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Social Justice Report 2004 : Appendix 1: Chronology of events relating to the introduction of new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs, 2002 - 2004

Social Justice Report 2004

Appendix 1: Chronology of events relating to the introduction of new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs, 2002 - 2004

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  • This appendix provides an overview of the main events leading up to the introduction of the new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs on 1 July 2004, as well as the key events which have occurred since that time to implement the new arrangements.

    It commences with a table which summarises the main events. This is followed by more information on each event.

     

     

     

    Summary - Chronology of events relating to the introduction of new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs, 2002 - 2004

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    5 April 2002

    COAG
    Commitments

    The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agrees to trial a whole of government cooperative approach in up to ten communities or regions across Australia. Eight trial sites are subsequently agreed upon.

    COAG also agrees to commission the Steering Committee for Government Service Provision to develop a reporting framework on key indicators of Indigenous disadvantage.

    These decisions follow from the agreement of a reconciliation framework by COAG in November 2000. The framework commits governments to work in partnership to improve the economic and social wellbeing of Indigenous people.

    12 November 2002

    ATSIC Review announced

    The Government announces a three-member panel will review the role and functions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). The terms of reference require that the review examine and make recommendations to government on:

    • How Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can in the future be best represented in the process of the development of Commonwealth policies and programmes to assist them;
    • The current roles and functions of ATSIC; and
    • The appropriate role of Regional Councils in ensuring the delivery of appropriate government programmes and services to Indigenous people.

    24 December 2002

    Conflict of interest directions issued for ATSIC

    The Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs issues general directions to ATSIC to address potential conflicts of interest by preventing ATSIC from funding organisations of which full-time ATSIC officeholders are directors or in which they have a controlling interest.

    The ATSIC Board provided its support for the directions on 24 January 2003.

    17 April 2003

    ATSIS created to address ongoing concerns about potential conflicts of interest in ATSIC

    The Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs announces that a new Executive Agency, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS), will be established under the Public Service Act to manage ATSIC's programmes and to make individual funding decisions. This removes the powers of ATSIC's National Board to make such decisions.

    The Minister states that this action follows from continuing concerns about ATSIC's operations leading the Government to the conclusion that further action was needed. The creation of ATSIS is announced as an interim measure, pending the outcomes of the ATSIC Review.

    13 June 2003

    ATSIC Review Discussion Paper released

    The ATSIC Review team release a discussion paper outlining the main themes from their consultations to date and setting out a number of proposals for a revised ATSIC. The Review states that there continues to be 'overwhelming support' for a national body to represent the interests of Indigenous peoples, 'but very little support for ATSIC's current performance' with the ATSIC Board not having 'discharged its advocacy and representation functions effectively'. Accordingly, they stated that 'ATSIC has reached a crisis point in respect of its public credibility and with its Indigenous constituency'.

    1 July 2003

    ATSIS commences operations

    ATSIS commences operations. The Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs issues directions to ATSIS' Chief Executive Officer requiring it to:

    • Conform to the policies and strategies set by ATSIC and also have regard to Government policy;
    • Focus on addressing relative need between regions in implementing programs;
    • Ensure best practice in engaging service providers, including through competitive tendering and performance- based contracts; and
    • Comply with the conflict of interest directions for ATSIC.

    22 August 2003

    National reporting framework for Indigenous disadvantage is endorsed by COAG

    The Prime Minister writes to the Steering Committee for Government Service Provision on behalf of COAG and endorses the proposed national reporting framework for Indigenous disadvantage.

    The framework seeks to present statistics on Indigenous disadvantage strategically by measuring progress against indicators in the short, medium and long term. It acknowledges the inter-relationship between different factors in contributing to Indigenous disadvantage, and that holistic solutions are required, involving whole of government activity, to achieve lasting improvements.

    13 November 2003

    First report to COAG on Indigenous disadvantage is released

    The first report against the National Reporting Framework for Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage is released by the Steering Committee for Government Service Provision. It confirms that Indigenous disadvantage is broadly based, with major disparities between Indigenous people and other Australians in most areas. The report also identifies gaps in data collection which need to be addressed to improve the quality of the information contained in the report.

    It is subsequently agreed that the report will be published every two years rather than annually, as originally intended.

    28 November 2003

    ATSIC Review Panel releases final report

    The ATSIC Review Panel releases its final report, In the hands of the regions.

    The report recommends that ATSIC should be the 'primary vehicle to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' and that its role and functions should be strengthened. In strengthening ATSIC, the report proposes a range of reforms and principles to create, and underpin, a 'new ATSIC'.

    15 January 2004

    Reform of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act announced

    The Government announces that it intends to reform the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act. The proposed reforms are intended to improve corporate governance standards for Indigenous organisations.

    The amendments are not presented to Parliament in 2004. They are anticipated to be introduced in mid-2005.

    4 March 2004

    Government announces Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services to move from grant to tender process

    The Government announces that from 1 July 2005, funding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) will begin to shift from a grant funding process to a competitive tender process. Successful tenderers will be engaged by the Government under contract for a three-year funding period.

    The Government also releases an Exposure Draft of the proposed purchasing arrangements and calls for public feedback on the proposed tendering process.

    The Minister for Indigenous Affairs announces on 30 June 2004 that following public comment on the proposed tendering process the government has amended the criteria for funding.

    On 31 August 2004, the Attorney General announces that requests for tenders in Victoria and Western Australia will be released in November 2004, with other states and territories to follow progressively over the following eighteen months. The successful tenderers are expected to start delivering services on 1 July 2005.

    30 March 2004

    Federal Opposition announces will abolish ATSIC if wins federal election

    The Australian Labor Party announces that if elected at the forthcoming federal election it will put into place a new framework for Indigenous self-governance and program delivery. This would involve abolishing ATSIC and replacing it with a new Indigenous representative structure.

    15 April 2004

    Government announces that ATSIC to be abolished and new arrangements introduced from 1 July 2004

    The Government announces that ATSIC and ATSIS are to be abolished and that new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs will be introduced from 1 July 2004.

    Changes to be introduced include:

    • Introduction of legislation to abolish ATSIC;
    • The appointment of a National Indigenous Council;
    • Devolution of Indigenous-specific programmes to mainstream departments;
    • Establishment of a Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs;
    • Establishment of a Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs;
    • Creation of a new Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC);
    • Movement to a single budget submission for Indigenous affairs;
    • Creation of Indigenous Coordinating Centres (ICC's); and
    • Adoption of Shared Responsibility Agreement (SRA) and Regional Partnership Agreement (RPA) approaches

    20 April 2004

    Connecting Government report outlines whole of government challenge for public service

    The Management Advisory Committee to the Australian Public Service Commission releases its report, Connecting Government: Whole of government Response to Australia's Priority Challenges. The report outlines the challenges in implementing a whole of government approach to the public service. The Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet launches the report and describes the new arrangements for Indigenous affairs as 'the biggest test of whether the rhetoric of connectivity can be marshalled into effective action... It is an approach on which my reputation, and many of my colleagues, will hang'.

    27 May 2004

    ATSIC Amendment Bill 2004 introduced to Parliament

    The ATSIC Amendment Bill 2004 is introduced to Parliament. The Bill proposes the abolition of ATSIC in two stages - the National Board of Commissioners to be abolished from 30 June 2004 and the Regional Councils from 30 June 2005.

    The House of Representatives passed the Bill on 2 June 2004.

    28 May 2004

    Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs is created

    The Government announces the creation of the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs. The Taskforce will provide high-level direction on Indigenous policy development.

    The Taskforce is chaired by the Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and comprised of Ministers from portfolios relevant to improving outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

    11-14 June 2004

    National Indigenous Leaders Conference calls for national representative body

    The National Indigenous Leaders Conference is held in Adelaide. Participants call for a new national representative structure for Indigenous peoples and propose a range of principles for such a body.

    16 June 2004

    Senate Inquiry into ATSIC Bill established

    The Senate establishes the Select Committee for the Administration of Indigenous Affairs and refers the ATSIC Amendment Bill 2004 to it for inquiry.

    16 June 2004

    Ministerial Taskforce Charter adopted

    The Ministerial Taskforce adopts a Charter which outlines the Australian Government's 20-30 year vision for Indigenous affairs. It aims to ensure Indigenous Australians 'make informed choices', 'realise their full potential' and 'take responsibility for managing their own affairs'. The Charter also identifies early childhood intervention, safer communities, and reducing welfare dependency as the priority areas for attention in Indigenous affairs.

    21 June 2004

    Report into Capacity Building and Service Delivery in Indigenous communities released

    The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs releases Many Ways Forward, Report of the inquiry into capacity building and service delivery in Indigenous communities.

    The Report finds that there is an urgent need for a new approach to be adopted by the government sector as well as the need to build the capacity of Indigenous communities and organisations.

    The Report presents a series of recommendations that aim to ensure:

    • basic data collection is nationally consistent and comparable, and focussed on outcomes;
    • the Government institute a coordinated annual report to parliament on its progress in achieving agreed outcomes and benchmarks;
    • a comprehensive evaluation is made of the COAG Trials, and a regular report on progress is made to Parliament;
    • improved integration, coordination and cooperation within and between levels of government in consultation with Indigenous Australians occurs;
    • a strong commitment is made to improving the capacity of government agencies; and
    • the development of partnerships between the private/corporate/philanthropic sectors and Indigenous organisations is encouraged and supported.

    25 June 2004

    COAG principles for new arrangements in Indigenous affairs endorsed

    COAG endorses a National framework of principles for government service delivery to Indigenous Australians as well as confirming its commitment to the whole of government trials and practical reconciliation. The National Principles will inform the Taskforce and Secretaries Group when developing and monitoring strategies to address Indigenous disadvantage.

    The National Principles relate to six issues:

    • Sharing responsibility;
    • Harnessing the mainstream;
    • Streamlining service delivery;
    • Establishing transparency and accountability;
    • Developing a learning framework; and
    • Focussing on priority areas.

    1 July 2004

    New arrangements in Indigenous affairs commence

    Under the new arrangements, 'more than $1 billion of former ATSIC-ATSIS programs was transferred to mainstream departments'. These departments will be required to 'accept responsibility for Indigenous services' and be 'held accountable for outcomes'. The transfer of Indigenous service to mainstream departments aims to ensure that departments will 'work in a coordinated way' and 'to make sure that local families and communities have a real say in how money is spent'.

    31 August 2004

    Senate inquiry interim report and dissenting reports released

    The Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs releases its interim report and Government Senators release a dissenting report. The Committee report lists the number of public hearings held and submissions received by the Committee and states that due to the federal election it will be unable to complete its inquiry.

    The dissenting interim report notes 'little support [was] expressed for ATSIC' in submissions received.

    The Senate Committee was reconvened on 17 November 2004 and is due to report in March 2005.

    6 November 2004

    The National Indigenous Council is appointed

    The Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs announces the membership of the Government-appointed advisory body, the National Indigenous Council (NIC). The NIC is not intended to be a representative body or to replace ATSIC. Members of the NIC are appointed based on their 'expertise and experience in particular policy areas'.

    Mrs Sue Gordon is appointed as the Chairperson of the NIC. The NIC will meet four times per year and advise the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs.

    8-9 December 2004

    NIC conducts inaugural meeting

    The National Indigenous Council holds its' inaugural meeting. The Terms of Reference for the NIC are agreed with the Government. The NIC agrees that the priority policy areas for Indigenous affairs are:

    • early childhood intervention;
    • safer communities; and
    • reducing passive welfare.

    Further information about events relating to the introduction of new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs, 2002 - 2004

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    5 April 2002

    COAG
    commitments toreconciliation

    Summary of issue:

    The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agrees to trial a whole of government cooperative approach in up to ten communities or regions across Australia. Eight trial sites are subsequently agreed upon.

    COAG also agrees to commission the Steering Committee for Government Service Provision to develop a reporting framework on key indicators of Indigenous disadvantage.

    These decisions follow from the agreement of a Reconciliation Framework by COAG in November 2000. The framework commits all governments to work in partnership to improve the economic and social wellbeing of Indigenous people.

    In its' Communique of 3 November 2000, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed on a reconciliation framework through which all governments committed to an approach based on partnerships and shared responsibilities with indigenous communities, programme flexibility and coordination between government agencies, with a focus on local communities and outcomes.

    The Reconciliation Framework establishes three priority areas for government action:

    • Investing in community leadership initiatives;
    • Reviewing and re-engineering programs and services to ensure that they deliver practical measures that support families, children and young people. In particular, governments agreed to look at measures for tackling family violence, drug and alcohol dependency and other symptoms of community dysfunction; and
    • Forging greater links between the business sector and Indigenous communities to promote great economic independence.(1)

    In its' Communique of 5 April 2002, COAG reaffirmed its commitment to this framework and agreed further to:

    • Trial a whole of government cooperative approach in up to ten communities or regions across Australia; and
    • Commission the Steering Committee for Government Service Provision to develop a reporting framework on key indicators of Indigenous disadvantage.

    The aim of the whole of government community trials is to:

    improve the way governments interact with each other and with communities to deliver more effective responses to the needs of indigenous Australians. The lessons learnt from these cooperative approaches will be able to be applied more broadly. This approach will be flexible in order to reflect the needs of specific communities, build on existing work and improve the compatibility of different State, Territory and Commonwealth approaches to achieve better outcomes.(2)

    It was subsequently agreed to conduct the trials in eight different Indigenous communities and regions. The trial sites are located as follows:

    • Murdi Paaki Region (New South Wales);
    • Wadeye (Northern Territory);
    • Shepparton (Victoria);
    • Cape York (Queensland);
    • Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands (South Australia);
    • East Kimberley region (Western Australia);
    • Northern Tasmania; and
    • Australian Capital Territory.(3)

    COAG also agreed to commission the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision to produce a regular report against key indicators of indigenous disadvantage. This report is to 'help to measure the impact of changes to policy settings and service delivery and provide a concrete way to measure the effect of the Council's commitment to reconciliation through a jointly agreed set of indicators'(4).

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    12 November 2002

    ATSIC Review announced

    The Government announces a three-member panel will review the role and functions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). The terms of reference require that the review examine and make recommendations to Government on:

    • How Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can in the future be best represented in the process of the development of Commonwealth policies and programmes to assist them;
    • The current roles and functions of ATSIC; and
    • The appropriate role of Regional Councils in ensuring the delivery of appropriate government programmes and services to Indigenous people.

    The Government announces a three-member panel will review the role and functions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). The Review Team is comprised of the Hon John Hannaford, Ms Jackie Huggins AM and the Hon Bob Collins.

    The Terms of reference for the review are as follows.

    The reassessment will examine and make recommendations to government on how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can in the future be best represented in the process of the development of Commonwealth policies and programmes to assist them. In doing so the reassessment will consider the current roles and functions of ATSIC including its roles in providing:

    1. Advocacy and representation of the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
    2. Programmes and services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and
    3. Advice on implementation of legislation.

    In particular the reassessment will consider the appropriate role for Regional Councils in ensuring the delivery of appropriate government programmes and services to Indigenous people.

    The reassessment will also consider and report on any potential financial implications.(5)

    On 23 February 2003, the Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs also asked the Review Team:

    to give particular attention to the structure of the relationship between the government and the Commission. This should include the adequacy of the Minister's powers and the merits of a possible Ministerial veto in relation to specific ATSIC decisions.(6)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    24 December 2002

    Conflict of interest directions issued for ATSIC

    The Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs issues general directions to ATSIC to address potential conflicts of interest by preventing ATSIC from funding organisations of which full-time ATSIC officeholders are directors or in which they have a controlling interest.

    The ATSIC Board provided its support for the directions on 24 January 2003.

    On 24 December 2002, the Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs issues general directions to ATSIC to address potential conflicts of interest by preventing ATSIC from funding organisations of which full-time ATSIC officeholders are directors or in which they have a controlling interest.(7) The directions were made under section 12 of the ATSIC Act which allows the Minister to issue general directions to ATSIC about the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers.

    The Minister stated that:

    The directions will help minimise perceptions of conflicts of interest which arise when ATSIC officeholders are also members of bodies which ATSIC funds. It will allow ATSIC elected officials to focus on their duties and not be distracted by criticisms about possible conflicts of interests.

    The directions will also assist ATSIC to distinguish more clearly between its representative functions and its role in providing services. In particular, it will clearly separate those making funding decisions and the recipients of funding under the ATSIC Act.(8)

    The ATSIC Board of Commissioners indicates their support for the conflict of interest directions on 24 January 2003.

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    17 April 2003

    ATSIS created to address ongoing concerns about potential conflicts of interest in ATSIC

    The Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs announces that a new Executive Agency, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS), will be established under the Public Service Act to manage ATSIC's programmes and to make individual funding decisions. This removes the powers of ATSIC's national Board to make such decisions. The Minister states that this action follows from continuing concerns about ATSIC's operations and potential conflicts of interest. The creation of ATSIS is announced as an interim measure, pending the outcomes of the ATSIC Review.

    On 10 April 2003, the Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs foreshadows that the Government 'would be taking action in the forthcoming Budget to separate the roles undertaken within ATSIC'(9).

    On 17 April 2003, the Minister announces that an Executive Agency, to be called Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS), will be established under the Public Service Act to manage ATSIC's programmes and to make individual funding decisions. This removes the powers of ATSIC's national Board to make such decisions. This is described as an interim measure, pending the outcomes of the ATSIC Review.(10)

    The Minister stated that:

    From 1 July 2003, all individual funding decisions concerning programmes delivered by ATSIC will be made by officers of the administrative arm... ATSIC Commissioners and Regional Councillors will continue to determine policies and priorities for the spending of the money, in line with the original intention behind the establishment of ATSIC...

    This interim measure will promote good governance and accountability by removing the potential for conflicts of interest in decision making over funding.
    In the Westminster system of government, Ministers normally decide policy and officials implement it. ATSIC is unique in that it effectively exercises Ministerial policy powers. However, there has been no separation between this role and decisions to enter contracts or allocate funds to particular organisations or individuals, resulting in the potential for perceived or actual conflict of interest.

    This is contrary to good governance. The micro-management focus on ATSIC's own spending has also distracted the elected arm from more significant policy issues. While I took steps late last year to reduce conflicts of interest within ATSIC, continuing concerns about ATSIC's operations have led the Government to the conclusion that further action was needed...

    I recently asked the ATSIC Board to advise me what action it would take to address this issue. Its final position was supportive in principle but entailed too many qualifications and no guarantees. That is why the Government has decided to act now, rather than wait another year until the next budget or any changes to the ATSIC Act following the current Review.(11)

    The agency, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS), will be headed by the ATSIC CEO and will be required to operate in conformity with policies and priorities established by the ATSIC Board and Regional Councils and to report on performance to the ATSIC elected arm. The Minister noted that:

    (This) decision did not entail 'mainstreaming' ATSIC's programmes, nor their transfer to a department, as happened with ATSIC's health programme under the previous government. The new Executive Agency will be independent and required to operate in conformity with the Board's policies and priorities.

    There will be very little change for ATSIC's elected arm, its staff, and the organisations who receive funding or services from ATSIC. In particular:

    • ATSIC will remain the Government's chief Indigenous source of policy advice
    • Regional Councils will continue to play a central role in this process
    • the overall budget will remain unchanged, and
    • existing funding for organisations will continue subject to normal conditions.(12)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    13 June 2003

    ATSIC Review Discussion Paper released

    The ATSIC Review Team releases a discussion paper outlining the main themes from their consultations to date and setting out a number of proposals for a revised ATSIC.

    The Review states that there continues to be 'overwhelming support' for a national body to represent the interests of Indigenous peoples, 'but very little support for ATSIC's current performance' with the ATSIC Board not having 'discharged its advocacy and representation functions effectively'. Accordingly, they stated that 'ATSIC has reached a crisis point in respect of its public credibility and with its Indigenous constituency'.

    On 13 June 2003, the ATSIC Review Team releases a discussion paper outlining the main themes from their consultations to date and setting out a number of proposals for a revised ATSIC.

    In the discussion paper the Review Panel noted that:

    There was overwhelming support among key stakeholders for a National body to represent the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, but very little support for ATSIC's current performance.

    The consensus was that the Board had not discharged its advocacy and representation functions effectively. A disconnect was seen between the Board and Regional Councils, the Regional Councils and their communities, and even more of a gap between communities and the Board.

    After more than twelve years, ATSIC has reached a crisis point in respect of its public credibility and with its Indigenous constituency. Great concern is being expressed that this is spilling over from ATSIC and adversely impacting on other areas such as the reconciliation movement. A concerted effort is required to reposition ATSIC as a positive force for Indigenous advancement; otherwise it will become irrelevant or face abolition.(13)

    Preliminary findings of the Review Panel were that an effective regional structure should:

    • be based on local Indigenous communities;
    • assist with establishing effective local community structures;
    • assist with establishing effective community governance;
    • assist with the identification of community needs, their priorities and the measures to address those needs;
    • identify community needs that have regional significance;
    • prepare regional plans to address the regional and local needs;
    • advocate regional needs; and
    • assist local, state and national agencies to implement the regional needs plan.(14)

    Overall the Review Panel noted that, 'State and National programs should be informed by the regional plans and undertake activities consistent with those plans'.(15)

    The Review Panel identified a range of model options for a restructured ATSIC.

    1. Status Quo or 'Parliamentary' model involves ATSIC's elected representatives setting policy and priorities, but removes from the elected arm any involvement in determining funding to reflect those policies and priorities, including in relation to the delivery of services.
    2. Regional Authority model replaces the existing 35 Regional Councils with 16 Regional Authorities which would prepare needs-based Regional Plans, establish criteria for funding decisions and programs, and report on outcomes. The National Board would comprise the 16 Chairs and a Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Commissioner.
    3. Regional Council model incorporates the same roles and responsibilities for the elected arm as the Regional Authority model. It retains the existing 35 Regional Councils with full-time chairs elected by each Council. Instead of Zone Commissioners, members of Regional Councils in each 'zone' elect one of 16 National Board members (in addition to the TSRA member).
    4. Devolution model proposes structural changes that could be implemented as a means of delivering more effectively the outcomes that Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are seeking through this current review. In particular, it would involve the Commonwealth delivering appropriate Indigenous-specific programs and services through State/Territory agencies.(16)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    1 July 2003

    ATSIS commences operations

    ATSIS commences operations. The Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs issues directions requiring ATSIS to:

    • Conform to the policies and strategies set by ATSIC and also have regard to Government policy;
    • Focus on addressing relative need between regions in implementing programs;
    • Ensure best practice in engaging service providers, including through competitive tendering and performance- based contracts; and
    • Comply with the conflict of interest directions for ATSIC.

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS), a new executive agency to administer ATSIC's programs, commences operations on 1 July 2003. The Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs issues the following directions for ATSIS to comply with in its operations.

    • In implementing programs and arranging services for Indigenous peoples, the CEO will take all reasonable steps to ensure that ATSIS:

      • conforms to the policies and strategic priorities set and promulgated by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC)
      • reflects the priorities set by Regional Councils in their regional plans as the critical guide for interventions and services within a region, giving due emphasis to addressing needs
      • facilitates linked approaches with other government agencies (both Commonwealth and State/Territory) to optimise outcomes for clients
      • coordinates its activities to achieve effective synergies with overall Government policies and priorities, and
      • has appropriate regard to overall Government policies and priorities.
    • Having appropriate regard to functional priorities and strategies for addressing relative need determined by the ATSIC Board, the CEO will take all reasonable steps to ensure that resources are apportioned between regions and communities according to demonstrable relative need, taking into account of the availability of alternative services in those areas and the supplementary intent of Indigenous specific services.
    • The choice of and relationship with individual service providers should be based on best practice, including:
      • outcome-based funding and performance-based contracts for services delivery
      • market testing and competitive tendering wherever appropriate
      • assessment based on comparative efficiency and effectiveness, including demonstrated capacity to deliver, and
      • management structures that reflect principles of sound governance and leadership by fit and proper individuals with a record of effective management.
    • The CEO of ATSIS will take all reasonable steps to ensure that ATSIS does not make grants or loans or offer contracts or provide guarantees to organisations in circumstances where such grant or provision would be precluded by my Conflict of Interests Directions issued 24 December 2002 and amended 3 February 2003.
    • The CEO of ATSIS will take all reasonable steps to ensure that ATSIS operates in partnership with ATSIC and Regional Councils.
    • Where any dispute arises as to ATSIS's interpretation of ATSIC policies and Regional Council priorities, ATSIS should make every effort to resolve these matters, raising any unresolved matters with me where necessary.(17)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    22 August 2003

    National reporting framework for Indigenous disadvantage is endorsed by COAG

    The Prime Minister writes to the Steering Committee for Government Service Provision on behalf of COAG and endorses the proposed national reporting framework for Indigenous disadvantage.

    The framework seeks to present statistics on Indigenous disadvantage strategically by measuring progress against indicators in the short, medium and long term. It acknowledges the inter-relationship between different factors in contributing to Indigenous disadvantage, and that holistic solutions are required, involving whole of government activity, to achieve lasting improvements.

    On 22 August 2003, the Prime Minister writes to the Steering Committee for Government Service Provision on behalf of COAG to formally endorse the Committee's proposed national reporting framework for Indigenous disadvantage. The framework had been developed as a result of COAG's decision of 5 April 2002 to commission the Committee to develop a regular report against key indicators of indigenous disadvantage. The Committee had conducted consultations with governments, Indigenous organisations and other stakeholders during 2002 and 2003 on the draft framework.

    This framework establishes a three tiered framework to measure the actual outcomes for Indigenous people as opposed to the operation of specific policy programs. The framework is contained in Diagram 1 below.

    Diagram 1 - COAG Framework for reporting on Indigenous disadvantage

    COAG Framework for reporting on Indigenous disadvantage, if you require this diagram in a more accessable format please contact webfeedback@humanrights.gov.au

    The first tier of the framework outlines the three priority outcomes of:

    • Safe, healthy and supportive family environments with strong communities and cultural identity;
    • Positive child development and prevention of violence, crime and self-harm; and
    • Improved wealth creation and economic sustainability for individuals, families and communities.

    The framework acknowledges that areas such as health, education, employment, housing, crime and so on are inextricably linked. Disadvantage or involvement in any of these areas can have serious impacts on other areas of well-being. It is also premised on a realisation that there are a range of causative factors for Indigenous disadvantage. This necessitates reporting on progress in addressing both the larger, cumulative indicators (such as life expectancy, unemployment and contact with criminal justice processes) which reflect the consequences of a number of contributing factors, as well as identifying progress in improving these smaller, more individualised factors.

    To reflect these strategic considerations, the framework seeks to present progress in addressing Indigenous disadvantage at two levels (the second and third tier of the framework). The second tier of the framework is a series of twelve headline indicators that provide a snapshot of the overall state of Indigenous disadvantage.

    These headline indicators are measures of the major social and economic factors that need to be improved if COAG's vision of an improved standard of living for Indigenous peoples is to become reality. As it is difficult to measure progress in change in these indicators in the short term, the framework also has a third tier of indicators. There are seven strategic areas for action and a number of supporting strategic change indicators to measure progress in these. The particular areas and change indicators have been chosen for their potential to respond to policy action within the shorter term and to indicate intermediate measures of progress while also having the potential in the longer term to contribute to improvements in overall Indigenous disadvantage (as reflected through the 'headline indicators'). The seven strategic areas and related indicators are set out in the following table.

    Table 1: COAG Overcoming Disadvantage framework: Strategic areas for action and strategic change indicators

    Strategic areas for action

    Strategic change indicators

    1. Early child development and growth (prenatal to age 3)

    • Rates of hospital admission for infectious diseases
    • Infant mortality
    • Birth weight
    • Hearing impediments

    2. Early school engagement and performance (preschool to year 3)

    • Preschool and school attendance
    • Year 3 literacy and numeracy
    • Primary school children with dental caries

    3. Positive childhood and transition to adulthood

    • Years 5 and 7 literacy and numeracy
    • Retention at year 9
    • Indigenous cultural studies in school curriculum and involvement of Indigenous people in development and delivery of Indigenous studies
    • Participation in organised sport, arts or community group activities
    • Juvenile diversions as a proportion of all juvenile offenders
    • Transition from school to work

    4. Substance use and misuse

    • Alcohol and tobacco consumption
    • Alcohol related crime and hospital statistics
    • Drug and other substance use

    5. Functional and resilient families and communities

    • Children on long term care and protection orders
    • Repeat offending
    • Access to the nearest health professional
    • Proportion of indigenous people with access to their traditional lands

    6. Effective environmental health systems

    • Rates of diseases associated with poor environmental health (including water and food borne diseases, trachoma, tuberculosis and rheumatic heart disease)
    • Access to clean water and functional sewerage
    • Overcrowding in housing

    7. Economic participation and development

    • Employment (full-time/part-time) by sector (public/private), industry and occupation
    • CDEP participation
    • Long term unemployment
    • Self employment
    • Indigenous owned or controlled land
    • Accredited training in leadership, finance or management
    • Case studies in governance arrangements

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    13 November 2003

    First report to COAG on Indigenous disadvantage is released

    The first report against the National Reporting Framework for Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage is released by the Steering Committee for Government Service Provision. It confirms that Indigenous disadvantage is broadly based, with major disparities between Indigenous people and other Australians in most areas. The report also identifies gaps in data collection which need to be addressed to improve the quality of the information contained in the report.

    It is subsequently agreed that the report will be published every two years rather than annually, as originally intended.

    On 13 November 2003, the first report against the National Reporting Framework for Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage is released by the Steering Committee for Government Service Provision. Titled Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage, the report confirms that Indigenous disadvantage is broadly based, with major disparities between Indigenous people and other Australians in most areas.

    The Chairman of the Steering Committee has commented on the findings of the report that it:

    confirms the pervasiveness of Indigenous disadvantage. It is distressingly apparent that many years of policy effort have not delivered desired outcomes; indeed in some important respects the circumstances of Indigenous people appear to have deteriorated or regressed. Worse than that, outcomes in the strategic areas identified as critical to overcoming disadvantage in the long term remain well short of what is needed.(18)

    A summary of the main findings of the report in relation to the twelve headline indicators is provided in Table 2 below. These headline indicators are measures of the major social and economic factors that need to be improved if COAG's vision of an improved standard of living for Indigenous peoples is to become reality.

    Table 2: Summary of findings of the Overcoming Disadvantage report - headline indicators(19)

    Headline Indicator

    Key Message

    Life expectancy at birth The life expectancy of Indigenous people is around 20 years lower than that for the total Australian population.
    Rates of disability and/or core activity restriction Nationally comparable data on the prevalence of disability with the Indigenous population are currently not available.
    Years 10 and 12 retention and attainment

    Indigenous students have a tendency to leave school once they reach the age when attendance is no longer compulsory.

    Nationally in 2002, non-Indigenous students were twice as likely to continue to year 12 as Indigenous students.

    From 1998 to 2002, Indigenous apparent retention rates increased slightly.

    Post secondary education - participation and attainment

    While TAFE participation among Indigenous people in 2001 was typically higher than for the rest of the population, university attendance was lower, with other Australians being 1.8 times more likely to attend university than Indigenous people.

    Indigenous post secondary attainment in 2001 was significantly lower, with 12.5 per cent of Indigenous people having attained a level 3 certificate or above, compared to 33.5 per cent of non-Indigenous people.

    Labour force participation and unemployment

    Labour force participation for Indigenous people in 2001 was 50.4 per cent of the population aged 15 years and over, compared to 62.6 per cent for non-Indigenous people.

    Unemployment in 2001 was 2.8 times higher for Indigenous than for non-Indigenous people.

    CDEP participation significantly reduces recorded Indigenous unemployment rates.

    Household and Individual income

    In 2001, both household and individual incomes were lower on average for Indigenous than non-Indigenous people across all regions, and they are much lower in remote locations.

    Home ownership

    Indigenous individual home ownership rates in 2001 were much lower than those for non-Indigenous people in all regions.

    Suicide and self-harm

    In 2001, the suicide rate for Indigenous people was considerably higher than the rate for other Australians.

    Suicide death rates for the Indigenous population were particularly high in the 25-34 year age group.

    Substantiated child protection notifications

    In most jurisdictions, the administration rate for Indigenous children was higher than for non-Indigenous children in 2001-02.

    Deaths from homicide and hospitalisations for assault

    During 1999-2001, homicides as a proportion of total deaths, were far greater in the Indigenous population (2.1 per cent) than the non-Indigenous population (0.2 per cent).

    The main category for hospitalisation for Indigenous people was assault by bodily force.

    Victim rates for crime

    Indigenous people were much more likely to be victims of murder, assault, sexual assault and domestic violence than non-Indigenous people.

    Imprisonment and juvenile detention rates

    On 30 June 2002, Indigenous people were 15 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to be in prison.

    The Report notes that the existence of data sets or ease of developing them was a practical consideration that influenced the choice of indicators in the framework:

    In many cases, the selected indicators are a compromise, due not only to the absence of data, but also to the unlikelihood of any data becoming available in the foreseeable future... In some cases, however, an indicator has been included even when the data are not available on a national basis, or are substantially qualified. These are indicators where there is some likelihood that data quality and availability will improve over time. In two cases where there were no reliable data available, the indicators were nevertheless considered to be so important that qualitative indicators have been included in the report.(20)

    In reporting against each of the headline indicators and strategic change indicators in the first report, the Steering Committee has noted limitations in data availability and quality. Each chapter of the report contains a section titled 'future directions in data' which notes current developments which will contribute to addressing the difficulties in data availability and quality in future years, and how exactly specific initiatives will do this. It also identifies major deficiencies and areas where there is an urgent and outstanding need for improved statistical collection methods.(21)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    28 November 2003

    ATSIC Review Panel releases final report

    The ATSIC Review Panel releases its final report, In the hands of the regions.

    The report recommends that ATSIC should be the 'primary vehicle to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' and that its role and functions should be strengthened. In strengthening ATSIC, the report proposes a range of reforms and principles to create, and underpin, a 'new ATSIC'.

    The ATSIC Review Panel releases its final report, In the hands of the regions. The report concludes that, 'the existing objects of the ATSIC Act should be retained'(22) and that:

    ATSIC should be the primary vehicle to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' views to all levels of government and be an agent for positive change in the development of policies and programs to advance the interests of Indigenous Australians.(23)

    The review also identified reforms required to ATSIC's role so that ATSIC:

    • Enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to build a future grounded in their own histories and cultures within the broader Australian framework;
    • Represents and promotes the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including their diversity of opinion;
    • Vigorously pursues the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, governments and other sectors of Australian society;
    • Influences priorities, strategies and programs at the national, State/Territory and regional level;
    • Minimises and streamlines the government interface with Indigenous communities;
    • Promotes good Indigenous governance;
    • Recognises the complexity of relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, communities, organisations and governments and the values and limitations created by this;
    • Is an equal partner in all negotiations, resourced adequately to achieve this equality, and commands goodwill and respect;
    • Increases women's participation and expression of views;
    • Ensures that there is transparent accountability of all organisations that are funded to provide services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
    • Maintains its unique status; and
    • Recognises that ATSIC is a key player, but not the only player, that seeks to advance the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians with government and others.(24)

    The Review Panel also offered a number of principles to underpin a 'new ATSIC':

    • ATSIC should be the peak state/territory and national body, which advocates for the development of Indigenous communities;
    • The Chairs of the Regional bodies (and relevant Commissioners) should provide the State/Territory policy interface with the governments co-coordinating regional activities;
    • Representatives from each State/Territory should then constitute the national body, achieving a direct relationship between the regional, state and national levels;
    • The national body should provide the policy interface for the commonwealth government setting and advocating a national strategic direction; and monitoring against ATSIC's national plan to reinforce the accountability of program and service providers;
    • ATSIC's primary focus should be on building strong local communities through development and implementation of a needs-based Regional Plan;
    • State/Territory and national programs should be informed by, and undertake activities consistent with, Regional Plans;
    • Strengthening Indigenous communities must not be based solely on the provision of welfare services;
    • Indigenous Australians should be provided with equal access to health services and there should be an appropriate balance of preventative, environmental and public health policies, programs and services;
    • Health, education, training skills development and employment are integral to building the local and regional economy on a long term sustainable basis;
    • Housing should be provided on the basis of ensuring access is available to those who need it and ownership is available to those who desire it;
    • All government funded programs should be subject to an independent assessment of outcomes; and
    • The role of elected officials should be clearly delineated from that of the administration.(25)

    During the review the panel received a consistent message that 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people see ATSIC as an important stepping stone to a desired future, and believe its role is to assist them get where they want to go'(26).

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    15 January 2004

    Reform of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act announced

    The government announces that it intends to reform the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act. The proposed reforms are intended to improve corporate governance standards for Indigenous organisations.

    Amendments are not presented to Parliament in 2004. They are anticipated to be introduced in mid-2005.

    On 15 January 2004, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs announces that, 'the Government intends to introduce legislation to reform the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act to improve the effectiveness of Indigenous organisations for the benefit of their communities.'(27)

    The proposed legislative reforms respond to conclusions made in the Final Report of the Review of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976 (Cth) (28), as well as findings from subsequent research undertaken by the Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations (ORAC).(29)

    The Minister stated that:

    The need for reform is clear. The ACA Act was enacted more than 25 years ago as a method of incorporating mostly not for profit Indigenous organisations. However, it has failed to keep pace with subsequent developments in company law and accountability requirements given the size and numbers of Indigenous corporations today.

    The reforms will deliver:

    • Rationalisation of the number of corporations through a focus on pre-incorporation scrutiny and support for alternatives to incorporation;
    • Conferencing opportunities to encourage agencies to resolve co-ordination issues;
    • Accreditation training for Directors of Corporations and members;
    • Expanded dispute assistance in the form of an improved members' complaint service, information and opinion service and supported referrals for mediation;
    • Improvements to existing information about Indigenous corporations and their 'health' to support better regulation, and also assist members and funding bodies; and
    • A rolling program of 'healthy corporation' checks tailored to Indigenous corporations, coupled with more streamlined responses to critical problems, in order to fully protect critical assets and funds held by corporations.(30)

    As at January 2005, ORAC is working with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to prepare a draft Bill. ORAC is aiming to have the Bill prepared by June 2005 and anticipates it will be introduced to Parliament shortly thereafter.

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    4 March 2004

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services to be put to competitive tender

    The Government announces that from 1 July 2005, funding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) will begin to shift from a grant funding process to a competitive tender process. Successful tenderers will be engaged by the Government under contract for a three-year funding period.

    The Government also releases an Exposure Draft of the proposed purchasing arrangements and calls for public feedback on the proposed tendering process.

    The Minister for Indigenous Affairs announces on 30 June 2004 that following public comment on the proposed tendering process the government has amended the criteria for funding.

    On 31 August 2004, the Attorney General announces that requests for tenders in Victoria and Western Australia will be released in November 2004, with other states and territories to follow progressively over the following eighteen months. The successful tenderers are expected to start delivering services on 1 July 2005.

    On 4 March 2004, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs announces that, 'Indigenous legal services are set for a shake-up under proposed reforms that will focus on the delivery of services rather than just block grants to organisations.'(31)

    The Minister continues, 'These important reforms will ensure that legal services are tendered in a competitive environment thereby ensuring that Indigenous people get value for money. A larger emphasis will also be out on allocating the services to those most in need.'(32)

    The government simultaneously released the Exposure Draft of the Request for Tender and invited comments regarding the proposed tendering process.(33)

    Under previous/current arrangements ATSILS apply to the funding program for funding and receive funding in annual block grants. Under the new arrangements ATSILS are required to competitively tender for funding.

    On 30 June 2004 the Minister for Indigenous Affairs announces that in response to public feedback from the Exposure Draft, the Government will amend the criteria for tenders. In addition to the criteria amendments, the tendering process would be staged progressively, rather than a simultaneous process.(34)

    On 28 July 2004 the Attorney General announced details of the amendments to the tender arrangements as well as the modified timeline for the release of the requests for tender. The proposed tender arrangements would be modified to:

    • Reinstate addressing Indigenous incarceration as a priority of the provision of legal services;
    • Remove directions that would have allowed successful tenderers to refuse to provide legal services relating to public drunkenness and to repeat offenders for violent offences; and
    • Include in the selection process requirements that prospective tenderers demonstrate their ability to provide Indigenous leadership and culturally-sensitive legal services.(35)

    The Attorney-General announces that the tendering process will commence with Victoria and Western Australia, followed by Queensland. The Attorney-General announced that:

    All three processes are to be completed in time for the successful tenderers to commence operations from 1 July 2005. The tendering process in other States and the Northern Territory will start after that date.(36)

    On 31 August 2004, the Attorney-General announced that the request for tenders for Victoria and Western Australia will commence in November 2004. The Attorney-General's Department advised that it will be conducting tender information sessions and tender assistance workshops for potential Indigenous tenderers only. The closing date for lodgement of tenders is 17 December 2004.(37) The selected tenderers are expected to start delivering services on 1 July 2005.(38) Successful tenderers will be funded for the period 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2008. The Attorney-General announces that the tender process will commence for Queensland in March 2005.(39)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    30 March 2004

    Federal Opposition announces will to abolish ATSIC if it wins federal election

    The Australian Labor Party announces that if elected at the forthcoming federal election it will put into place a new framework for Indigenous self-governance and program delivery. This would involve abolishing ATSIC and replacing it with a new Indigenous representative structure.

    The Australian Labor Party announces that if elected at the forthcoming federal election it will abolish ATSIC and put into place a new framework for Indigenous self-governance and program delivery. This new framework would be based on five principles.

    1. Make Indigenous service delivery a national priority. This would be achieved by listing Indigenous services and governance on the COAG agenda;
    2. Partnerships. Will work more closely with communities which would involve the devolution of services and creating pooled funding arrangements;
    3. Regional governance. Regional and community partnerships are the best way to ensure services and resources are getting to the people who need them;
    4. Combination of opportunity and responsibility. Opportunity will be created by providing extra and improved government services; and
    5. Advocacy, advice and accountability. Indigenous participation in policy-making will be increased by the formation of a new directly-elected national Indigenous body.(40)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    15 April 2004

    Government announces that ATSIC to be abolished and new arrangements introduced from 1 July 2004

    The Government announces that ATSIC and ATSIS are to be abolished and that new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs will be introduced from 1 July 2004.

    Changes to be introduced include:

    • Introduction of legislation to abolish ATSIC;
    • The appointment of a National Indigenous Council;
    • Devolution of Indigenous-specific programmes to mainstream departments;
    • Establishment of a Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs;
    • Establishment of a Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs;
    • Creation of a new Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC);
    • Movement to a single budget submission for Indigenous affairs;
    • Creation of Indigenous Coordinating Centres (ICC's); and
    • Adoption of Shared Responsibility Agreement (SRA) and Regional Partnership Agreement (RPA) approaches

    On 15 April 2004, the Prime Minister announced that as a result of the examination by Cabinet of the ATSIC Review report, and also an extensive examination of Indigenous affairs policy:

    when Parliament resumes in May (2004), we will introduce legislation to abolish ATSIC...

    Our goals in relation to Indigenous affairs are to improve the outcomes and opportunities and hopes of Indigenous people in areas of health, education and employment. We believe very strongly that the experiment in separate representation, elected representation, for Indigenous people has been a failure...

    we've come to a very firm conclusion that ATSIC should be abolished and that it should not be replaced, and that programmes should be mainstreamed and that we should renew our commitment to the challenges of improving outcomes for Indigenous people in so many of those key areas.(41)

    In its place, the Government announced that it would introduce new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs. The new arrangements are comprised of the following elements:

    • Introduction of legislation to abolish ATSIC - Legislation will be introduced to abolish ATSIC. As an interim measure Regional Councils will remain operational until 30 June 2005, mainly in an advisory capacity;

    • Support for regional Indigenous representative structures - The Government will maintain a network of Indigenous Coordination Centres in rural and remote areas to help coordinate programme design and service delivery at a regional and local level;
    • Devolution of Indigenous specific programs to mainstream government departments and agencies - all relevant functions, programmes, assets and appropriations of ATSIC and ATSIS will be transferred to mainstream government departments;
    • Movement to a single budget submission for Indigenous affairs - Funding for government Indigenous-specific programmes will continue to be quarantined for use for Indigenous-specific purposes and separately identified in budgets and annual reports. Under the new arrangements, all departments will contribute to a single, coordinated Budget submission for Indigenous-specific funding that supplements the delivery of programs for all Australians;
    • The establishment of a Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs - Chaired by the Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and consisting of Ministers with program responsibilities for Indigenous Affairs. The taskforce is intended to provide high-level direction to the Government on Indigenous policy;
    • Government appointment of a National Indigenous Council - the Government will appoint a non-statutory National Indigenous Council as a forum for Indigenous Australians to provide policy advice to the Government at a national level;
    • The establishment of a Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs - the Ministerial taskforce will be supported by heads of government departments as members of a Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs, which will prepare a public annual report on the outcomes of Indigenous-specific programmes. Secretaries will be accountable to their portfolio Ministers; and
    • The creation of an Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC) - Located within the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, it will provide policy advice to the Minister; coordinate Indigenous policy development and service delivery across the Government; oversee relations with state and territory governments on Indigenous issues; and monitor the performance of government programmes and services for Indigenous people, including arrangements for independent scrutiny.(42)
    • Adoption of Shared Responsibility Agreement (SRA) and Regional Partnership Agreement (RPA) approaches - SRAs will set out clearly what the family, community and government is responsible for contributing to a particular activity, what outcomes are to be achieved, and the agreed indicators to measure progress. Under the new approach, groups will need to offer commitments and undertake changes that benefit the community in return for government funding. RPA's provide a mechanism for guiding a coherent government intervention strategy across a region, eliminating overlaps or gaps, and promoting coordination to meet identified priorities for the region.(43) ICC's will be involved the negotiating SRA's and RPA's.

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    20 April 2004

    Connecting Government report outlines whole of government challenge for public service

    The Management Advisory Committee to the Australian Public Service Commission releases its report, Connecting Government: Whole of government Response to Australia's Priority Challenges. The report outlines the challenges in implementing a whole of government approach to the public service. The Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet launches the report and describes the new arrangements for Indigenous affairs as 'the biggest test of whether the rhetoric of connectivity can be marshalled into effective action... It is an approach on which my reputation, and many of my colleagues, will hang'.

    On 20 April 2004, the Management Advisory Committee to the Australian Public Service Commission releases a report titled Connecting government: Whole of government responses to Australia's priority challenges. The Report observes:

    Making whole of government approaches work better for ministers and government is now a key priority for the APS... Ministers and government expect the APS to work across organisational boundaries to develop well-informed, comprehensive policy advice and implement government policy in a coordinated way.(44)

    Whole of government is defined in this report as:

    [P]ublic service agencies working across portfolio boundaries to achieve a shared goal and an integrated government response to particular issues. Approaches can be formal and informal. They can focus on policy development, program management and service delivery.(45)

    The Connecting Government report identifies a number of challenges in implementing a whole of government approach. The Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet acknowledges that the new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs constitute 'the biggest test of whether the rhetoric of connectivity can be marshalled into effective action... It is an approach on which my reputation, and many of my colleagues, will hang.'(46)

    In reference to the new arrangements, the Secretary states:

    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.(47)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    27 May 2004

    ATSIC Amendment Bill 2004 introduced to Parliament

    The ATSIC Amendment Bill 2004 is introduced to Parliament. The Bill proposes the abolition of ATSIC in two stages - the National Board of Commissioners to be abolished from 30 June 2004 and the Regional Councils from 30 June 2005.

    The House of Representatives passed the Bill on 2 June 2004.

    The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill 2004 is introduced to Parliament. The Bill proposes the abolition of ATSIC in two stages - the National Board of Commissioners to be abolished from 30 June 2004 and the Regional Councils from 30 June 2005. It also provides for matters consequential to the abolition of ATSIC, including the transfer of the Regional Land Fund to the Indigenous Land Corporation and ATSIC's Housing Fund and Business Development Program to Indigenous Business Australia.

    The Torres Strait Regional Authority, which provides a range of Indigenous specific services to Torres Strait Islanders living in the Torres Strait Islands region, will continue to perform its current role.(48)

    Minister Hardgrave notes that the Bill, along with the Government's proposed new arrangements, 'seek to address the failings of the recent past in providing equality in service provision and equality in opportunity to our first people, the Indigenous people of Australia'.(49)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    28 May 2004

    Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs is created

    The Government announces the creation of the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs. The Taskforce will provide high-level direction on Indigenous policy development.

    The Taskforce is chaired by the Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and comprised of Ministers from portfolios relevant to improving outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

    The Government announces the creation of the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs. The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs notes that:

    This taskforce will be responsible for driving, through the Government agencies represented, the delivery of improved services and outcomes for Indigenous Australians...

    It will coordinate the Government's Indigenous policies and report to Cabinet on directions and priorities in Indigenous policy. The Prime Minister has asked that as a first step, the Taskforce provide him with a Charter, with a focus on making the mainstream work better for Indigenous people. The Ministerial Taskforce will report annually to the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet on the performance of Indigenous specific programs and the allocation of resources across agencies...

    A Secretaries Group, chaired by the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will support the Ministerial Taskforce. It will also report annually on the outcomes of Indigenous specific services.

    The Ministerial Taskforce will be advised by the National Indigenous Council when formed. The taskforce will meet directly with the council at least twice a year.(50)

    The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs will chair the Taskforce. Other members are:

    • Minister for Transport and Regional Services;
    • Attorney General;
    • Minister for Health and Ageing;
    • Minister for Family and Community Services;
    • Minister for Employment and Workplace relations;
    • Minister for Education, Science and Training;
    • Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts;
    • Minister for the Environment and Heritage; and
    • Minister for Justice and Customs.

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    11-14 June 2004

    National Indigenous Leaders Conference calls for national representative body

    The National Indigenous Leaders Conference is held in Adelaide. Participants call for a new national representative structure for Indigenous peoples and proposes a range of principles for such a body.

    Over 200 Indigenous participants attend the National Indigenous Leaders Conference from 11-14 June in Adelaide. The conference declares its support for the existence of a National Indigenous Representative Body. The participants called for any future national representative body to be based on the following principles:

    • We the Indigenous People of Australia and we alone have the right to determine who represents us locally, regionally, nationally and internationally;
    • We are determined to establish a sustainable independent National Indigenous Representative Body (NIRB) that reflects the aspirations and values of our peoples;
    • The NIRB needs to gain its legitimacy from our people;
    • Any process to establish a NIRB must acknowledge who we are, honour our diversity and commit to inclusive processes for all our people;
    • Our NIRB must be open, transparent and accountable to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples;
    • We respect and are committed to the right of our peoples to make free and informed choices for them, their families and communities;
    • We have an obligation to respect and protect our right to self-determination, our human rights, our humanity, our First Peoples' status and our inherent rights that flow from that status;
    • We have a duty to pursue social justice and economic development for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and
    • Our duty is to leave a lasting legacy for our grandchildren's grandchildren.(51)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    16 June 2004

    Senate Inquiry into ATSIC Amendment Bill 2004 established

    The Senate establishes the Select Committee for the Administration of Indigenous Affairs and refers the ATSIC Amendment Bill 2004 to it for inquiry.

    On 16 June 2004, the Senate agrees that a Select Committee, to be known as the Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs be appointed to inquire into the following matters:

    1. the provisions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill 2004;
    2. the proposed administration of Indigenous programs and services by mainstream departments and agencies; and
    3. related matters.(52)

    The Committee is due to report by 31 October 2004.

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    16 June 2004

    Ministerial Taskforce Charter adopted

    The Ministerial Taskforce adopts a Charter which outlines the government's 20-30 year vision for Indigenous affairs. It aims to ensure Indigenous Australians 'make informed choices', 'realise their full potential' and 'take responsibility for managing their own affairs'. The Charter also identifies early childhood intervention, safer communities, and reducing welfare dependency as the priority areas for attention in Indigenous affairs.

    The new Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs (see above) met on 16 June 2004 where they agreed on the need for a 20-30 year vision for Indigenous Affairs.

    The Taskforce agreed that:

    Indigenous Australians, wherever they live, have the same opportunities as other Australians to make informed choices about their lives, to realise their full potential in whatever they choose to do and to take responsibility for managing their own affairs.(53)

    The Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs stated that:

    The Government has allocated $2.9 billion to Indigenous programmes in 2004-05... While there have been real improvements the rate of progress is not good enough, and the Ministerial taskforce will play a vital role in driving the Government's reforms to Indigenous affairs.(54)

    The Minister added:

    A key part of developing a 20-30 year agenda will be testing Indigenous peoples aspirations: where do they want their communities (their children, grandchildren, old people) to be in 20-30 years time?(55)

    In agreeing to the 20-30 year vision the Taskforce identified three areas for priority attention:

    • early childhood intervention and improving primary health and early education outcomes, to head off longer term problems;
    • safer communities; and
    • reducing dependency on passive welfare and boosting employment and economic development in Indigenous communities.'(56)

    The 20-30 year vision for Indigenous Affairs is set out in the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs Charter. (57)

    Table 3: Ministerial Taskforce Charter on Indigenous Affairs

    Introduction

    1. 1. The Ministerial Taskforce will set the long term agenda, determining the Australian Government's vision for Indigenous affairs, in 20-30 years, and focussing urgently on the strategies that need to be put in place now to achieve improved outcomes, recognising that:

      • despite the significant commitment of governments of all persuasions over a long period, progress on key indicators of social and economic well being for Indigenous Australians has only been gradual; and
      • to make better progress there must be inter-generational change.
    2. A key element of this will be testing Indigenous peoples aspirations: where do they want their communities (their children, grandchildren and older people) to be in 20-30 years time? What do they want their communities to look like?
    3. In announcing the new Indigenous affairs arrangements on 15 April 2004, the prime Minister signalled that the Government's goals are 'to improve the outcomes and opportunities and hopes of Indigenous people in areas of health, education and employment.' The Prime Minister had previously committed the Government to addressing Indigenous family violence as a priority.
    4. The Ministerial taskforce will focus on practical measures such as these and other related issues such as economic development, safer communities, law and justice.
    5. However, the taskforce recognises the importance to Indigenous people of other issues such as cultural identity and heritage, language preservation, traditional law, land and 'community' governance.
      • These are issues on which Indigenous people themselves should take the lead, with government supporting them as appropriate.
    6. The functions of the Ministerial Taskforce are set out in Attachment C (i). Membership is set out in Attachment C (ii).
    7. The following statement encapsulates the Taskforce's long term vision for Indigenous Australians:

      'Indigenous Australians, wherever they live, have the same opportunities as other Australians to make informed choices about their lives, to realise their full potential in whatever they choose to do and to take responsibility for managing their own affairs'.

    8. The Ministerial Taskforce is determined to create the best possible policy environment in which this can be achieved.
    9. The focus will be on supporting families and individuals rather than organisations - although these can have important roles in supporting families and individuals in many cases.
    10. The Ministerial Taskforce will seek advice from and be informed by:
      • a National Indigenous Council of experts;
      • Indigenous representative networks established at the regional level to replace ATSIC Regional Councils, and by the work of the Regional Councils in the meantime;
      • Indigenous people (families and individuals) more generally through a number of mechanisms
      • the Australian Government Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs; and
      • lessons from the COAG Trials and elsewhere.
    11. In determining key priorities for urgent action it will be guided by the Productivity Commission's Report on Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage, commissioned by COAG, in particular it seven Strategic Areas for Action:
      • early child development and growth (prenatal to age 3);
      • early school engagement and performance (preschool to year 3);
      • positive childhood and transition to adulthood;
      • substance use and misuse;
      • functional and resilient families and communities;
      • effective environmental health systems;
      • economic participation and development

    Urgent Priorities

    1. The are many urgent priorities in Indigenous communities that warrant focus and attention from the Taskforce. These include:

      • Inadequate housing;
      • Poor health;
      • Low life expectancy;
      • Poor educational outcomes;
      • Low employment rates;
      • Low self esteem;
      • Family violence;
      • Law and order;
      • High population growth;
      • Isolation.
    2. Taking account of the urgent priorities and its long term vision, the Taskforce will focus on three key areas of intervention for the development of coherent, cross agency approaches over the next 12 months:
      • Early childhood intervention, improving primary health and improving early educational outcomes;
      • Safer communities (including issues of authority, governance and law and order); and
      • Reducing dependency on passive welfare and boosting economic development and employment.

    Doing Business

    1. Through a single budget submission, to be brought forward by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, the Taskforce will:

      • Report annually to the expenditure Review Committee on the performance of Indigenous specific programmes and services and the proposed allocation of resources across agencies; and
      • Review performance with a view to using the Indigenous funding pool flexibility and reallocating resources to the approaches that are seen to work best.
    2. The Taskforce will develop a consistent approach to the way the Australian Government does business with Indigenous communities - reviewing and re-engineering programmes and services to achieve more streamlines and flexible arrangements.
    3. The Taskforce will take account of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) deliberations on Indigenous service delivery arrangements.

    Implementation

    1. The Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs will support the Ministerial Taskforce in progressing policy development and implementation of priority strategies and initiatives.

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    21 June 2004

    Report into Capacity Building and Service Delivery in Indigenous communities released

    The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs releases Many Ways Forward, Report of the inquiry into capacity building and service delivery in Indigenous communities.

    The Report finds that there is an urgent need for a new approach to be adopted by the government sector as well as the need to build the capacity of Indigenous communities and organisations.

    The Report presents a series of recommendations that aim to ensure:

    • basic data collection is nationally consistent and comparable, and focussed on outcomes;
    • the Government institute a coordinated annual report to parliament on its progress in achieving agreed outcomes and benchmarks;
    • a comprehensive evaluation is made of the COAG Trials, and a regular report on progress is made to Parliament;
    • improved integration, coordination and cooperation within and between levels of government in consultation with Indigenous Australians occurs;
    • a strong commitment is made to improving the capacity of government agencies; and
    • the development of partnerships between the private/corporate/philanthropic sectors and Indigenous organisations is encouraged and supported.

    On 19 June 2002 the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs an inquiry into capacity building and service delivery in Indigenous communities. The terms of reference are as follows.

    The committee will inquire into and report on strategies to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders better manage the delivery of services within their communities. In particular, the Committee will consider building the capacities of:

    1. community members to better support families, community organisation and representative councils so as to better deliver the best outcomes for individuals, families and communities;
    2. Indigenous organisations to better deliver and influence the delivery of services in the most effective, efficient and accountable way; and
    3. government agencies so that policy direction and management structures will improve individual and community outcomes for Indigenous people. (58)

    On 21 June 2004, the Committee releases its' report, titled Many Ways Forward, Report of the inquiry into capacity building and service delivery in Indigenous communities. The report found that:

    ... for there to be real change in the effectiveness of service delivery, and ultimately improvements in the outcomes for Indigenous Australians, a significant change in the approach of governments needs to occur.(59)

    The report states:

    Though many Indigenous organisations successfully apply for funding to deliver government services to their communities, the overwhelming evidence received by the Committee suggests that the way in governments deliver funding often compromises the ability of Indigenous organisations to appropriately or sustainably address their needs. These criticisms include the length of funding cycles; the complex reporting requirements; the piecemeal nature of funding; the focus for 'trials', but not for ongoing, successful programs; and the lack of government integration resulting in duplication over funding areas and intended outcomes.(60)

    The report contains 15 recommendations relating to the above concerns. In brief, the report recommends focus be placed on issues such as data collection and annual reporting to Parliament on progress on addressing Indigenous disadvantage, with an emphasis on the COAG Trials. The recommendations also stress the importance of benchmarks and headline indicators as outlined in Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage.

    With respect to the new arrangements, Recommendation 7 is particularly noteworthy:

    Recommendation 7

    The Committee recommends that, in relation to the provision of services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the Commonwealth Government ensure a whole of government approach, together with the States and Territories and local government, in consultation with Indigenous Australians, including:

    1. a shift in emphasis in service provision to a regional or location specific basis (in full consultation with the Indigenous communities involved);
    2. the co-location of relevant Commonwealth Government and other agency staff;
    3. enhancing communication and developing partnerships both with Indigenous communities and families, and between governments;
    4. the incorporation of capacity building into the design and implementation of programs delivering services to Indigenous communities, including funds to enable mentoring of community members and organisations;
    5. the further development of program benchmarks in terms relevant to Indigenous people, and the adoption of regular public reporting regimes on those benchmarks, including reporting to the relevant Indigenous communities;
    6. the creation of frameworks for service delivery that are familiar and acceptable to Indigenous people;
    7. the enhancement of the skills and capacity of agency staff (including cross-cultural and language training, and the placement of high level staff and policy makers 'on the ground' in Indigenous communities) and the placement of appropriately skilled field officers 'on the ground', and reducing the turnover rate of such staff;
    8. a commitment to the creation of Indigenous specific positions in agency structures; and that it report on progress to the Commonwealth Parliament on a regular basis (possibly in conjunction with the proposed report on Indigenous disadvantage) and procedures be implemented to ensure that the report presented to the House of Representatives stands referred to this Committee for its consideration.

    The report also recommends that improvements be made to the funding models including the development of a 'single budget with a single reporting regime and the building of a governance training and mentoring component into funding provisions as well as a continued development of training and mentoring programs in partnership with Indigenous communities and organisations. (61)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    25 June 2004

    COAG principles for new arrangements in Indigenous affairs endorsed

    COAG endorses a National framework of principles for government service delivery to Indigenous Australians as well as confirming its commitment to the whole of government trials and practical reconciliation. The National Principles will inform the Taskforce and Secretaries Group when developing and monitoring strategies to address Indigenous disadvantage.

    The National Principles relate to six issues:

    • Sharing responsibility;
    • Harnessing the mainstream;
    • Streamlining service delivery;
    • Establishing transparency and accountability;
    • Developing a learning framework; and
    • Focussing on priority areas.

    At its meeting of 25 June 2004, COAG also endorsed a National Framework of Principles for Government Service Delivery to Indigenous Australians. This framework confirms, at the inter-governmental level, the principles which underpin the new administrative arrangements at the federal level. The framework is set out in Table 3 below(62).

    Table 4: National Framework of Principles for Government Service Delivery to Indigenous Australians

    All jurisdictions are committed to achieving better outcomes for indigenous Australians, improving the delivery of services, building greater opportunities and helping indigenous families and individuals to become self-sufficient. To this end, and in delivering services to indigenous people, COAG agreed to national framework of principles for delivering services to indigenous Australians.

    Sharing responsibility

    • Committing to cooperative approaches on policy and service delivery between agencies, at all levels of government and maintaining and strengthening government effort to address indigenous disadvantage.
    • Building partnerships with indigenous communities and organisations based on shared responsibilities and mutual obligations.
    • Committing to indigenous participation at all levels and a willingness to engage with representatives, adopting flexible approaches and providing adequate resources to support capacity at the local and regional levels.
    • Committing to cooperation between jurisdictions on native title, consistent with Commonwealth native title legislation.

    Harnessing the mainstream

    • Ensuring that indigenous-specific and mainstream programmes and services are complementary.
    • Lifting the performance of programs and services by:
      • reducing bureaucratic red tape;
      • increasing flexibility of funding (mainstream and indigenous-specific) wherever practicable;
      • demonstrating improved access for indigenous people;
      • maintaining a focus on regional areas and local communities and outcomes; and
      • identifying and working together on priority issues.

    Supporting indigenous communities to harness the engagement of corporate, non-government and philanthropic sectors.

    Streamlining service delivery

    • Delivering services and programmes that are appropriate, coordinated, flexible and avoid duplication:

      • including fostering opportunities for indigenous delivered services.
    • Addressing jurisdictional overlap and rationalising government interaction with indigenous communities:
      • negotiating bi-lateral agreements that provide for one level of government having primary responsibility for particular service delivery, or where jurisdictions continue to have overlapping responsibilities, that services would be delivered in accordance with an agreed coherent approach.
    • Maximising the effectiveness of action at the local and regional level through whole-of-government(s) responses.
    • Recognising the need for services to take account of local circumstances and be informed by appropriate consultations and negotiations with local representatives.

    Establishing transparency and accountability

    • Strengthening the accountability of governments for the effectiveness of their programmes and services through regular performance review, evaluation and reporting.
    • Ensuring the accountability of organisations for the government funds that they administer on behalf of indigenous people.
    • Tasking the Productivity Commission to continue to measure the effect of the COAG commitment through the jointly-agreed set of indicators.

    Developing a learning framework

    • Sharing information and experience about what is working and what is not.
    • Striving for best practice in the delivery of services to indigenous people, families and communities.

    Focussing on priority areas

    • Tackling agreed priority issues, including those identified in the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Report:

      • early childhood development and growth; early school engagement and performance, positive childhood and transition to adulthood; substance use and misuse; functional and resilient families and communities; effective environmental health systems; and, economic participation and development.

    Within this National Framework appropriate consultation and delivery arrangements will be agreed between the Commonwealth and individual States and Territories.

    In its' communique, COAG also:

    • reaffirms its commitment to the whole of government trials, stating that governments would, 'continue to work through the processes agreed at each site and to improve cooperation between all levels of government';(63)
    • agrees to commence negotiations between State and Commonwealth agencies to reduce the extent of family violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities in accordance with the National Framework on Indigenous Family Violence and Child Protection (as agreed at the meeting); and
    • resolved that senior officials would report annually on the progress of practical reconciliation against the action priority areas of: investment in community leadership initiatives; reviewing and re-engineering government programmes and services to ensure they deliver practical support to Indigenous Australians; and the forging of closer links between the business sector and Indigenous communities to help promote economic independence.(64)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    1 July 2004

    New arrangements in Indigenous affairs commence

    Under the new arrangements, 'more than $1 billion of former ATSIC-ATSIS programs was transferred to mainstream departments'. These departments will be required to 'accept responsibility for Indigenous services' and be 'held accountable for outcomes'. The transfer of Indigenous service to mainstream departments aims to ensure that departments will 'work in a coordinated way' and 'to make sure that local families and communities have a real say in how money is spent'.

    On the 30 June 2004, the Minister advised that as of 1 July 2004,

    More than $1 billion of former ATSIC-ATSIS programmes have been transferred to mainstream government agencies and some 1300 staff commence work in their new Departments as of tomorrow.

    We want more of the money to hit the ground. We are stripping away layers of bureaucracy to make sure that local families and communities have a real say in how money is spent...

    A small number of programmes, subject to specific references in the ATSIC Act, will remain with a remnant ATSIS body pending the passage of the Bill to abolish ATSIC.(65)

    All programs and services formerly delivered by ATSIC-ATSIS have continued.(66)

    Table 4 below shows which government departments each ATSIC-ATSIS program has been transferred to.

    Table 5: Transfer of ATSIS-ATSIC functions from 1 July 2004(67)

    Program

    Portfolio

    Community Development and employment; business development and assistance; home ownership Employment and Workplace Relations
    Community Housing and infrastructure; Indigenous women Family and Community Services
    Art, culture and language; broadcasting services; sport and recreation; maintenance and protection of Indigenous heritage Communication, Information Technology and the Arts
    Legal and preventative; family violence prevention; legal services Attorney-General
    Access to effective family tracing and reunion services Health and Ageing
    Indigenous rights; international issues; native title and land rights; repatriation; Indigenous Land Fund; community participation agreements; Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland; planning and partnership development; public information Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

    Table 6: Transfer of agencies to new portfolios

    Agency

    Portfolio

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services Disbanded: programs taken over by mainstream agencies; coordination functions taken over by Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination within Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs
    Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Education, Science and Training
    Aboriginal Hostels Ltd Family and Community Services
    Indigenous Business Australia Employment and Workplace Relations
    Indigenous Land Corporation; Torres Strait Regional Authority; Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs
    Office of Evaluation and Audit Finance

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    31 August 2004

    Senate inquiry interim report and dissenting reports released

    The Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs releases its interim report and government Senators release a dissenting report. The Committee report lists the number of public hearings held and submissions received by the Committee and states that due to the federal election it will be unable to complete its inquiry.

    The dissenting interim report notes that 'little support expressed for ATSIC' in submissions received.

    The Senate Committee was reconvened on 17 November 2004 and is due to report in March 2005.

    The Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs was due to report its findings on 31 October 2004. The Committee released an interim report on 31 August 2004 which noted that it had conducted seven public hearings and received 89 submissions, but was unable to complete its final report due to the prorogation of Parliament.(68)

    In response to the absence of a final report and any preliminary findings, the Government Senators of the Committee released a dissenting report. This report noted that, 'in the submissions and hearing there has been little support expressed for ATSIC'.(69)

    The Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs was reconvened on 17 November 2004 for its inquiry into the ATSIC Amendment Bill. It will report in March 2005. (70)

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    6 November 2004

    The National Indigenous Council is appointed

    The Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs announces the membership of the government-appointed advisory body, the National Indigenous Council (NIC). The NIC is not intended to be a representative body or to replace ATSIC. Members of the NIC are appointed based on their 'expertise and experience in particular policy areas'.

    Mrs Sue Gordon is appointed as the Chairperson of the NIC. The NIC will meet four times per year and advise the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs.

    The Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs announces the membership of the Government-appointed advisory body, the National Indigenous Council (NIC). It is composed of Government appointed Indigenous Advisers (which comprises both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal members). The Government advises that the NIC has been:

    appointed based on members' expertise and experience in particular policy areas. Members of the Council will provide advice on policy and service delivery to the Ministerial Taskforce.

    The NIC will meet at least four times a year and directly with the Ministerial Taskforce at least twice a year. The Council or its members may also meet with the Secretaries' Group and individual departments on issues in their areas of expertise.

    The NIC will advise on priority areas for funding, and alert the Government to emerging issues. It will also promote constructive dialogue and engagement between government and Indigenous people and organisations. (71)

    Members of the NIC are: Mrs Sue Gordon AM (Chair), Mr Wesley Aird, Dr Archie Barton, Professor Mary Ann Bin-Sallik, Ms Miriam Rose Baumann OAM, Mr Joseph Elu, Mr Robert Lee, Mr Adam Goodes, Dr Sally Goold OAM, Dr John Moriarty AM, Mr Warren Mundine, Mr Joe Procter, Mr Michael White and Ms Tammy Williams. They are appointed for an initial terms of 2 years. They are not paid for the role, though will receive sitting fees for meetings.

    Date

    Event / summary of issue

    8-9 December 2004

    NIC conducts inaugural meeting

    The National Indigenous Council holds its' inaugural meeting. The Terms of Reference for the NIC are agreed with the government. The NIC agrees that the priority policy areas for Indigenous affairs are:

    • early childhood intervention;
    • safer communities; and
    • reducing passive welfare.

    The NIC met in Canberra for its inaugural meeting from 8-9 December 2004. During this meeting the NIC's Terms of Reference for the NIC are agreed as follows:

    1. Provide expert advice to the Government on how to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians in the development and implementation of policy affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
    2. provide expert advice to government on how to improve programme and service delivery outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people including maximising the effective interaction of mainstream and indigenous-specific programmes and services;
    3. Provide advice on Indigenous Australians' views on the acceptance and effectiveness of Commonwealth and State and Territory Government programmes;
    4. Provide advice on the appropriateness of policy and programme options being considered to address identified needs;
    5. Provide advice to government on national funding priorities;
    6. Alert government to current and emerging policy, programme and service delivery issues;
    7. Promote constructive dialogue and engagement between government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations;
    8. Provide advice on specific matters referred to it by the Minister; and
    9. Report to the Minister as appropriate on the NIC's activities and achievements.(72)

    The Terms of Reference also states that the NIC will not advise the government on specific funding proposals.

    In addition to the Terms of Reference, the NIC and Ministerial Taskforce identified three priority areas to be addressed. These are: 'early childhood intervention; safer communities; and overcoming passive welfare with improvements in employment outcomes and economic development for Indigenous Australians'.(73)

    Endnote

    1. Council of Australian Governments, Communique, 3 November 2000, http://www.coag.gov.au/meetings/031100/index.htm, (4 December 2004).
    2. Council of Australian Governments, Communique, 5 April 2002, www.dpmc.gov.au/docs/coag050402.cfm, (4 December 2003). See also: Ruddock, P (Minister for Indigenous, Affairs), Pilot Communities Plan to Build on Success Stories, media release, 12 July 2002.
    3. See: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2003, HREOC, Sydney, 2004, Appendix Two.
    4. Council of Australian Governments, Communique, 3 November 2000, op.cit.
    5. Ruddock, P (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Reassessment of Indigenous Participation in the Development of Commonwealth Policies and Programmes, Attachment to media release ATSIC Review Panel Announced, 12 November 2002.
    6. Hannaford, J, Collins, B and Huggins, J, Review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission - June 2003, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2003, p11.
    7. Ruddock, P (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Directions to ATSIC Concerning Conflicts of Interests, media release, 24 December 2002.
    8. ibid.
    9. Ruddock, P (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Separation of Powers, media release, 10 April 2003, p1.
    10. Ruddock, P (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Good Governance and Conflicts of Interest in ATSIC, media release, 17 April 2003, p1.
    11. ibid.
    12. ibid.
    13. Hannaford, J, Collins, B and Huggins, J, op.cit., p24.
    14. ibid., p54.
    15. ibid.
    16. ibid., pp 8-9.
    17. Ruddock, P (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Commencement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services, Media release, 1 July 2003.
    18. Banks, G, 'Indigenous disadvantage: assessing policy impacts', Speech, Pursuing opportunity and prosperity conference, Melbourne, 13 November 2003, p9. http://www.pc.gov.au/speeches/cs20031113/index.html
    19. Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (SCRGSP), Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2003, Productivity Commission, Canberra, 2003, pp xxiv - xxxiii.
    20. ibid., para 2.9.
    21. See ibid., p. LII.
    22. Hannaford, J, Huggins, J, Collins, B, In the Hands of the Regions - Report of the Review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2003, p8.
    23. ibid.
    24. ibid., p25.
    25. ibid., pp25-26.
    26. ibid., p24.
    27. Vanstone, A (Minister fro Indigenous Affairs), Indigenous Organisations to Benefit from Reforms, media release, 15 January 2004.
    28. Corrs Chambers Westgarth, A Modern Statute for Indigenous Corporations: Reforming the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act - Final Report of the Review of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976 (Cth), Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations (ORAC), Canberra, December 2002.
    29. ORAC, Reforms to the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976, ORAC,(undated) http://www.orac.gov.au/about_orac/legislation/reform_act.aspx, (17 January 2005).
    30. Vanstone, A (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Indigenous Organisations to Benefit from Reforms, op.cit.
    31. Vanstone, A (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Legal Aid Reforms to Benefit Indigenous Australians, media release, 4 March 2004.
    32. ibid.
    33. ibid.
    34. Vanstone, A (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Tendering of Legal Services for Indigenous Australians, media release, 30 June 2004.
    35. Calma, T (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner), Revised Approach to Tendering of Legal Services to Indigenous Peoples Welcomed, media release, 2 August 2004.
    36. Ruddock, P (Attorney General), Legal Tender to Deliver Better Outcomes for Indigenous Australians, Mmedia release, 28 July 2004.
    37. Attorney General's Department, Request for Tender No 04/29 for the Purchase of Legal Aid Services for Indigenous Australians,(undated), http://www.ag.gov.au/agd/www/agdhome.nsf/AllDocs/
      7FA9AB264D640932CA256F49001A7753?OpenDocument
      (17 January 2005).
    38. Ruddock, P (Attorney General), Tendering for Indigenous Legal Services Starts, media release, 12 November 2004.
    39. Ruddock, P (Attorney General), Tendering for Indigenous Legal Services Starts in November, media release, 31 August 2004.
    40. Latham, M (Leader of the Opposition) and O'Brien, K (Shadow Minister for Reconciliation and Indigenous Affairs), Opportunity and Responsibility for Indigenous Australians, Transcript of Joint Press Conference, media release, 30 March 2003, pp2-3.
    41. Howard, J, (Prime Minister), Transcript of the Prime Minister, The Hon John Howard MP, Joint Press Conference with Senator Amanda Vanstone, Parliament House, Canberra, 15 April 2004, pp1-2.
    42. Vanstone, A (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Minister's letter to Indigenous organisations, 22 April 2004,(unpublished) pp3-4.
    43. Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC), 'Indigenous Representation', New Arrangements in Indigenous Affairs, OIPC, http://www.oipc.gov.au/About_OIPC/new_arrangements.asp (24 January 2005).
    44. Management Advisory Committee, Connecting government - Whole of government responses to Australia's priority challenges, Australian Public Service Commission, Canberra, 2004, p2.
    45. ibid., p4.
    46. ibid., p4.
    47. Shergold, P (Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet), Connecting Government, Speech,'Connecting Government: Whole of Government Response to Australia's Priority Challenges', 20 April 2004, pp10-11.
    48. Hardgrave, T (Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs), Hansard, House of Representatives, 27 May 2004, p29318.
    49. ibid.
    50. Vanstone, A (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs, media release, 28 May 2004.
    51. Conference participants, Draft text of key principles and values for a National Indigenous Representative Body and a national inclusive process, National Indigenous Leaders Conference, Adelaide, 14 June 2004, unpublished.
    52. Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs, Terms of Reference, 17 Nov 2004.
    53. Vanstone, A (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Ministerial Taskforce to focus on Indigenous Families, Media release, 16 June 2004.
    54. ibid.
    55. ibid.
    56. OIPC, New Arrangements in Indigenous Affairs, op cit
    57. OIPC, Australian Government Submission to the Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs, Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs Charter, August 2004, pp14-17.
    58. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Many Ways Forward - Report on the inquiry into capacity building and service delivery in Indigenous communities, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, June 2004, p. xxii
    59. ibid., p240
    60. ibid., p246
    61. ibid., p. xxvii, Recommendation 8.
    62. Council of Australian Governments' Meeting, Canberra, 25 June 2004, Attachment B, http://www.coag.gov.au/meetings/250604/index.htm
    63. ibid., p3.
    64. ibid.
    65. Vanstone, A (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Australian Government Changes to Indigenous Affairs Services Commence Tomorrow, media release, 30 June 2004.
    66. ibid.
    67. ibid.
    68. Crossin, T, Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs - Interim Report, 31 August 2004 http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/indigenousaffairs_ctte/
      report/interim/interim%20_report.pdf
    69. Scullion, N, Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs - Government Senators' Dissenting Report, 31 August 2004 http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/indigenousaffairs_ctte/
      report/interim/govt_senators%20_dissent.pdf
    70. Crossin T,, ATSIC Abolition Causing 'Confusion', ABC News on-line,,18 November 2004, http://www.abc.net.au/message/news/stories/ms_news_1245968.htm (24 January 2004)
    71. OIPC, op.cit., p6.
    72. Gordon, S, First meeting of the National Indigenous Council: A very good beginning, media statement, 9 December 2004.
    73. ibid.