Minister for ATSI and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Premier
The Honourable Glen Elmes

The right approach to Indigenous Issues

Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs Glen Elmes said today he was pleased at the frankness with which leading Indigenous people had written about approaches to Indigenous issues.

Referring to recent articles in The Australian newspaper, Mr Elmes emphasised that it was essential for actions and programs to be formulated and undertaken with communities, not imposed on them.

“Initiatives have to match both the circumstances of each community as well as its peoples’ aspirations. All programs must come from engagement with them and be owned by that community,” Mr Elmes said.

“The seeds for re-orienting governments’ overall approaches to assisting Indigenous people owe much to Mr Noel Pearson and other Indigenous leaders.

“The vision which Mr Pearson articulated has been a spark for action on many fronts. He was the person who really pinpointed the imperative for governments to shift away from a welfare approac h.

“There is no quick, simple or single answer to dealing with socio-economic issues in any community, Indigenous or non-Indigenous. These are complex matters and it is essential to take a whole-of-community approach, developing working relationships with communities for the long term.

Minister Elmes met a number of Mayors of Indigenous communities and their CEOs in Cairns last week, highlighting this message. He said community development plans had to be the framework within which all contributions operated.

“Plans with clear statements of where communities want to go on all fronts would be a key component for creating improved outcomes,” he said.

Mr Elmes said he understood the frustration for communities of having Federal, State and non-government agencies coming and going with their respective approaches that didn’t necessarily fit appropriately.

“Several existing programs have value, but it’s also essential to constantly assess se rvices and, when necessary, make adjustments in line with communities’ situations and wishes,” he said.

“Queensland is fortunate to have many competent Indigenous leaders both at a local and state level. I look forward to working with them and the re-established separate Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs.”

Mr Elmes said it was his responsibility to work with Mayors as elected representatives and that he intended to continue to do that.

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