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Opportunity and responsibility for Indigenous Australians.

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Opportunity and Responsibility for Indigenous Australians

Australia needs to find new ways of giving Indigenous Australians the opportunity to take responsibility for their future.

A Labor Government will abolish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and the executive agency Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS).

We will establish a new framework for Indigenous self-governance and program delivery with a focus on regional partnerships and a new directly elected national representative body.

ATSIC is no longer capable of addressing endemic problems in Indigenous communities. It has lost the confidence of much of its own constituency and the wider community.

The current model has not delivered sufficient gains to Indigenous communities. It has been damaged by leadership turmoil, and the failure of the Howard Government to deliver reform.

In Australian politics, every initiative to advance Indigenous Australia has come from Labor.

Today Labor is announcing a new plan for improved Indigenous self-governance and program delivery.

Labor’s plan

A Labor Government will give Indigenous Australians the opportunity to take responsibility for key decisions on Indigenous program development and implementation.

Labor will also re-affirm and strengthen the right of Indigenous Australians to inform and shape national policy, and to make key decisions in relation to their own communities.

We will use the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) process and extensive consultation and negotiation with Indigenous Australians to create a new system of governance in Indigenous Affairs.

Our model and consultations will be guided by the following principles:

A national priority

Labor will improve national coordination of Indigenous services through COAG. Indigenous disadvantage will be placed prominently and permanently on the COAG agenda.

Labor aims to integrate and coordinate Federal, State, Territory and community-based Indigenous programs.

A whole-of-government approach is needed to tackle Indigenous poverty and ensure that services and resources reach those in need.

This is an essential foundation stone for better governance and service delivery to Indigenous communities.

Partnership approach

Labor will develop a partnership arrangement with the States and Territories to better coordinate funding and services. We also want more accountability for funding outcomes.

Labor’s new partnership approach will incorporate the community and private sectors in the development and delivery of Indigenous services.

Pooled funding will create the capacity to deliver a comprehensive suite of policy responses to address endemic community problems.

Regional governance

Responsibility for program development and delivery will be transferred to the regions, with support from a new national body that releases pooled funding from government. Labor recognises that there are varying levels of capacity within communities and our new model will ensure the right mix of expertise to ensure that all communities can benefit from the new governance arrangements.

Directly-elected Indigenous regional bodies will make key decisions with support from their communities, the nationally elected body and the national government.

Efforts by Indigenous communities to take greater responsibility for addressing endemic problems will be central to the success of Labor’s plan.

Opportunity and responsibility

A Labor Government will improve the delivery of Indigenous services by providing targeted funding in response to community needs. An example of Labor’s new approach is the provision of extra support for teachers in

disadvantaged schools serving Indigenous students.

We will also demand that individuals and communities make the best use of government services by acting in a responsible way.

The powerful combination of opportunity and responsibility can end the Third World poverty of many Indigenous communities.

Advocacy, advice and accountability

Labor will strengthen Indigenous participation in national policy making by creating a new directly-elected national Indigenous body.

It will have responsibility for providing independent policy research and advocacy, delivering policy advice to government and the private sector, and monitoring policy outcomes.


Labor is committed to comprehensive consultation and negotiation on the final form of the proposed governance and program delivery framework. Labor’s Shadow Minister for Reconciliation and Indigenous Affairs, and other key Labor members, will undertake this consultation over the coming months.


The revised policy and administrative arrangements will be funded from within the combined existing appropriation for ATSIC and ATSIS.