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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4116


Senator LINES (Western AustraliaDeputy President and Chair of Committees) (13:25): I rise today to report further on the fabulous First Nations Women's Forum that my office facilitated in March this year to enable First Nations women to have a very clear input into Labor policy. The Labor Party is going through its policy process at the moment, which will culminate in our conference at the end of this year. We brought together First Nations women from across the country. I would like to sincerely thank the steering group of the First Nations women for the role they took in developing the day, making it a safe space for women to speak, for contributing and determining all of the topics and for participating in the writing of the report, which will be finalised fairly soon. I would invite anyone in this chamber or anyone listening who would like a copy of the report when it's published to contact my office.

I'd like to thank Dot Bagshaw, Dorinda Cox, Vanessa Elliott, Jennifer Gregory-Kniveton, Marian Kickett, Rowena Leslie, Dr Hannah McGlade, Michelle Nelson-Cox, Donna Nelson, Jackie Oakley and Cherie Sibosado. We started this consultation with a welcome to country and a smoking ceremony, which we held up in Beedawong, in the beautiful Kings Park. That was an unforgettable experience, and I would like to thank, once again, Mingli McGlade, Liz Hayden, Alice Kearing and her daughters and Mungart Yongah Nyoongah Arts Enterprise—and, again, particular thanks to Hannah McGlade for organising that amazing day.

From the Labor side, we invited our deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek, MP Linda Burney and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy to come to the welcome, the healing ceremony and the actual day. It was a very hot afternoon, but Kings Park still allowed us to do a smoking ceremony. The women made us take our shoes off and get the dirt in our feet. It was a truly moving experience for everyone who attended, and I'm very honoured to have participated. We would like to thank the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority for allowing that to occur and we thank the fabulous Subiaco Arts Centre, who gave us their premises and their staff for free, which enabled us to hold the day there and to be ably assisted by their staff to make the day such a success.

We had more than 100 women attend—about 150, I think—and they travelled from all parts of the state. Obviously that cost money. For their generous contributions to enable the day to go ahead, I want to thank: the WA Labor Party; United Voice; Yara Pilbara; Herbert Smith Freehills; Maurice Blackburn; Senator Patrick Dodson; Senator Louise Pratt; Anne Aly, the member for Cowan; Josh Wilson, who was at that time the member for Fremantle and is now Labor's candidate in the by-election; and the former member for Perth, Tim Hammond. Some of the women from Kalgoorlie, Kununurra and the Pilbara had other organisations support their involvement. I'd also like to thank WA Minister Simone McGurk, who came along to hear what the women said, and Louise Pratt and Madeleine King, who participated, along with me, on the day. This was an opportunity for Labor MPs to hear and listen to what the women were telling us. The topics covered were children, youth and learning; health and ageing; human rights; treaty and constitutional recognition; social and emotional wellbeing; and effective programs and policies.

I'd also like to pay my respects to and thank Gningala Yarran-Mark for her contribution as an MC. She is an outstanding First Nations woman in our community, a learned scholar, an amazing woman—and, I have to say, a brilliant MC, who brings warmth, empathy and comedy to the role.

So what did the women tell us that they wanted? They were very clear. And certainly the forum was designed so that we would listen to the ideas and the views expressed from First Nations women.

On the topic of children, youth and learning, we covered a range of different topics, including parenting, child removal, school participation and the importance of Aboriginal languages. One of the key things that came out was that, obviously, like all of us, First Nations women want their children to be successful at school, but school needs to be more welcoming. First Nations women want to have a place on boards, and they want programs that really facilitate the involvement of First Nations families in our education system. In the past, those programs have been cut; they want them to be put back in place.

On health and ageing, the women discussed holistic and preventive care, aged care, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the cashless debit card. It should be acknowledged that First Nations women tend to experience pressure to assume the bulk of the responsibility for holding their families and communities together. In times of crisis, they often neglect their own health and wellbeing needs.

They certainly want an ongoing consultative process right across Australia, including in the states and territories, that gives community based First Nations women an opportunity to have their voices heard. That was very clear in some of the responses.

On the cashless debit card and the BasicsCard, they feel that those are a violation of civil rights. Further, the women did not accept the rationale for their implementation—namely, high levels of child neglect and abuse. Community engagement by relevant statutory agencies was likely to produce better outcomes than dictating how welfare-payment recipients use their limited income.

The issues raised around aged care were these. Their experience of aged-care facilities is pretty poor. They want to see the use of traditional medicines and the embracing of Aboriginal healers much more prominent in the aged-care services in our community.

The women spoke strongly about a human rights treaty and constitutional recognition. And no-one in this place should be surprised to hear that a treaty was the No. 1 agenda item.

Senator McCarthy: Hear, hear!

Senator LINES: Yes, I'm talking about our First Nations forum, Senator McCarthy. They want to see a treaty front and centre of what should happen across this nation. They talked about the issue of a treaty and of the fact that cultural healing is really important and of the establishment of a makarrata commission. And their voices joined other voices that we've heard on the need for a treaty across this country.

On social and emotional wellbeing, they identified gaps in services for First Nations people and the necessity of ongoing dialogue between community and all levels of government. Funding for culturally appropriate health centres and refugees were among the topics of discussion as to social and emotional wellbeing. They wanted to see a First-Nations-led review of services to be conducted to identify funding, geographical or sectoral gaps in services. They acknowledge that social support workers, who have knowledge of but are independent of the system, are needed to provide advice for First Nations people to navigate services. They talked about cultural competency—the need for organisations to be aware of issues and of how to engage with First Nations people, but they certainly wanted to see First Nations people front and centre of service delivery.

As I said, it was an amazing day. We are at the point of producing our final document. I'd like to thank the wonderful women in my own office and, in particular, Clare Davidson, who led this whole engagement and has taken responsibility—along with our steering committee—for putting this report together. We do need to listen to First Nations voices—particularly the voices of women. As I said, this report will be concluded shortly. It will be available publicly, and I would urge anyone who would like a copy to talk to my office.