Thursday, 4 July 2019
Matters of Public Importance
It gives me great pleasure to stand and speak on this MPI today. Grey is an electorate that has an Indigenous population of around 7.2 per cent. I make the point that all the remote Indigenous communities in South Australia lie within the electorate of Grey, so I'm very familiar with many of the issues and challenges that they face and I regularly visit those communities to talk and sit down and listen to what they have to say. I'm very pleased to report that my relationship with them is very good and that I believe we have made some great ground over time.
The Close the gap report delivered earlier this year, 2019, tells us that there is more to be done, but we are making progress. But that 'more to be done' now falls on the shoulders of Australia's first Indigenous Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt. It was very good to hear the minister's comments—the first comments in this chamber in that position—at the beginning of this debate. I thank the minister for those comments. I believe we have somebody who is dedicated and is highly accomplished in former portfolios but who brings great passion to bringing about realistic change in this area. I acknowledge the shadow minister's commitment in this area as well.
That Close the gap report told us that we were making some particularly good ground in the early years and in year 12 completion. I can point you to the places where that's happening. Certainly education is a real issue, a real challenge in these remote communities. I would say the school attendance program is successful, but it's patchy. It always seems to rely on the quality of the individual actually leading the program and the quality and the acceptance of the school principal who is associated in those particular places. If you don't have a good tie-up and everybody pushing in the same direction, the program will deliver far less. When you hit the spot, it really works. I think we have to keep working at that. A problem of course is that when you have a particularly talented leader so many other organisations in the community say, 'We want that one,' and they get pirated off and you have to start again. We need to make a real commitment to this program to make sure that it is working.
I'm particularly pleased with the number of Indigenous owned and controlled organisations that have been awarded contracts to deliver services to local communities under the Indigenous Procurement Policy. I'm seeing a difference in my own communities. I talk here about Ceduna, as I've done many times in this chamber, because it's the home of the cashless welfare card. We have worked with the community there. Indigenous organisations have confidently risen to the challenge and increasingly taken on more and more work that previously the government or other providers used to do for them. The Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation is the new provider of CDP. They are very excited about that and are gearing themselves up to get their teeth into it. They believe they can do great things for their people. In fact, all 13 of the new CDP providers that commenced work four days ago are Indigenous controlled or owned. I think that's a great outcome. It's a great tick for the government policy. Right across the board we're seeing more organisations taking on more government contracts and delivering good results. They're actually delivering the work on time and on budget. It's exactly what we need.
The next step, of course, is for the individuals who work within these organisations to step outside them, take those skills into the broader workforce and make room for new people to come in and take on the roles that they previously occupied. We will have to keep applying ourselves to make sure that they have the confidence to step outside that space.
I have been the member for Grey now for 11½ years. I can certainly say that there's plenty of work to be done. Sometimes I put my head in my hands almost in despair because I see the things that others have referred to. On the other hand, I know that we are in a better space now than we've been before—