Indigenous land rights emerging as key election issue

An overhaul of land rights is emerging as a key issue in the federal election. Galarrwuy Yunupingu called for a 'wake-up' of Native Title rules during an address at the Garma Festival.

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Warren Mundine. (SBS)

An overhaul of land rights is emerging as a key issue in this year's federal election.

Galarrwuy Yunupingu called for a "wake-up" of Native Title rules during an address at the Northern Territory's Garma Festival -- one of the biggest events on the Indigenous calendar.

Garma was also the backdrop to the Coalition's unveiling of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Policy, centred on a new Indigenous advisory council headed by the former President of the Labor Party Warren Mundine.

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"The problem, if I may say so, between white Australia and Aboriginal Australia is not lack of good will, not lack of money, but a lack of engagement," said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

The advisory council will inform the Prime Minister on policy development and implementation, and it will start with a major review of Indigenous spending and service delivery -- most notably land rights reform.

"We need to wake up on land rights," said Mr Mundine. We need to stir it again so that land becomes an asset, so that we look at mining opportunities and we look at agricultural opportunities and tourism opportunities but we need to put them in a commercial framework and that's what has been missing from the debate for the past 40 years".

The advisory council will also overhaul the existing service governance systems which have been imposed by state, territory and federal governments.

Warren Mundine says the council will streamline bureaucracy, speed-up process and empower local communities to make decisions about themselves.

"It's really not rocket science to me. It's about time we got rid of this bureaucratic approach to things and start recognising Indigenous cultural structures and governance," says Mr Mundine.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has described the Coalition's decision to work with Mr Mundine as a move towards a more bi-partisan approach to Indigenous policy.

"If I have one mission in life, it's to ensure that closing the gap on Indigenous Australia is taken out of the political ruck and frankly we get to the stage where all Australians realise that this is a national mission for us all.. We're judged by the rest of the world on this".

However, concerns have been raised about what streamlining bureaucracy would actually mean for the existing Indigenous advisory body.

"With Tony Abbott saying he wants to set up another Indigenous advisory council, it's a slap in the face for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when we already have our national congress," said Greens candidate for Lingiari Barbara Shaw.



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3 min read
Published 12 August 2013 at 5:58pm
By Brooke Boney
Source: NITV News