On Thursday 23 April I joined with the Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Chair of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body Rod Little and Head of the ACT Public Service Kathy Leigh to sign the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement 2015–18.
In June 2013 the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body met with the Cabinet and it was agreed that a whole of government agreement should be developed. The commitment we made in 2013 has carried through in its development and today’s milestone is testament to the dedication of numerous people.
The signing was attended by elected representatives and community leaders from the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous communities, with all parties renewing a shared commitment to reconciliation and a partnership approach to underpin the way the government works with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
The agreement contains important actions set against key focus areas – all aimed at strengthening families and improving quality of life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in areas such as employment, economic independence and health.
The agreement also recognises and values the traditional custodians, through the United Ngunnawal Elders Council, as the authority of local Aboriginal culture and heritage.
As a government, we recognise and embrace the rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures alive in our city today and the importance of cultural identity and strong family ties to the well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
We see greater levels of cooperation as a fundamental step towards policies and services which are culturally sensitive and which work effectively for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our community.
Thank you to each of the contributors to the agreement for their sustained commitment to the project and the shared commitment which is now formalised.
Together, we have agreed on a document which articulates our shared commitment – and importantly, our shared responsibility – to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT.
It’s far more than ink on paper. The true value of this document is that it is alive. It has clear intent. It is a shared commitment and a pathway to guide the way we do things in future.
While the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body is already enshrined in legislation, this agreement sets out clearly agreed principles, focus areas and actions for our work over the next three years.
It will improve how we provide key health, housing and community services. It also restates the importance of supporting self determination and economic independence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The collaborative framework it puts in place will improve how we provide key services across government. In my portfolios of housing and community services some of these opportunities are already emerging.
But realising these opportunities will take a sustained and genuine partnership – a continuation of what has led us to this point.
I very much look forward to playing my role.
The signed agreement will be tabled in the Legislative Assembly during the May sitting and you can find the full agreement online by visiting: www.communityservices.act.gov.au/atsia/publications
To see and listen to the speech I delivered at this event go to: