Clear Need for Further Parliamentary Scrutiny

Clear Need for Further Parliamentary Scrutiny 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 27, 2010

 A Joint Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs should be established as quickly as possible in the new term of Federal Parliament which begins tomorrow.

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council says there is a clear need for the establishment of the Committee to build on the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Regional and Remote Indigenous Communities, and others, from the 42nd Parliament.

The recommendation for the Joint Standing Committee, which would comprise MP's from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, is contained in the fifth and final report of the Senate Select Committee on Regional and Remote Indigenous Communities which was publicly released late last week.

The all-party Committee believes the crisis facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in health, education, living standards and justice are of such significance they warrant formation of such a Committee to ensure the coordinated attention of the new Parliament as a whole.

The Committee has further recommended a Senate Select Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs be established in the new (43rd) Parliament until such a Joint Standing Committee be established. This Committee would be dissolved upon the establishment of a Joint Standing Committee.

NSWALC supports both recommendations.

The Senate Select Committee's final report demonstrates a clear need for further---and improved---Parliamentary scrutiny on a wide range of issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

It has recommended five inquiries be referred to Committees in the new parliament.

They are:

  • The potential for justice reinvestment in regional and remote Indigenous communities.
  • The effectiveness of government programs in providing housing in regional and remote Indigenous communities
  • The extent of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and ramifications of government policy.
  • Barriers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education; and
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment programs including business development and microfinance solutions.

NSWALC believes all have relevance to the ongoing development of evidence-based policy and programs for Aboriginal people in New South Wales, particularly in education, employment and justice.

NSWALC agrees with the Committee, for instance, that the Indigenous incarceration rate remains a national disgrace two decades on from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody. There must be greater use of non custodial sentences that incorporate programs aimed at rehabilitation.

The Committee's first four reports, tabled between September 2008 and May 2010, have made a total of 36 recommendations.

The reports, submissions received by the Committee, and the record of its public hearings represent a substantial body of evidence from hundreds of people living and working in regional and remote Indigenous communities.

As the Committee has pointed out this represents a unique and substantial body of evidence from people involved in the day to day life of communities that statistics and reports alone cannot provide to assist those working to improve the well being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

NSWALC shares the Committee's concern that the Government has so far failed to provide a response to all its recommendations.

Bev Manton
NSWALC Chairwoman