Originally published in the National Indigenous Times, March 2007.
In the lead-up to the New South Wales state election this weekend, NIT contacted the major parties – with varying success – to find out their plans for the state’s Indigenous population. Analysis by Amy McQuire.
As the four major parties contesting the NSW election prepare for the clash at the polls this Saturday, only three of them have released their Indigenous policies.
The NSW Greens, Australian Democrats and Australian Labor Party have collectively highlighted the need for further attention to be directed to Indigenous education, employment and rights throughout the state.
At the time of press, the NSW Liberal party had not released its Indigenous policy, with Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Brad Hazzard’s office saying it would be completed sometime this week.
The NSW Greens revised their policy in November last year and emphasised the need for improved health, education and employment in Indigenous communities.
The party’s goals include a constitutional recognition of Australia’s cultural diversity and Indigenous peoples and involves making moves to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people receive equal outcomes in health, education training, housing, employment and living standards within the next generation.
The Greens have also aimed to draw attention to ensuring effective, non-discriminatory policing in Indigenous communities and will campaign to fund a 10-year Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing plan to address unmet need.
Lobbying for amendments to the Native Title Act 1993 and other legislation such as giving effect to the Draft International Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and supporting amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NSW) 1983 is also represented in the Greens policy.
In contrast, the Labor party has stated in their policy that a re-elected Iemma government will aim to keep forging ahead with their Two Ways Together program and will continue to review it.
Keeping up with the Greens, NSW Labor also states it will aim to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights Act as well as ensuring proper consultation on the proposed amendments by bringing out an exposure draft.
Labor will continue to support Aboriginal Circle Sentencing as well as piloting a model of the sentencing tailored for juvenile offenders. The party also says it will support Community Justice Groups and Community Patrols and will implement the Aboriginal Justice Plan.
The party counts some of its past achievements in Aboriginal NSW to include strategies and programs developed to advance Aboriginal family services, Aboriginal business, culture and development, Aboriginal youth, Aboriginal education, housing and health.
The NSW Democrats have predominately drawn attention to Aboriginal education, stressing the need to look at the reasons behind why Aboriginal students are falling behind in school.
The party generally is aiming to promote self-determination as well as removing unreasonable barriers that Aboriginal communities face when attempting to make a living.
In terms of past achievement, the NSW Democrats point to Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, a current member of the Legislative Council, who in 2004 initiated an inquiry into Redfern/Waterloo issues.
Dr Chesterfield-Evans also successfully moved legislation to prevent the sale of “The Settlement” in Darlington, Sydney as well as urging the state government to support companies for employing Aboriginal apprentices.
The NSW election will be held on March 24.
POLICIES IN BRIEF
Some of the key issues the Australian Democrats have addressed in their Indigenous policy include:
EDUCATION: Calling on schools to address why Aboriginal students are still failing at school and advocating for improved cultural awareness training for teachers; calling on schools to provide whole school policies on improving attendance and retention at school; greater training of Aboriginal Education Assistants; greater focus on literacy and numeracy strategies which work with Aboriginal children.
GENERAL: Creating an economic, social, cultural and legal framework that will enable Indigenous Australians to manage their own lives and futures; promoting self-determination as a goal for the future; removing some of the unreasonable barriers that Aboriginal communities face when attempting to make a living.
COMMUNITY: Recognising Indigenous community organizations and programs to help tackle disadvantage in Aboriginal communities; improving the efficiency of co-ordination of Government service delivery in Indigenous communities; supporting regional autonomy (Federal policy)
SAFETY & DEVELOPMENT: Advocating for long term programs to deal with intergenerational trauma, stress and grief in Indigenous communities, calling for a review of the national strategy on Indigenous deaths in custody and the National Justice Strategy; more crime prevention programs, sentencing and diversionary alternatives. (Federal policy)
CULTURE: Greater recognition and respect for Indigenous cultures, heritage, languages and traditional knowledge; encouraging the strengthening of Indigenous cultural identity and customary practice; legislative protection of communal moral rights. (Federal Policy)
POLICIES IN BRIEF
Some of the key issues the Greens NSW have addressed in their Indigenous policy include:
HEALTH: Increasing resources in community-controlled and mainstream health service to train more Indigenous health workers and professionals, making Indigenous child health a major priority; supporting Indigenous community initiatives and networks to address family violence and abuse.
EDUCATION: Establishing and funding early childhood education and care programs in schools with significant Indigenous populations; ensuring that the Department of Education and Training implements its Aboriginal Education policy and programs especially targeted to the improvement of outcomes for Aboriginal children; making Indigenous studies a mandatory component of all Teacher Education courses; increasing support for developing Indigenous culture, languages, customs and history curricula to be taught in all schools and community.
POLICING: Ensuring there is effective, non-discriminatory policing in all Indigenous communities; ongoing funding for successful community night-patrol programs; requiring all police to undertake cultural awareness training, implementing the outstanding recommendations of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody (1991) and the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families (1997).
EMPLOYMENT: Providing recurrent resources for opportunities for Indigenous employment; ensuring all programs and services in Indigenous communities employ qualified people nominated by the communities; requiring the state government agencies to adopt strategies to increase participation in service delivery to Indigenous people.
RIGHTS: Lobby for amendments to the Native Title Act 1993; seeking the return of all items of Indigenous cultural heritage to their rightful owners, support reconciliation initiatives; compensating, as a matter of priority, Indigenous people for property that has been taken from them or wages that have been withheld; supporting amendments to the preamble of the Australian constitution to recognise the original and ongoing occupation of Australia by Indigenous people and their rights as Australia’s Indigenous peoples.
POLICIES IN BRIEF
Some of the key issues NSW Labor have addressed in their Indigenous policy include:
RIGHTS: Amend the Aboriginal Land Rights Act to ensure that clear guidelines are available to land councils wishing to undertake land dealings; will ensure full and proper consultation on the proposed land amendments by circulating an exposure draft.
EMPLOYMENT: Support new teaching and nursing positions through Aboriginal cadetships; Aim for a two per cent target Aboriginal employment rate across the NSW Public Sector.
CHILDREN: Ensure case plans for Aboriginal children in foster care include Aboriginal cultural awareness with the aim to help children retain cultural links.
LAW: Support Aboriginal Circle Sentencing, Community Justice Groups and Community Patrols; implement the Aboriginal Justice Plan to reduce over-representation in the justice system; pilot a model of Aboriginal Circle Sentencing tailored to deal with juvenile offenders.
COMMUNITY: Review the plan “Two Ways Together” which works to target areas of disadvantage and get better outcomes for Aboriginal people; support community events to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 referendum; Celebrate the 50th anniversary of NAIDOC by supporting a gathering of Aboriginal children in foster care and their carers during NAIDOC week.
HOUSING: Continue the Housing for Health program to improve the amenity of a further 570 houses.