National Congress For The First Australians A Step Forward In Closing The Gaps

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24th November 2009, 02:47pm - Views: 952
NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AUSTRALIA'S FIRST PEOPLES AN IMPORTANT STEP IN CLOSING THE GAPS

On behalf of the Board of Reconciliation Australia, Co-Chair Mark Leibler has welcomed the announcement of next steps and significant government funding for a new National Congress of Australia's First Peoples.

Mr Leibler said this week's introduction of new legislation underpinning government efforts in the Northern Territory reinforced the importance of a national body to represent the views and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. "A well-recognised, critical success factor in closing the gaps in life expectancy and life choices for Indigenous people is close, respectful consultation and engagement," said Mr Leibler. "Unlike the US, Canada and New Zealand where Indigenous life expectancy rates are better, Australia has not had an Indigenous-designed representative body to ensure effective participation on major issues relating to them."

The model on which the new National Congress is being developed draws on lessons from the past and ensures a breadth of representation. "It enables representation by Indigenous land councils, peak bodies and other Indigenous organisations, as well as a place for leaders operating at all levels," said Mr Leibler.

Reconciliation Australia congratulated the steering committee, led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma, for its commitment and courage. "It isn't easy to put yourself out there in this way. It's a mark of great commitment to your people and to Australia." Mr Leibler also praised the Government for honouring its commitment to support the development and running of a new representative body.

"The Government is giving this important process a genuine chance of success by backing the steering committee's model and coming through with the funding. This demonstrates an openness to listen, learn and be challenged all necessary if we are to improve the life circumstances of Indigenous Australians."

Mr Leibler said that Reconciliation Australia would work to support the National Congress by encouraging the wider Australian population to understand the nature and value of its role. "It's important now for the Australian people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to give the National Congress the support it needs to develop and do its job effectively. It's easy to scrutinise and criticise a new organisation like this. But if we're serious about closing the gaps, and I believe we are, we need to recognise the need for a legitimate, representative body and encourage it in whatever ways we can to fulfill its responsibilities."

To read Reconciliation Australia's Q&A on A Representative Body for Indigenous Australians go to reconciliation.org.au

Media contact:
Claire Tedeschi
on 0418-633277

SOURCE: reconciliation australia
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