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PM 'shutting down' reconciliation debate

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 8 March 2004


A former chair of the Aboriginal and Torres State Islander Commission (ATSIC) claims the Prime Minister has tried to shut down debate on reconciliation.

Lowitja O'Donoghue made the comment at a national indigenous health conference in Darwin.

The Flinders University Professorial Fellow says reconciliation as a priority policy has fallen off the Government's agenda.

She says she fears in 20 years nothing will have changed to recognise the rights and entitlements of Aboriginal people.

Professor O'Donoghue says this is despite enormous energy and goodwill from the reconciliation movement.

She says the Prime Minister has instead implemented what he calls practical reconciliation, which is the provision of basic health, housing, education and employment resources.

Professor O'Donoghue says this is not an initiative to brag about because it is a bandaid measure and a welfare model.

She says it has also failed because Indigenous people's health is getting worse.

Domestic Violence

Professor O'Donoghue says Mr Howard has also failed to address domestic violence in Aboriginal communities.

She says the Federal Government last year formed, with great fanfare, a working group to advise it on Indigenous domestic violence.

But she says the Council of Australian Governments did not even consider, let alone endorse, the working group's report.

"The Prime Minister and the Federal Government should have called them together again, even if only to deal with that particular issue, and encourage them to sit down and deal with that particular report and also to indicate what they are going to be doing about it," she said.


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