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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice

Continuity and change through
the new arrangements – Lessons for addressing the crisis of child sexual
abuse in the Northern Territory

By Tom Calma, Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission

Launch of the Social Justice
and Native Title Report 2006

3 July 2007

Turner Hall, Sydney Institute of TAFE,

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where we meet today, the
Gadigal people of the Eora Nation and I pay my respects to your elders and to
the ancestors.

On behalf of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission can I welcome everyone here today and thank you for participating in
this launch.

Thank you to Rob Welsh, the Chairperson of the Metro Local
Aboriginal Land Council for welcoming us all to Gadigal country. And can I also
congratulate Metro, along with the NSW Department of Environment and
Conservation and Sydney University, on the repatriation and reburial of the
remains of eight Kuringai ancestors that occurred this past month.

you also to Mick Gooda and Pat Anderson for agreeing to participate in the
launch of my latest Social Justice Report and Native Title Report to federal Parliament. These reports are produced annually and are national in
their coverage.

The Social Justice Report is a report on the
status of the exercise and enjoyment of human rights by Indigenous peoples. This
latest report asks: what makes good Indigenous policy? It sets out how
Indigenous peoples are able to engage with the government on a variety of
levels: from the individual and community level up to regional, state and
national levels. It analyses progress in improving the accessibility of
mainstream services to Indigenous people. It also provides an overview of the
key issues for tackling family violence and child abuse in Indigenous

Today we launch the 14th Social Justice

The Native Title Report is a report on the impact of
the native title system on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights by
Indigenous peoples. This year’s report focuses on the capacity of the
native title system to deliver economic benefits for Indigenous people. It
showcases best practice examples of Indigenous community led development and in
agreement making processes. I have also included in this year’s report
other related information about land rights, 99 year leases, housing reform and
economic development consistent with the functions conferred on me by

Today we launch the 13th Native Title

Unfortunately, because of recent developments in the NT, I
won’t be focusing my remarks on the findings of the Native Title Report today. I say unfortunately, because it is a very forward looking report,
identifying the priorities of traditional owners for their land and for economic
development on that land. And it focuses on successes with some wonderful case
studies that stand in stark contrast to the majority of media coverage and
public commentary that we see on Indigenous issues. I will, however, be speaking
to the findings of the report at a major mining symposium in Broome next

Both reports were tabled in federal Parliament on 14 June –
less than three weeks ago. They say a week is a long time in politics, and never
has that saying been truer than in the past couple of weeks!

Upon their
release, the reports were not well received by the Minister for Indigenous
Affairs. The Minister described them as ‘disappointing’ and as not
doing ‘justice to what’s being achieved through reforms to
Indigenous Affairs since

This criticism
is unsurprising given the extensive concerns that I have expressed in both
reports – of which you will hear more shortly.

The Minister also
suggested that I was taking a ‘glass half empty’

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am actually the eternal

I have spent a lot of time this past year convincing people
from all walks of life that the challenges facing Indigenous peoples in this
country are not insurmountable.

My previous Social Justice
set forth a plan to achieve health equality for Indigenous peoples
within a generation. This is a vision that is evidence-based and grounded in a
human rights based approach.

This vision has been embraced by just about
every peak health organisation in the country, as well as the non-government and
community sectors, and reconciliation organisations. Just yesterday I co-hosted
a historic meeting of Indigenous health peak bodies, professional associations
and health experts to advance this ambition for health equality. Phrases like
‘close the gap’ have entered the national lexicon since last
year’s report and I can promise you will become even more well known in
the coming months.[2]

My 25
year vision is that of an optimist. My vision is for a country where the current
state of Indigenous disadvantage will be as incomprehensible to future
Australians as the ‘White Australia policy’ is to the present

My optimism is, however, matched by also being a realist.

The reports being launched today reveal significant problems in the way
the Australian Government is administering Indigenous affairs in the period
since the abolition of ATSIC.

I make no apologies for this. As Social
Justice Commissioner, I am obliged to ‘call it as it is’, no matter
how unpalatable it may be.

The development of these ‘new
arrangements’ – as they have been called – has been tracked
through the past four Social Justice
.[3] As I state in the
introduction to this year’s report:

This continuity of focus... provides a vital record of the policy making
process for Indigenous affairs at the federal level... After four years..., it
is clear that there are significant problems with... Indigenous affairs at the
federal level.

Primarily, this is due to an ‘implementation gap’ between the
rhetoric of government and its actual activities. Perhaps most concerning, is
that the problems with the current policy settings are well known... The
government has largely acknowledged their existence and has made extensive
commitments to address them. And yet, the problems continue and are exacerbated
year by year. [4]

I have intentionally focused the Social Justice Report on the
systemic approach adopted through these new arrangements. This approach is
fundamental in determining the ability of the government to respond to a host of
issues in a holistic manner.

The report identifies critical issues that
must be addressed if we are to move forward without repeating or exacerbating
existing policy errors. And this is the importance of these reports to the
current situation in the Northern Territory.

For this reason I have
titled this launch speech ‘Continuity and change through the new
arrangements – Lessons for addressing the crisis of child sexual abuse in
the Northern Territory’.

One thing that I was immediately
struck by with the announcements of the government these past weeks was the
similarity between them and the government’s announcements in 2004 to
abolish ATSIC and introduce the new arrangements.

The announcement of
the abolition of ATSIC was clearly made on the run. The commitments made at the
time were sweeping in their scope. What my reports have shown is that to date
the government still hasn’t been able to bed down a system that can
deliver on those commitments.

In 2004, the Secretary of the Department
of Prime Minister and Cabinet made the following comments:

The vision is of a whole-of-government approach which can inspire innovative
national approaches to the delivery of services to indigenous Australians, but
which are responsive to the distinctive needs of particular communities. It
requires committed implementation... it (has) the potential to bring about
generational change.

As widely reported, he also stated:

The Australian Government is about to embark on a bold experiment.... It is
an approach on which my reputation, and many of my colleagues, will

Compare this to the recent announcements. Last week the Prime Minister

the full power and resources of the Commonwealth will be directed to making
lasting change, where we can, in the daily lives and future prospects of the
most vulnerable fellow citizens in our nation.

It goes without saying that Mr Brough and I take full responsibility for the
success or failure of this plan. We are under no illusion that it will take time
to show results and that it will have painful consequences for some people. We
will make mistakes along the

The Prime Minister also
spoke of “the overriding responsibility and duty of care” that the
government has “for the young of this country (which) justifies the scale,
the breadth and the urgency of our

These are
serious commitments.

They are genuine and they are clearly

I whole-heartedly welcome this and I thank the Prime Minister
and Minister Brough for their commitment.

In doing so, I make a plea to
the Prime Minister. This duty of care - this responsibility - extends to
ensuring that there is a robust system for delivering on these

What the government does in the coming months and years
could, as the Prime Minister conceives, have ‘painful consequences’
and result in ‘mistakes’.

These must be minimised through
eliminating policy error.

How can this be done? By ensuring that there
is continuity between the mechanisms that will be relied upon to
implement these recent announcements and the existing service delivery model of
the ‘new arrangements’ – the so-called ‘bold
experiment’ that has come about in the place of the ATSIC era. And by
recognising that there is a need for change resulting from the flaws of
this existing approach.

The Social Justice Report identifies
significant concerns that have the capacity to derail the efforts in the
Northern Territory if left unchecked. And the report highlights that these
concerns – the current, existing errors in the policy settings - are entirely avoidable.

This duty of care also requires the
government to initiate open and sustained engagement with Indigenous
communities, other governments, Indigenous organisations and the community
sector in addressing this enormous challenge before us all. And it is a
challenge for everyone – we will either succeed jointly or fail

We need to move from the situation as described by Michael
Duffy in the Sydney Morning Herald this past weekend of the ‘white
feather being used to ridicule dissenters’. He wrote:

The modern version of the white feather is the claim... that those who
question any aspect of what the Government is doing are really saying
“let’s do

More than
ever before we need vigorous debate alongside the action. The two are not inconsistent.

The starting point is acknowledging that we all care about
the safety of Indigenous women and children. We are not operating at
cross-purposes. We are all determined to ensure that Indigenous children have an
equal life chance and the opportunity to thrive.

We support the
government in implementing its obligations under Article 19 of the Convention
on the Rights of the Child
, which states that governments:

Shall take all appropriate... measures to protect the child from all forms of
physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment,
maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse...


Such protective measures should... include effective procedures for the
establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child
and (for their carers), as well as other forms of prevention and for
identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow up of
instances of child maltreatment... and, as appropriate, judicial

These are extensive obligations.

No one –
governments, NGOs or Indigenous peoples – should rely on dogma or ideology
to avoid action being taken or to avoid debate about what would be the most
appropriate action to take. Declaring the situation to be a national emergency
does not exempt the need for debate.

Early last week, I joined with my
fellow Commissioners and the President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission to welcome the Australian Government’s announcements of the
proposed measures for the Northern Territory. In doing so, we urged the
government to adopt an approach that is consistent with Australia’s
international human rights obligations.

We stated:

The complex issues being tackled and the proposed measures to be taken to
overcome them raise a host of fundamental human rights principles. It is of the
utmost importance... for community respect for our system of government, that
solutions to all aspects of these matters respect the human rights and freedoms
of everyone

Australia’s human rights obligations set out a framework of measures
ranging from:

  • proactive measures to prevent violations from occurring in the first place
    and to address the underlying factors that can contribute to human rights
  • an accountability framework to ensure that governments remain focussed on
    the ultimate outcomes of policy and are able to be held accountable for their
    rate of progress in addressing significant human rights breaches where they
  • processes for ensuring the effective participation and real engagement with
    stakeholders and affected peoples in designing policy and delivering services;
  • measures to respond to and address violations of rights whenever they occur.

Being the optimist that I am, I see the government’s
commitment as providing a potential pathway for the recognition of the
human rights of Indigenous peoples in the Northern Territory.

Perhaps for
the first time ever in the Northern Territory we will have real discussions
about what it takes to address the historic lack of services and funding that
has been the lot of Indigenous communities for generations. As the Prime
Minister has confirmed: “the full power and resources of the Commonwealth
will be directed to making lasting change.”

Importantly, this
includes providing Indigenous people with equality before the law by
guaranteeing them the ‘right to security of person and protection by the
State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials
or by any individual group or
institution’[10]. This is a
right that Australia has committed to protect since 1975, when it ratified the
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination. It is a right that has comprehensively failed to be delivered in
most remote Aboriginal communities to date.

The extent of the
government’s commitment was also made very clear by the Minister for
Indigenous Affairs on ABC TV’s 7:30 Report on 27 June. Kerry
O’Brien asked of the proposed health checks:

If screening throws up eye disease, kidney disease, asthma, threat of
diabetes, any one of a number of generic health problems throughout the
Indigenous population you've undertaken to provide them all with on going
treatment. Is that right?

The Minister’s response was unequivocal. He stated:

That's absolutely correct... We do understand the magnitude of this. We are
saying if Australian kids are not healthy, then we have a duty of care to make
them healthy... We are prepared to do this and break the cycle once and for all
and we have no illusions about (a) the cost or (b) the time

An optimist might
say that this commitment is not far removed from my call in the Social
Justice Report 2005
for health equality for Indigenous peoples within a

Overall, the announcements and the commitments made by the
federal Government for the NT raise a number of important and complex issues.
Each of these issues in some way comes back to the capacity of the
government to deliver on its commitments. And it is, of course, the
capacity of the government through the new arrangements that has been the focus
of successive Social Justice Reports.

Structural questions about how the government will achieve its objectives include, but are by no
means limited to the following:

  • First, on what basis will the government intervene in one community as
    opposed to another?
    As Rex Wild and Pat Anderson’s report reveals,
    there is a lack of statistics that reveal the true extent of the problem. So, in
    the absence of any situational and needs analysis, how does the government
  • Second, and related to this question, is how will the government decide
    the appropriate approach for the specific needs of individual communities?
    am concerned about a mismatch that has already revealed itself between the
    public debate on these issues and the findings of the Little Children are
  • Third, and of critical importance, is what role does the community have
    in this process?
    I think it is intentional that the government has described
    its announcements as an ‘intervention’ as opposed to a
    ‘partnership’ with Indigenous communities. We are now coming on
    three years since the introduction of the new arrangements – so why has
    the government not built relationships with communities sufficiently that they
    can approach the announcements as a partnership?
  • Fourth, if the government intends to make lasting change – how will
    it know when such change has occurred?
    In the absence of regional and local
    level planning how will the specific issues facing communities, and the
    connections between communities on a regional basis, be addressed? This is
    something that incidentally was intended to be a key feature of the new
    arrangements but which has by and large failed to materialise as
  • And fifth, how does the NT announcement fit with the processes
    that are continuing to be introduced as part of the ‘new
    arrangements’ to date?
    Will it require another re-engineering of
    processes that are yet to be bedded down? For example, the government has
    released an evaluation plan for whole-of-government activities to address the
    critical problem of lack of baseline
    data.[12] The evaluation plan
    identifies that in the coming year there will be reviews of some of the
    communities who have previously been designated as communities in crisis, and
    baseline data will be established for some new priority communities. What is the
    impact of the NT announcement on this plan? Does it re-direct these evaluation
    activities for new communities to the NT rather than to communities in other
    states, or will there be an expansion of the scope of the evaluative framework?
    This would appear necessary to be able to effectively understand the success or
    otherwise of the measures to be taken.
  • Similarly, will the government seek to utilise and expand its program of
    Shared Responsibility Agreements and Regional Partnership Agreements as tools to
    implement its NT announcements? It has previously foreshadowed the
    importance of these as primary mechanisms for engagement. As the Social
    Justice Report
    notes, these processes offer the potential to embed a
    community development approach into the new arrangements, but there is no
    evidence of this occurring to date.

The Social Justice
identifies the warning signs where the current federal system for
Indigenous affairs is not capable of addressing these core issues due to
significant policy errors.

The most significant problem with the new
arrangements identified by the Report is the lack of capacity for engagement
and participation of Indigenous peoples
. This manifests as a lack of
connection between the local and regional level, up to the state and national
level; and as a disconnect between the making of policy and its

As I stated in the report:

Indigenous peoples are treated as problems to be solved, not as partners and
active participants in creating a positive life vision for the generations of
Indigenous peoples still to come.

The greatest irony of this is that it fosters a passive system of policy
development and service delivery while at the same time criticising Indigenous
peoples for being passive recipients of government

I note also
the recent comments on this issue by the Secretary of the Department of
Treasury, Ken Henry. Speaking last week, he commented that:

To achieve progress in Indigenous development, there is a need for increased
ownership, by Indigenous people, of both the problems and the policy

People who are affected by policy have a right to be involved
in its development – that is no more than a statement of the primary
rationale for democracy. And... people who are affected by policy also have a responsibility to be involved in its

The difficulties of engagement at the regional level are also replicated
at the national level. Recommendations 2 and 4 of the Social Justice
address this issue, by calling for a rights based development
approach to be adopted and through the creation of regional representative

Now these
are not merely theoretical observations that I have made. As is clearly
demonstrated in the Social Justice Report, they go to the workability of

Let me give you an example of how it applies to the current
situation in the Northern Territory.

In 2003, the ATSIC Board of
Commissioners released a Family Violence Policy and Action Plan. They recognised
the importance of resourcing local initiatives to address family violence.

In accordance with this, the ATSIC Yilli Rreung Regional Council and
North West Regional Governing Councils of the Northern Territory developed
Family Violence Policies and Action Plans in 2004.

The Yilli Rreung
Family Violence Policy committed the Council to empowering Indigenous people
within ‘the region to develop, own and support local initiatives to combat
family violence, in order to build functional and resilient families and

plan – that was never funded or implemented, due primarily to the
abolition of ATSIC and removal of program responsibility – makes for
interesting reading in light of recent events. It identifies several key issues
that need to be addressed to impact on offending behaviour across the Top End of
the Northern Territory and in some of the communities that will now be subject
to federal government interventions. The key priorities identified included a
focus on:

  • Community empowerment: with any intervention within Indigenous
    communities in the region having a high degree of ownership by that community
    and a commitment by its members that all forms of family violence should be
    dealt with as a whole of community issue.
  • Relationship building: by strengthening governance structures within
    Indigenous communities and capacity building to respond in a strong and
    consistent manner to family violence incidences.
  • Developing a research base on Indigenous child welfare and the rights of
    young people:
    including by conducting a cohort analysis of child sexual
    abuse incidences, as well as other forms of abuse to identify the extent of the
    problem across Northern Territory regions in order to gauge the level of
    response required by government and the Indigenous community. The absence of
    research was identified as inhibiting best practice interventions and
    evidence-based preventative programs.
  • Parenting skills: with anecdotal evidence suggesting that some
    parents are ignoring, and/or accepting by their inaction, sexual and other
    predatory behaviour on their children by abusive partners and family members. A
    focus on building these skills has also been a major focus of proposals by the
    Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care Services, or SNAICC,
    for several years.
  • School-based interventions: with education on family violence and
    related issues for Indigenous adolescents and teenagers in order to build
    resilience in that group and to address the growing trend of violent dating
  • Offender treatment programs: with better access to appropriate
    prison-based programs that address offending behaviour. This is to address the
    pattern of offenders returning to their community without appropriate
    interventions through counselling that perpetuates levels of violence in the
    region. ATSIC recommended that the Court should have the ability to require
    that offenders attend preventative programs if necessary. As the Wild / Anderson
    report notes, there are specific challenges arising from the fact that many
    offenders are Indigenous juveniles. And
  • The allocation of CDEP placements: to support family violence
    initiatives and address substance abuse as a way of creating positive
    community-based solutions to family violence. The impact of recent changes to
    CDEP, with the second stage of changes having commenced this week, is a factor
    for consideration.

The Yilli Rreung Violence Action plan and
Policy was also supported by the convening of a regional summit on family
violence in 2004.[17] The first
recommendation of that summit was for it to be repeated at regular, two-yearly

This process was a major achievement for the Yilli Rreung
Regional Council, even though its potential, and the solutions focus it provided, were never fully met.

The question remains: what is the current status of this Regional Action Plan on Family Violence? Indeed, what is the status of each of the regional action plans on
family violence that existed nationally?

In the past two Social
Justice Reports
I have expressed concerns at the failure of the government
to utilise the planning tools and action plans developed by the ATSIC Regional
Councils and through other planning forums for health, housing, criminal justice
and so on. These existing plans could provide a cornerstone for regional
engagement under the new arrangements.

After all, the new Indigenous
Coordination Centres cover the same geographic region as the old ATSIC Regional
Councils did. Accordingly, the ATSIC Regional Council Plans, Regional Family
Violence Plans, as well as Regional Health Planning Forums and other such
planning documents, provide a good head start on these issues.

example illustrates what is missing from the current arrangements and the
structural problems in delivering the commitments made on family violence and
child abuse.

We are not starting from scratch in dealing with this issue
– despite the rhetoric.

Let me give you one more example. It is
reflections on the experiences in the past three years of the Murdi Paaki
Regional Assembly – one of only two regional bodies that the government
has funded nationally.

The Regional Assembly is based on community
working parties that provide the connection between government programming,
regional planning and priority setting and the implementation of projects at the
community level.

Each community working party is responsible for a
community action plan to identify key local priorities. This includes working
parties that are dealing with issues integrally related to family violence and
child abuse.

The Chairman of the Murdi Paaki Assembly, Sam Jeffries, has
commented on his experience of the new arrangements and the regional engagement
arrangements that have been funded as follows:

Unfortunately in moving from a fully elected regional body under the ATSIC
Act with its own administrative resources, the arrangements do not resource
regional representative arrangements to enable them to perform all the functions
expected of them.

In these circumstances, government relies on the good-will of the Indigenous
participants in Community Working Parties to meet its own interests in ensuring
effective coordination and responsiveness...

What we now have is a new discretionary interventionist policy where the
initiative resides with the Minister and government

He warns:

In the way they are being implemented, the new arrangements run counter to
the ideals that have influenced the Murdi Paaki region over the past decade in
developing effective arrangements for empowering our communities.


We have been guided by a number of fundamental principles:


  • Participation is a way to plan, identify and implement priority development
    activities and better use existing resources;
  • Communities must have the capacity to analyse their circumstances so that
    development can be on the basis of informed consent and communities can guide
    government agencies in the way they provide the necessary assistance;
  • Communities also identify what incremental and strategic resources are
    needed and negotiate their source;
  • Communities themselves provide the information service providers need to
    respond to identified local needs and priorities.


Participation means becoming more accountable to communities...


The difficulty I have with the new arrangements is that there is no
structured, resourced, representative participation, but a series of ad hoc
arrangements designed to meet the needs of government based on one-off funding
agreements incorporating not citizen rights but administrative and political

The findings of the Social Justice Report back up these concerns -
we need consistency and continuity of engagement.

My comments today have
addressed the structural issues for how the government delivers services and
engages with Indigenous communities.

It is a complex situation and there
are many potential consequences yet to be considered.

For example, in
implementing its reforms in the Northern Territory, some of the other key issues
that we don’t have much detail on as yet include whether the government:

  • Will apply the non-extinguishment principle under the Native Title
    in any acquisition of land?
  • Will the Government conduct child protection checks on volunteers and
    other personnel who enter Indigenous communities to assist in this process?
    As the Wild / Anderson report notes it is unfortunate that many offenders in
    communities are non-Indigenous support workers so this has to be addressed so as
    to not entrench longer term offending behaviours.
  • Will the Government ensure that a fair share of the more than $2billion
    agreed at COAG last year for mental health be devoted to programs for healing
    among Indigenous communities?
    for victims, their families and offenders. To
    date, insufficient attention has been devoted to the significant mental health
    issues that are faced in Indigenous communities, despite broad agreement by
    COAG. And
  • Will the Government support capacity building to improve
    community engagement and dispute resolution systems within Indigenous
    The need for this has been demonstrated in the most compelling
    terms by the Indigenous Facilitation and Mediation Project (IFaMP) in
    2006 and it has also been recommended by the National Alternative Dispute
    Resolution Advisory

are complex matters. They need robust debate. The need for such debate should
not lead to inertia or inaction. But it should lead to a commitment to principled engagement with Indigenous peoples so that we are recognised
as active participants and agents of change for our own futures and for those of
our children.

This is a key challenge if we are to succeed in the
Northern Territory, and in addressing the issue of family violence and child
abuse in every other state in Australia. And these are the challenges that I
detail in the Social Justice Report and Native Title Report that I
am launching here today.

I want to see a positive future, where the
rhetoric of government results in true reconciliation, as measured in tangible
outcomes. This is achievable and it is realistic.

Please remember, from
self respect comes dignity, and from dignity comes hope.

I thank you for
joining me here today.


[1] Minister Brough, Disappointing
treatment of social justice reforms, Media release, 14 June 2007,

[2] See further:

[3] There was a detailed analysis
of the then new whole of government community trials (or COAG trials, which
pre-date the new arrangements) in the 2003

[4] Social Justice
Report 2006
, p1, pp15-18.

[5] Dr Peter Shergold, Connecting Government: Whole-of-Government Responses to
Australia's Priority Challenges,
Speech, Launch of Connecting Government:
Whole-of-Government Responses to Australia's Priority Challenges,
20 April

[6] Prime Minister, Address to the
Sydney Institute, Speech Transcript, Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney, 25 June 2007,

[7] Prime Minister, Address to the
Sydney Institute, Speech Transcript, Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney, 25 June 2007,

[8] Michael Duffy, ‘Lessons
from Iraq absent in Howard’s law-and-order solution’, Sydney Morning
Herald, Saturday 30 June 2007, p35. Duffy also discusses ‘irrationality in
public opinion’ whereby public support in the USA always increases when
its government declares war – any war. He states: “it is the
‘rallying around the flag phenomenon’. I would not be surprised if
this occurs in Australia

[9] Human Rights and
Equal Opportunity Commission, A human rights based approach is vital to
address the challenges in Indigenous communities
, Media release, 26 June

[10] Article 5(b), International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial

[11] 7:30 Report,
Interview by Kerry O’Brien with Minister Brough, 27 June 2007, Available
online at:

[12] See:
For commentary on the plan see: Social Justice Report 2006,

[13] Social Justice
Report 2006
, pp17-18. We should also remember that the legislation which
forms the foundation for the new arrangements, the Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Act 2005
(Cth), has as one of its objectives ‘to
ensure maximum participation of Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders
in the formulation and implementation of government policies that affect
them’. This legislative requirement is currently not being

[14] Ken Henry, Creating
the right incentives for Indigenous development
, Address to the Cape York
Institute Conference, ‘Strong foundations – rebuilding social norms
in Indigenous communities’, Cairns, 26 June 2007, Speech online at:

[15] Recommendation 2 is that there be acknowledgement by government of the importance of a human
rights based approach to development in order to effectively implement the new
arrangements and the achievement of effective and sustainable improvements in
Indigenous living standards and well-being. This requires accepting the
importance of Indigenous forms of social organisation and engaging on the basis
of mutual respect and good faith, and to support processes, including through
capacity building initiatives, to ensure that the aspirations of Indigenous
peoples are able to be voiced. Recommendation 4 is that it be
acknowledged that the absence of mechanisms at the regional level for engagement
of Indigenous peoples contradicts and undermines the purposes of the federal
whole of government service delivery arrangements. It calls for this deficiency
to be addressed as an urgent priority.

[16] ATSIC Yilli Rreung Regional
Council, Family Violence Policy, ATSIC Darwin

[17] Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Commission, Our Indigenous Women Speak Out: Indigenous
Women’s Conference on Family Violence and Child Welfare
, 15 – 18
June 2004.

[18] Sam Jeffries, Rhetoric and Reverse Gear: Indigenous Policy as a strategic afterthought,
4th National Indigenous Education Conference, Getting on with the
job: Indigenous Engagement in Education,
Newcastle, 27-29th November

[19] Sam Jeffries, Rhetoric and Reverse Gear: Indigenous Policy as a strategic afterthought,
4th National Indigenous Education Conference, Getting on with the
job: Indigenous Engagement in Education,
Newcastle, 27-29th November

[20] Bauman, T. (2006)
Final Report of the Indigenous Facilitation and Mediation Project July 2003 June
2006: research findings, recommendations and implementation. Report No. 6
Native Title Research Unit, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Studies, Canberra. See also NADRAC (2006) Indigenous Dispute Resolution
and Conflict Management NADRAC, Canberra.