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Monday, 1 August 2022
Page: 256

Senator NAMPIJINPA PRICE (Northern Territory) (11:30): I rise to speak on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Bill 2022 presented to the chamber by Senator Thorpe. I was reflecting on this bill over the weekend, as I spent my time listening to Territorians speak of the challenges experienced living in two worlds, and how we require honest and practical approaches to thrive living in a modern world with an ancient culture.

This bill is not a practical approach; it is a declaration. It is not a treaty. It is not binding under international law. Therefore, Australia is not required to enact the declaration in Australian law. We are one nation with one law and many belief systems of faith that personally guide us on ways of living.

There are dangers of recognising customary law under the United Nations declaration. The voices of the women and children that are subject to brutal sexual violence and misappropriated payback do not serve any human right. We must stop this divisive virtue signalling. This bill is an unnecessary distraction from the important work that needs to be done—that we, as a coalition, have heavily invested in. We call on the Albanese government to continue to advance the practical measures to support our most vulnerable.

We, the coalition, will always be focused on practical outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This Labor-Greens government should be focused on holding the state and territory governments and the Aboriginal organisations to account for the billions of dollars being poured in to alleviate disadvantage for the most marginalised Australians. They are not meeting their funding agreements.

One of the most basic human rights is to feel safe and to have access to safe housing. In the Northern Territory, the Labor minister for housing fought against these basic human rights by countersuing an Aboriginal organisation. The minister for housing at the time, Chansey Paech, did not want to acknowledge the human rights of Aboriginal residents and humane conditions in their rental homes. He was prepared to have his department stand up in court and argue that position. Get housing delivery right first, I say—a practical, basic human right. Significant practical work was done under the coalition government to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. This practical work reflects the aims of the declaration.

In government, the coalition invested in the human rights of Indigenous Australians. In government, the coalition appointed June Oscar AO as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. The commissioner works as part of the Australian Human Rights Commission on anti-discrimination and human rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. This weekend I was listening to the important work that she has been doing, and I look forward to meeting her in the not-so-distant future.

The coalition government addressed this basic practical human right by investing in housing. Under the National Partnership for Remote Housing in the Northern Territory, the coalition government contributed $550 million, matched by the Northern Territory to equal $1.1 billion over five years, to deliver 1,950 new bedrooms in remote communities through a combination of new houses and extensions to existing housing. The former Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, called out the minister for housing, citing he was alarmingly concerned that the Northern Territory Labor government was not delivering the houses that it was funded to deliver.

In regard to the human rights of children and child protection, on 10 December 2021 the coalition government delivered Safe and supported: the national framework for protecting Australia’s children 2021-2031, the successor plan to the National framework for protecting Australia’s children 2009-2020. Safe and supported was developed in partnership with all states and territories and an Indigenous leadership group with a focus on improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. On 27 October the Australian government launched Australia's first National strategy to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse 2021-30, the national strategy. It includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as a priority group.

Under the coalition, the Department of Social Services commenced delivery of a package of four new measures, under the Closing the Gap implementation plan, to deliver on target 12: $49 million over five years to improve multidisciplinary responses to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families with multiple and complex needs; $7.7 million over three years to develop the cultural competency and trauma responsiveness of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous child and family sector workforce; $3.2 million over two years to assess the needs of, increase the involvement of and strengthen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations in the child and family sector; and $38.6 million over three years for an outcomes and evidence fund to support the commissioning and implementation of outcome based funding.

In the coalition's last budget we also undertook to make significant investment to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: $1.1 billion for a range of measures to support the new agreement on closing the gap, and this included $254.4 million to improve existing or build new health infrastructure to deliver services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; $81.8 million to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to be safe, healthy and ready to thrive in school, by the age of five, by expanding the Connected Beginnings program by an additional 27 sites; $74.9 million to build three additional studio schools in remote areas and refurbish another school into the studio schools format, to provide education on country and build relationships with culture and local community; $66 million to expand existing alcohol and drug services, to be funded through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy; and $45 million to continue to work to improve the birth weight of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and improve health outcomes. The coalition extended the National Partnership on Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment by $173.2 million, which takes the total investment to over $1 billion since 2015-16.

We have to continue to focus on practical outcomes in this house and to not be consuming our time on unnecessary debate that will take away time from discussing legislative debate that will bring practical improvements for all Australians.