Sunday 2 May 2010

Today’s announcement that the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples is ready to begin operations marks a new beginning for effective national representation of Australia’s First Peoples, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said today.

Mr Gooda congratulated the Congress on being incorporated as a company limited by guarantee, meaning that it can now begin to operate officially.

Welcoming the appointment of Kerry Arabena and Sam Jeffries as the inaugural Co-Chairs of the organisation, Mr Gooda said this was a moment that would go down in history as a turning point in Australia’s reconciliation process. Commissioner Gooda also congratulated Josephine Bourne, Peter Buckskin, Ned David, Colleen Hayward, Klynton Wanganeen and Daphne Yarram on their appointment as Directors of the company and members of the National Executive.

“I would like to congratulate the independent Steering Committee, that has designed and led the creation of the organisation, for selecting such an eminent group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and men whose leadership and commitment to Indigenous Australia is one in which we can all have the highest confidence,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“The National Congress is ground-breaking for all the right reasons: it has evolved from a process driven by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and it has stood by its commitment to gender equity by implementing a National Executive comprising equal representation of women and men.

“I am similarly enthused that an Ethics Council has been established and begun its work to ensure the highest standards of professionalism and organisational integrity for the Congress, with processes that are transparent, participatory, informed and robust.”

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said the National Executive was setting a new benchmark for public organisations in Australia.

“With Australia's poor record on supporting women into leadership, particularly in the private sector, I am delighted that our country's First Peoples are setting the pace - and challenging the rest of us,” Ms Broderick said.

“Establishment of this new body means governments now have the opportunity to improve outcomes through policies and programs developed in an environment of the real and meaningful engagement that can emerge from a credible national representative voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“I urge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, industry, governments and the public to commit to working in partnership and respect with the National Congress to improve our human rights.”

Media contact: Louise McDermott 02 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597