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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9184

Mr VAN MANEN (Forde) (20:05): I thank the member for Fremantle for her motion. I concur with the sentiment of the member for Fremantle that it is a very important issue that minorities and our Indigenous communities are well represented in this House and in the broader community.

As the member for Fremantle has pointed out, the Chiapas Declaration relates to a conference held in Mexico back in 2010 on Parliaments, minorities and indigenous peoples: effective participation in politics. The outcome of this conference saw the adoption of the Chiapas Declaration, which urges every parliament, within the next two years, to adopt a plan of action to provide the right to equal participation and non-discrimination a reality for minorities and indigenous people.

I would like to make the point at the outset that here in Australia I think we do a very good job of this already. It amazes me that a lot of these declarations talk about people's rights but never talk about people's responsibilities.

I would challenge the member for Fremantle's contribution to this debate. She draws a long bow to suggest that over-representation of our Indigenous peoples in prison, which is a terrible situation, is directly related to the level of Indigenous representation in the various parliaments around this country.

We do not need further regulation or bureaucracies. They will do little to change the situation. Change is driven by the desire of individuals through their behaviours, attitudes and beliefs. I am fortunate in being able to share some local examples where action is being taken by people in our community who represent minorities or Indigenous groups. In particular, one of our younger Indigenous people, a 16-year-old constituent living in my electorate, was the Queensland leader of the National Indigenous Youth Parliament. Letisha Jarden has written about this experience for the ABC online. In her article she says:

For a shared future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia all aspects of life are to be considered equally. It is important that we focus on parliamentary representation as every culture has a background and beliefs that should be appreciated on a federal level.

Indigenous Australians bring unique and valuable perspective to parliament and political debates. This culture should have opportunities to work side by side with other Australian political leaders to shape our future together.

Here in Australia we have done a great job in that regard, but we can always do better. By way of example, we have Indigenous leaders such as Warren Mundine, who was the national president of the Labor Party. We have my colleague Ken Wyatt here in the parliament and we had Neville Bonner. They are terrific examples of the opportunities available for people from this country's Indigenous communities. Equally, if I look at some of the candidates for the forthcoming federal election, one of our candidates—in a seat next to mine—is from a Taiwanese background. So there are those opportunities for people who wish to become involved in the political process.

Letisha Jarden went on to explain in her article that the program is a vital initiative introduced by the Australian Electoral Commission in partnership with the YMCA. The program consists of some 50 young Indigenous people aged 16 to 25. It is the first time in Australian history that young Indigenous people like Letisha have been given the opportunity for their generation to be heard. I am very proud of Letisha's involvement in the National Youth Parliament and I believe that on-the-ground practical initiatives such as these will help encourage future participation in politics by Indigenous Australians.

I am sure that we need to allocate additional resources, but spending time doing impact assessments and making sure every piece of legislation has an impact statement or having public hearings—talkfests—I do not think achieves the outcomes we are seeking. (Time expired)