Friday, 12 June 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Australians. Will the minister outline how the Morrison government has been supporting Indigenous Australians through the COVID-19 pandemic and how the new national agreement on Closing the Gap will change the way we work with Indigenous Australians?
I thank the member for Forde for his ongoing interest in matters to do with our people, Indigenous Australians. What COVID has shown very successfully—and the work around the partnership—is that by working in joint arrangements we've achieved the outcomes that we were seeking in COVID. We had the bureaucracy in place to protect people at the community level by engaging leaders and engaging the communities. In those discussions we achieved incredible outcomes. The Closing the Gap partnership has meant that leaders in that process have sat at the cabinet table with the Prime Minister—unheard of. They have also sat with our agencies and with state and territory governments and have negotiated every page of the partnership plan, looking at solutions and the way in which we will collectively close the gap in all of those critical areas that will impact on the quality of life. The voice is another that we are allowing Indigenous Australians to shape—not governments, not bureaucracies.
So, as a government we are working with Indigenous Australians to find the solutions that will improve the quality of their lives across so many facets of what's occurring. More importantly, when we were discussing some matters around the cabinet table the Prime Minister made it very clear that the Minister for Indigenous Australians wasn't the only minister responsible, that all of us around the cabinet table had to engage with Indigenous Australians in a very different way. Member for Solomon, the partnerships we have with Indigenous Australians mean that they own both the solutions and the way in which we will implement, because for too long we have done things to Indigenous Australians. It doesn't matter what the program is. We have defined it and said that you will operate within this parameter.
On cultural matters, negotiations have occurred with the Minister for the Environment on some of the key directions we're thinking about and the way in which we can protect our cultural heritage. That work is continuing, with a genuine desire to have the Indigenous leadership involved in telling us what is needed. That will change the way in which we will achieve outcomes in this nation that we've not achieved thus far. When any of us negotiates with local or state governments, we negotiate every point thoroughly. We're now doing that with Indigenous Australians. Both the partnership agreement and the COVID experience have shown us that when you give people the opportunity to determine their own direction, they will take that responsibility, stand up, and meet the challenge.