WA's Aboriginal groups unite
Western Australia's main Aboriginal organisations have announced the formation of a single lobbying group to negotiate with the State Government on its delivery of services to Indigenous people. The consultative group is the first of its kind in Australia and is expected to lead the way for other States. It will lobby and advise the State Government on issues concerning Indigenous people and also develop policy. The decision was made at a recent meeting of Indigenous representative groups entitled, "Beyond the Rhetoric: Negotiating Real Outcomes", and was agreed to by a unanimous vote from the four major representative bodies: the ATSIC State Council, the Western Australian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (WAACCHO), the Western Australian Aboriginal Native Title Working Group (WAANTWG) and the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALSWA). Speaking on behalf of the peak body representatives, ATSIC State Policy and Advocacy Group manager, Mick Gooda, said the landmark announcement represented a more streamlined approach to negotiations between the Indigenous community and State Government. "In the past, multiple Indigenous organisations have held meetings with State Government regarding their community needs", he said. "A peak body representing the interests of all Indigenous organisations means that we will speak with a single, powerful voice in expressing the desired targets for Indigenous people in key areas such as health, employment, housing and education. "A peak body will also mean that Indigenous groups reach consensus before joining State Government negotiations." Mr Gooda said the move also reduced existing administrative levels and, as a result, represented enormous cost and time benefit to State Government. "The organisations making up the peak body will work in a consultative fashion with our people. We invite Indigenous members of the community to approach ATSIC, the ALS, WAACHO or WAANTWG on matters of concern to them, at any time. This information will feed into the newly-formed peak body and its negotiations with State Government", he said. "The decision marks a new era in the campaign for racial equality in Australia. Although our fields of specialty are different, our goal is the same — to improve our people's lives. It's a more efficient and logical approach." The first priority of the peak body will be establishing a framework agreement to set clear guidelines s government policy arrangements.
* * *Acknowledgements: ATSIC