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Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Page: 4942

Indigenous Affairs

Senator McGRATH (Queensland) (14:58): My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion. Will the minister update the Senate on the government's commitment to a new engagement with Indigenous Australians?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:59): I thank Senator McGrath for the question. It is an important question because the government's engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is central to improving the lives of our first Australians. We recognise that there is a greater chance of success if initiatives are in fact built on decisions by local people. We are working with communities on how we can deliver reforms that are needed right across the country, including as part of the Empowered Communities process. We are working with local communities like north-east Arnhem Land where I have met with senior elders to empower the local leadership and create a framework for so-called 'genuine engagement'.

I have had the privilege to meet with the cultural authority of the region, the Dilak. I have met with them several times to talk about that engagement. Just as I am a leader within the Commonwealth, the members of the Dilak are and always have been leaders and parliamentarians of their region. I am committed to engaging and listening to them. We are on a pathway to making more decisions at a local level, and the Dilak Council is an example of how that will take place. The Dilak Council are completely connected with their communities, their culture and the opportunities for their land and country. They are now putting up all the suggestions for economic development on their land. We need to continue to work in partnership with Aboriginal people in their way on their terms. A better future has to be predicated on a better partnership.

Senator McGRATH (Queensland) (15:00): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate how the government is supporting local Aboriginal landowners to better use their land to pursue economic opportunities?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:00): I thank Senator McGrath for the supplementary question. Breaking down the barriers to economic opportunities has to be the priority of every government and every parliament. Indigenous communities have been telling us—and we will all have heard the mantra for years and years across different governments—that they are sick of being land rich and dirt poor. Not enough has been done to work with communities to develop models that work for local people and local traditional owners.

At the Garma Festival, it was terrific to be involved in the signing of the agreement with the Gumatj tribe to work together to develop a community entity that ensures township leasing for Gunyangara. I think it is the first of its kind. The community township leasing model has been developed at the request of traditional owners. The innovative nature of this is all down to the traditional owners, and I certainly take the opportunity to thank both the land council and Gumatj for their innovation in this area. (Time expired)

Senator McGRATH (Queensland) (15:01): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Can the minister update the Senate on any new approaches to funding that the Commonwealth is delivering to Indigenous communities in north-east Arnhem Land?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:02): Thank you again for the question, Senator. With the Indigenous Advancement Strategy it is the first time the Commonwealth government can look at the entire picture of Indigenous affairs funding, and we are gearing our arrangements towards achieving real outcomes on the ground. We recognised that change was needed, and we are going to see real results. For example, in north-east Arnhem Land we are working with local organisations to provide support that will support communities to build long-term independence. We have provided the Gumatj Corporation, a local Aboriginal owned business, with over $300,000 to build and launch their own mining training centre, not because they need to be training in mining but because they are starting their own mine. They have finished their exploration and they are now moving on, and their priority is now this government's priority.

Senator Abetz: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.