The former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner has accused Nigel Scullion of failing to consult with key Indigenous representative groups during his three years in the job.
"Any minister who is not willing to engage with the community they represent and want to listen to them and work cooperatively with them, shouldn't be a minister."
Professor Calma, who is currently the Chancellor of the University of Canberra and Co-chair of reconciliation Australia says the minister displayed “little to no interest” into the reports of abuse leading up to the Four Corners program.
"Any minister who is not willing to engage with the community they represent and want to listen to them and work cooperatively with them, shouldn't be a minister," Professor Calma told Michelle Grattan.
He says it was “pretty much swept under the carpet at the Northern Territory level” and that the NT government should not be co-sponsors of the royal commission.
“You don’t get the opportunity to have an independent royal commission very often and to have one where one of the major defendants is going to have to be the Northern Territory government … in all consciousness they should just withdraw from the process and leave it up to the independent commissioners,” he says.
“From an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective our hand is extended to government. It’s not being embraced and that’s what’s got to change."
Calma questions Scullion’s level of interest in his portfolio and calls for the appointment of a new minister.
“His interest in Indigenous affairs has really got to be questioned and why he doesn’t take note of the various reports that are out there, why he limits his consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to a small handful of people who aren’t representative,” he says.
“From an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective our hand is extended to government. It’s not being embraced and that’s what’s got to change. And if that means we’ve got to change ministers to somebody who’s going to be much more responsive, who’s not going to have an attitude that consultation is about telling people what the government wants to achieve … the current minister is really not doing a good enough job,” he said.
After the program sparked outrage, Senator Scullion said he was not aware of the allegations because they had not “piqued his interest.”
Senator Scullion was reappointed to the Indigenous Affairs portfolio in the most recent reshuffle after Malcolm Turnbull was re-elected. He said he had not considered resigning and did not think he had lost the confidence of other Aboriginal leaders.
From an Aboriginal community members perspective:
Dozens of people came to protest against abuse in detention centres, challenging Mr Scullion, who was in Borroloola for a meeting. They chanted justice not jail, bring our kids home.
Indigenous community members spoke passionately about what they believe is best for their community.
Wendy Roper, the Aunty of Jake Roper, who was abused at Don Dale youth detention centre said Mr Scullion should resign immediately.
“We would like our kids to get rehabilitate here in our community, not where the government can hide things and abuse our kids. He should resign from his job.”
Indigenous elder Jack Green, who is running as an independent at the upcoming NT election, said young offenders in remote areas need better rehabilitation options.
"It's not good enough, we need it out on the homeland so we can look after our kids more better…What we'd like to see, from community, we'd like to see a prison camps happen out here in the community so we can keep an eye on these kids.”
Another passionate Aboriginal community member asked Senator Scullion to walk away off their land and never return again.
“Were here today in Borroloola, because we’ve heard that the indigenous minister is in town, and we want to ask him to resign because we heard what happened in Don Dale, with the abuse of little kids.”
“They should be teaching the kids the right way, not to keep abusing them abusing them and keep abusing them which will make them keep committing crimes so we’re asking him to give up his job, walk away and get off our land, don’t ever return again.”