• Tony Abbott on his tour through northern Australia (AAP)Source: AAP
Locals around Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands say Tony Abbott did a pretty good job of ticking all the right boxes during his trip north last week. But National Congress says he stuck too closely to a predetermined agenda.
By
Myles Morgan

Source:
NITV News
31 Aug 2015 - 4:00 PM  UPDATED 31 Aug 2015 - 6:25 PM

TRANSCRIPT


Malarndirri McCarthy:
Last week Tony Abbott spent five days in communities around Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands.

While it's impossible to please everyone on his Indigenous visits, locals said he did a pretty good job of ticking all the right boxes.

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But our National Congress said the Prime Minister stuck too closely to a pre-determined agenda.

Myles Morgan reports.

Myles Morgan: The Prime Minister had a jam packed itinerary during his vist to the Cape and Torres Strait. School attendance, employment and health were the priorities of his highly stage-managed week.

One of the locals says the Prime Minister was passionate on his trip.

Richie Ah Mat, Cape York Land Council chairman: 'This Torres Strait region is crying out for support' were his own words and he had both of his fists clenched, and he said, 'As the Prime Minister of Australia, I will give you that support'. 

Richie Ah Mat says as welcome as Tony Abbott was made to feel, there were serious local issues to address.

Like improved bush infrastructure and making the local fishing industry more sustainable.

Richie Ahmat, Cape York Land Council chairman: It's a matter of funding. There are enough agencies on the Torres Strait from the federal government and state government. He has to work closely with the state government to actually find some funding, to insist on some positive outcomes in the Torres Strait.

"He has to work closely with the state government to actually find some funding, to insist on some positive outcomes in the Torres Strait"

National Congress says the Prime Minister's trip was made to fit his priorities of getting the kids to school, adults into work and making communities safer.

Kirstie Parker, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples: There also needs to be an openness to hear what our communities say, whether it be about Consitutional change, you know, economic devleopment, education, all of these things that the government says that it's listening to but appears to be following a narrow agenda. 

And it's also up to the communities the Prime Minister visited to agitate for the changes they asked for.

Kirstie Parker, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples: If there is a feeling that the sorts of solutions that our communities are coming up will be listened to and actually resourced and to have our communites have a say in what happens in their regions, that is a good thing.

The Social Services Minister joined the Prime Minister on one of his building projects in Injinoo.

Scott Morrison says the week was an opportunity for Government to hear, first hand, what policies ARE working.

Scott Morrison, Social Services Minister: This is a community now with those remote area communities at the top of the cape where we haven't seen, we are advised, a suicide for six years.

We have seen a decline in the number of women in refuge shelters by 80 percent since 2000; we are seeing school attendance on the rise.

The Prime Minister's trip looked good and if that was all that mattered, then it would be regarded a success. But, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in FNQ are hoping that Tony Abbott's week translates into concrete outcomes in the next few months or as part of his government's third Budget. 

Myles Morgan, NITV News