A new direction for Aboriginal Affairs with Prime Minister Gillard?

A NEW DIRECTION FOR ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS WITH PRIME MINISTER GILLARD?

25 May 2010

The Chairwoman of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC), Bev Manton has congratulated Julia Gillard on becoming Australia's first female Prime Minister.

"It's a very historic occasion for Australia," Chairwoman Manton said. "We had to wait 110 years, but we've finally seen a woman take the leadership role in this country.

"The strength our new Prime Minister has displayed historically is inspiring for women in general, particularly for young women.

"From a personal perspective, and as the first elected Chairwoman in NSWALC's history, I can tell you it's also inspiring for other women in roles of leadership.

"In a very real sense, Prime Minister Gillard's rise supports people like me. As women we constantly have to fight a battle for equality in this country, but now with a female leader, I think it might lighten our load a little, and lighten our hearts a little as well."

This moment can't pass without acknowledging the efforts of Kevin Rudd.

Mr Rudd was a hard-working and diligent Prime Minister. He will be remembered for some important reforms, such as his health initiatives, the Murray-Darling basin commission, and his efforts in successfully steering Australia through the global financial crisis.

But from an Aboriginal perspective his leadership was another opportunity passed.

"Kevin Rudd offered some important symbolic gestures to Aboriginal people during his time in office, but like so many Prime Ministers before him, he failed on the practical front.

"He provided a wonderful, emotional and inspiring apology to members of the Stolen Generations. But he refused to provide compensation.

"His government endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but continued the racist Northern Territory intervention.

It's all well and good to say to the rest of Australia, 'We need reconciliation', but it's another thing altogether to lead that process, and Kevin Rudd failed to do that."

Ms Manton said the country - Aboriginal people in particular - were hopeful our new Prime Minister would get back to the basics of what a Labor government represents.

"And with that in mind, it will be very disappointing for Aboriginal people in particular if this change of leadership does not translate into a change in direction in Aboriginal affairs.

"We've waited two years since the apology for the next show of leadership from Labor, for the next step in the reconciliation process. It is two years too long.

"It seems former Prime Minister Rudd was waiting for others to show that lead. So I hope Ms Gillard can find that leadership, and that inner strength that this country so desperately needs.

"In particular I hope that Prime Minister Gillard can find the courage that Kevin Rudd could not, the courage to do what is right - not popular: end the Northern Territory intervention, and finally settle the debt owed to members of our Stolen Generations."

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT CHRIS MUNRO AT NSWALC: 0438 760 242