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Social Justice Report 2004 : Chapter 3 : Implementing new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs

Social Justice Report 2004

Chapter 3 : Implementing new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs

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  • In early 2004, the Federal Government announced that it was introducing significant changes to the way that it delivers services to Indigenous communities and engages with Indigenous peoples. It announced that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and its service delivery arm, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS), would be abolished. Responsibility for the delivery of all Indigenous specific programs would be transferred to mainstream government departments. It further announced that all government departments would be required to coordinate their service delivery to Indigenous peoples through the adoption of whole of government approaches, with a greater emphasis on regional service delivery. This new approach is to be based on a process of negotiating agreements with Indigenous families and communities at the local level, and setting priorities at the regional level. Central to this negotiation process is the concept of mutual obligation or reciprocity for service delivery.

    These changes have become known as 'the new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs'. The Government began to implement these changes from 1 July 2004. It will be some time, however, before they are fully in place and operational. At present, the new arrangements relate primarily to the delivery of services at the federal level. However, the new arrangements are closely linked to the commitments of all Australian governments through the Council of Australian Governments (or COAG). Accordingly, it can be anticipated that the new arrangements at the federal level are likely to form the basis of inter-governmental efforts to implement COAG's commitments to Indigenous peoples over the coming years.

    This chapter considers the preliminary implications of the new arrangements. Since commencing my term as Social Justice Commissioner, I have indicated to governments and to Indigenous peoples that my office will closely monitor the implementation of the new arrangements. I intend that such monitoring will be ongoing given the scope of change being introduced and the potentially wide ramifications of them to Indigenous peoples.

    Given the short timeframe in which the new arrangements have been in place, the purpose of this chapter is to identify the main issues that need to be addressed by the Government in implementing the new arrangements.

    Part one of the chapter provides an overview of the new arrangements as well as of the factors that led to them being introduced. This material is supported by Appendix One of the report. Part two of the chapter then makes a number of comments about the theory underpinning the new arrangements and practical issues relating to its implementation to date. It also identifies a number of challenges that must be addressed for the new arrangements to benefit Indigenous peoples and communities.

    The chapter makes recommendations where there is a need for clear guidance for the process, and otherwise indicates a range of actions that my office will follow up on in monitoring these arrangements over the coming twelve months and beyond.

    In preparing this analysis, my office specifically requested information on issues related to the new arrangements. I wrote to each Federal Government department, State and Territory Government and ATSIC Regional Council as well as to the National Board of ATSIC to seek their views in relation to a number of issues about the new arrangements and to obtain information that is not otherwise readily available publicly. I also conducted consultations across Australia with Indigenous communities, Community Councils and organisations, ATSIC Regional Councils as well as with Ministers, senior bureaucrats at the state, territory and federal level, and with staff within the new regional coordination centres who will be implementing these changes.


    Part 1: What are the new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs?

    There has been a growing momentum over the past two years to change the way governments interact with, and deliver services to, Indigenous people and communities. This culminated with the introduction of the new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs at the federal level from 1 July 2004. This section provides an overview of key developments over the past two years that have shaped the Government's announced changes and then describes the new arrangements and how they are intended to operate. Appendix One to this report provides extracts from key documents which provide further detail about these developments.


    Events leading up to the introduction of new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs, 2002 - 2004

    There are three main, inter-related developments that have influenced the policy direction of the Government and contributed to the introduction of the new arrangements. These are:

    • the focus and scrutiny on the role and performance of ATSIC;
    • progress in implementing the commitments of COAG, particularly through the whole of government community trials (COAG trials); and
    • an emphasis on change in the Australian Public Service to reinvigorate public administration and improve service delivery.

    a) The role and performance of ATSIC

    Much of the focus on Indigenous issues in 2003 centred on the performance of ATSIC and proposals for reforming its structure and functions.

    The Government announced a review of the role and functions of ATSIC in November 2002. In doing so, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (Minister for Indigenous Affairs) stated the commitment of the Government to 'explore the potential for more effective arrangements for ATSIC at the national and regional level' with a 'forward looking assessment which addresses 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'(1).

    The ATSIC Review Team conducted consultations throughout 2003 and released a discussion paper in June 2003. As noted in Appendix One, the Review Team's Discussion Paper found widespread support for the continuation of a national representative Indigenous body but dissatisfaction with the performance of ATSIC. The Review Team's Discussion Paper canvassed a variety of options for achieving a greater emphasis on regional need and participation of Indigenous people at the local level.

    At the same time as the ATSIC Review was taking place, there were ongoing debates between the Government and the ATSIC Board about the corporate governance structures and accountability of ATSIC. While the Government initially sought to address their concerns through the introduction of Directions under the ATSIC Act, they were not satisfied with the responsiveness of ATSIC to this. As a consequence, the Government announced on 17 April 2003 that it had decided to create a new executive agency to manage ATSIC's programs in accordance with the policy directions of the ATSIC Board.(2)

    The newly created Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS) commenced operations on 1 July 2003. The Minister noted that its creation was to be an 'interim' measure pending the outcomes of the ATSIC Review.

    In November 2003, the ATSIC Review Team released its final report, In the hands of the regions - a new ATSIC. The report found that:

    ATSIC should be the primary vehicle to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' views to all levels of government and to be an agent for positive change in the development of policy and programs to advance the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.(3)

    They also concluded that ATSIC 'is in urgent need of structural change' and that it:

    needs the ability to evolve, directly shaped by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the regional level. This was intended when it was established, but has not happened. ATSIC needs positive leadership that generates greater input from the people it is designed to serve. One of its most significant challenges is to regain the confidence of its constituents and work with them and government agencies and other sectors to ensure that needs and aspirations are met. ATSIC also has to operate in a fashion that engages the goodwill and support of the broader community.(4)

    The Review Team identified the need to improve the connection between ATSIC's regional representative structures and national policy formulation processes:

    As it currently operates, the review panel sees ATSIC as a top down body. Few, if any, of its policy positions are initiated from community or regional levels. The regional operations of ATSIC are very much focused on program management. To fulfil its charter, engage its constituency and strengthen its credibility, ATSIC must go back to the people. The representative structure must allow for full expression of local, regional and State/Territory based views through regional councils and their views should be the pivot of the national voice.(5)

    The Report also identified significant challenges for the Government in the delivery of services to Indigenous peoples. The report stated that:

    mainstream Commonwealth and State government agencies from time to time have used the existence of ATSIC to avoid or minimise their responsibilities to overcome the significant disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Because public blame for perceived failures has largely focused, fairly or unfairly, on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, those mainstream agencies, their ministers and governments have avoided responsibility for their own shortcomings.(6)

    There was significant evidence for this finding contained in the 2001 Report on Indigenous funding by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. That report had argued that our federal system of government obscures the responsibilities of different levels of government and has led to cost-shifting between government departments as well as across different governments. When combined with a lack of accessibility of mainstream government programs to Indigenous peoples, they argued that this has placed too much burden on Indigenous specific, supplementary funding mechanisms such as ATSIC. Ultimately, the Commonwealth Grants Commission recommended that the following principles guide service delivery to Indigenous peoples to ensure that programs better aligned funding with need:

    • the full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples in decisions affecting funding distribution and service delivery;
    • a focus on outcomes;
    • ensuring a long term perspective to the design and implementation of programs and services, thus providing a secure context for setting goals;
    • ensuring genuine collaborative processes with the involvement of Government and non-Government funders and service deliverers to maximise opportunities for pooling funds, as well as multi-jurisdictional and cross-functional approaches to service delivery;
    • recognition of the critical importance of effective access to mainstream programs and services, and clear actions to identify and address barriers to access;
    • improving the collection and availability of data to support informed decision-making, monitoring of achievements and program evaluation; and
    • recognising the importance of capacity building within Indigenous communities.(7)

    The ATSIC Review Team referred to these findings and principles as 'going to the heart of ATSIC's structure and the most appropriate way of delivering government programs and services to Indigenous Australians'(8).

    The ATSIC Review Team made 67 recommendations which broadly address issues of the relationship between ATSIC and Indigenous peoples, the Federal Government, the States and Territories, and between its elected and administrative arms.

    b) Implementing the commitments of COAG

    While the ATSIC Review progressed, all Australian governments continued to implement the commitments that they have made through COAG. Of particular importance in terms of the new arrangements has been the progress made in 2003 and 2004 in the eight COAG whole of government community trial sites. The structures of the new arrangements and the philosophy that underpins them can be seen to have been directly derived from the COAG trials.

    The trials have seen governments working together, alongside Indigenous people and communities in the trial sites, with the goal of improving the coordination and flexibility of programs and service delivery so that they better address the needs and priorities of local communities.(9)

    The objectives of the COAG trials are to:

    • tailor government action to identified community needs and aspirations;
    • coordinate government programmes and services where this will improve service delivery outcomes;
    • encourage innovative approaches traversing new territory;
    • cut through blockages and red tape to resolve issues quickly;
    • work with Indigenous communities to build the capacity of people in those communities to negotiate as genuine partners with government;
    • negotiate agreed outcomes, benchmarks for measuring progress and management of responsibilities for achieving those outcomes with the relevant people in Indigenous communities; and
    • build the capacity of government employees to be able to meet the challenges of working in this new way with Indigenous communities.(10)

    Overall, the broader policy context for the COAG trials has been the Federal Government's emphasis on mutual obligation and the responsibility of all players (government, communities, families and individuals) to address issues of social and economic participation.

    The philosophy that underpins the trials is 'shared responsibility - shared future'. This approach 'involves communities negotiating as equal parties with government'(11) and acknowledges that the wellbeing of Indigenous communities is shared by individuals, families, communities and government. All parties must work together and build their capacity to support a different approach for the economic, social and cultural development of Indigenous peoples. This partnership approach is formalised in each trial site through the negotiation of a Shared Responsibility Agreement (SRA) between governments and Indigenous peoples.

    The Social Justice Report 2003 provided a detailed overview of progress in the eight trial sites up to December 2003. My predecessor as Social Justice Commissioner commented of the trials:

    I have noticed an air of enthusiasm and optimism among government departments about the potential of the trials. Government departments are embracing the challenge to re-learn how to interact with and deliver services to Indigenous peoples. There are no illusions among government departments that the trials are as much about building the capacity of governments as they are about building the capacity of Indigenous communities.

    Through the active involvement of Ministers and secretaries of federal departments in the trials, a clear message is being sent through mainstream federal departments that these trials matter and that government is serious about improving outcomes for Indigenous peoples. Even at this preliminary stage, this is a significant achievement for the trials. ATSIC have stated that to date 'there has been clear success through improved relationships across governments at trial sites'.

    Governments have not turned up in Indigenous communities with pre-determined priorities and approaches... the initial stages have involved building up trust between governments and Indigenous peoples. This has in turn had an impact on relationships within Indigenous communities in some of the trial sites, with an increased focus from Indigenous communities on organising themselves in ways that facilitate dialogue with governments.(12)

    While the COAG trials have been underway since 2002 in some sites, and 2003 in others, there has not been a formal evaluation of them as yet. The Indigenous Communities Coordination Taskforce, the body set up to coordinate Federal Government involvement in the COAG trials, released the Federal Government's evaluation framework for the trials in October 2003.(13) Rather than set out what was in place to monitor the trials, the framework set out the key priorities that should be addressed through such a framework once developed. It noted that the development of a simple tracking system was an urgent priority, and should enable governments to:

    • provide data on trial site 'projects' and the ability to analyse and monitor these projects using a cross-government approach;
    • document how agreement was reached on priorities with communities and the lessons learnt in that process;
    • identify innovative and successful approaches and communicate them across other regions; and
    • provide feedback to all other parts of the bureaucracies about the implications of new approaches for Indigenous specific and mainstream programs.(14)

    A case study of the COAG trials published in April 2004 also stated that 'evaluation of the trials would be premature at this stage'(15). It noted however, that a significant learning from the trials was the importance of leadership through the Australian Public Service in embedding the changes achieved and to ensure that working in a whole of government way becomes the norm.(16) Such leadership and focus has been provided at the federal level through the establishment of a central coordinating agency (the Indigenous Communities Coordination Taskforce), a Ministerial Taskforce to oversee the process and the convening of a Secretaries Group of departmental heads. These processes have been carried over into the new arrangements in a revised form.

    Despite the absence of any formal evaluation, the Government has continually stated that the new arrangements are based on the lessons learned from the COAG trials. This issue is discussed further at a later stage of the chapter.

    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 (and which were developed through the COAG trials). The principles are divided into five thematic groups:

    • Sharing responsibility;
    • Streamlining service delivery;
    • Establishing transparency and accountability;
    • Developing a learning framework; and
    • Focussing on agreed priority issues.(17)

    The principles are set out in full in Appendix One to this report. Agreement to these principles suggests that there will be increased activity to coordinate Federal, State and Territory Government programs and service delivery in coming years. It can be anticipated that the new arrangements at the federal level will be a significant influence on the form of any broadly based inter-governmental coordination.

    c) Public sector reform - 'connecting government'

    The past eighteen months has seen a number of developments across the federal public sector which have placed increased emphasised on the importance of adopting 'whole of government' approaches and ensuring the effective implementation of government policy.

    There has been an increased emphasis on improving the performance of the public sector through the adoption of more holistic processes for public administration. This has variously been described as a whole of government approach, 'joined up' government, or 'connecting government'. It seeks a better integration of policy development and service delivery processes, improved engagement with communities, the development of partnerships and a focus on implementation and achieving results.

    Recent developments include the creation in 2003 of the Cabinet Implementation Unit in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which has a role in coordinating whole of government activity, and the announcement in November 2004 of the creation of a new Department of Human Services to integrate all income support programs formerly undertaken by 6 separate agencies.

    The movement towards whole of government approaches across the public service has not received much attention during debates about the introduction of the new arrangements. However, it is important as it places the changes to Indigenous affairs squarely within the broader context of change across the Australian Public Service.

    In April 2004, the Management Advisory Committee to the Australian Public Service Commission released 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. There is a need to achieve more effective policy coordination and more timely and effective implementation of government policy decisions, in line with the statutory requirement for the APS to be responsive to the elected government. 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.(18)

    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.(19)

    In launching the Connecting Government report, the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet stated that 'Whole-of-government is the public administration of the future'. He noted that 'Most of the pressing problems of public policy do not respect organisational boundaries. Nor do most citizens, the subject of public policy.'(20)

    In a later speech, he has described the movement towards a whole of government approach as a 'profound' change which could lead to a 'regeneration' of the public service and values which underpin it. He states:

    Regeneration, it seems to me, goes beyond familiar arguments about the need for public administration to embrace a process of continuous change to improve performance; to raise the productivity of the public sector; to increase the innovativeness of policy development; and to lift the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of service delivery. It is also about breathing new life into the values and virtues of public service... Regeneration... involves restructuring the organisational framework of public service and reviving its leadership culture.(21)

    The Connecting Government report identifies a number of challenges in implementing a whole of government approach. As the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet notes:

    A whole-of-government perspective does not just depend upon the development of policy in a 'joined-up' way or the delivery of policy in a 'seamless' manner. More importantly it depends upon the integration of the two. Operational issues matter. The development of policy and the planning of its delivery are two sides of the same coin... Good policy will always be undermined by poor implementation. Bad policy will always result if it is not informed by the operational experience of those who deliver programmes and services at the front desk, in the call centre or by contract management.

    A whole-of-government approach also requires knowledge of how a policy is likely to be perceived by those who are to be affected by it...

    The report does not believe that effective solutions lie in moving around the deckchairs of bureaucratic endeavour... Structures alone are not enough. While on occasion the re-ordering of administrative arrangements, and establishment of new bureaucracies, can help focus government on new and emerging issues, the solution to functional demarcations rarely lies in the structures of officialdom. Building new agencies may bring together diverse areas with a common interest and purpose but, in doing so, new silos will emerge...

    [The Report] reinforces the need to continue to build an APS culture that supports, models, understands and aspires to whole-of-government solutions. Collegiality at the most senior levels of the service is a key part of this culture. Leadership of the 'whole-of-government' agenda is vital. We are all responsible for driving cooperative behaviours and monitoring the success of whole-of-government approaches...

    The report also highlights the need for agencies to recruit and develop people with the right skills.(22)

    The Connecting Government report was launched by the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet less than a week after the announcement of the abolition of ATSIC and the introduction of the new arrangements. The Secretary acknowledged that the new arrangements for 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.'(23)

    He described the new arrangements as follows:

    No new bureaucratic edifice is to be built to administer Aboriginal affairs separate from the responsibility of line agencies. 'Mainstreaming', as it is now envisaged, may involve a step backwards - but it equally represents a bold step forward. It is the antithesis of the old departmentalism. It is a different approach, already piloted in a number of trial sites. Selected by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), eight communities have revealed a glimpse of what can be achieved through collegiate leadership, collaborative government and community partnerships.

    The vision is of a whole-of-government approach which can inspire innovative national approaches to the delivery of services to indigenous Australians, but which are responsive to the distinctive needs of particular communities. It requires committed implementation. The approach will not overcome the legacy of disadvantage overnight. Indigenous issues are far too complex for that. But it does have the potential to bring about generational change.(24)

    d) Summary

    This section and Appendix One to the report provide an overview of the main developments in the lead up to the announcement of the introduction of new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs. Eighteen months ago, the focus at the federal level was very much on reforming the role of ATSIC. The creation of ATSIS was intended as an interim measure to enable ATSIC to strengthen its role as the principle source of policy advice to the Government on Indigenous affairs. As the ATSIS CEO notes, however, ATSIS was tasked with progressing two agendas of the Government:

    • to administer programs in accordance with the policies and priorities set by ATSIC and to assist ATSIC to develop a more strategic policy capacity in anticipation of a strengthened role for the Commission in the new arrangements that would flow from the ATSIC Review; and
    • to advance the Government's own agenda for innovation and 'best practice' reforms, including coordination with other agencies, the provision of funding based on need and outcomes, and the development of new methods of service delivery.(25)

    He notes that 'as the year progressed... Government policy developed to a point where the second agenda overtook and displaced the first' and culminated in the decision of 15 April 2004 'to abolish both ATSIC and ATSIS'(26) and to introduce new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs.

    This section also reveals the progressive locking into place of the Federal Government's approach to Indigenous affairs through the processes of COAG, the modelling of whole of government service delivery through the COAG trials and the subsequent movement of Indigenous affairs to the forefront of public sector administrative reform. These developments involve a range of commitments to Indigenous people and identify a number of challenges for government, which I will refer to later in the chapter.


    An overview of the new arrangements

    This section provides an overview of the new arrangements announced by the Government on 15 April 2004 and how they have been put into place. It reproduces materials from the Government to provide its explanation of the new approach and their expectations of it. The next section then comments on the new arrangements and sets out a number of challenges relating to the proposed new approach.

    On 15 April 2004 the Prime Minister and the Minister for Indigenous Affairs announced that the Government intended to abolish ATSIC and ATSIS and embark upon new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs at the federal governmental level. The Prime Minister announced that as a result of the examination by Cabinet of the ATSIC Review report, as well as 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.(27)

    Details about the new arrangements have progressively been released in the months since this announcement.(28) The various elements of the new arrangements are summarised in Table 1 below.

    Table 1: Summary of the new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs

    On 15 April 2004, the Government announced that it intended to abolish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). The National Board of Commissioners would be abolished from 30 June 2004 and the Regional Councils from 30 June 2005. ATSIC's administrative agency, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS), would also be abolished.

    In its place, the Government announced that it would introduce new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs. This involves redesigning the machinery of government and creating new structures to operate in a 'whole of government' manner. The new arrangements are intended to consist of the following elements.

    • The transfer of Indigenous specific programs to mainstream government departments and agencies -Programs administered by ATSIS have been transferred to mainstream government departments (with the exception of a few programs that involve the management of ATSIC's assets, which cannot be transferred without the passage of the ATSIC Amendment Act). Funding for these programs is quarantined for Indigenous specific services, which will remain in place.

    • Improved accountability for mainstream programs and services -Mainstream services are also expected to be more accessible to Indigenous peoples. The Government has indicated that 'robust machinery' will be introduced to make departments more accountable for their performance and accept their responsibilities.
    • The establishment of the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs- Chaired by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs and consisting of Ministers with program responsibilities for Indigenous affairs, the Taskforce is intended to provide high-level direction to the Australian Government on Indigenous policy. It will report to Cabinet on priorities and directions for Indigenous policy, as well as report to the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet on program performance and the allocation of resources across agencies.
    • The establishment of the Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs- Composed of all the Australian Government Departmental Heads and chaired by the Secretary of Prime Minister & Cabinet, it will support the Ministerial Taskforce and report annually on the performance of Indigenous programs across government.
    • The establishment of a National Indigenous Council - An appointed council of Indigenous experts to advise the Government on policy, program and service delivery issues, the Council will meet at least four times per year and will directly advise the Ministerial Taskforce. It is not intended to be a representative body, and members have been chosen for their individual expertise.
    • The creation of an Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC) - Located within the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, it will coordinate Federal Government policy development and service delivery in Indigenous affairs on a whole of government basis.
    • Movement to a single budget submission for Indigenous affairs - 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 creation of regional Indigenous Coordination Centres (ICC's) - Will be part of the OIPC and will coordinate the service-delivery of all federal Departments at the regional level, as well as negotiate agreements with Indigenous peoples and communities at the regional and local level. ICC's have been described as 'the Australian Government's presence on the ground' offering 'a simple, coordinated and flexible... service'(29).
    • The negotiation of agreements with Indigenous peoples at a regional and community level - The ICC's will negotiate Regional Participation Agreements setting out the regional priorities of Indigenous peoples, as well as Shared Responsibility Agreements at the community, family or clan level. These agreements will be based on the principle of shared responsibility and involve mutual obligation or reciprocity for service delivery.
    • Support for regional Indigenous representative structures -The Government has indicated that it will look to support Indigenous representative structures at the regional level in place of ATSIC. Such structures may vary between regions. It is anticipated that ICC Managers would negotiate a Regional Participation Agreement outlining the priorities in that region with the representative body.
    • A focus on implementing the commitments of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG))- The commitments of COAG to addressing Indigenous disadvantage will form the framework for the delivery of services and policy development on Indigenous affairs. The new approach also means working constructively with states, territories and local government in achieving a true 'whole of government' approach.
    • Impact of changes on Torres Strait Islander peoples - The Torres Strait Regional Authority, which operates in the Torres Strait Islands region, is unaffected by the new arrangements. The Torres Strait Islander Advisory Board, which advises the Government on issues specific to Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland, will be abolished through the ATSIC Bill. The needs of Torres Strait Islanders living on the mainland are expected to be met through the operation of ICC's.

    A detailed overview of the Government's announcements on each of these issues is provided in the chronology of events in Appendix One to this report. In essence, the new structures and approaches to be introduced through these arrangements can be grouped into six main components. They are:

    • The abolition of ATSIC and ATSIS. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill 2004 (Cth) was introduced to the Federal Parliament on 27 May 2004 to achieve this. It passed through the House of Representatives on 2 June 2004 but has not yet been passed by the Senate. Instead, the Bill was referred to an inquiry by the newly created Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs. The report of the Committee will be presented in March 2005. Unless and until the Bill is passed by the Senate, ATSIC continues to exist - albeit with few program responsibilities and limited funding. ATSIS continues to exist in a skeleton form to assist ATSIC in the administration of programs that cannot be disbursed until the passage of the ATSIC Bill.

    • The transfer of Indigenous specific programs to mainstream departments. The Government noted on 30 June 2004 that 'more than $1billion of former ATSIC/ATSIS programs have been transferred to mainstream Australian Government agencies and some 1300 staff commence work in their new Departments as of tomorrow'(30). The emphasis of this mainstreaming is on better coordination of programs and services within and between agencies, and the development of a coordinated and flexible approach to resource allocation on Indigenous issues. This is intended to involve developing ways to use funds more flexibly-for example, by pooling funds for cross-agency projects or transferring them between agencies and programs so they better address the needs and priorities of communities. The single budget submission for Indigenous affairs will promote this approach.
    • Leadership and strategic direction from a 'top down' and 'bottom up' process. The new arrangements are driven from the 'top down' by the Ministerial Taskforce, National Indigenous Council, Secretaries Group and Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC). They are also informed by a 'bottom up' approach through the regional ICC's (as managed by the OIPC) and the intended involvement of Indigenous peoples at the community level (through Shared Responsibility Agreements) and on a regional basis (through regional representative structures and Regional Participation Agreements). The Government has stated that 'Leadership, strategy and accountability will be provided at the top of the structure, but these same qualities will be emphasised at the local and regional level in active partnership with Indigenous people'(31).
    • Coordination at the national and regional levels. The OIPC is intended to be the national level coordinator while each ICC is intended to be the community and regional level coordinator of all Australian government activity. OIPC will be responsible for coordinating whole of government policy, program and service delivery across the Australian Government; developing new ways of engaging with Indigenous people at the regional and local level; brokering relationships with other levels of government and the private sector; reporting on the performance of government programs and services for Indigenous people to inform policy review and development; managing and providing common services to the ICC network; and advising the Minister and Government on Indigenous issues.(32) The OIPC also has a state office in each State and Territory to coordinate activities at the state level.

      ICCs will coordinate the service-delivery of all federal departments at the regional level. They are intended to provide Indigenous people and communities with a single point of contact with Australian government departments. The Government has described each ICC as a whole of Australian government office, with staff from multiple agencies, headed by a manager who is the focal point for the engagement with stakeholders and who is responsible for coordinating the efforts of all agencies in their dealings with clients on a whole of government basis.(33)

    • Participation and engagement of Indigenous peoples. The Government states that 'better ways of representing Indigenous interests at the local level are fundamental to the new arrangements'(34). ATSIC Regional Councils are intended to fulfill this role until their abolition on 30 June 2005. The Government then intends to work collaboratively with regional Indigenous representative structures. They have stated that 'During 2004-05 the Australian Government will consult Indigenous people throughout Australia, as well as State and Territory Governments, about structures for communicating Indigenous views and concerns to government and ensuring services are delivered in accordance with local priorities and preferred delivery methods'(35). These regional structures will also negotiate with government on Regional Partnership Agreements (RPAs).

      The Government will also negotiate Shared Responsibility Agreements at the local level with Indigenous families, clans or communities. These agreements 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 milestones 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'(36).

    • Working collaboratively with the states and territories. The Government acknowledges that to achieve a true whole of government approach it will need to work constructively with the States and Territories and local government. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the commitments made through it, will remain the main strategic forum for advancing such collaboration.

    Figure 1 below shows how these components and new structures are intended to fit together.

    Figure 1: New Australian Government arrangements in Indigenous affairs from 1 July 2004(37)

    Figure 1: New Australian Government arrangements in Indigenous affairs from 1 July 2004. If you require this image in a more accessible format please email webfeedback@humanrights.gov.au

    The new arrangements are also underpinned by five guiding principles. The Government has described these as follows.

    Table 2: Principles underpinning the new arrangements for Indigenous affairs(38)

    1. Collaboration - All Australian Government agencies are required to work together in a coordinated way.

    This collaboration will be reflected in a framework of cooperative structures that stretch from top to bottom: from the Ministerial Taskforce and Secretaries' Group in Canberra to a network of regional offices around the nation. The foundation will be negotiated Framework Agreements, through which government and community work as partners to establish their goals and agree their shared responsibilities for their achievement.

    Under the direction of the Ministerial Taskforce, agencies will also collaborate on the design of whole-of-government policy initiatives and proposals for the redirection of resources to priority areas and to ways of working that have demonstrated their effectiveness in achieving better outcomes for Indigenous people.

    2. Regional need - The new mainstreaming will focus on regional need.

    ICCs will work with regional networks of representative Indigenous organisations to ensure that local needs and priorities are understood. ATSIC Regional Councils will be consulted and, over time, ICCs will work in partnership with a cross-section of representative structures that local Indigenous people decide to put in place. Together they will shape Australian Government engagement and strategies in a region including Regional Partnership Agreements (RPAs) and Shared Responsibility Agreements (SRAs) at the community or family level.

    Integration with the activities of State/Territory and local governments is also fundamental to achieving local outcomes and this is being pursued through bilateral agreements. In likelihood, there will be different consultative and delivery mechanisms negotiated in different States and Territories.

    3. Flexibility - Program guidelines will no longer be treated as rigid rules, inhibiting innovation-though flexibility will not be introduced at the expense of due process.

    Over time ways will be developed to allow funds to be moved between agencies and programs, to support good local strategies and whole-of-government objectives. Each year Ministers will bring forward a coordinated Budget submission for Indigenous-specific funding that supplements the delivery of programs for all Australians. The single Budget submission will be informed by experience at the regional and local level, advice from Indigenous networks and the professional expertise represented on the National Indigenous Council.

    4. Accountability - Improved accountability, performance monitoring and reporting will be built into the new arrangements.

    The Ministerial Taskforce, advised by the National Indigenous Council, will make recommendations to the Australian Government on priorities and funding for Indigenous Affairs. The Secretaries' Group will prepare a public annual report on the performance of Indigenous programs across government. OIPC will have a strong performance monitoring and evaluation role relating to the new whole-of-government arrangements.

    Departmental Secretaries will be accountable to their portfolio Ministers and the Prime Minister for Indigenous-specific program delivery and cooperation with other parts of the Australian Government, State/Territory Governments and Indigenous communities, as part of their performance assessments. Indigenous organisations providing services will be required to deliver on their obligations under reformed funding arrangements that focus on outcomes.

    5. Leadership - Strong leadership is required to make the new arrangements work, both within government and from the networks of representative Indigenous organisations, at regional and local levels.

    Within the Australian Government, relevant Ministers and departmental heads will take responsibility, individually and collectively, at a national level for working with communities in a whole-of-government manner. ICC Managers will be responsible at the regional level.
    The representative networks that Indigenous people decide to establish at the local and regional level will provide leadership and be accountable to local people. Where leadership capacity needs to be strengthened, the Australian Government will provide support.

    The next section of the report considers the nature of the commitments that the Government has made through the introduction of these new arrangements and how they are going about implementing their commitments. It also identifies a number of challenges that must be addressed for these new arrangements to benefit Indigenous peoples and communities.


    Part II: The implications of the new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs

    The new arrangements that have been announced by the Government for the administration of Indigenous affairs are complicated and wide-ranging. The Government began to implement the arrangements from 1 July 2004. It is clear that the various components of the new arrangements were not finalised at that time and have continued to be developed as the arrangements have been introduced. It will be some time before the machinery of government changes required by the Government's announcements are fully in place and it will be longer still until the changes impact at the community level.

    Since commencing my term as Social Justice Commissioner, I have indicated to governments and to Indigenous peoples that my office will closely monitor the implementation of the new arrangements. I intend that such monitoring will be ongoing given the scope of change being introduced and the potentially wide ramifications of them to Indigenous peoples.

    On this basis, in September 2004 my office specifically requested information on issues related to the new arrangements. I wrote to each Federal Government department, State and Territory Government and ATSIC Regional Council as well as to the National Board of Commissioners of ATSIC to seek their views in relation to a number of issues about the new arrangements and to obtain information that is not otherwise readily available publicly.(39)

    I also conducted consultations across Australia with a variety of Indigenous communities, organisations and community councils, ATSIC Regional Councils and Commissioners, as well as with Ministers and senior bureaucrats at the state, territory and federal level, and with staff within the new regional coordination centres who will be implementing the changes.(40) These consultations were preliminary in nature. From them I intended to gain a sense of what information was available in regions about the new arrangements as well as the initial response and concerns about the new processes.

    This section of the chapter reflects on this material and identifies a number of issues and challenges that the new arrangements raise. It makes recommendations where there is a need for clear guidance for the process, and otherwise indicates a range of actions that my office will focus on specifically in monitoring these arrangements over the coming twelve months and beyond.

    Before considering the specific challenges that are raised by the new processes which are to be set into place, I have a number of global comments about the implications of the Government's announcements and the implementation of them to date. These comments relate to the theory and objectives that underpin the new arrangements, as well as to practical matters relating to how the new arrangements have been implemented in the first few months.


    Comments about the theory underpinning the new arrangements

    • The new arrangements contain a number of significant innovations for the delivery of federal programs and services

    The new arrangements will see the introduction of significant changes to the processes through which the Australian Government develops policy and programs and delivers services to Indigenous people and communities. The scope of this change is perhaps unprecedented in the administration of Indigenous affairs at the federal level. This reality has not been understood by many people to date.

    As the Minister for Indigenous Affairs recently stated:

    A quiet revolution has been underway since 1 July 2004 involving a radical new approach... Nothing short of revolutionary reform is required if we are turn around the appalling indicators of Indigenous disadvantage and the sense of hopelessness that many Indigenous people face every day.(41)

    The new arrangements contain a number of significant innovations for the delivery of federal programs and services.

    First, the new arrangements compel engagement on Indigenous issues at the most senior levels of the government and public service. The main innovations supporting this are the establishment of the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs and the Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs to lead the process, as well as the introduction of a single budget submission for Indigenous Affairs.

    These mechanisms provide leadership and unambiguous guidance to all public servants that addressing Indigenous disadvantage is no longer somebody else's problem (such as ATSIC), but rather is a routine responsibility of all public servants.

    They also provide the potential to 'bust' through bureaucratic tangles where demarcations between programs and departments have in the past hindered results being achieved and innovative solutions being trialed. The Ministerial Taskforce and Secretaries Group have significant leverage in seeking to ensure that administrative barriers do not continue to defeat innovation or the adoption of more holistic responses to the needs of Indigenous people and communities.

    Second, the new arrangements provide much potential for improving government coordination. The creation of Indigenous Coordination Centres, bringing together departments responsible for the delivery of mainstream and Indigenous specific programs in regional locations, as well as the creation of the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination to provide national coordination are significant innovations.

    In the past, government simply hasn't had the mechanisms to implement approaches based on regional need. Government programs tend to have been set up on a statewide basis rather than in regions, and many government departments have had limited or no presence outside of capital cities. The main finding of the Commonwealth Grants Commission's landmark Report on Indigenous Funding was the inability of government processes to identify or respond to regional need or to allocate funding on the basis of greatest need.

    These inabilities have existed despite ATSIC Regional Councils having developed regional plans which seek to identify regional priorities and the ATSIC National Board and Regional Councils also having had decision making powers to allocate funding regionally. These decision making processes, however, have been limited to Indigenous-specific funds administered by ATSIC and lately by ATSIS. Regional plans have also generally not been followed by mainstream departments and State or Territory Governments.

    The existence of ICC's in regional areas, staffed by representatives of relevant government departments, provides a very practical step in seeking to overcome the problems that have existed up until now in this regard. The oversight role of the OIPC (and of the ICC Managers, who are OIPC staff) also provides a practical way of seeking to ensure consistency between regions as well as a focal point for sharing best practice and building on the success in individual regions. The interested gaze of the Ministerial Taskforce and the Secretaries Group will also encourage individual departments to work on a collegiate basis within the ICC structure.

    The role of the OIPC at a national level is also significant. There has, in the past, been a variety of national offices to provide advice on Indigenous policy (often in conflict with ATSIC). The predecessors of the OIPC have not, however, had a role as wide-ranging as that of the OIPC nor the leverage to promote a more integrated approach to Indigenous service delivery between departments. The leverage of OIPC is drawn from its relationship to the Ministerial Taskforce and Secretaries Group, as well as its coordination role in ICC's.

    Third, the new arrangements have the potential to address the longstanding problem of under-performance and inaccessibility of mainstream programs for Indigenous peoples. This is a clear objective of the new arrangements that have been set out by the Government in their announcements. The challenge of achieving this is discussed further below.

    Fourth, the new arrangements, once implemented, also have the potential to provide workable solutions to the century old problem of delivering services in a federal system. This will depend, of course, not only on the successful implementation of the new arrangements federally but also their coordination with systems in the states and territories. This challenge is also discussed further below.

    It is notable, however, that the principles that underpin the new arrangements at the federal level were recently adopted by all Australian Governments at the meeting of the Council of Australian Governments in June 2004. As set out in Appendix One, the National framework of principles for government service delivery to Indigenous Australians commit all governments to agree upon appropriate consultation and delivery arrangements between the Commonwealth and each State and Territory.

    It is difficult to argue against the objectives that the new arrangements are designed to meet. They contain a number of machinery of government changes that, in theory, are innovative in how they seek to address longstanding difficulties of government service provision to Indigenous people and communities.

    • The new arrangements involve the making of significant commitments to Indigenous peoples

    These changes to the machinery of government are accompanied by significant commitments to Indigenous peoples.

    At a general level, in announcing the new arrangements and the abolition of ATSIC the Minister for Indigenous Affairs stated that:

    The Government has been concerned for some time that while there has been progress that it has been too slow and a new approach is essential. The new approach is based on all of us accepting responsibility...

    For too long we have hidden behind Indigenous programmes and organisations... It is recognised that existing mainstream programmes need to perform better for Aboriginal people and we will therefore put in place robust machinery to ensure that mainstream agencies accept their responsibilities and are accountable for outcomes...

    Our focus will continue to be on better service and better outcomes for Indigenous people.(42)

    In re-introducing the ATSIC Amendment Bill to Federal Parliament in December 2004, the Minister also stated that 'the amount of money can no longer be the benchmark - outcomes must be the measure'(43).

    The commitment to be held accountable for improving outcomes in addressing Indigenous disadvantage is supported by two main developments over the past year. First, the Government has identified as its priority tasks those issues that are included in the National Reporting Framework for Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage as developed by the Steering Committee for Government Service Provision. The Government has also agreed to this framework and by doing so has provided a simple mechanism for measuring progress in addressing its commitments over time. Second, the newly constituted Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs has adopted a Charter which contains the Government's 20-30 year vision.

    This Charter is set out in full in Appendix One to this report. It states, in part, that:

    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.

    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'.

    The Ministerial Taskforce is determined to create the best possible policy environment in which this can be achieved.

    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.(44)

    The next section of the report identifies the introduction of adequate monitoring and evaluation processes, as well as benchmarking to identify adequate rates of progress, as significant challenges to be faced under the new arrangements. These issues must be treated as fundamental components of the machinery of government if the new arrangements are to result in any practical improvements in the lives of Indigenous peoples.

    At this point, however, I wish to acknowledge that sincere commitments have been made by the Government to address Indigenous disadvantage and are based on a frank acknowledgement that a continuation of previous approaches would not result in sufficient rates of change or improvement. Time will tell if these words can be turned into action and results.

    • The new arrangements are a continuation of the Government's approach to Indigenous affairs

    While the new arrangements involve significant and radical change to the processes of government, they remain entirely consistent with the Government's 'practical reconciliation' approach. The Ministerial Taskforce Charter on Indigenous Affairs makes this clear. It states:

    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.

    The Ministerial taskforce will focus on practical measures such as these and other related issues such as economic development, safer communities, law and justice.

    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.(45)

    When asked why he considered ATSIC had failed, the Prime Minister stated that:

    it has become too preoccupied with what might loosely be called symbolic issues and too little concern with delivering real outcomes for Indigenous people... our greatest obligation is to give indigenous people a greater opportunity to share in the wealth and success and the bounty of this country, and plainly the arrangements that have existed in the past do not deliver that.(46)

    Previous Social Justice Reports have expressed concern at the narrowness of the philosophy that underpins this approach and the distinction it creates between issues that have been termed practical as opposed to those described as symbolic.

    I note that through the new arrangements, the Government has made commitments to work in partnership with Indigenous people and communities, including through regional representative structures and at the local level. The Government will also be advised by the National Indigenous Council, the terms of reference of which include alerting the Government to 'current and emerging policy, programme and service delivery issues' and promoting 'constructive dialogue and engagement between government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations'. (47)

    The relationship with the Government through these processes should not be limited only to those issues to which the Government is committed. They should enable a respectful exchange of views, including the identification of issues and priorities by Indigenous peoples which may differ from those identified by the Government. Time will tell whether the new arrangements operate in such a way, or alternatively whether they will result in a more constrained and limited policy framework.

    • The new arrangements are based on lessons learned from the COAG trials. These lessons are preliminary and require ongoing consideration.

    The Government has stated that the new arrangements are based on 'the early learnings' from the COAG whole of government community trials as well as the principle findings of the ATSIC Review.(48) Key aspects of the new arrangements - for example, the Ministerial Taskforce; Secretaries Group; establishment of a central coordinating agency; and Shared Responsibility Agreements - have their origins in the COAG trials.

    The Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination states:

    The COAG Trials are continuing. However, there are a number of examples of lessons from the first eighteen months of the trials (ie, prior to the announcement of the new Indigenous Affairs arrangements in April 2004), including the need for:

    • strong, systemic and demonstrable leadership and commitment from the top of government and the bureaucracy;

      • from the Australian Government's perspective, this was provided by COAG and the Secretaries Group.
    • more effective coordination arrangements to allow for a whole-of-government approach;
    • improved accountability, performance monitoring and reporting;
    • the development of new ways of engaging directly with indigenous Australians at the regional and local level to promote inclusiveness and avoid 'gate-keeping';
    • the development of government skills in whole-of-government approaches and improved engagement with indigenous Australians - building government capacity to work in a new way; and
    • more flexible and responsive funding arrangements.

    Other key lessons include:

    • effective implementation of shared responsibility principles is crucial if sustainable change is to be achieved;
    • the importance of building trust between government and community and following through on commitments;
    • the critical importance of building capacity and effective governance in communities;
    • the importance of striking a balance between driving change and allowing change to happen at an appropriate pace that will enable it to be sustainable; and
    • acknowledgement that sustainable change will only occur over the long term and the related need for government to commit to working with communities for the long term.(49)

    These lessons are important. As noted above, they have provided guidance as to steps that can be taken to put a whole of government approach into operation.

    The lessons are, however, preliminary and at a conceptual level. They indicate the key issues that must be addressed in implementing a whole of government approach. They do not provide solutions or proven approaches that can be applied to Indigenous communities across the country.

    At the time that the new arrangements were announced there had not been any formal evaluation of the COAG trials. Indeed as recent as the end of 2003, the mechanisms necessary for such an evaluation process - including through the establishment of an integrated database - were still not in place.

    ATSIC expressed significant concern to the Social Justice Commissioner in 2003 about the absence of a monitoring framework for the trials. They stated:

    The Commission is particularly concerned that a comprehensive national evaluation strategy is not in place. This is likely to lead to unclear judgements later on, as the starting point for assessing change has not been clearly established. In addition, the Commission is concerned that there is no commitment to an independent evaluation of the initiative. The reliance on a systems-based internal evaluation strategy might not provide the most objective perspective on the successes and failures of the initiative, and may produce an inadequate basis upon which to make long term policy and program reforms.(50)

    The Indigenous Communities Coordination Taskforce, the coordinating agency at the federal government level for the COAG trials, produced a draft document for consideration by the Secretaries Group in early 2004 - titled 'Lessons Learned' - but it was never released publicly. During the consultations for this chapter, we heard concerns that some of the preliminary findings of that document were not sufficiently accounted for in the formulation of the new arrangements.

    Concerns have also been expressed about progress in some of the trial sites. For example:

    • In April 2004, the Western Australian Coroner expressed concerns about the lack of government coordination in the East Kimberley Trial Site and consequent inaction by governments in addressing problems of petrol sniffing in Balgo.(51)
    • The Shadow Attorney-General of South Australia has also expressed concerns about selective consultation by governments with Indigenous people and communities on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara trial site.(52)
    • In consultations for this report, staff of Australian government agencies involved in one trial site stated that there was confusion about the 'shared responsibility' approach and the purposes of Shared Responsibility Agreements.
    • In another trial site, both staff of the lead Australian government agency and ATSIC Regional Councillors stated that Indigenous people have had very little input into the whole of government activity in that trial site to date and that there was a risk that the trial may reinforce existing problems of corporate governance in communities by only consulting with community councils and not the community more broadly.
    • In a further trial site, a range of bodies and community members expressed the view that the achievements in the trial site had not been the result of whole of government activity but instead of the focussed implementation of programs of the Commonwealth Government's lead agency for the trial site (resulting in the benefits of coordination through the trial being overstated).
    • Concern has been expressed in the Shepparton trial site, in Victoria, about the lack of appropriate engagement of traditional owners of the region in the trial. The Reference Group in Shepparton is composed of representatives of Indigenous service delivery organisations rather than involving the broader Indigenous community.(53) It was stated that this has resulted in the process for engaging with Indigenous peoples in the trial being too focused on engaging with service delivery organisations with the consequence that certain family groups were over-represented whereas other family groups were not represented at all. A number of different groups have stated that this has led to increased tensions within the community.(54) The Commonwealth's lead agency for the COAG site acknowledges that there have been problems in engaging with the community and are taking steps to seek to rectify this situation.
    • Concern was also expressed that the consultation mechanisms established in the Shepparton trial site were being used by service delivery agencies to 'bid' for extra funding and to have other funding reallocated to their organisations.

    ATSIC also expressed concern to my predecessor in late 2003 about progress in the trial sites. ATSIC stated that:

    • There had been limited experimentation of new approaches by Lead Agencies in the trials, as they struggled to balance different priorities with trial partners leading to difficulties in progressing joined-up projects on the ground;
    • As a consequence of this, programs that are used more flexibly tend to be Indigenous-specific rather than mainstream;
    • There had been a blurring in some instances of Commonwealth and state responsibilities, attracting the possibility of cost shifting between parties compounded by the inexperience of lead agencies and their personnel when engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; and
    • Initiatives in one trial were not being identified as having potential application in other trials.(55)

    In its' submission to the Senate inquiry into the ATSIC Amendment Bill, the Victorian Government has urged caution in basing new arrangements on the preliminary outcomes of the COAG trials:

    Although the COAG trials are progressing well, it is too early to determine whether the trials should form the basis of a new model of service delivery in Victoria or wider Australia... It is premature to build on the COAG trials given they are still in their developmental phase and are based on disparate models of operation across diverse jurisdictions.(56)

    By reproducing these materials I do not intend to suggest that it is inappropriate to base the new arrangements on the lessons of the COAG trials. What these comments reveal, however, is that the experiences of governments in the trials remain preliminary and it is not possible to state definitively that the lessons from them can translate into longer term change or even provide transferable solutions.

    In light of the practical matters that have arisen as a result of the introduction of the new arrangements, as discussed in the next section, perhaps a more gradual and formal change management strategy should have been utilised in introducing the new arrangements. For example staggering the introduction of the new arrangements (such as by region) may have provided the opportunity to test the transferability of the preliminary lessons of the COAG trials.

    Nevertheless, there remains a need for thorough and ongoing evaluation of the outcomes of the COAG trials, as well as rigorous monitoring of the implementation of the new arrangements. This is particularly important so as to address any teething problems that may emerge through the implementation of the new arrangements to ensure that they do not become systemic problems in the future.

    Follow up action by Social Justice Commissioner

    1. In light of the importance of the lessons from the COAG whole of government community trials for the implementation of the new arrangements, the Social Justice Commissioner will over the coming twelve months:

    • Consider the adequacy of processes for monitoring and evaluating the COAG trials;
    • Consult with participants in the COAG trials (including Indigenous peoples) and analyse the outcomes of monitoring and evaluation processes; and
    • Identify implications from evaluation of the COAG trials for the ongoing implementation of the new arrangements.
    • The new arrangements are based on administrative procedures, not legislative reform

    A significant feature of the new arrangements is that they have been introduced solely through administrative mechanisms. The only aspect of the new arrangements that will be progressed through legislation at this point in time is the abolition of ATSIC.

    Proceeding through administrative procedures provides the Government with great flexibility in how it implements the new arrangements. It also makes the new arrangements less transparent and more difficult to scrutinise. It has the potential, particularly over time, to make it more difficult for the Government to be held accountable for its performance. This is particularly so if monitoring and evaluation processes are not sufficiently rigorous. The issue of performance monitoring is discussed further below as one of the main challenges raised by the new arrangements.

    • The introduction of the new arrangements do not depend on the abolition of ATSIC

    As the Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs has noted, 'the bulk of the Australian Government's reforms to Indigenous affairs are proceeding independently of (the ATSIC Amendment) Bill... The Bill does one thing. It abolishes ATSIC.'(57)

    The simple fact is that all aspects of the new arrangements, other than the abolition of ATSIC and the transfer of some functions and assets from ATSIC to mainstream departments, have been achieved with ATSIC still in place. While addressing the goals of ensuring better whole of government coordination and improving accountability and accessibility of mainstream programs is long overdue, it is arguable that this too could have been achieved at any stage in the past without abolishing ATSIC.

    ATSIC has been administratively de-funded and it is a reality that it will be abolished at some time in the coming months. The point to note here is that the implementation of the new arrangements does not depend on the passage of the ATSIC amendments.

    The next section of this report discusses the challenge for the new arrangements of engaging with Indigenous communities and ensuring the participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making and program design. The new arrangements are built on a process of negotiating regional priorities with Indigenous representative bodies as well as negotiating shared responsibility agreements with local communities or groups. To date, there has been very little progress in advancing the creation of alternative regional representative Indigenous structures to ATSIC and it is difficult to see how such structures will come into existence by 1 July 2005. From regional consultations, it was also my strong impression that there has also been very little engagement of ATSIC Regional Councils since the new arrangements were introduced, due primarily to their upcoming demise.

    While the challenges that this creates is discussed further below, I note that the existence of regional Indigenous representative structures over the next eighteen months will be vital to the success of the new arrangements. On this basis, continuation of ATSIC Regional Councils for at least a further twelve months than is currently envisaged may facilitate better frameworks for the implementation of the new arrangements. This possibility is discussed further in the section below. Other aspects of the new arrangements would remain unaffected by such a decision.

    Practical matters relating to the introduction of the new arrangements

    • There is a lack of information about the new arrangements in Indigenous communities. This contributes to an ongoing sense of uncertainty and upheaval

    A practical issue that continually arose throughout my consultations (up to November 2004) for this report was the lack of information Indigenous people and communities had about the new arrangements. The further one moved away from Canberra, the less information and understanding was possessed by people about the new arrangements. In my view, this has caused great upheaval and uncertainty among Indigenous people and communities, and even among the bureaucracy tasked with implementing the changes.

    Any change as wide-ranging as the new arrangements, and which is introduced so rapidly, will naturally cause significant upheaval and consternation. The challenge to government is to ensure that this upheaval is as minimal as possible and short term in its impact, and does not result in Indigenous people feeling further disempowered by government.

    The Minister for Indigenous Affairs wrote to Indigenous organisations to explain the new arrangements soon after the Government's announcement in April 2004. This was before the practical details of how the arrangements would be implemented had been finalised. There has been no such communication since.

    The lack of information provided to communities has been compounded by the fact that the only aspect of the new arrangements that many Indigenous people are aware of in any detail is the abolition of ATSIC. This has also engendered some mistrust towards the mainstreaming of Indigenous service delivery.

    The initial focus of government in introducing the new arrangements has been on informing public servants, particularly those based in Indigenous Coordination Centres, about their new roles. The OIPC have advised me that:

    There has been a continuing information strategy in place since ICCs were established. An information kit, including powerpoint presentations and other material, was developed explaining the new arrangements in Indigenous affairs. This was distributed widely to ICC staff and others, and used for presentations to ICC Managers, staff and other staff in the participating agencies.

    An information package titled 'New arrangements in Indigenous Affairs' was placed on the OIPC website and was circulated in electronic form to ICCs and to contact staff in other participating agencies. These products provided the basis for common key messages in communicating to Indigenous communities. The Minister also wrote to all Indigenous organizations about the new arrangements.

    Senior managers in OIPC regularly address forums of Australian Government agency staff at various levels (national, state and regional), DIMIA staff, ICC Manager workshops and ICC staff about the new arrangements to ensure a consistent understanding of the issues.

    A weekly ICC Staff Bulletin is providing a common source of information for all ICC staff, irrespective of their department or agency.

    A series of 1-day training workshops was held with staff from ICCs and programme agencies to inform them of the new Indigenous affairs arrangements. The workshops were held between July and September 2004 in all capital cities and many major regional centres. ICC Managers meet regularly as a national network - representatives from other agencies attend these meetings.

    Two communications experts have recently been engaged to work with OIPC to ensure the consistency and reach of messages about the new arrangements and SRAs in particular.(58)

    Feedback during my consultations revealed that the majority of public servants consulted did not feel that they had been provided with adequate information about how the new processes would work. On occasion, this has led to confusion with Indigenous communities as public servants have not been able to answer questions put to them by Indigenous people.

    This was confirmed by a number of ATSIC Regional Councils. In response to my letter requesting information from Regional Councils, one Council noted that 'the Government has provided regular information... regarding the new approach.... to the extent the information is available'(59). Another Council stated that:

    Council felt that the information provided has been very limited and hasn't been satisfactory as it was not clear and transparent. The ICC has only been able to provide limited information as it comes to hand. As representatives of the government, the ICC has not provided sufficient information to disseminate to the community.

    Council did note however that the ICC Manager had met with Regional Council... to outline the changes and had recently submitted some written information on the Governments New Arrangements in Indigenous Affairs...

    Council also expressed concern that (the) OIPC Assistant Secretary ... had given a commitment to meet with all Regional Councils and this has not happened.(60)

    It also stated that 'not enough information is being provided to community people. The community did not know what the new process was and were confused with whom they should be dealing'(61).

    Several Community Councils mentioned they had been 'trickle-fed' information and expressed concern that when they made inquiries themselves, departments responded that 'the information is accessible on the internet'. The internet remains an inaccessible medium for many Indigenous community members, and also presumes that people have high English literacy levels. Even if the information were easily accessible to communities via the internet, it is written in bureaucratic language and is not readily understandable to in communities. The point was made by some ICC staff that if they, as public servants, are struggling to understand the new processes and the new language, how are communities meant to understand it?

    I also heard from staff in ICC's that they did not feel sufficiently informed about the new processes that they were to implement. In particular, there was confusion about the scope and role of Shared Responsibility Agreements, with people looking to guidance from the national level.

    Over the coming year I will conduct further consultations about the new arrangements. I expect that the lack of information at the government level will prove to have been a teething problem. I have, however, expressed concern to senior members of the bureaucracy about the lack of appropriate information that has been communicated to Indigenous people and communities about the new arrangements in the first four to five months of their operation.

    There remains a need for a comprehensive information campaign about the new arrangements directed towards Indigenous people and communities. The provision of information on a website and printed materials is not sufficient. While ICC's will play a vital role in informing communities about the changes, this too is insufficient. Basic materials explaining the changes need to be developed in a variety of mediums for use nationally, to ensure a consistent message is delivered to communities. It is also surprising that ATSIC Regional Councils have not been engaged more actively to lead the process of disseminating information to Indigenous communities.

    It is difficult to see how the new arrangements can succeed without a broadly based campaign to inform Indigenous peoples of the changes as well as of their role in the new processes, such as through Shared Responsibility Agreements. Addressing this concern remains a major priority for the new arrangements.

    Recommendation 1

    That the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination conduct a comprehensive information campaign for Indigenous people and communities explaining the structures established by the new arrangements and the processes for engaging with Indigenous people. This information must be disseminated in forms that have regard to literacy levels among Indigenous peoples and English as a second language.

    • The transition to the new arrangements may have created financial difficulties for some communities

    With the transition to the new arrangements, funding for Indigenous service delivery organisations was to continue as agreed in the previous year for 2004-05. The Government described this as 'business as usual' with no organisations or communities to be disadvantaged by the new arrangements.

    Despite this concerns were expressed to me in at least three States during regional consultations about problems relating to the maintenance of funding levels in the transition to the new arrangements. Several Indigenous Community Councils and organisations stated that they were still waiting for their quarterly funds at the end of the first quarter. These bodies have been accruing debts while waiting for their funding.

    For example, the Palm Island Community Council stated that it had only received half the budget it was due from the Australian Government as it approached the end of the September 2004 quarter. Consequently, the Council had difficulty paying its outgoings, including wages. The Council was already facing financial difficulties with a budget deficit from the previous year which had resulted in the appointment of an administrator and the redundancy of a number of skilled community-members (such as trades-people). In Victoria, it was claimed that some community organisations were advised by ICC staff to take out an overdraft facility while waiting for the funds to arrive, without any provision for paying the fees or interest for this. Consultations in other parts of Australia revealed concerns from various organisations and councils about delays in receiving funding for CDEP and other programs.

    I have raised these issues with senior bureaucrats.

    Follow up action by Social Justice Commissioner

    2. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, seek to establish whether any Indigenous communities or organisations have experienced any ongoing financial difficulties or disadvantage as a result of the transition of grant management processes from ATSIS to mainstream departments and if so, will draw these to the attention of the Government so they can rectify them.

    • The new arrangements have consequences for existing planning processes which involve Indigenous representation through ATSIC

    A consequence of the proposed abolition of ATSIC is that there are challenges raised for existing framework agreements and structures which rely on the ATSIC structure to ensure Indigenous participation and representation. This is noticeable in relation to health and housing issues.

    The National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (National Strategic Framework), sets the policy direction in Indigenous health until 2013(62). It is a guide for local, regional and state/territory planning by health sector planning forums established under the Framework Agreements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health in each state and territory. The planning forum partners are the Commonwealth (the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health - OATSIH), the state/territory (the relevant Department of Health), the state/territory affiliate of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NAACHO)(63) and ATSIC.

    NACCHO has expressed concern that the abolition of ATSIC 'removes an Aboriginal representative voice from the... [planning] forums... with potentially significant consequences'(64). These include the undermining of the forums partnership processes by virtue of Aboriginal representative bodies suddenly assuming a minority position. This is critical because this balance allowed for accountability in the forums. As NACCHO note: '[t]he buck passing between Commonwealth and States has always been a major impediment to reform in Aboriginal health... the Framework Agreements are intended to address this area'(65).

    Other issues arise in relation to the participation of Indigenous peoples in the planning forums:

    • While regional planning was not based on ATSIC regions, ATSIC regional councils played a role in planning and identifying need in the forums. They will continue to be involved until they are abolished in June 2005. Whether the ICCs will be able to effectively assume this mantle is not clear: they have not been involved to date in planning(66).
    • In relation to the national implementation of the National Strategic Framework, the OIPC will have an opportunity to provide input and comment on it, in place of ATSIC(67). However, there is at present no formal mechanism for ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation at a national level. NACCHO have recommended that a National Health Partnership Agreement be completed to establish a national planning forum including Indigenous representation(68).

    Similar concerns regarding participation exist in relation to the Indigenous Housing Authorities (IHAs) established under the bilateral 5-yearly Indigenous Housing Agreements between the Commonwealth (represented by ATSIC and the Department of Family and Community Services) and the states and territories (with the exception of Tasmania). Upon the abolition of ATSIC, the Commonwealth put interim arrangements into place for 2004/2005. These essentially maintain the status quo, with ATSIC regional representation to continue within the IHAs until July 2005. The interim agreements contain a commitment to finalising a new round of Indigenous Housing Agreements by July 2005. Although there is an in-principle commitment to ongoing Indigenous representation within the IHAs, it is not yet clear how this will occur.

    Follow up action by Social Justice Commissioner

    3. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, establish what mechanisms have been put into place in framework agreements between the Commonwealth and the states and territories, including in relation to health and housing, to ensure appropriate participation of Indigenous peoples.


    Challenges in implementing the new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs

    This section identifies a number of challenges that need to be addressed by the new arrangements, including into the long term, for them to meet the objectives and commitments set by the Government and to ensure that they benefit Indigenous people and communities.

    • The effective participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making processes

    A clear challenge for the new arrangements is to ensure that Indigenous peoples can effectively participate in decision making processes that affect their daily lives. This participation needs to be at a national level, in order to influence the setting of priorities, as well as at the state, regional and local levels. Indigenous representation participation is not an either/or choice between national, regional and local level processes.

    In announcing that it intended to abolish ATSIC at the national and regional level, the Government has also stated that it intends to address the issue of Indigenous participation through the new arrangements by:

    • Appointing a National Indigenous Council of Indigenous experts to advise the Government in their individual capacities and not in a representative capacity;

    • Indicating that it will support the creation of a network of regional representative Indigenous bodies by 1 July 2005 to interact with the Government and utilising existing ATSIC Regional Council structures until then;
    • Negotiating agreements at the regional level with the representative Indigenous body and at the local level with Indigenous communities.

    The question is whether this combination of mechanisms is adequate to ensure the effective participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making processes.

    At this stage, these proposed new mechanisms are either not in place or have not been in place for long enough to allow an understanding as to how they will actually operate and interact with the Government and with Indigenous communities. Accordingly, my comments here are preliminary in nature and will need to be revisited in twelve months time when all aspects of the new arrangements are in place.

    The ability of Indigenous peoples to effectively participate in decision making processes at the national level is likely to be considered internationally in March 2005. Australia will appear before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 1-2 March 2005. This is for consideration of Australia's 13th and 14th periodic reports under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

    Under this Convention, Australia has undertaken to provide equality before the law and not to discriminate on the basis of race. The Government is required to present a report every two years on how it is achieving this, and other commitments under the Convention, and to appear before the Committee for this report to be considered.

    The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has noted that indigenous peoples across the world have been, and are still being, discriminated against and deprived of their human rights and fundamental freedoms and that as a consequence, the preservation of their culture and their historical identity has been and still is jeopardized. To address this, the Committee has called upon States parties to the Convention to:

    ensure that members of indigenous peoples have equal rights in respect of effective participation in public life and that no decisions directly relating to their rights and interests are taken without their informed consent'(69).

    When Australia most recently appeared before this Committee in March 2000, the Committee expressed concern at the inequality experienced by Indigenous people in Australia and recommended that the Government not institute 'any action that might reduce the capacity of ATSIC to address the full range of issues regarding the indigenous community'.(70)

    In his submission to the Senate inquiry into the ATSIC Amendment Bill, my predecessor as Social Justice Commissioner stated that the replacement of ATSIC with a non-elected, appointed advisory council might raise concerns of lack of compliance with Australia's international human rights obligations.(71) This does not mean that the Government should not be advised by a specialist advisory body such as the National Indigenous Council. It does mean, however, that reliance solely on such a mechanism will not be considered sufficient to ensure the effective participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making and hence to meet Australia's international obligations.

    As noted above, however, the new arrangements do not rely on the establishment of the National Indigenous Council as the sole mechanism for the participation of Indigenous peoples. It is intended to be accompanied by support for regional representative structures and the engagement of Indigenous peoples through agreement making at the regional and local level. These provide the potential for appropriate types of participation of Indigenous peoples at the local and regional levels, depending on how they are implemented.

    I am concerned, however, that there are not clear linkages between the processes for engagement of Indigenous peoples and communities at the local and regional levels to a process for engagement at the national level.

    As outlined in Appendix One to this report, one of the principle findings of the ATSIC Review was the lack of connection between ATSIC's national representative structure (the Board of Commissioners) and regional representative structures (Regional Councils) and local communities. It considered a number of options for creating a continuum of representation between these levels. The Review Team stated that the 'representative structure must allow for full expression of local, regional and State/Territory based views through regional councils and their views should be the pivot of the national voice.'(72)

    The new arrangements do not address this issue. They maintain a demarcation between processes for setting policy at the national level with processes for implementing policy and delivering services at the regional and local levels. While the new arrangements are based on a 'top down' and 'bottom up' approach, this is in terms of government coordination and not in terms of Indigenous participation. The model sees Indigenous participation as coming from the 'bottom up' through the local and regional mechanisms. It does not then provide mechanisms for directly linking these processes to the national level so that they might influence directions and priorities at the highest level.

    The Government has also stated that the National Indigenous Council is not intended to be a representative body, and accordingly its terms of reference do not require it to consult with Indigenous organisations or regional representative structures. They do, however, task the Council with promoting 'constructive dialogue and engagement between government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations'.(73)

    It is difficult to see how this function can be performed however, if the Council only convenes four times a year. The Council is not paid to undertake such dialogue or engagement outside of its meeting times and each member of the Council has their own occupation, to which membership of the Council is ancillary. Without any mechanism supporting the Council's ability to undertake independent research and consultation, there is little avenue for any form of constructive dialogue and engagement, with either government or Indigenous people, because each requires substantial time.

    A secretariat to the Council would ideally assist in this regard. The OIPC is intended to fulfil this role, however the scope of OIPC's secretariat function does not provide any interface between the Council and Indigenous people. For example, if an Indigenous person, group or organisation wished to communicate with the Council, there is no structure through which this can occur. There may be cost-effective ways of enabling this, for example by establishing a two or three person full time secretariat, independent to OIPC, to undertake consultation and research in the interim between Council meetings, and facilitating outside Indigenous input by virtue of a toll free telephone number and e-mail address.

    This demarcation between the national and regional and local levels is problematic given that the new arrangements are premised on the basis of partnerships and genuine engagement of Indigenous people and communities. It is difficult to see how this engagement can take place if the relationship is limited to those issues that have been identified and imposed through a 'top down' approach. It pre-empts the outcomes of such engagement and negotiation. It also has the potential to undermine a sense of ownership and responsibility at the community and individual level.

    There needs to be consideration as to how to create a linkage between the proposed regional representative structures and the national level. Given that these regional structures are not yet in place, it is difficult to comment on what might be the most appropriate mechanism for creating such a link. Some options that might ultimately be suitable, however, are as follows:

    • The convening of a National Congress of Indigenous representative organisations. Such a Congress could be comprised of each of the regional Indigenous representative structures established in accordance with the new arrangements. The Congress would provide the opportunity to compare best practice and the experiences in each region relating to the implementation of the new arrangements and service delivery to Indigenous people and communities. From this, it could seek to develop common principles and recommendations to guide government decision making processes at the federal, state and territory levels. Such advice and recommendations could be directed to the National Indigenous Council, Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs and Council of Australian Governments, among others. The Congress could meet annually.

      Such an approach has some similarities with the recommendations of the final report of the ATSIC Review. It had recommended the replacement of the ATSIC Board of Commissioners with a national body comprised of regional representatives and a smaller national executive drawn from this body. The national body in this model would develop a national plan based on regional priorities.(74)

      The convening of a National Congress of this type could also include other Indigenous advocacy bodies as appropriate (for example, national secretariats for Torres Strait Islander organisations, Indigenous women, health organisations or legal services, Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committees, Sorry Day or Stolen Generations representative organisations and so on). Such bodies could participate either in a decision making capacity or in a purely advisory role, as appropriate and decided by Indigenous peoples.

    • The convening of an annual conference on service delivery to Indigenous communities. Such a conference would complement the National Congress. It could be run along similar lines to the National Native Title Conference coordinated by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. It would provide an opportunity for communities, regional representative Indigenous organisations, Indigenous Coordination Centres and State and Territory Governments to share best practice examples in the formulation of regional agreements, local level agreements and in improving whole of government coordination between all levels of government on an annual basis. This could also be conducted on a state by state basis.
    • Establishment of a national Indigenous non-government organisation peak body. A further option is that Indigenous peoples could establish a national representative Indigenous body as a Non-Government Organisation. This could be along the lines of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council or the Australian Council of Social Services. Discussions with some senior bureaucrats have indicated that the Government might not have an objection to providing funding assistance for such a national representative Indigenous body. Instead, its objection is more likely to such a body being an instrument of the Government over which it exercises control. The challenge for such a representative body would be to establish a relationship with the Government so that it might exert some influence over policy making processes. This may be difficult where the representative body seeks to raise issues with the Government that do not match with its policy agenda. It is clear that this was one of the problems, even if not the predominant one, that the Government had with ATSIC.

    Since the announcement of the new arrangements, many Indigenous organisations have indicated that they want a national Indigenous representative structure. There has been consideration as to appropriate structures that could be introduced at the national level. For example, the National Indigenous Leaders Conference was held from 11-14 June 2004 in Adelaide. The Conference outcomes, set out in full in the appendix, state that:

    • 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;(75)

    There has, however, been limited progress in advancing the establishment of such a representative body to date.

    Follow up action by Social Justice Commissioner

    4. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consider the adequacy of processes for the participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making. This will include considering the adequacy of processes to link local and regional representative structures to providing advice at the national level.

    • Effective participation of Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland

    A further issue relating to the effective participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making processes is ensuring adequate processes for the participation of Torres Strait Islanders. The Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination has advised me that:

    Arrangements with the Torres Strait Regional Authority continue as before for people in the Torres Strait region. Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland will be covered by the new arrangements and have the opportunity to participate in SRAs and other initiatives with other Indigenous people in their region. In addition, OIPC continues to provide funding to the National Secretariat of Torres Strait Islander Organisations Limited to represent mainland Torres Strait Islanders in dealings with the community, government departments, statutory corporations and the Aboriginal community.(76)

    The Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination also advised the Senate inquiry into the ATSIC Amendment Bill that the Torres Strait Islander Advisory Board (TSIAB) retains its roles and functions as outlined in the ATSIC Act until the Act is changed. It will then be abolished as 'one of its primary functions was to act as an advocate for Torres Strait Island concerns within the ATSIC structure'(77). The Office of Torres Strait Islander Affairs, which provides secretariat support to the TSIAB, has been absorbed within the OIPC.

    The Torres Strait Islander Advisory Board has expressed concern to the Minister about the changes to representation of Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland. The Minister stated in response to these concerns that 'the National Indigenous Council would in future provide her with advice on programmes and policies affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people' and the Minister 'invited TSIAB to suggest individuals who would be suitable for nomination to the Council'(78).

    In response to a question on how Torres Strait Islanders would be represented on the mainland under the new arrangements, OIPC also indicated to the Senate inquiry into the ATSIC Bill that 'it is intended that there will be at least one Torres Strait Islander on the National Indigenous Council' and that it 'is of course open to Torres Strait Islanders to establish their own representative bodies which could advocate their views to government'(79). This first answer is unsatisfactory as the Government has clearly stated that members of the National Indigenous Council are not appointed in a representative capacity.

    The issues facing mainland resident Torres Strait Islanders differ from those of Aboriginal people and of Torres Strait Islanders who continue to live in the Torres Strait region.

    In the review of ATSIC boundaries and electoral systems, TSIAB noted the low level of representation of Torres Strait Islander people on ATSIC Regional Councils and the lack of Torres Strait Islander perspectives in the development and delivery of programs, policies and services.(80) This remains a challenge in the new arrangements, particularly if Torres Strait Islander perspectives are to be accounted through the ordinary operation of ICC's and through Shared Responsibility Agreements.

    It remains important that a voice representing their needs to government is maintained. Mr George Mye of the Veteran Island Councillors Elders Group, and inaugural ATSIC Commissioner for the Torres Strait region, stated recently that:

    Mainland is mainland and Torres Strait is Torres Strait... We cannot help it of our brothers on the mainland choose to live down there. I think the government should go slowly on that... Ask them what they want down there... Our people complained when I went around on my visit as the inaugural ATSIC Commissioner for the Torres Strait. There were tears on my shoulder, north, south, east and west - across the country. They need something of their own because they are always last in the queue for anything down on the mainland.(81)

    As the new arrangements are implemented, I will seek to establish the extent to which Torres Strait Islander people on the mainland are able to participate and the adequacy of their representation through the new processes.

    Follow up action by Social Justice Commissioner

    5. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consult with Torres Strait Islanders living on the mainland and their organisations to establish whether the new arrangements enable their effective participation in decision making.

    • Engaging with Indigenous people and communities at the regional level

    The new arrangements are based on engaging with regional representative Indigenous structures and local Indigenous communities through the negotiation of Regional Participation Agreements and Shared Responsibility Agreements. Setting into place appropriate processes for such engagement is central to the success of the new arrangements (as well as to ensuring the effective participation of Indigenous people, as discussed above).

    I have a number of comments about developments relating to processes for engaging with Indigenous peoples in the first five months of the new arrangements.

    First, there are concerns about the interaction with ATSIC Regional Councils since the new arrangements were introduced. It has been stated that ATSIC Regional Councils will continue to play an important role in the new arrangements until 30 June 2005. OIPC have advised me that Regional Councils will be consulted in the introduction of the new arrangements and will:

    • perform an advisory role with government agencies while new arrangements are being put in place;
    • assist the government to make the new arrangements work; and
    • contribute, along with others, to the formulation of new representative arrangements at the regional level.(82)

    Feedback from Regional Councils has suggested that this has not been the case. A number of Councils have indicated that they have been provided with limited information about the new arrangements (as discussed previously) and that they 'have just been told what is going to happen without any real negotiation or consultation'(83).

    One Regional Council noted that although the ICC Manager had 'given the Regional Council an opportunity to be part of the Regional Strategy to implement the New Arrangements', it has 'had no say as to how it will be implemented'(84). Another Regional Council stated that 'to date, we have not been informed of any formal processes to ensure that the newly established ICCs consult or negotiate with the Regional Council'(85).

    The impression I received from community consultations and discussions with various ATSIC Regional Councils is that across government Regional Councils are being treated as if they no longer exist.

    One Regional Council expressed concern that the lack of involvement of the Regional Council in the introduction of the new arrangements has affected the relationship of the Council with communities:

    The Councillors are concerned that the lack of information (that has been provided by the government) is not consistent with the commitments made prior to 1 July 2004. They are also concerned that the level of consultation between themselves and the communities they represent have led to a loss of face and trust in the Council's ability to deliver proper guidance and information to the communities.

    We understand that the ICC Manager and staff are making a very good effort in addressing this situation, however, we understood that there would be an ongoing role for Regional Councillors to participate equitably in this transitional process. This would need information and resources to ensure that a continuing partnership exists until the end of July 2005.(86)

    Consultations with Regional Councils also revealed that limited use has been made of the latest Regional Plans developed by the Councils. One Council was advised by the relevant ICC that 'the Regional Council's Regional Plan is only one of the tools to be used and that Regional Council is only one of many stakeholders'(87). Other Regional Councils have indicated that they have received positive responses to their Regional Plans, especially at the state level in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria.

    It is regrettable that Regional Councils, with their ability to communicate widely with Indigenous people and communities and their experience engaging with service deliverers at the regional level, have not been more integrally involved in the introduction of the new arrangements.

    Second, I am concerned that there has not been sufficient priority attached by the Government to working with Indigenous communities to progress the establishment of regional representative structures. The Government has stated that:

    During 2004-05 the Australian Government will consult Indigenous people throughout Australia, as well as State and Territory governments, about structures for communicating Indigenous views and concerns to government and ensuring services are delivered in accordance with local priorities and preferred delivery methods.(88)

    Consultations for this report suggested that there has been no such consultation to date. This lack of progress is exacerbated by the lack of engagement with ATSIC Regional Councils in the process and also by the insufficient information provided to Indigenous people and communities about the new arrangements in general. This hinders the ability for informed debate within Indigenous communities of possible new structures.

    This focus from government is critical. In explaining the operation of the new arrangements, the Government describes the Regional Participation Agreement process as setting the priorities for each region. It is anticipated that this will involve assessing Indigenous need (including by mapping it against demographic factors such as projected growth of the population and mobility within regions) and mapping government expenditure as well as identifying the capital within the region. Logically, Shared Responsibility Agreements would flow from the identification of these matters and the agreement of protocols and appropriate processes for engagement. Engagement through a credible representative structure at the regional level would also facilitate relationships at the local, community level and hence the ability to progress Shared Responsibility Agreements.

    The experiences of the COAG trials, which have involved a mix of discrete communities and larger regions, show that even if a community has highly developed plans for establishing a representative structure, it still requires significant support and resources (including financial) from government for this to be realised. The timeframe for the establishment of representative structures through the new arrangements is extremely tight. In fact, unless there are existing processes in place which can be built upon it is difficult to see how credible structures could be operating within the timeframe currently envisaged.

    Where there are no such developed plans in place, there is a need for broad based consultation among Indigenous peoples to ensure that any proposed representative structure is culturally legitimate. The creation of structures that do not enjoy the support of Indigenous people will ultimately fail and will not encourage a sense of partnership with Indigenous communities (and consequently a sense of commitment to the process).

    I note that there are preliminary discussions taking place at the state level about appropriate models for Indigenous representation. From my discussions with State and Territory Governments, I see reluctance from them to advance these issues due to concerns about who will resource the new regional structures and in order to wait and see what the Commonwealth is doing.

    Both the Western Australian and New South Wales Governments have convened forums and embarked upon consultations with Indigenous peoples to identify options for representative bodies. The South Australian Government is currently exploring the possibility of an Indigenous Advisory Board to include Regional Council membership. The Northern Territory Government is contemplating a model of Regional Authorities under its Building Stronger Regions - Stronger Futures Strategy(89) policy. The Yilli Rreung ATSIC Regional Council is, however, concerned at the NT Government's model on the basis that they consider it will not adequately meet the needs of Indigenous people. They have sought funding to conduct consultations about governance models for the NT.

    There are also a number of models for regional representation currently being developed. One of the most advanced is the proposal for a three-tiered model of regional governance and over-arching Council in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.(90)

    This model involves retention of the three ATSIC Regional Councils in the Kimberley region, on the basis that they 'have existing recognition, authority, track record and a legitimacy worth preserving and building on'(91). These Councils would take on a proactive planning role, as well as identifying opportunities for regional initiatives with business and community groups and working collaboratively with government in setting strategic goals. There would also be a peak body which integrates the activities of the three Regional Councils and can represent the whole region; and a third tier of community working parties which would 'provide accessible opportunities for participation and capacity building at grass-roots level'(92).

    The Wunan ATSIC Regional Council notes that:

    (the 3) tiers will establish a structure of representation that can respond to the diversity and geographical vastness of the Kimberley, but, at the same time, provide a process for the integration of the varied needs and interests of its communities into a single Kimberley plan... it should be noted that it could easily be adapted with a further tier to establish a State-wide model of Aboriginal representation and governance.(93)

    This model has broad Indigenous community support in the Kimberley having been endorsed by the ATSIC Kimberley Zone Executive in June 2004 as well as at community meetings convened by the Kimberley Land Council (through the Wuggubun statement). It provides a strategic approach for integrating the development of a Regional Participation Agreement with Shared Responsibility Agreements at the community level. The responsive of the Australian Government (along with the Western Australian Government) to this proposal will be a true test of their commitment to seek community led innovative structures for Indigenous representation.

    Follow up action by Social Justice Commissioner

    6. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consult with governments, ATSIC Regional Councils and Indigenous communities and organisations about:

    • engagement by governments with ATSIC Regional Councils and the use of their Regional Plans;
    • progress in developing regional representative Indigenous structures, and mechanisms for integrating such structures with community level agreement making processes.
    • Engaging with Indigenous people and communities at the local level

    The new arrangements are based on direct engagement and negotiation with Indigenous people and communities at the local level through Shared Responsibility Agreements (SRAs). SRAs are intended to operate at a family or community level and to '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 milestones to measure progress'.(94)

    The Department of Family and Community Services, which is the Commonwealth's Lead Agency in the COAG trial in Wadeye in the Northern Territory, describe the SRA process as:

    (defining) the working relationship between governments and the community... The SRA in Wadeye provides a means to assist all parties to understand what benefits a partnership will bring and assist in making informed decisions. It also brings with it significant responsibilities and all parties need to fully understand these responsibilities and their obligations.(95)

    Departments engaged in the COAG trials have identified the following challenges for the SRA process to date:

    • Sound, culturally appropriate community governance is crucial to facilitate community engagement. For SRAs to work, the community and its governing body must have the authority to enter into agreements with government; have the capacity to develop a strategic vision for the future; and have the capacity to engage with and secure commitment from community residents.(96)

      The Department of Health and Ageing, which is the Commonwealth's Lead Agency on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara lands in South Australia, notes that:

      The COAG trial experience has shown that representation of the local or regional Indigenous communities in the COAG trial partnership is not a simple issue. Identifying a group with the authority of the "community" to enter agreements on behalf of the community is challenging and has taken in excess of 12 months in some cases. It can be problematic to rely on one representative organization as this is seen as endorsement of one organization and can promote gate keeping and regional tension between community organisations. A suggestion that is drawn from... a couple of COAG trial sites is a coalition of Indigenous organizations... in order that the range of Indigenous interest groups' views in any given area are represented.(97)

    • Corporate governance capacity must be assessed through the SRA process. In order for governing bodies to be able to manage and progress day-to-day business, as well as deal with any new work or responsibilities, the cultural needs of community governance must be matched by effective management systems and experienced personnel. It is important that careful attention be given to assessing the capacities of the management and administrative structures at the local community level to carry out their responsibilities under the proposed SRA. (98)
    • The pace of negotiations should not be forced. The Department of Family and Community Services note that an 'important lesson learnt when developing the agreement at Wadeye was that local people wanted time to input into the Agreement and wanted time by themselves to discuss the Agreement and workshop its content'(99). The Department of Transport and Regional Services also note, in relation to the Kimberley trial site in Western Australian, that it has 'taken longer than anticipated to gain the trust of the communities and establish structures and methods for working together.'(100)

    The OIPC has acknowledged the importance of these issues, and has noted that:

    There is a need to build capacity on both sides - government people need to learn how to work in this new way, as do Indigenous communities. The Government will provide support for, and invest in, strengthening community capacity, leadership and governance to assist Indigenous people to engage as partners with government. We will be providing this type of support in a number of forms such as:

    • governance and leadership training, including the new Indigenous Women's Development Programme;
    • skills transfer through government and private sector volunteers and secondees;
    • tailored community development initiatives; and
    • engagement of community development facilitators.(101)

    These challenges make it clear that a true partnership approach can only result if government and Indigenous communities have sufficient capacity to engage with each other. From the Indigenous community perspective, this requires being able to make decisions from an informed basis, achieve a legitimate community consensus about priorities and ways forward, being committed to meeting obligations that are jointly agreed and having the tools (or capital) to achieve this.

    These factors have implications for how Indigenous Coordination Centres go about the process of negotiating SRAs with communities. This is particularly the case given that:

    • in consultations for this chapter, senior bureaucrats indicated that the Government does not require SRAs to be formed with a community 'as one', and will be prepared to enter into agreements with discrete elements of it; and
    • in late 2004, the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet set a target of 50 - 80 Shared Responsibility Agreements to be in place by 30 June 2005. He emphasised that SRAs should be an evolving process and the initial SRAs should not be sidetracked by complex governance problems.

    The negotiation of agreements at a sub-community level has the potential to reinforce significant governance problems within communities, by not negotiating with culturally sound or 'legitimate' structures. The setting of a deadline for the negotiation of SRAs also has the potential to undermine informed engagement by Indigenous communities and is arbitrary if the purpose of the agreements is to define the working relationship between governments and the community.

    Both of these factors also have the potential to result in uneven outcomes between Indigenous communities, with those that have less capacity (and who are less savvy about negotiating with government) being left behind. This prospect was identified as a potential problem in the Social Justice Report 2003 which asked:

    how do we avoid the situation where governments focus their attention on improved coordination of service delivery to those communities that are relatively organised? Even in the (COAG) trial sites, where there has been a great deal of activity by communities to address these issues, it has taken a long time to develop the capacity of the communities to the point where they can determine what the priorities of the community are and the approaches that should be adopted. It is critical that in the longer term other communities do not get left behind because they do not have such capacity.(102)

    However, these potential outcomes could also be avoided if the SRA process is truly an evolving one, as urged by the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minster and Cabinet.

    The Department of Family and Community Services has suggested that the SRA process should focus on the following issues in order 'to engender commitment to the partnership':

    • roles and responsibilities of each party;
    • processes and strategies to maximize community engagement in the trial process;
    • community consultation protocols;
    • structures to facilitate dialogue between community residents, leaders and government agencies; and
    • resources required for facilitating community dialogue.(103)

    Addressing these matters could form the basis of the initial engagement of the ICCs with communities on SRAs. The focus in the initial stages would be on establishing relationships, a commitment to work together and identifying what structures are in place or need to be in place for engagement.

    As has occurred in some of the COAG trial sites, this initial stage could also involve agreement to conduct a simple activity that the community identifies as a high priority. Examples proposed by the Indigenous Communities Coordination Taskforce for the COAG trials included recreational activities such as installing trampolines or lights for a basketball court. The SRA would then advance the development of relationships and structures through the introduction of the chosen activity/ies.

    Subsequent SRAs could then evolve into more complex processes and arrangements, as the capacity of both government and the community increases. This might involve assessing the needs of the community (through consultative processes within the community, and quantitative and qualitative research), and then negotiating strategies and priorities for addressing identified needs. It might be appropriate at this stage to negotiate SRAs at different levels of the community, such as with distinct families, clans and so forth.

    This staggered approach to the development of SRAs is also consistent with the coordination of these agreements within the broader framework of the negotiation of Regional Participation Agreements with regional representative Indigenous structures (as discussed in the previous section).

    The new arrangements may also pose some difficulties for the engagement of Indigenous peoples in urban areas. Much of the focus of the new arrangements to date is on engaging with discrete Indigenous communities. This relies on the existence of an identifiable, cohesive Indigenous 'community' in the relevant location. While there are discrete Indigenous communities in some metropolitan areas, Indigenous people are also spread more disparately across large areas which are densely populated. Engaging with such disparate groups creates specific challenges for the new arrangements, which includes some requisite knowledge on the part of APS staff, as to the Indigenous people with whom to consult in these areas. The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs have stated that:

    It is particularly challenging to identify the discrete needs of urban communities - in fact, more so than for discrete remote area communities. The first difficulty in urban areas is to determine who is part of or speaks for 'the community' and in fact what is the community.(104)

    The loss of a representative structure in these areas, such as ATSIC Regional Councils, will make this task more difficult.

    Challenges also surface in relation to the accessibility of mainstream services. Again, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs acknowledged that:

    [t]he evidence suggests that indigenous people in urban areas tend not to use mainstream services and choose instead to use Indigenous community organisations as either intermediaries with mainstream agencies or as replacement service providers, or not to use any services at all.(105)

    Clearly a number of structural/systemic barriers must be addressed. As previously acknowledged, the new arrangements are still in the early stages of implementation and it is yet to be seen how this challenge will be addressed.

    • 'Mutual obligation' as the basis of Shared Responsibility Agreements

    With the announcement of the new arrangements, there has been a noticeable shift in emphasis on the role of SRAs. The focus is now much more explicitly on the responsibilities of Indigenous people in meeting mutual obligation principles. The OIPC state that the SRA process is intended to:

    build genuine partnerships with Indigenous people at the local level based on the notion of reciprocity or mutual responsibility. An SRA is a two way street where communities identify priorities and longer term objectives for themselves, government listens and they work together to achieve agreed objectives - nothing can progress unless the lead comes from the community.(106)

    This presents the acceptance of mutual obligation as voluntary. However, the OIPC have also stated that 'Under the new approach, groups will need to offer commitments in return for government funding'(107). During consultations for this report senior bureaucrats have confirmed that the intention is that communities that do not wish to accept mutual obligation will be provided with basic services, but might not receive additional funding or support.

    Due to the preliminary status of the new arrangements, it will not be until mid-2005 at the earliest that there will be sufficient information to express a view about the actual approach being adopted by the Government to reflecting mutual obligation requirements in SRAs.

    The first indication of what may be required was provided in late 2004, when the details of an SRA with the Mulan community were released. It required that the community ensure that children shower every day, and wash their face twice a day; ensure petrol sold through the store is not used for petrol sniffing; ensure children get to school, creche and the clinic when they should; that the CDEP program ensure that rubbish bins are at every house and emptied twice a week; that household pest control happens four times a year; that the rubbish tip is managed properly; and ensure that all household rents are paid so that the community council can afford pest control, repairs and cost of rubbish removal.(108) In return, the Australian Government will 'contribute $172,260 for the provision and installation of fuel bowsers'(109). One of the stated objectives of the agreement is to reduce the incidence of trachoma in the community.

    Consultations for this report have revealed widespread concerns about the potential scope and dominance of mutual obligation requirements. There is concern that SRAs will become less of a community development and capacity building model and more of a punitive funding agreement model which seeks behavioural change. This is particularly so when, as in the Mulan agreement, there is very little connection between the outcome sought by the Government (in this example reducing the incidence of trachoma) and the input provided by the Government (a petrol bowser). There is also widespread concern that the linking of delivery of services to behavioural change through SRAs would be discriminatory.

    During public debate about the appropriateness of the Mulan agreement I stated that:

    As acting Race Discrimination Commissioner I would be deeply concerned if conditions were introduced which place restrictions on access to services for one sector of the Australian community defined by their race that did not apply more generally to the rest of the Australian community. It would be unacceptable for Indigenous peoples to be denied basic citizenship services that all other Australians take for granted.

    Any proposals for reform must comply fully with the Racial Discrimination Act and the principle of non-discrimination more generally. Proposals which fail to do so should be rejected outright as morally repugnant and not fit for modern Australian society.

    This debate should be firmly focused on creating sustainable improvements in the circumstances of Indigenous peoples and on building the capacity of Indigenous individuals and communities to freely determine their own destiny.

    The proposed introduction of coercive measures to achieve this will not work and may well have the opposite effect of exacerbating the extent of poverty, marginalisation and powerlessness of Indigenous people. It would also be inconsistent with Australia's international obligations, such as under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, that emphasizes the obligation of governments to support an individual's right to work in equitable and non-coercive terms...

    Ultimately, moving from a passive welfare approach requires a multiplicity of responses and substantial change from the way government does business at present. Knee-jerk reactions to the substantial challenge that this presents need to be avoided, particularly where they may create discriminatory standards of treatment by government(s) or be counter-productive.(110)

    In light of the potentially serious consequences of this issue, my office will continue to consult with the OIPC about the guidance it provides to ICCs for addressing mutual obligation requirements in the negotiation of SRAs. I will also scrutinise Shared Responsibility Agreements over the coming eighteen months to determine whether they raise issues of non-compliance with human rights standards.

    To this end, I note that the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (RDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of race and that the Act applies to Shared Responsibility Agreements. It is not possible to determine in the abstract, or on the basis of the information currently available, whether SRAs breach the RDA. The determination of whether a particular SRA is in breach of the RDA will depend upon the facts and circumstances of the agreement. Appendix Two of this report, however, sets out the elements that would have to be proven to establish that an agreement is racially discriminatory and unlawful under the RDA.

    Follow up action by Social Justice Commissioner

    7. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consult with governments, Indigenous communities and organisations and monitor:

    • processes for forming Shared Responsibility Agreements; and
    • the compliance of Shared Responsibility Agreements with human rights standards, and in particular with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth)
    • Ensuring that appropriate recruitment and retention practices are maintained within the Australian Public Service under the new arrangements

    The new arrangements pivot on the ability of government to engage with Indigenous people and communities. This requires public servants to have particular skills in communicating and engaging with Indigenous peoples.

    The Australian Public Service has a number of longstanding practices for the recruitment, training and retention of Indigenous staff as well as the development and recognition of skills and abilities of staff in roles where they engage directly with Indigenous peoples in delivering programs or determining policy that affects Indigenous peoples. Consultations for this report, however, have revealed some disturbing trends in relation to these practices and the valuing of these skills and abilities since the introduction of the new arrangements. In particular, I have identified:

    1. A lack of commitment to using identified criteria by the central coordinating agency for the new arrangements (OIPC), meaning that skills relating to communicating with Indigenous peoples and understanding Indigenous cultures are not considered mandatory skills for some key positions in the new arrangements;
    2. A lack of cultural awareness training for staff entering the OIPC or regional service delivery roles through ICCs; and
    3. A decline in the employment and retention of Indigenous people in the Australian Public Service, particularly at the executive and senior executive levels, since the introduction of the new arrangements.

    First, I am concerned about the processes used for recruiting staff in the OIPC and the lack of use of identified criteria.

    The Australian Public Service Commission notes that 'some jobs within the APS need an understanding of the culture and issues faced by Indigenous Australians and an ability to deal effectively and sensitively with these'(111). Possessing such understanding and abilities is recognised as an important skills set for potential public servants to be able to fulfil the duties of positions. This is particularly so for positions 'where part or all of the duties involve the development of policy or programs relating to Indigenous Australians, and/or involve interaction with Indigenous Australian communities, including service delivery'(112).

    Public service agencies are encouraged to utilise what are called 'identified criteria' in selection processes to require that applicants can demonstrate that they possess relevant skills. The common wording for these criteria that has been used to date in the public service is as follows:

    1. Demonstrated knowledge and understanding of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and the diversity of circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and

    2. Demonstrated ability to communicate sensitively and effectively, including proper negotiation and consultation, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on matters relevant to delivery of Government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policies.

    These criteria are not mandatory, but have been identified as strategies that assist agencies to meet their obligations under the Public Service Act 1999 (Cth) to promote workplace diversity. They have been used as a strategy to recruit Indigenous people into the public service, although 'recruitment is on the basis of merit and therefore not confined to Indigenous applicants'(113).

    These were identified as mandatory criteria used in all recruitment processes at ATSIC. The Australian Public Service Commission's State of the Service 2003/04 report notes that 19 federal departments or agencies utilise identified criteria, and a further 4 are developing strategies for their use.(114) In correspondence with my office about the new arrangements, the following departments indicated that their policies require the use of Identified Criteria where the position involves service delivery to Indigenous people or communities:

    • Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR);
    • Department of Education, Science and Training;
    • Department of Family and Community Services;
    • Department of Environment and Heritage;
    • Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries;
    • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and
    • Attorney-General's Department.

    DEWR, for example, states in its guide on the use of identified positions and identified criteria that such criteria is 'designed to assist in the selection of the most suitable people to undertake the effective development and delivery of policies and programmes affecting the department's Indigenous Australian clients'.(115)

    These criteria have not, however, been utilised for all positions in the new arrangements by the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination. This is despite OIPC being the central coordinating agency for the new arrangements.

    For example, these criteria were not utilised in recruiting for the critical roles of Managers of Indigenous Coordination Centres. The OIPC has described these managers as:

    senior people who are effectively freed up from day to day programme administration and staff management. This allows them to focus on strategic whole of Australian Government leadership both across the office and with Indigenous communities in their regions... The ICC Managers lead the work with communities to develop Shared Responsibility Agreements (SRAs). This is their primary role. It requires them to be able to listen to the needs and priorities being identified by local communities, agree a set of objectives that both partners can work towards together and then work out what the government can do to support these objectives - by way of resources or other means.(116)

    In the letter sent to potential applicants for these positions, the OIPC noted that:

    To make ICCs work, we need to tap into skills and qualities additional to those normally required of program or office managers. In particular, ICC Team Leaders must be able to sensitively and appropriately communicate with Indigenous people.

    While the Commonwealth Public Sector Union (CPSU) petitioned the OIPC to include the two identified criteria in selection documents for the positions of ICC Managers,(117) they ultimately included one criterion which merged these identified criteria. They were also placed in the selection criteria as 'Additional Selection Criterion' rather than as essential skills.

    Similarly, none of the Senior Executive Service (SES) positions in the national office of OIPC carried any identified criteria or requirements related to knowledge of Indigenous peoples and cultures.

    In answer to the question, 'Does the Department utilise identified selection criteria in recruiting staff for its mainstream or Indigenous specific programs?' the OIPC have advised me that:

    In relation to OIPC, it is a matter for each Manager to determine the most appropriate selection criteria for each position. The inclusion of identified criteria will depend on the duties and responsibilities of the position in question.(118)

    I have indicated to senior bureaucrats(119) that I consider that the lack of use of identified criteria for all SES positions in OIPC, and regionally in ICCs, is unacceptable. Identified criteria reflect essential skills for public servants to engage with Indigenous people and communities or determine policy that directly affects Indigenous peoples.

    At this stage, the majority of staff in mainstream departments who are located in ICCs have been mapped across from their previous positions in ATSIS or ATSIC. They will have been recruited using identified criteria. However, should they leave it is uncertain as to whether they will be replaced by someone who has been recruited on a similar basis. There needs to be consistency between agencies involved in ICCs as to the use of identified criteria.

    In discussions about my concerns with the Australian Public Service Commission and the Indigenous Australian Public Service Employment Network, it was noted that some agencies do not understand the merit basis of using identified criteria. An example of this misunderstanding was provided by one government department which responded to my request for information that it 'does not utilise any identified selection criteria in general recruitment, as all positions are filled by merit-based selection processes'. Given that some agencies have now had Indigenous specific programs transferred to them where they did not previously have such programs, I consider it important for there to be a renewed effort to explain the merit basis of the use of identified criteria among public service agencies.

    Recommendation 2

    That the two identified criteria (namely, a demonstrated knowledge and understanding of Indigenous cultures; and an ability to communicate effectively with Indigenous peoples) be mandatory for all recruitment processes in the Australian Public Service relating to the new arrangements and in particular for positions in the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination and Indigenous Coordination Centres.

    Second, I am concerned about the lack of cultural awareness training for staff entering the OIPC or regional service delivery roles through ICCs. In discussions with the Australian Public Service Commission, cultural awareness training across the public service was described as 'poor'(120). Given that mainstream departments now have new responsibilities to Indigenous peoples and will be required to engage with Indigenous peoples in ways that they previously have not done so, there is a greater need for appropriate cultural awareness training service-wide.

    As a practical example of this, the Department of Family and Community Services have noted that their role as Lead Agency in the Wadeye COAG trial has:

    taught us the importance of ensuring that the local people fully understand what the needs of government agencies are. Equally, it has demonstrated the importance of governments understanding community concerns... so that program and other services can be better targeted and delivered more effectively.(121)

    Consequently, they state:

    one way of better equipping staff for their engagement with Indigenous people, is through more specific, focussed training. Given the new arrangements... there is a need for agencies to institute training programs, particularly to those that have a direct role in servicing Indigenous clients or manage programs with a significant Indigenous component/focus, which include some form of cross-cultural training, an Indigenous historical component to understand how to assist in building community capacity. (122)

    They note that while 'generic cross-cultural courses form a good starting point', through the COAG trial at Wadeye 'there has been an acknowledgement that there are many experts at Wadeye who can provide Government agency staff with a localised cross-cultural training program'(123). Supporting local people to provide cross-cultural training, FACS suggests, 'will allow local residents to build capacity and it will also provide them with an economic opportunity'(124).

    Despite this, the Indigenous Australian Public Service Employment Network was informed that OIPC are not prepared to conduct any cultural-training for its staff.(125) OIPC have stated, however, that 'other Australian Government agencies are... developing culturally appropriate training and development modules for delivery in ICCs throughout Australia'(126). Programs such as the Department of Family and Community Services' Cultural perspectives program might also be able to be adapted for this purpose.

    The new arrangements pivot on the success of community-engagement by APS staff. Therefore beyond cultural training, skill-development in the area of community development is crucial to performing the consultation and activities required. To date, it does not appear that community development training is being undertaken or provided to staff employed to implement the new arrangements. The skills required for this are quite different to those traditionally required of APS staff. The Indigenous Communities Coordination Taskforce has recommended that SRAs require broad strategies be adopted to 'build the capacity of government employees to meet the challenges of working in this new way with Indigenous communities'.(127)

    Third, I am concerned about a decline in the employment and retention of Indigenous people in the Australian Public Service, particularly at the executive and senior executive levels since the new arrangements were introduced.

    The State of the Service Report 2003-04, an annual report on employment trends in the Australian Public Service (APS) prepared by the Australian Public Service Commissioner, noted that in 2004 ongoing Indigenous representation in the APS fell to 2.3 per cent. This compares to 2.4 per cent for 2003 and 2.7 per cent in 1998 and 1999.(128) It has also been noted publicly that in the new arrangements, only one out of 20 senior management positions in the OIPC is filled by an Indigenous person, with a further seven ICC Managers being Indigenous (out of a total of 30). (129)

    The APS Commissioner noted the combination of the reduction in ongoing engagements at the entry-level and a sharp increase in separations, were the main factors contributing to the reduced Indigenous representation in the APS.(130) The Commissioner stated:

    The APS Commission has identified this area [Indigenous retention] as a priority and, through its Indigenous Employment Strategy, is continuing to work with agencies to redress the declining representation of Indigenous Australians in the APS. Priority areas for 2004-05 include supporting the transition of Indigenous employees from ATSIS to APS line agencies, and developing training approaches to support the new Indigenous Coordination Centres which have replaced existing ATSIS regional offices. The impact of these changed administrative arrangements on Indigenous employment will be monitored closely in future State of the Service reports.(131)

    The reduction in entry-level positions, also known as base-grade recruitment, narrows the method by which many Indigenous Australians enter the APS. ATSIC and ATSIS had conducted large-scale Indigenous cadetship and trainee programs that was an important contributor to proportionate Indigenous employment throughout the ranks of the APS. Some Departments, such as the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries maintain this program(132), however many Agencies have not continued ATSIC or ATSIS cadetships and appear to have no process in place to commence such a program.(133)

    The Australian Public Service Commission stated in late August 2004 that the number of Indigenous staff within the APS was in danger of continuing to decline significantly as the new arrangements began to be implemented.(134) Many of the departures have been at the middle-management level. IAPSEN have also noted a steady decline in Indigenous staff at the Executive Level.(135)

    Since the announcement of the new arrangements, the Australian Public Service Commission has requested that agencies that have received staff from ATSIC or ATSIS report any changes in their status at the end of each month. This provides a crude guide to changes in Indigenous retention in these agencies. Comprehensive data will not be available until the Australian Public Service Employee Database is uploaded at the end of the financial year. I intend to maintain regular dialogue with the APSC over the coming years about trends in retention rates and strategies being put into place to address the consequences of these.

    Follow up action by Social Justice Commissioner

    8. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consult with the Australian Public Service Commission about:

    • recruitment strategies relating to positions in the Australian Public Service involving Indigenous service delivery, program and policy design, and in particular, promoting understanding and use of identified criteria;
    • the use of cultural awareness training by agencies involved in the new arrangements;
    • trends in the retention of Indigenous staff across the Australian Public Service; and
    • the assistance that the Commission is providing to agencies involved in the new arrangements with developing or revising Indigenous recruitment and retention policies.
    • Coordinating programs across government departments and with the states and territories

    In its Report on Indigenous Funding 2001, the Commonwealth Grants Commission found that 'mainstream services do not meet the needs of Indigenous people to the same extent as they meet the needs of non-Indigenous people'(136). Consequently, it identified the following principles to underpin service delivery:

    • the full and effective participation of Indigenous people in decisions affecting funding distribution and service delivery;
    • ensuring genuine collaborative processes with the involvement of government and non-government funders and service deliverers to maximise opportunities for pooling of funds, as well as multi-jurisdictional and cross-functional approaches to service delivery; and
    • recognition of the critical importance of effective access to mainstream programs and services, and clear actions to identify and address barriers to access. (137)

    To ensure the equitable access to mainstream services by Indigenous people, the CGC also recommended governments implement actions to:

    • ensure all spheres of government recognise their responsibilities through mainstream programs, and the appropriate relationship between mainstream and Indigenous-specific programs;
    • review all aspects of mainstream service delivery to ensure they are sensitive to the special needs and requirements of Indigenous people; and
    • involve Indigenous people in the design and delivery of mainstream services.(138)

    One of the consequences of the adoption of a whole of government approach to service delivery through the new arrangements is that mainstream government services and programs at the federal level will now sit alongside Indigenous specific programs in Indigenous Coordination Centres. This is a significant opportunity to improve the accessibility of mainstream programs for Indigenous people and communities so as to better meet their needs.

    It also creates the following challenges for the new arrangements, and specifically how ICCs operate.

    First, there is much potential to match up the activities of ICCs with programs which already have a regional focus. The Department of Transport and Regional Services states that:

    The major vehicle for DOTARS interaction with the ICCs is through the network of 56 (Area Consultative Committees) ACCs that the Department auspices... They are made up of local stakeholders and are vital players in their regions. The ACC's primary roles are:

    • To be a key facilitator of change and development in their region;
    • To be the link between government, business and the community; and
    • To facilitate whole of government responses to opportunities in their communities.

    The ACCs potentially offer an opportunity for ICCs to strengthen their ability to service Indigenous communities through drawing together unique industry networks, as well as significant expertise, knowledge and information on various non-Indigenous Australian Government programmes (particularly those relating to industry development and employment). ACCs have a responsibility to promote all government programmes in their work... ICCs in return, would potentially offer ACCs a better understanding of, and access to, Indigenous communities and their issues.(139)

    The Department of Education, Science and Training has stated that it has commenced aligning its Indigenous Education Network with ICC's:

    DEST is playing a key role in participating in the Indigenous Coordination Centres and in supporting the development of Shared Responsibility Agreements... To support this interaction we are integrating our Indigenous Education network with the new ICCs.

    Our network staff are progressively developing effective working relationships with their counterparts in the 22 rural and remote ICCs. In each State and the Northern territory, there are 15 locations where there is a former ATSIC office and a DEST regional or district office. In these 15 ICC locations, ie where a DEST office already exists, we have established a 'virtual' presence in the ICC until the physical co-location of our staff can be achieved.

    In seven ICC locations where DEST currently has no regional office, DEST sought expressions of interest from staff to work on a temporary basis to help establish the Department's presence... Over time, DEST's regional network will be joined physically or affiliated 'virtually' with the ICC regional footprint. Our staff have access to the ICC IT network to ensure that information is shared and that effective communication occurs.(140)

    The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations also see significant potential for improving the links between Indigenous specific employment programs, including CDEP, and mainstream employment programs.

    Second, concern has been expressed regularly throughout the consultations for this report that some departments have adopted a more rigid approach to implementing these new program responsibilities. It has been suggested that it is a case of Indigenous specific programs being required to fit with existing mainstream approaches, rather than the other way around.

    A particular concern that has been expressed continually is the more rigid approach adopted to the Community Development Employment Projects Scheme, including in defining what constitutes an activity under the program. A related concern that has been expressed is increased pressure being placed on Indigenous people to accept mutual obligation requirements, opening up the possibility that punitive measures accompanying this could result in Indigenous people moving from programs such as CDEP which have reciprocity requirements to other forms of income support, such as Disability Support Pension, which do not.

    Third, not all federal departments have a record of delivering services in regional areas. At least two departments have indicated that, prior to being transferred program responsibilities from ATSIS, they had only a limited or no regional presence. The Attorney-General's Department notes:

    The AGD was not a participant in the COAG trials. Before the transfer of ATSIS staff to the Department, AGD had no staff outside Canberra (apart from some staff of Emergency Management Australia... )... Thirty-three of the staff who transferred from ATSIS to AGD are based in 19 different locations outside Canberra. As the Department has no regional offices, those 33 staff are accommodated in ICCs...

    The Department is developing arrangements with ICC management, and with other departments, to ensure continuity of programme delivery from those ICCs where AGD has no staff.(141)

    The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts have also stated:

    Until 1 July 2004, DCITA was a relatively small Canberra-based policy department without a regional presence... As a result of the new arrangements, DCITA has now assumed responsibility for programme budgets amounting to approximately $42 million per annum and is integrating approximately 100 new staff into the Department. Most of these staff will be located in regional areas, and... will work in newly established Indigenous Coordination Centres.

    This will be a challenge, particularly given the lack of an existing department state or regional network and the relatively junior profile of the staff mapped to DCITA.(142)

    Consultations for this report confirmed the concern expressed above regarding the relatively junior profile of staff mapped into regional offices. We were provided with numerous examples of staff in regional offices at extremely junior levels having significant program responsibilities with their direct line management being in Canberra. This related to programs run by more than one department.

    The Department of Environment and Heritage have noted that they are currently reviewing mechanisms for delivering the Indigenous Heritage and Environment Programme. Under ATSIS the program was devolved to regional offices. The Department notes:

    It is likely that stronger centralized management and administration of the Programme could be a more effective means for management, delivery and oversight of the Programme at the national level. The devolved regional administration would therefore be changed... There will still be a component of regional administration and management, particularly with community based projects... the support from staff from other Departments in the ICCs will be sought on a fee for service basis to assist in some of the management requirements for grants approved in their areas.(143)

    Structures are being established within these departments, and across government, to address the challenges that are created by the regional basis of service delivery in the new arrangements.

    Fourth, there are practical issues raised by attempting coordination through ICCs. The ICC Manager does not have responsibilities for managing staff or administering programs. Such responsibility remains within the relevant department. The line of accountability for staff placed within ICCs goes back to their parent agency, often to a supervisor in a State capital or in some instances back to Canberra. Consultations for this report have identified a number of teething problems that this line management structure has created for ICCs. Staff have indicated that:

    • they feel that they have two separate lines of accountability for their work - one back to their own agencies' central office and the other to the ICC, and it has been confusing to identify how to balance this;
    • there have sometimes been delays in progressing issues as their supervisors in central office often require additional information and briefings about contextual issues before being able to make decisions;
    • there is less understanding of the needs of working with Indigenous communities, particularly in remote areas - for example, staff in ICCs have stated that management in central agencies often does not understand the need for staff to visit communities on a regular basis in order to develop a rapport for effective communication with them and in order to progress issues; and
    • at least one agency has provided very little discretion for its staff in ICCs to respond flexibly to issues, with the central office imposing a more rigid, centrally determined approach.

    Some of these issues are no doubt teething problems as departments come to terms with their new regional responsibilities and directly engage with Indigenous communities. Overall, however, coordinating the operations within ICCs is the responsibility of the OIPC.

    The OIPC have noted that, at the local level, addressing issues such as these is a responsibility of the ICC manager. They note that:

    MOUs will be developed between the ICC Manager and agencies within the ICC to agree the roles and involvement of agency staff in SRA development. In addition, several agencies are planning to place senior level solution brokers in the ICCs to work with the ICC Manager to ensure collaborative whole of government leadership for the work of the ICC.(144)

    At a national level, the OIPC is also monitoring this issue and has set up an ICC Management Forum involving senior managers from all agencies participating in ICCs. This Forum 'meets regularly to address, in a collaborative way, issues which arise in relation to SRAs, other government investment in regions and the operation of ICCs more generally'(145). The Secretaries Group and the Australian Government Agency Heads Forum (State Managers) in each State and Territory also provide mechanisms for addressing these issues. A training program is also being developed 'to be delivered regularly to staff ICC by ICC - this will be targeted to the business of supporting SRA development and will focus on working in teams to achieve better outcomes for Indigenous people in the region'(146).

    The Connecting government report identifies the development of appropriate procedures to support local decision making as a key challenge of whole of government activity, such as through ICCs.(147)

    Fifth, a particular issue that has emerged through the preliminary operation of ICCs has been that former ATSIC and ATSIS staff have noted that whereas they previously worked across different programs they are now more focused on the individual responsibilities of their new agency, with the result that there are new barriers or 'silos' emerging within the ICC.

    Experience from some of the COAG trial sites has suggested that a potential solution to this is for a single person to be identified within an ICC to be the contact for a particular community and to coordinate the input of all agencies and programs. The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations have instituted such an approach in the Shepparton COAG Trial and note that without such a person providing 'a clear point of responsibility and accountability, progress is often slow and confusion occurs.'(148)

    Sixth, a further challenge for ICCs is coordinating activity between levels of government, not just within the Federal Government.

    In its Report on Indigenous funding 2001, the Commonwealth Grants Commission (CGC) found that generally, the Commonwealth has 'limited influence on the extent to which the distribution of mainstream programs reflects the relative needs of Indigenous people in different regions'(149). The lack of Commonwealth influence on resource allocation was also found to be the case once Special Purpose Payments were handed over to the state and territories.(150) The CGC also expressed concern that complex funding arrangements and differing service delivery responsibilities across levels of government can result in 'some responsibility and cost shifting' between layers of government and between government agencies.(151)

    Consultations for this report have identified a lack of discussion to date with the States and Territories to seek to join up their processes with those of the Commonwealth in order to address these issues. Indeed, many States have indicated that they have been provided with little information at all about the operation of ICCs. It is likely that this is a teething issue, as the focus is on establishing the systems at the federal level.

    It is feasible that at some stage in the future state government employees could also reside in ICCs. Alternatively, there may be the creation of parallel state structures, such as the whole of government unit that exists as part of the Cape York COAG trial. As noted in Appendix One to this report, COAG agreed a National Framework of Principles for Government Service Delivery to Indigenous Australians in June 2004. It includes a commitment to 'adopt cooperative approaches on policy and service delivery between agencies, at all levels of government and maintaining and strengthening government effort to address indigenous disadvantage'. It also foreshadows that this will be achieved through the negotiation of bilateral agreements to establish 'appropriate consultation and delivery arrangements... between the Commonwealth and individual States and Territories'(152).

    Follow up action by Social Justice Commissioner

    9. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consult with governments, Indigenous organisations and communities about:

    • whether there has been a reduction in the flexibility in interpreting program guidelines since the transfer of programs from ATSIS to mainstream departments;
    • best practice arrangements for coordinating the interface with Indigenous communities through the operation of ICCs; and
    • arrangements to coordinate federal government processes with those of the states and territories on a regional basis.
    • Ensuring adequate monitoring and evaluation processes

    It is essential that adequate monitoring and evaluation processes are put into place as part of the new arrangements. As noted earlier, the new arrangements have been introduced administratively which has the potential to make the processes involved less transparent. While a coordinated whole of government approach is intended to simplify and streamline service delivery, it also has the potential to blur the responsibilities and performance of individual agencies and programs. Issues of coordination with the States and Territories also raise the potential for cost-shifting between jurisdictions.

    The Government has committed to ensuring 'robust machinery' is introduced for monitoring and evaluation, particularly to ensure that mainstream programs are accessible to Indigenous people and communities.

    The monitoring processes that have been established, or which are proposed for the new arrangements, include the following.

    1. The Office of Evaluation and Audit (Indigenous Programmes) - Commencing on 1 July 2004, the Office of Evaluation and Audit (Indigenous Programmes) was transferred from ATSIS to the Department of Finance and Administration. The Department advises that:

      The OEP(IP) will have responsibility for the evaluation and audit of Indigenous programmes and operations... (It) will play a central role in measuring the performance of the Australian Government's Indigenous programmes.

      It is expected that legislation specifying the OEA(IP)'s functions and powers shall be introduced into Parliament in due course. Under this legislation, it is proposed that the OEA(IP) will evaluate and audit all Indigenous programmes across the whole of the Australian Government, and the operations of bodies and individuals who receive money or other property under those programmes.

      Whilst awaiting the introduction of this legislation, Finance is arranging to enter into Memoranda of Understanding with a number of departments responsible for the delivery of Indigenous programmes... to allow OEA(IP) to (begin such evaluations and audits).(153)

      It is proposed that the OEA (IP) evaluation and audit work program 'will incorporate a rolling cycle of audits of ICCs which will consider the operations of ICCs as well as Shared Responsibility Agreements and Regional Participation Agreements in order to provide an opinion as to whether outcomes are being achieved' and will also consider 'the accessibility of (sic.) Indigenous communities and people to (sic.) mainstream programmes' with recommendations directed towards Commonwealth departments, individual and funded organisations, or both as appropriate.(154)

    2. Public report by Secretaries Group - The Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination has advised me that:

      The Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs, advised by the National Indigenous Council, will make recommendations to the Australian Government on priorities and funding for Indigenous Affairs. This will be supported by a public annual report on the performance of Indigenous programs across government... will be prepared by the Secretaries' Group on Indigenous Affairs. In turn, this report will be underpinned by a performance monitoring and evaluation framework involving all participating Australian government agencies.(155)

    3. Role of the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination - A key function of the OIPC is 'reporting on the performance of government programs and services for Indigenous people to inform policy review and development'. A Performance Evaluation Unit has been established within OIPC for this purpose. OIPC informs me that it will be undertaking this task in conjunction with the Productivity Commission, in addition to contracting the services of Universities.(156) They also stated:

      OIPC will have a strong coordination role relating to the new whole of government arrangements, including through the development of an indigenous information system containing whole of government Indigenous programme performance information. This will enable reporting against key priorities such as those agreed by the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs and COAG. The requirements are currently being scoped with a view to implementation in 2005-06.(157)

    4. COAG frameworks and commitments - In its' National Framework of Principles for Delivering Services to Indigenous Australians, COAG commits to strengthening the accountability of governments for the effectiveness of their programs and services through regular performance review, evaluation and reporting. In June 2004, COAG also 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 programs 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' and that they would task 'the Productivity Commission to continue to measure the effect of the COAG commitment through the jointly-agreed set of indicators' in the National Reporting Framework for Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage.(158)
    5. Agreement making processes - It is intended that performance indicators will also be agreed with Indigenous communities and representative bodies through Shared Responsibility Agreements and Regional Participation Agreements.

    Monitoring and evaluation processes for the new arrangements need to be directed to both the efficiency and operation of Commonwealth programs and service delivery; but also more broadly to the systemic issues of how the mechanisms that make up the new arrangements fit together. It is too early to tell whether the mechanisms, as set out above, are sufficiently broad to address both of these perspectives.

    In this regard, I welcome the continuation of the role of the OEA. It is important that it have the mandate and the functional ability (though adequate resourcing) to evaluate both the performance of programs across the Federal Government as well as to audit ICCs and the agreements struck with Indigenous peoples by them. As noted above, however, the Government has set a target of 80 SRAs to be finalised by ICCs by 30 June 2005. This indicates the expected volume of agreements that will be struck over the coming years.

    It is not clear that the OEA will be able to provide a system-wide evaluative mechanism for these agreements, as opposed to a more nitty-gritty evaluative role which focuses on how individual agreements are implemented. It can be expected that the OIPC's Performance Evaluation Unit will also have an important role to play in this regard. Again, however, it is too early to know whether this will prove to be the case. It is also not known whether the role of the OIPC will be public and transparent.

    In light of the issues raised in this and previous sections, and the magnitude of the changes introduced, I consider it important that there be a clear evaluative process which covers all areas of the new arrangements and their interaction. I note that when the Government announced the changes, it stated that in order to ensure improved outcomes and better coordination the 'Commonwealth Grants Commission will have an important role to play'(159).

    The CGC is ideally placed to provide such a systems-wide evaluative mechanism, given its ongoing role in developing weightings of regional need for the allocation of grants from the Commonwealth to State and Territory Governments as well as to local government, and its experience in conducting the review of Indigenous funding in 2000-01.

    Recommendation 3

    That the Government refer to the Commonwealth Grants Commission an inquiry on arrangements for Indigenous funding. The review should revisit the findings of the 2001 Report on Indigenous funding in light of the new arrangements, and specifically focus on:

    • the role and operation of regional Indigenous Coordination Centres in targeting regional need and implementing a whole of government approach;
    • processes for establishing regional need (including the adequacy of baseline data and collection processes) and allocating funding on the basis of such need through a single budget submission process;
    • the integration of regional and local level need through the Regional Participation Agreement and Shared Responsibility Agreement processes; and
    • the role of regional representative Indigenous structures in these processes.

    A further challenge raised by these processes is establishing clear links between monitoring processes and the commitments of the Government through COAG. My predecessor has expressed concern at the lack of progress at the COAG level in introducing systems to implement the commitments made through COAG's communiques. In particular, chapter 2 of the Social Justice Report 2003 noted the lack of progress in developing Ministerial Council Action Plans for this purpose, despite the commitment to develop such plans dating back to 2000. Responses received by my office to questions about how governments and departments will link performance monitoring to the COAG commitments have been ambiguous, particularly in relation to the role of Ministerial Council Action Plans. The South Australian Government has noted, however, that:

    COAG recently determined that Ministerial Councils are no longer required to report against Reconciliation Action Plans. MCATSIA [the Ministerial Council on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs] is therefore no longer required to monitor and evaluate these plans ... However, MCATSIA will continue to work strategically with other Ministerial Councils through promoting and implementing the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Framework, and support its use in the development of policy and service delivery and how it can be linked to existing Action Plans.(160)

    In correspondence about the new arrangements, many government departments have also stated that are still determining how best they can link performance monitoring and evaluation processes to the COAG commitments, particularly the National Reporting Framework on Indigenous Disadvantage. The Department of Family and Community Services have acknowledged that:

    Although some progress has been made in linking performance monitoring processes for programs to the commitments of the Australian Government under COAG, progress has not been swift due to the complexity of the task... Clearly, the current reporting systems are not designed for this type of reporting and in many cases, staff are not familiar with nor skilled in, these new reporting requirements.(161)

    Follow up action by Social Justice Commissioner

    10. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consult with governments and representative Indigenous structures about the adequacy of performance monitoring and evaluation processes to link government programs and service delivery to the commitments made through COAG, particularly the National Reporting Framework on Indigenous Disadvantage.


    Conclusions - Recommendations and follow up actions

    The new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous Affairs were announced on 15 April 2004. That announcement has precipitated a radical change to service delivery arrangements to Indigenous people at the federal level.

    Less than three months after the announcement, over $1 billion worth of programs and 1300 staff were transferred from ATSIS and ATSIC to mainstream departments. Some departments found that not only did they now run Indigenous specific programs, but they also had staff located in regions and not in Canberra. These programs, along with all other relevant services, are required to be coordinated on a whole of government basis and through a regional approach. Service delivery approaches will also be set through agreement making processes negotiated with Indigenous representative structures that at the time of the announcement did not exist. The entire process would be monitored through processes that were also not finalised at this time.

    This description indicates the enormity of the task being undertaken. It will take several years for the new arrangements to be fully implemented.

    As Social Justice Commissioner, my role is to monitor the impact of government activity on the enjoyment of human rights by Indigenous peoples. The new arrangements have the potential to impact significantly on the enjoyment of rights by either leading to improved performance and outcomes by government, as well as improved engagement with Indigenous peoples, or by undermining the enjoyment of human rights by Indigenous peoples. This is possible if Indigenous peoples are not able to effectively participate in the new arrangements by having a voice at the national level, the ability to influence developments on a regional basis through the operation of culturally legitimate representative structures, or if local level engagement is selective or based on coercive measures. It is also possible if the new arrangements are not transparent in their operation and rigorously monitored, and if there is a systemic problem with government not placing enough emphasis on the skills necessary to engage effectively with Indigenous communities (through the establishment of appropriate recruitment, retention and training approaches across the public service and provision of adequate support for Indigenous people and communities to have in place appropriate governance arrangements.)

    Throughout the chapter I have identified a range of issues that my office will continue to monitor over the next eighteen months to ensure that a breach of Indigenous peoples' human rights does not result in the longer term. I have also made some preliminary recommendations about the new arrangements. These are reproduced here. My intention is to maintain a focus on the implementation of these new arrangements to ensure that essential components of the new arrangements are not forgotten or cast aside due to the complexity and scope of the changes being implemented.

    Recommendations

    1. That the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination conduct a comprehensive information campaign for Indigenous people and communities explaining the structures established by the new arrangements and the processes for engaging with Indigenous people. This information must be disseminated in forms that have regard to literacy levels among Indigenous people and English as a second language.

    2. That the two identified criteria (namely, a demonstrated knowledge and understanding of Indigenous cultures; and an ability to communicate effectively with Indigenous peoples) be mandatory for all recruitment processes in the Australian Public Service relating to the new arrangements and in particular for positions in the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination and Indigenous Coordination Centres.

    3. That the Government refer to the Commonwealth Grants Commission an inquiry on arrangements for Indigenous funding. The review should revisit the findings of the 2001 Report on Indigenous funding in light of the new arrangements, and specifically focus on:

    • the role and operation of regional Indigenous Coordination Centres in targeting regional need and implementing a whole of government approach;
    • processes for establishing regional need (including the adequacy of baseline data and collection processes) and allocating funding on the basis of such need through a single budget submission process;
    • the integration of regional and local level need through the Regional Participation Agreement and Shared Responsibility Agreement processes; and
    • the role of regional representative Indigenous structures in these processes.

    Follow up actions by Social Justice Commissioner

    1. In light of the importance of the lessons from the COAG whole of government community trials for the implementation of the new arrangements, the Social Justice Commissioner will over the coming twelve months:

    • Consider the adequacy of processes for monitoring and evaluating the COAG trials;
    • Consult with participants in the COAG trials (including Indigenous peoples) and analyse the outcomes of monitoring and evaluation processes; and
    • Identify implications from evaluation of the COAG trials for the ongoing implementation of the new arrangements.

    2. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, seek to establish whether any Indigenous communities or organisations have experienced any ongoing financial difficulties or disadvantage as a result of the transition of grant management processes from ATSIS to mainstream departments and if so, will draw these to the attention of the Government so they can rectify them.

    3. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, establish what mechanisms have been put into place in framework agreements between the Commonwealth and the states and territories, including in relation to health and housing, to ensure appropriate participation of Indigenous peoples.

    4. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consider the adequacy of processes for the participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making. This will include considering the adequacy of processes to link local and regional representative structures to providing advice at the national level.

    5. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consult with Torres Strait Islanders living on the mainland and their organisations to establish whether the new arrangements enable their effective participation in decision making.

    6. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consult with governments, ATSIC Regional Councils and Indigenous communities and organisations about:

    • engagement by governments with ATSIC Regional Councils and the use of their Regional Plans;
    • progress in developing regional representative Indigenous structures, and mechanisms for integrating such structures with community level agreement making processes.

    7. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consult with governments, Indigenous communities and organisations and monitor:

    • processes for forming Shared Responsibility Agreements; and
    • the compliance of Shared Responsibility Agreements with human rights standards, and in particular with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth)

    8. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consult with the Australian Public Service Commission about:

    • recruitment strategies relating to positions in the Australian Public Service involving Indigenous service delivery, program and policy design, and in particular, promoting understanding and use of identified criteria;
    • the use of cultural awareness training by agencies involved in the new arrangements;
    • trends in the retention of Indigenous staff across the Australian Public Service; and
    • the assistance that the Commission is providing to agencies involved in the new arrangements with developing or revising Indigenous recruitment and retention policies.

    9. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consult with governments, Indigenous organisations and communities about:

    • whether there has been a reduction in the flexibility in interpreting program guidelines since the transfer of programs from ATSIS to mainstream departments;
    • best practice arrangements for coordinating the interface with Indigenous communities through the operation of ICCs; and
    • arrangements to coordinate federal government processes with those of the states and territories on a regional basis.

    10. The Social Justice Commissioner will, over the coming twelve months, consult with governments and representative Indigenous structures about the adequacy of performance monitoring and evaluation processes to link government programs and service delivery to the commitments made through COAG, particularly the National Reporting Framework on Indigenous Disadvantage.


    Endnotes

    1. Ruddock, P. (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), ATSIC Review Panel Announced, Media Release, 12 November 2002.
    2. For an overview of the directions see: ATSIC, Annual Report 2002-03, ATSIC Canberra 2003, pp10-11, 17-18.
    3. Hannaford, J., Huggins, J. and 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 (Herein ATSIC Review Report), p24 and Recommendation 2.
    4. ibid, p5.
    5. ibid, p32.
    6. ibid, p30.
    7. Commonwealth Grants Commission, Report on Indigenous funding, CGC, Canberra 2001,pp xviii-xix.
    8. Hannaford, J., Collins, B. and Huggins, J, Review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission - Public Discussion Paper, June 2003, p15.
    9. Indigenous Communities Coordination Taskforce, Imagine What Could Happen If We Worked Together: Shared Responsibility and a Whole of Governments Approach, Conference Paper - The Native Title Conference, Alice Springs, 3 June 2003, www.aiatsis.gov.au/rsrch/ntru/conf2003/papers/hawgood.pdf, 24 December 2003.
    10. Indigenous Communities Coordination Taskforce, Trial Objectives, online at: www.icc.gov.au/communities/objectives/, (29 October 2003).
    11. Hawgood, D. Hansard -House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, 13 October 2003, p1294.
    12. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2003, HREOC Sydney 2004, p42.
    13. Indigenous Communities Coordination Taskforce, Shared Responsibility Shared Future - Indigenous whole of government initiative: The Australian government performance monitoring and evaluation framework, DIMIA Canberra 2003, available online at: www.icc.gov.au.
    14. ibid, p6.
    15. Management Advisory Committee, Connecting Government - Whole of government responses to Australia's priority challenges, Australian Public Service Commission, Canberra 2004, p158.
    16. ibid, p162.
    17. Council of Australian Governments, Communique, 25 June 2004, Attachment B, available online at: www.coag.gov.au/meetings/250604/index.htm.
    18. Management Advisory Committee, op.cit, p2.
    19. ibid, p4.
    20. Shergold, P. (Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) Connecting Government - Whole of government responses to Australia's priority challenges, Launch Speech, Canberra, 20 April 2004, p1.
    21. Shergold, P. (Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) Regeneration: New structures, new leaders, new traditions, Speech, Institute of Public Administration Australia - National Conference, Canberra, 11 November 2004, p1.
    22. Shergold, P. Connecting Government - Whole of government responses to Australia's priority challenges, op.cit, pp2-3.
    23. ibid, p4.
    24. ibid.
    25. ATSIS CEO's report in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services, Annual Report 2003-2004, ATSIS Canberra 2004, p2.
    26. ibid.
    27. Howard, J. (Prime Minister) Transcript, Joint Press Conference with Senator Amanda Vanstone, Parliament House, Canberra, 15 April 2004, pp1-2.
    28. For a detailed overview see: Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, New Arrangements in Indigenous Affairs, Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Canberra 2004, p4. Online at www.oipc.gov.au.
    29. Senator Vanstone, Hansard - Senate, 1 December 2004, p2.
    30. Vanstone, A, (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), Australian Government changes to Indigenous affairs services commence tomorrow, Press Release, 30 June 2004, p1.
    31. Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, New Arrangements in Indigenous Affairs, op.cit, p2.
    32. ibid, p7.
    33. ibid.
    34. ibid, p17.
    35. ibid.
    36. ibid.
    37. Diagram reproduced from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services, Annual Report 2003-04, ATSIS Canberra 2004, p14. See also: Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, New Arrangements in Indigenous Affairs, op.cit, p3.
    38. Material reproduced from Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, New Arrangements in Indigenous Affairs, op.cit, pp5- 6; and Shergold, P. Connecting Government - Whole of government responses to Australia's priority challenges, op.cit, pp4-5.
    39. I requested information from Federal Government agencies in relation to how departments engage with Indigenous communities and coordinate government activity; the accessibility of mainstream programs and coordination of such programs with Indigenous specific programs within and across departments; performance monitoring and evaluation processes (including how departments are linking their outcomes and outputs to the commitments of the Australian Government under COAG and Ministerial Council Action Plans through COAG); and practices for the recruitment and retention of Indigenous staff in the federal public service, as well as the use of identified criteria in recruiting staff. I requested information from State and Territory Governments about their relationship with ATSIC Regional Councils; how they intend to adopt a whole of government approach and coordinate with the new arrangements at the federal level; and performance monitoring processes, including how they link to the commitments made through COAG. I asked ATSIC Regional Councils about how the Federal Government had engaged with them since the announcement of the new arrangements and about their relationship with State and Territory Governments.
    40. Consultations took place on the basis that people could speak openly about what was taking place without risk of being identified. For this reason, comments from particular consultations are referenced without details as to the identity of the person, location or date but rather grouped within the period over which the consultations were conducted. I am grateful to everyone who participated in these consultations and to the Associate Secretary of the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC) for agreeing that I could include staff from the OIPC and Indigenous Coordination centres in the consultations.
    41. Senator Vanstone, Hansard - Senate, op. cit, p1.
    42. Vanstone, A. (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), New service delivery arrangements for Indigenous Affairs, Press Release, 15 April 2004, p1.
    43. Senator Vanstone, Hansard - Senate, op. cit, p2.
    44. Office of the Indigenous Policy Coordination, Australian Government Submission to the Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs, August 2004, pp14-17, paras 1, 2, 7, 8 and 11. Emphasis in original.
    45. ibid, paras 2-4.
    46. Howard, J. (Prime Minister) Transcript , Joint Press Conference with Senator Amanda Vanston, op.cit, p2.
    47. Gordon, S. First meeting of the National Indigenous Council: A very good beginning, Media Statement and Terms of Reference, 9 December 2004.
    48. Office of the Indigenous Policy Coordination, Australian Government Submission to the Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs, op.cit, p2.
    49. Gibbons, W. (Associate Secretary, Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination) 'Re: New Arrangements for the Administration of Indigenous Affairs', Correspondence to Social Justice Commissioner, 22 December 2004, p1.
    50. As quoted in Social Justice Report 2003, p47.
    51. The Coroner reinforced the submission of the ATSIS Kununurra Regional Office that 'while the Munjurla Scoping Study [for the east Kimberly COAG site] would make clear the stark conditions currently experienced in the region, 'conditions will continue to deteriorate as long as the current disjointed state of government activities in the region are allowed to continue'.'. He further criticised the lack of on-the-ground knowledge by agencies involved in the trial. Hope, A, (WA State Coroner), Record of Investigation into Death of Owen James Gimme and Mervyn Miller, Western Australian Coroners Court, Broome 6-9 April 2004, p27.
    52. Lawson, R. (South Australian Shadow Attorney-General & Minster for Aboriginal Affairs) The Tragedy of the Pitjantjatjara Lands, Paper presented to the Bennelong Society Conference, Sydney 4 September 2004.
    53. DEWR state that the Reference Group is composed of 'members... drawn from key local Indigenous organisations' to form 'a new community governance mechanism'. Carters, G. (Group Working Manager Working Age Policy Group, Department of Employment and Workplace Relations), 'Re: the New Arrangements for the Administration of Indigenous Affairs', Correspondence to Social Justice Commissioner, 23 November 2004, p4.
    54. Cutcliffe, T. Take It Or Leave It. How COAG is failing Shepparton's Aboriginal People, The Eureka Project, Melbourne 2004, p6. The report was put together in coordination with Traditional Owners and other members of the Indigenous Shepparton Community. Similar views were stated by representatives of the Yorta Yorta Traditional Owners in Barmah, and with Chairperson of Binjirru ATSIC Regional Council and Victorian ATSIC Commissioner in Melbourne 25 - 26 October 2004.
    55. See discussion in Social Justice Report 2003, pp48-49.
    56. Government of Victoria, Submission to the Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs, Melbourne 2004, p2.
    57. Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, 2nd reading speech, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill 2004,op.cit, p1.
    58. Gibbons, W. op.cit, p5.
    59. Correspondence between an ATSIC Regional Council and Social Justice Commissioner, received November 2004.
    60. Correspondence between an ATSIC Regional Council and Social Justice Commissioner, 17 November 2004.
    61. ibid.
    62. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Council, National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health 2003-2013, Commonwealth of Australia, 2004, p10.
    63. Ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' access to primary health care is considered a key to reducing the gross and long standing health and life expectation inequality between them and the non-Indigenous population. Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) are universally acknowledged as the best ways to deliver primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. ACCHS are represented nationally by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NAACHO), with state and territory affiliates.
    64. NACCHO, Submission to the Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs, August 2004, p9. http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/indigenousaffairs_ctte/submissions/sub179.pdf (Accessed, December 1, 2004)
    65. ibid.
    66. Correspondence between the Office of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH), 9 December 2004.
    67. ibid.
    68. NACCHO, op.cit.
    69. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, General Recommendation XXIII -Indigenous people, 18 August 1997, UN Doc: A/52/18, annex V, para 4(d).
    70. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding Observations by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Australia, UN Doc: CERD/C/304/Add.101, 19/04/2000, para 11. As a matter of process, the Committee begins its consideration of a country's latest periodic report by examining how they have responded to the concluding observations issued to the country when they previously appeared before the committee. Hence, the likelihood that the demise of ATSIC will be a significant issue for consideration by the Committee.
    71. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Submission to the Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs Inquiry into the ATSIC Bill and the administration of Indigenous programs and services by mainstream departments, 7 July 2004, pp7-8.
    72. ATSIC Review Report, op.cit, p32.
    73. Gordon, S. First meeting of the National Indigenous Council: A very good beginning, Media Statement and Terms of Reference, 9 December 2004.
    74. ibid, pp7-8, 14-15.
    75. 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.
    76. Gibbons, W. op.cit p4.
    77. Office of the Indigenous Policy Coordination, Australian Government Submission to the Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs, Attachment B - Answers to questions on notice, p2.
    78. ibid.
    79. ibid.
    80. As discussed in ATSIS, Annual Report 2003-04, op.cit, p92.
    81. Mye, G. Hansard - Senate 26 August 2004, p37.
    82. Gibbons, W. op.cit, p4.
    83. Correspondence between an ATSIC Regional Council and Social Justice Commissioner, November 2004.
    84. ibid.
    85. ibid.
    86. ibid.
    87. ibid.
    88. Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, New arrangements in Indigenous Affairs, op.cit, p17.
    89. NT Department of Community Development, Sport and Cultural Affairs, Building Stronger Regions - Stronger Futures, NT Government, Darwin, 14 May 2003. Online at http://www.dcdsca.nt.gov.au/dcdsca/intranet.nsf/pages/BuildingStrongerRegions
    90. For details of the model see: ATSIC Wunan Regional Council, Submission to the Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs, Available online at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/indigenousaffairs_ctte/submissions/sub107.pdf.
    91. ibid, Attachment A, p2.
    92. ibid.
    93. ibid.
    94. Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, New Arrangements in Indigenous Affairs op.cit, p8.
    95. Harmer, J. (Secretary, Department of Family and Community Services), 'Re; the New Arrangements for the Administration of Indigenous Affairs', Correspondence with Social Justice Commissioner, 6 December 2004, p2.
    96. ibid., p2.
    97. Office of the Indigenous Policy Coordination, Australian Government Submission to the Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs, op.cit, Annex A, p73.
    98. Harmer, J. op.cit, p3.
    99. ibid.
    100. Varova, S. (First Assistant Secretary, Department of Transport and Regional Services), 'Re: the New Arrangements for the Administration of Indigenous Affairs, Correspondence with Social Justice Commissioner, 28 October 2004, p3.
    101. Gibbons, W. op.cit, p3.
    102. Social Justice Report 2003, op.cit, p50.
    103. Harmer, J. op.cit, pp2-3.
    104. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, "We Can Do It!" The Report of inquiry into the Needs of Urban Dwelling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2001 at 3.19
    105. Ibid at 3.3
    106. Gibbons, W. op.cit, p3.
    107. Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, New Arrangements in Indigenous Affairs op.cit, p8.
    108. Australian Government, Draft Shared Responsibility Agreement - Provision of fuel bowsers to Mulan Aboriginal Community (undated).
    109. ibid.
    110. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Statement on proposals for welfare reform for Indigenous Australians, Media Release, 11 November 2004, www.humanrights.gov.au/media_releases/2004/60_04.htm.
    111. Australian Public Service Commission, Recruitment of Indigenous Australians in the Australian Public Service online at http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications01/indigenousrecruitment.htm (accessed 31 October 2004), p4.
    112. ibid.
    113. ibid.
    114. Australian Public Service Commission, State of the Service 2003/04, APSC, Canberra 2004, Table 8.2.
    115. Carters, G. op.cit, p10.
    116. Gibbons, W. op.cit, p2.
    117. Discussions with CPSU Indigenous Representative, Sydney 7 September 2004.
    118. Gibbons, W. op.cit, p6.
    119. Including senior managers in OIPC as well as to the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Public Service Commissioner.
    120. Discussion with APS Commissioner, Canberra, 23 August 2004.
    121. Harmer, J. op.cit, p4.
    122. ibid.
    123. ibid.
    124. ibid.
    125. Discussions with Chairperson of IAPSEN, Canberra 2 September 2004.
    126. Gibbons, W. op.cit, p7.
    127. Indigenous Communities Coordination Taskforce, Shared Responsibility Shared Future - Indigenous whole of government initiative: The Australian government performance monitoring and evaluation framework, DIMIA Canberra 2003, available online at: www.icc.gov.au. at "2.5"
    128. Podger, A. (Australian Public Service Commissioner), State of the Service Report 2003-04: State of the service series 2003-04, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, November 2004, p144, Table 8.2.
    129. Graham, C., Giles, T. and Johnstone, B. 'APS Bosses: from this... to this in just 2 years', National Indigenous Times, 20 January 2005, pp4-5.
    130. Indigenous separations from the APS rose from 4.1 per cent in 2002-03 to 4.9 per cent in 2003-04. For further detail see Podger, A. op.cit, p152, table 8.8.
    131. Podger, A. op.cit, , p191.
    132. Hicks, J. (General Manager People and Planning), Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Correspondence with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner on the New Arrangements for the Administration of Indigenous Affairs, 3 November 2004, pp5-6
    133. See Australian Public Service Commission, State of the Service 2003/04, Table 8.9: Agency strategies to recruit Indigenous Australians, Agency survey, Online at: www.apsc.gov.au/stateoftheservice/0404/chapter8f.htm
    134. Discussion with then APSC Commissioner, Canberra, 23 August 2004.
    135. Discussions with Chairperson of IAPSEN, Canberra, 2 September 2004.
    136. Commonwealth Grants Commission, op.cit, p43.
    137. ibid, pp101-102. The full list of service delivery principles is reproduced in part 1 of this chapter.
    138. ibid, p102.
    139. Varova, S. op.cit, pp1, 5.
    140. Paul, L. (Secretary, Department of Education, Science and Training), 'Re: the New Arrangements for the Administration of Indigenous Affairs', Correspondence to Social Justice Commissioner, 11 November 2004, p3.
    141. Office of the Indigenous Policy Coordination, Australian Government Submission to the Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs, op.cit, Annex A, p26.
    142. ibid, p28.
    143. ibid, p56.
    144. Gibbons, W.op.cit, pp3-4.
    145. ibid, p3.
    146. ibid, p4.
    147. Management Advisory Committee, Connecting Government: Whole of government responses to Australia's priority challenges, op.cit, p6.
    148. Carters, G. op.cit, p1.
    149. Commonwealth Grants Commission, op.cit, p70.
    150. ibid, p71.
    151. ibid, p57.
    152. Council of Australian Governments' Meeting, Canberra, 25 June 2004, Attachment B, http://www.coag.gov.au/meetings/250604/index.htm
    153. Watt, I. (Secretary Department of Finance and Administration) 'Re: the New Arrangements for the Administration of Indigenous Affairs', Correspondence to Social Justice Commissioner, 22 October 2004, pp1-2.
    154. ibid, Attachment A, p2.
    155. Gibbons, W. op.cit, p6.
    156. Discussion with Head of OIPC (Associate Secretary DIMIA), 23 August 2004.
    157. Gibbons, W. op.cit, p6.
    158. Council of Australian Governments' Meeting, Canberra, 25 June 2004, Attachment B, http://www.coag.gov.au/meetings/250604/index.htm
    159. Vanstone, A, (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), New service delivery arrangements for Indigenous affairs Press Release, 15 April 2004, p1.
    160. Roberts, T. (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, Government of South Australia) 'Re: the New Arrangements in the Administration of Indigenous Affairs', Correspondence to Social Justice Commissioner, 14 December 2004, p6.
    161. Consultation with officials within FACS, 11 November 2004