ATSIC says "Thank you" to union movement
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission has given warm thanks to the Australian union movement for assistance in past struggles, and has announced it is seeking closer ties to help improve the living standards of Indigenous people. ATSIC Acting Chairman Lionel Quartermaine told the Maritime Union of Australia's National Council that the union movement, and particularly the MUA and its predecessors, have had a long and proud history of support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. "Our shared history should be the foundation for even closer working partnerships between trade unions and our people", Mr Quartermaine said. During his address to the MUA, Mr Quartermaine acknowledged the MUA's active support for Indigenous people during industrial disputes, in particular the historical disputes including the Pilbara pastoral strike of 1947, the Wave Hill walk off of 1966 and the Noonkanbah dispute of 1979. The Pilbara and Wave Hill strikes started over low wages but developed into successful landmark land rights claims. Mr Quartermaine praised the MUA and its predecessors for supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by providing funding, medical aid, food supporting Aboriginal artists and athletes, and by winning jobs for Aboriginal people on the wharves. The MUA was also a foundation member of the Tranby Aboriginal College in Sydney in 1958 and the union continues to financially support the College to this day, providing funding for scholarships for Indigenous students. Mr Quartermaine also acknowledged the support of the ACTU and praised its incorporation of Indigenous issues into all of its policies at the ACTU Congress in August. The ACTU also has a dedicated Indigenous seat on its executive and conducts annual conferences of Indigenous union delegates. He also welcomed the support of the ACTU and unions in the dispute with the Queensland Government over stolen wages and savings and the campaign to prevent dumping of nuclear waste on Aboriginal ground in South Australia. The Queensland Government's compensation offer of $55 million to Aboriginal people who had had their wages and savings taken off them between 1897 and 1972 was "nowhere near good enough" and a denial of natural justice. Late last week ATSIC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the 55,000- member Independent Education Union of Australia, aimed at increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in non-government schools. The Memorandum committed both parties to developing an action plan which achieved better educational outcomes for Indigenous students, increased numbers of Indigenous students and teachers, and the incorporation of Indigenous history and culturally appropriate teaching into school curricula. ATSIC is now seeking similar agreements with other education unions as well as in other sectors including health and the public service.