Senator’s solutions to Closing the Gap miss the point

23 February 2016

Senator's solutions to Closing the Gap miss the point

Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm should get out of Canberra more often and learn about Aboriginal success stories, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) said today.

NSWALC Chair Roy Ah-See said Senator Leyonhjelm's speech to the Senate yesterday traded in paternalism and stereotypes about Aboriginal people.

He said the "Closing the Gap" speech also denied any connection between colonisation and disadvantage and displayed an ignorance of Aboriginal self-determination models like the Land Rights network in New South Wales.

Cr Ah-See said the speech focused solely on remote and rural Australia despite the vast majority of Aboriginal people living in urban locations.

"While NSWALC welcomes Senator Leyonhjelm's interest in this vital policy area, he needs to understand that progress will only be achieved by increasing Aboriginal participation in decision-making and by learning from success stories.

"In New South Wales, the Land Rights network provides a blueprint that allows Aboriginal people to claim certain lands and use land to meet the cultural, spiritual and economic needs of Aboriginal people.

"Under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983, Aboriginal people have built up a network of 120 Local Aboriginal Land Councils that are quietly getting on with the business of job creation, training and programs to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people.

"The Land Rights network in New South Wales is self-funded and contributes to the State economy through a range of Local Aboriginal Land Council-run ventures including internationally-renowned tourism ventures and major property developments.

"Today, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council is the largest member-based Aboriginal organisation in Australia with more than 23,000 members and is represented by a democractically-elected Board."

Cr Ah-See said the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 was progressive legislation that recognised, and attempted to remedy the ongoing effects of Aboriginal people being dispossessed of their land in New South Wales.

"Colonisation and dispossession of land is a fact for Aboriginal people but having the power to claim Crown Land that is unused or unneeded has transformed the lives of many Aboriginal people.

"Senator Leyonhjelm needs to understand that connection to land is at the heart of the work of Local Aboriginal Land Councils and connection to land is also the key to closing the gap in health, education and economic development."

Media contact: Andrew Williams 0429 585 2910429 585 291