NSW Labor Leader, Michael Daley and Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, David Harris, have today announced Labor’s policies to better support Aboriginal communities across NSW.
This builds on Labor’s previous significant announcements including a pathway to negotiate a Treaty or Treaties with the First Peoples of the State.
Mr Daley said: “Labor has always acknowledged the unique cultural heritage of the First Peoples as a priority.
“The Liberals and Nationals have spent eight years paying lip service to policies in Aboriginal Affairs but they haven’t made any substantive policy or legislative changes.”
Mr Harris said: “It’s important that a NSW Labor Government continues to build on the existing relationship with the NSW Aboriginal community to achieve lasting generational change.”
Under further measures announced today, Labor will:
- Appoint an Aboriginal Affairs Advocate for Children and Young People – The Advocate will be a voice for Aboriginal children in government policy and legislation and will work side by side with the Advocate for Children and Young People. Labor will work with Aboriginal communities to develop the role, determine its focus and make sure that it is Aboriginal-led to empower Aboriginal communities.
- Allocate $5 million over four years to reinstate traditional burning practices –Expanding traditional burning practices will open up country for the local Aboriginal community and restore the traditional forest structure. These programs will create employment and training opportunities for Aboriginal communities.
- Adopt the principles of Justice Reinvestment – A strategy that aims to reduce incarceration rates and improve social outcomes by directing resources into communities with high rates of imprisonment. Labor will deliver $4.5 million over four years to fund three pilot programs, which will be delivered through NGOs, and deliver a coordinating authority.
- Make a formal apology to victims of state-sanctioned massacres in NSW – Recent research identified at least 68 massacres in NSW between 1788 and 1872, resulting in the deaths of approximately 1,653 Aboriginal people.
- Move the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to Premier and Cabinet - This demonstrates NSW Labor’s commitment to a future Treaty Process which will need cross portfolio co-ordination at the highest level.
- Fund the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) – The AECG is a not for profit Aboriginal organisation that provides advice on all matters relevant to education and training. Labor will deliver $4 million of additional money over four years which will enable the organisation to increase its participation in developing and supporting Aboriginal education across NSW.
- Secure the future of the Girls Academy – Provide $3.9 million in funding over four years to secure the future of the Girls Academy, a program focused on increasing school attendance and retention rates. Currently, the Clontarf Foundation, an organisation which provides education and life skills programs to Aboriginal boys and young men, is receiving government funding. The Liberals and Nationals have failed to provide funding for a similar program for girls and women.
Today Labor also recommitted to:
- Returning Me-Mel (Goat Island) to its traditional owners as a priority - Me-Mel has enormous significance to Indigenous communities and was home to the Wangal people when Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet arrived in Sydney Cove in 1788. The Liberals and Nationals promised to return Me-Mel in October 2016, but the transfer has still not taken place.
- Establishing Walama Court - A court for indigenous offenders in the District Court jurisdiction, at a time when Aboriginal incarceration rates are worse in NSW than either at the time of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody or in 2011.
- Delivering dedicated Aboriginal Cultural and Heritage Act - NSW is the only state in Australia without standalone legislation to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage.
- Establishing a Myall Creek massacre education and cultural centre – Providing up to $3 million to help establish an education and cultural centre at the historic Myall Creek massacre site in northern NSW, supporting one of the state’s most well-known reconciliation projects.
- Flying the Aboriginal Flag on the Harbour Bridge - For 40 years, the Aboriginal flag has flown as a proud symbol for Indigenous Australians. A Daley Labor Government will fly the Aboriginal flag with the flags of Australia and New South Wales on the Harbour Bridge.
- Funding up to six scholarships for Indigenous medical doctors – The scholarship will be delivered through the highly successful Shalom Gamarada Indigenous Residential Scholarship Program. This program is sponsored by Sydney’s Jewish community and Shalom College at the UNSW. It has been successful in its goal to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through higher education and by increasing the number of Indigenous professionals, especially in the critical area of Indigenous health.