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ATSIC review discussion paper released.



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ATSIC Review Discussion Paper Released

IPS 039/2003

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Philip Ruddock today released a discussion paper concerning Indigenous involvement and participation in government policy-making, including the role of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC).

The discussion paper was prepared as the first stage of the Review of ATSIC being undertaken by an independent panel comprising the Hon. John Hannaford, the Hon. Bob Collins, and Ms Jackie Huggins.

The paper reflects the findings from the panel's initial round of consultations and identifies issues and options concerning the future of ATSIC and related matters.

The discussion paper observes that despite the hard work of many commissioners and councillors, ATSIC 'lacks vision and strategy' and that it 'does not have the requisite skills and understanding of government to drive a policy agenda'.

The report states that:

'After more than 12 years, ATSIC has reached a crisis point in respect of its public credibility and with its Indigenous constituency. Great concern is being expressed that this is spilling over from ATSIC and adversely impacting on other areas such as the reconciliation movement. A concerted effort is required to reposition ATSIC as a positive force for Indigenous advancement, otherwise it will become irrelevant or face abolition.'

'If we are to give Indigenous Australians an effective voice within government, then obviously we will need to revisit the existing ATSIC legislation,' Mr Ruddock said.

'Indigenous Australians are not being adequately represented or empowered at present.'

The discussion paper emphasises that 'primary responsibility for the delivery of most programs of interest and benefit to Indigenous Australians rests with State/Territory governments'.

'This means that any new arrangements must facilitate and maximise options for engagement between Regional Councils and State and Territory governments,' Mr Ruddock said.

'At the same time, as the report also observes, there is overwhelming support for an effective national body.'

The discussion paper identifies a range of issues for future examination, including the under-representation of women and the tension between ATSIC's internal government policy role and an independent advocacy role.

The report also sketches various possible future models including the present ATSIC/ATSIS arrangement and an enhanced role for Regional Councils.

The discussion paper will form the focus of further public consultation by the Review Panel over the coming months, with a final report to be presented to government at the end of September.

Mr Ruddock thanked the three members of the Review Panel, and the head of their secretariat, Dr Allan Hawke, for their work to date.

Copies of the Discussion Paper will be available form the ATSIC Review secretariat (PO Box 160, Deakin West AT 2600) and from the website (www.atsicreview.gov.au).

There is a consultation hotline (1800 700 140) and people can also e-mail atsicreview@atsicreview.gov.au.

Responses to the Discussion Paper should be submitted by 15 August.

Media Enquiries: Mr Ruddock's office: Jeremy Chitty 0418 971 042

18 June 2003