen existing numbers in the CEEP programs - under which indigenous peaple forgo the dole for a generally lower community-paid wage.

It has budgeted around $352 million for the coming year on the prvgram which has seen ccarunities run training programs as well as develop infrastructure and housing projects, and which has become the major employer of indigenous people especially in renote ocranunities.

But TSIC leaders h popularity in recent y government decision to because cuts have been the scheme.

"It seems the government would prefer indigenous people to take unemployment benefits rather than develop skills and contribute to community infrastructure," Mr bl iham said. "CDEP is funded by diverting welfare money to community development projects. They are throwing indigenous Fepple out of work and onto the dole queue."

Mr 4-eihmm said the cuts AZSIC had made after its budget was cut - by around $400 million over four years - meant that about 400 community organisations would hit the wall. Be said the cuts would have an adverse effect an essential services in health, employment, education and training despite the government's promise that these areas would be quarantined from cuts.

AAP msl/mgl/hu/

28-08 2010