The prime minister’s hand-picked Indigenous Advisory Council members say they are still waiting to have a discussion with Scott Morrison about the recent appointment of Tony Abbott as special envoy on Indigenous affairs.
The council says they’ve never been consulted and are still waiting on a briefing from the government.
“The Indigenous Advisory Council has, at this stage, hasn’t had a direct conversation with the prime minister about the role that was announced a few days ago,” council co-chair and NPY Women’s Council chair Andrea Mason told the ABC.
In fact, Ms Mason says she and other council members only found out about Mr Abbott’s appointment through media reports.
“[We found out] when everyone else in Australia heard about it and that it was perhaps going to be focused on the area of school attendance for Indigenous children,” she said.
Ms Mason criticised Mr Abbott's education comments, saying he "erred towards a much more negative message" and that a punitive approach on school attendance was not helpful.
Council co-chair and NSW Aboriginal Land Council chair Roy Ah-See told NITV News he felt the position of the council wasn't respected enough to have even been told about the new special envoy role.
“We heard it in the media and seen it in the media like a lot of other people,” Mr Ah-See said.
“I guess at the end of the day if they want continue a working relationship with the IAC in terms of advising the prime minister then the position has to be respected,” he said.
Last week, the council sent a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanding a meeting and clarification on Mr Abbott’s new role.
The 12-member council was appointed, for its second term, last year under then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to advise government on practical changes to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.
Mr Ah-See says the fact no detail has been provided about Mr Abbott’s role is concerning in itself.
“What we’re concerned about is that, in effect, this could be a third layer of bureaucracy,” he said.
“I mean we have a Minister for Indigenous Affairs, we have an advisory council, we have Minister Ken Wyatt who is responsible for his portfolio – so it’s an unknown area at the moment and that poses concern.”
The council is yet to receive a response. They hope to meet with the new prime minister on a quarterly basis as they did with Malcolm Turnbull.
“As soon as this matter is addressed, as soon as we have our own envoys, our own people, speaking on behalf of communities, consulting our communities – I think we will have better policy outcomes right across the whole of the sector,” Mr Ah-See said.