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Protesters rally over ATSIC abolishment plan

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 24 May 2004


Indigenous Australians from around the country have marched on Federal Parliament in protest against the Government's decision to scrap the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Commission (ATSIC).

About 150 people gathered at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy this morning to march on Parliament House.

The rally, organised by members of ATSIC's Community Development Employment Program, brought Indigenous Australians from as far as Perth and Cairns to Canberra in protest against the decision.

Democrats Senator Aden Ridgeway accused the Government of cutting and running on Aboriginal services.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle also addressed the crowd, with both parties confirming they will not support the Government moves in the Senate.

Aboriginal representatives called on all Indigenous people in positions of power to resign on June 30 if the bill is passed.

Australian Democrats Senator Aden Ridgeway has addressed the rally, accusing the Government of cutting and running on Aboriginal services.

"Mainstreaming hasn't worked in the past," he said.

"The problem has always been about access and equity. If Indigenous people haven't been accessing it to the same level as other Australians why does anyone believe that its going to fix it now."

Yothu Yindi foundation deputy chair Mandawuy Yunupingu says the abolishment of ATSIC could be a good thing for Aboriginal people.

Mr Yunupingu says the Federal Government needs to make a real effort to consult properly with Indigenous groups to ensure Aboriginal people have more control over funding decisions.

"It's a good situation and a structure that will make Aboriginal people be more accountable to the way in which they money is going to be spent," he said.


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