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New State government legislation to boost indigenous local government in Queensland but Government needs to go further - says ATSIC.



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Media Release

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC)

 

31 March 1999

New State Government legislation to boost indigenous local government in Queensland but Government needs to go further - says ATSIC

ATSIC has welcomed State governme nt changes to Queensland’s Community Services legislation, saying it could become a major boost to local government for indigenous people and community councils in Queensland.

The peak indigenous elected body says the new legislation passed by the Queensland parliament last week will pave the way for new Aboriginal and Islander Councils to be formed.

Lester Rosendale, ATSIC Commissioner for Far North West Queensland and David Wragge, Chairman of the Central Queensland ATSIC Regional Council, said this was "an important step forward for indigenous governance and self-determination in this state."

"It will help strengthen and extend the system of local government of by and for indigenous people in Queensland and will go some way towards helping indigenous community councils manage their affairs better."

However, the ATSIC leaders say that the government must " do more to back up " the latest changes. They say a continuing shortfall in funds and resources needed for essential services, community re-construction and development is a major issue for indigenous community councils.

"Indigenous community councils are almost totally reliant on State and Federal grant money. Yet basic needs are not being met.

"So in many respects these changes won’t make any real difference to the lives of indigenous people on these communities even if their councils have the best management systems in the world."

The ATSIC leaders say housing is a prime example, with funds falling millions of dollars short. of "proven" need. "At the end of the day, community councils simply aren’t getting enough funds to develop and rebuild healthy communities or even for basics," they said.

Mr Wragge said the water supply at Woorabinda was another example of the state government not fulfilling its responsibilities.

While they welcomed moves to simplify financial management systems and introduce common accounting standards, the State government would have to increase funding for both training and resources to councils, if the initiative was going to work

Commissioner Rosendale and Chairman Wragge said ATSIC supported these changes, which were consistent with submissions ATSIC put to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts of the Federal Parliament in 1997.

Those sittings, which were held jointly with the Queensland parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, reviewed the financial accountability requirements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Councils.

"As one of the most scrutinised and accountable government agencies in this country, ATSIC supports reasonable measures which help develop sound accounting and accountability processes in organisations.

"We believe sound financial management means sound, strong communities. But the bottom line is that the State government must back this initiative up with a major boost to training and funding to councils," they said.

Media Contact:

Commissioner Rosendale 07 40 310 622 or

Chairman David Wragge 0417 767 067

 

 

 

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