• Message Stick Walker Alwyn Doolan will continue on his journey without passing on his message sticks to the Australian Prime Minister (Ryan Jasper Walsh)Source: Ryan Jasper Walsh
Politicians returned from the parliamentary mid-winter break and are back in Canberra. Here's what the week delivered for the Indigenous community.
Shahni Wellington

14 Sep 2019 - 4:54 AM  UPDATED 14 Sep 2019 - 4:54 AM

1. Message Stick Walker denied acknowledgement

Gooreng Gooreng and Wakka Wakka man, Alwyn Doolan, travelled more than 8,500 kilometres to Canberra last month, bringing three message sticks- representing reconciliation - to pass onto the Prime Minister.

Despite his long walk from Cape York, the man dubbed the 'Message Stick Walker' was denied a meeting with Scott Morrison.

A joint motion this week by Western Australia Senator, Pat Dodson, and Greens Senator, Rachel Siewert called for the parliament to acknowledge Mr Doolan.

The motion, which included the PM accepting the message sticks, split the parliament 50/50 - ultimately resulting in a No vote.

Greens Senator Rachel Seiwert later expressed her disappointment.

“Accepting the Message Sticks would have sent a powerful message that the Australian Government is committed to a truly meaningful process of engagement with First Nations peoples,” she said.

 “We need Government policies and practices that respect the right of First Nations peoples to self-determination.”

Prime Minister declines to meet with Message Stick Walker after 8500km journey
First Nations Walker Alwyn Doolan decides to leave Canberra - still carrying the message stick he travelled 8,500 kilometres to hand to the PM.

2. Cashless debit card closer to national roll out

The federal government is gaining momentum to expand its controversial cashless debit card, or CDC, scheme.

The legislation aims to push back the end date for trials in Ceduna (SA), Goldfields (WA) and East Kimberley (WA)  until 2021, and also introduce the system in Cape York in Queensland.

The cashless debit card, which quarantines 80% of welfare payments, would also replace the ‘Basics Card’ in the Northern Territory, potentially affecting more than 23,000 people.

As of December last year, the lowest percentage of Indigenous people participating in a CDC trial area was 41 per cent, with the highest in East Kimberley reaching 81 per cent.

Pilbara Elders reject Welfare Card trial
Attendees at a meeting of Traditional Owners from the Pilbara region of Western Australia have categorically rejected the trial of a Welfare Debit card in the area.

After passing the Senate this week,  the government services minister Stuart Robert told the lower house the government believes the card is having a positive effect.

“The extension of the card across the four communities will allow time for further evaluation activities of the card to be completed,” he said.

“The cashless debit card is a community-driven, bottom-up approach to tackling long-term welfare dependency, social harm and welfare funded drug and alcohol abuse.”

Despite being criticised by multiple Aboriginal organisations and MP's, the changes continue to pass through government hurdles.

The Greens party attempted to delay the bill to allow for further community consultation, but was unsuccessful.

The legislation is due for debate next month.

3. Minister for Indigenous Australians to front the UN  

Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which established a universal set of rights for the dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples around the world.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, marked the anniversary by announcing he will be travelling to Geneva, Switzerland on Monday to meet with United Nations Human Rights Council.

NITV will have a close eye on what the Minister has to say, with a failing Close the Gap strategy currently being reassessed by the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).  

12-year-old Arrente and Garrwa boy from Alice Springs, Dujuan Hoosan, has just returned from his own trip to the UN, using his speech there to highlight why the age of criminal responsibility in Australia needs to be raised.

Dujuan's campaign was mentioned by Labor MP Andrew Leigh in parliament this week, as part of a call for Australia to do better when it comes to the incarceration rates of First Nations peoples.

“[He] has just appealed to the United Nations Human Rights Council to reduce Australian incarceration, pointing out that Indigenous-led education and emphasis on languages are key to keeping Indigenous young people out of jail,” said Mr Leigh.

The Minister reminded the house that a higher share of Indigenous Australians are now incarcerated than African Americans in the US, before speaking about programs being used there to reduce incarceration.

After UN speech, Indigenous 12-year-old takes his message of change to PM
An Indigenous boy from the Northern Territory is taking his message on Aboriginal-led education and youth incarceration to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.