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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9188

Mr JENKINS (Scullin) (20:21): I join with other members of this debate in thanking the member for Fremantle for bringing this motion before us and I thank the member for Brisbane for her very gracious remarks about the member for Fremantle. This Chiapas Declaration arose from a meeting held in Chiapas, Mexico, in October and November 2010. The meeting was organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Mexican congress and the government of the state of Chiapas. This is an example of the good work that the Inter-Parliamentary Union can do. Too often the IPU is seen as a talkfest of parliaments, a reason for parliamentarians to travel the world. That has not actually been my experience of the IPU. The IPU has been focused on outcomes, focused on influencing the way that parliaments throughout the world can have an impact. Whether it be gender inequality in our membership or whether it be the way that parliaments can oversee aid work, there has definitely been a move to ensure that the member parliaments of the IPU do good work, and this is an example of it.

I have been asked over the last few weeks, since announcing my retirement, what was the most significant moment of my parliamentary career. It most definitely was the apology that took place in this chamber the day after I was elected Speaker. The leadership that was shown by this chamber on that day was very important. But I put a very important caveat on that: it was only a commencement; there is much to be done. It has to be acknowledged that this government took on board, right from its early months, that it had a responsibility to ensure that we looked at ways in which we could close the gap in outcomes, across a whole host of areas, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The important thing that I have looked for is that we include Indigenous people in the political processes that lead to decisions that will decrease the gap, because if we do not involve Indigenous people we will not achieve things. I remember how, throughout the inquiry into Indigenous health by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs which led to the Health is life report, I was so impressed that Indigenous people, when offered the opportunity to outline what they would do if they were the decision makers, actually knew strongly what was required. That meant to me that they should be listened to. One of our recommendations was that we should increase community control of health services for Indigenous communities. We said in that recommendation:

The community—

the Indigenous community—

has a responsibility to determine the nature of that control. There needs to be flexibility in arrangements to ensure that each community is able to have the services which best meet their needs within a broader accreditation process.

It is a simple thing, allowing the communities to be involved. I have one great example of that currently occurring in the electorate of Scullin. Scullin is not known for a large Indigenous community, but that community is growing, because Indigenous peoples living in the outer northern suburbs of Melbourne have been allowed the opportunity to be involved in decision making for themselves. We have had the opening of Bubup Wilam for Early Learning. 'Bubup Wilam' means 'children's place' in the Wuywurrung language, so it is the children's place for early learning. The important thing here is that the Indigenous community itself has made decisions about how Bubup Wilam operates. They see that one of their purposes is to promote, encourage, support and assist local Aboriginal communities to develop independent and sustainable responses to the needs of Aboriginal children and families. That is encouraging them to be involved in the political processes.

Of course, down the track we must ensure that there is a greater representation of our Indigenous people and other minorities in this parliament, in both houses, but along the way we must encourage Indigenous people to be involved in those things that most affect them. What impresses me about the motion that has been put before us by the member for Fremantle is the final point. It urges us as parliamentarians and political parties and as the Australian government to familiarise ourselves with the Chiapas Declaration and to implement the recommended measures to the extent possible. Some of the kind of contention we have had in the last few months might be prevented if we could sit down and work ways through that Indigenous people can be involved in their own outcomes. (Time expired)