To all National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Gathering (NATSIWG) delegates and Working Group members.
The Commonwealth, State, Territory and New Zealand Ministers’ Conference on the Status of Women (MINCO) would like to thank the NATSIWG delegates for contributing your ideas, expertise and experiences to the 2010 NATSIWG. We appreciate the great distance many of you travelled to gather in Canberra, and note that this year’s Gathering occurred on National Sorry Day, a day of personal significance for participants of the Gathering.
MINCO values the time that you have spent engaging with members of your communities, and appreciates the way NATSIWG has embraced the opportunity to create networks, share experiences and make connections with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from throughout Australia. Important issues were identified during this year’s Gathering and the Ministers appreciate these issues being brought to our attention as priorities for consideration.
The 2010 NATSIWG agenda, developed by the Working Group, provided the Gathering participants with an opportunity to discuss their areas of concern as well as an opportunity to attend a series of presentations and workshops by guest speakers. The guest speakers for NATSIWG 2010 included Val Cooms (safety and wellbeing), Tracey Whetnall, (housing and homelessness), Christine Fejo King from Reconciliation Australia (child protection), Sharon Payne (Human Rights) and Deb Hocking from the Healing Foundation (healing).
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, the former Australian Government Minister for the Status of Women and member of MINCO was pleased to open the Gathering. We note the additional work that the Working Group members and delegates undertook in preparing the full set of recommendations for Ministers’ consideration.
Future arrangements for MINCO and consequently its sub-committees, including both WAM and NATSIWG, depend on developments around the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Review of Ministerial Councils. Ministers acknowledge the need for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s agenda to be recognised as a priority at the federal, State and Territory level and committed to an ongoing dialogue with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
Women’s Ministers noted that the newly formed National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance (NATSIWA) provide important vehicles by which women’s voices can be heard, and jurisdictional mechanisms continue to be important. Ministers also recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women speak with more than one voice and need multiple avenues for engaging with government.
MINCO commits to progressing the recommendations of NATSIWG 2010 within their respective jurisdictions. This work would not be possible without the valuable insights, provided by the NATSIWG delegates, into the issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their families.
MINCO formally acknowledges the appointment of Ms Megan Davis as a member to the United Nations (UN) Permanent Forum.
As a leading scholar on Indigenous legal rights and international law, Ms Davis was the first Indigenous person nominated by the Australian Government to a UN body. Ms Davis has been active in the United Nations as an advocate for Indigenous rights, particularly for women. Her role within the UN Permanent Forum, the pre-eminent UN body on Indigenous matters, has further positioned her as a remarkable role model for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
The Ministers note the NATSIWG recommendation that a jurisdictional reception be held in honour of Ms Davis’ appointment. Ministers are pleased to inform NATSIWG that on 3 June 2010, the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, and the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, welcomed the election of the first Australian Indigenous woman, Ms Megan Davis to the United Nations (UN) Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, through a parliamentary reception. The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, former Australian Government Minister for the Status of Women and member of MINCO attended the welcoming, as did a number of prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, including Dr Kerry Arabena and Ms Davis’ sister, Ms Lucy Banu.
Ministers acknowledge the limited recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in sport. In 2005, the Australian Institute of Sport released a publication on Indigenous athletes and included profiles on a number of Indigenous sports women such as Ms Catherine Freeman, Ms Marcia Ella, Ms Yvonne Goolagong Cawley and Ms Andrea Mason. MINCO agrees more can be done in this area to promote, encourage and celebrate Indigenous women in sport.
The MINCO Chair will write to Australian Government Minister for Sport, the State and Territory Ministers for Sport and the heads of peak sporting bodies, recommending that the promotion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in sport be considered in any future work of their respective agencies.
2. Torres Strait Islander Women
Ministers will ensure that their respective offices for women consult with Torres Strait Islander women, including Torres Strait Islander women living on the mainland, on issues impacting on Indigenous women and Indigenous people more broadly.
3. Housing and Homelessness
MINCO notes that NATSIWG has made a number of recommendations relating to housing and homelessness issues specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. The Ministers acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s housing and homelessness concerns as a priority issue.
In December 2008, the Australian Government released its White Paper on Homelessness – The Road Home. The White Paper on Homelessness recognises that Indigenous people are over represented in the homeless population in urban, regional and remote areas. Cramped living conditions can increase domestic tensions and contribute to domestic violence, which can be triggers for homelessness.
As noted in the White Paper’s Progress and Action Plan, a range of Indigenous specific and mainstream government initiatives will contribute to reducing Indigenous homelessness in urban, regional and remote areas.
MINCO notes that the Australian Government has committed an unprecedented $5.5 billion for remote Indigenous housing over the next ten years under the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing. This investment will provide up to 4,200 new houses, 4,800 upgrades to existing houses and will benefit over 9,000 families in remote Indigenous communities and address significant overcrowding, homelessness, poor housing conditions and the severe housing shortage in remote Indigenous communities
4. Human Rights
Ministers acknowledge NATSIWG support of a national Human Rights Charter that incorporates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ self determination, cultural practices and intellectual property rights in all areas within employment and economic security.
Following NATSIWG 2009, Ministers undertook to provide the Australian Government Attorney-General with the NATSIWG recommendations on the possible development and implementation of an Australian Human Rights Act. In this correspondence, Ministers paid particular attention to emphasise the recommendation regarding delivering education and awareness programs to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities regarding information on human rights.
Ministers will continue to ask their officials to take opportunities to address with their relevant jurisdictional colleagues the recommendations that relate to filling all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identified positions; the need for specialised programs working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as opposed to mainstreaming; and to maintain logos for identified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs.
5. Child Protection
MINCO believes that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families must be treated with respect and equality. NATSIWG have made a number of recommendations about the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children.
The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children was endorsed by COAG in April 2009 and is a long-term approach to improving the safety and wellbeing of Australia’s children. The National Framework recognises that Indigenous children are over-represented in child protection systems and, to address this, identifies a number of actions aiming to ensure that Indigenous children are supported and safe in strong, thriving families and communities.
A National Framework Implementation Working Group (NFIWG) has been established to play a hands-on role in implementing the National Framework. The NFIWG has representation from Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments and the non-government sector, including the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC). Ministers will ensure NATSIWG’s recommendations on child protection are forwarded to the NFIWG for its consideration.
6. Healing, Safety and Well Being
MINCO acknowledges the effects that lateral violence can have on the lives of individual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and their communities. Ministers recognise the need for consideration to be made to lateral violence in the development and delivery of Government responses, programs and policies.
MINCO will ensure the issue of lateral violence in Indigenous communities is brought to the attention of the COAG Officials Group for the Development of a National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women. MINCO will also write to the Healing Foundation, recommending that consideration be given to including lateral violence in their programs or for programs to be funded specifically on lateral violence.
Those Ministers responsible for women’s safety will consider enhancing programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women that address the issues of kinship and reviving culture.
Women’s Ministers commit to progressing the Recommendations of NATSIWG 2010 within their respective jurisdictions.
The Ministers look forward to continuing to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s representatives in their respective jurisdictions, to assist in closing the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and non-Indigenous women and improve the lives of women, their families and their communities.
MINCO will also forward the NATSIWG 2010 Recommendations onto the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples for their consideration.
The Commonwealth, State, Territory and New Zealand Ministers’ Conference on the Status of Women (MINCO)
17 September 2010