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2010 Media Release: Inaugural Ethics Council up and running

Aboriginal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice

Inaugural Ethics Council up and running

Members of the Ethics Council responsible for developing and maintaining standards of the new representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, have been announced today by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma.

Commissioner Calma, who chairs the independent Steering Committee that has been guiding development of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, said the Ethics Council would apply a merit-based process to shortlist candidates for election as members of the National Executive and then be responsible for ensuring the ethical conduct of representatives of the organisation, based on the Nolan principles.

“Appointment of the Ethics Council members takes us one step closer to having a representative voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the first time in five years,” Commissioner Calma said.

“The Steering Committee has decided that the Ethics Council should be comprised of six Indigenous people of high standing, with one chair, and a gender balance among their members.

“The council will initially serve a two year term in order to bed down the processes for the new organisation. This will mean it is in place for the initial two sessions of the organisation's National Congress.”

Commissioner Calma said a number of individuals were canvassed, with interested individuals submitting an expression of Interest and statement of claim in order to be considered by the Steering Committee. 

“The Committee also decided that there should be continuity for the new organisation in its establishment phase so it could build on the outcomes of the consultations and work of the Steering Committee over the past year. One member of the Steering Committee or its Secretariat will sit on the inaugural Ethics Council and one member on the interim National Executive,” Commissioner Calma said.

“I have been nominated to be the Steering Committee representative on the Ethics Council.

“It is with great pleasure that I can announce the remaining five members of the Council as Professor Larissa Behrendt, Mr Wesley Enoch, Ms Mary Graham, Ms Nalwarri Ngurruwutthun and Professor Lester Irabinna Rigney,” Mr Calma said.

He said the Steering Committee, working with the Ethics Council, would now finalise the interim National Executive to lead the organisation through its development phase in 2010.  

“I would like to acknowledge and thank the members of the Steering Committee for their absolute dedication and commitment to progress the many complex issues still to be resolved,” he said.

“I anticipate the Steering Committee will finalise its work by the end of January 2010, by which time I would expect membership of the interim National Executive to have been finalised and for the National Congress to have been incorporated with ASIC.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are now one step closer to having our future in our hands.”

Media contact: Louise McDermott 0419 258 597

Biographical notes on ethics council members

Professor Larissa Behrendt
Professor Larissa Behrendt [Phd] is a Eualeyai/ Kamillaroi woman from NSW.  Prof Behrendt graduated from Harvard Law School with her Master of Law and Doctorate.  She is admitted to the Supreme Court of the ACT and NSW as a barrister and Professor of Law and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, University of Technology, Sydney.  Professor Behrendt is a widely published academic and researcher, a publisher of two novels and a director of Bangarra Dance Theatre.

Mr Wesley Enoch
Wesley Enoch is an acclaimed award winning theatre director originally from Stradbroke Island in Queensland – Nunukul Nuggi.  Wesley works almost exclusively in Indigenous Theatre and focuses wholly on cultural and social engagement through story telling.  Wesley’s extensive experience in directing, writing, script development, acting and dancing spans two decades.

Ms Nalwarri Ngurruwutthun
A senior Cultural Education Advisor and an advocator for bilingual education Nalwarri’s extensive experience in teaching, curriculum development, bilingual education and school management spans over three decades.  Nalwarri’s clan is Munyuku and her homeland is Rurrangala in Arnhem Land. She is also a member of the Northern Territory Indigenous Education Council.  Nalwarri carries on the vision of her elders continuing to deliver quality culturally appropriate bilingual education to young people in Yirrkala/ Laynhapuy Homelands School.

Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney
Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney [PhD] is a senior academic with more than 15 years of experience teaching in universities and schools.  He is descendant of the Narungga, Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri Nations.  He is well published and is internationally recognised for his work in Indigenous Education and Research methodologies.  He has worked with Indigenous peoples on education across the Pacific in Taiwan, Canada and New Zealand.

Ms Mary Graham
Mary Graham is a Kombu-merri person on her father’s side and is also affiliated with the Waka Waka group through her mother, both groups in Queensland.  She has lectured and tutored on subjects in Aboriginal history, politics, and comparative philosophy at the University of Queensland and at other educational institutions around the country.

Mr Tom Calma
Mr Calma is an Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja tribal group whose traditional lands are south west of Darwin and on the Coburg Peninsula in Northern Territory, respectively.  He has been involved in Indigenous affairs at all levels for over 35 years, including the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner since 12 July 2004.