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ATSIC attacks new National Indigenous Council

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 6 November 2004

Representatives of ATSIC have attacked the Government's appointment of 14 people to the new National Indigenous Council.

Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Amanda Vanstone today announced the establishment of the advisory council, saying it will provide a better deal for Aboriginal people.

The 14-member council contains representatives from business, health, the judiciary and sports.

But Northern Territory ATSIC commissioner Akarriyuwu Hill says the new council is just ATSIC in another guise.

He says the Territory representatives of the council were not elected by Indigenous people and therefore will not have political or cultural authority.

Mr Hill says the formation of the council shows the ignorance of Ms Vanstone.

"She still doesn't understand Aboriginal society and Aboriginal culture and how it affiliates where one individual doesn't necessarily make the sole decision," he said.

"It's based upon a clan and a family structure when making decisions, and at the end of the day, she's got no idea.

"These people will not have any political or cultural authority as individuals because they all belong to a nation group. And what Vanstone is suggesting is a load of rubbish."

The 14 people appointed to the council have also been accused of selling their soul to the devil.

ATSIC deputy chair Lionel Quartermaine say the people appointed do not represent Aboriginal and Islander people and nor do they have their support.

"We're talking about Aboriginal determination. How can the Government appoint certain people and say 'we'll have you, you and you to speak on Indigenous issues'?" he said.

"They have got no right, they weren't elected and not one of them will be speaking on my behalf or my community."

The last chairman of ATSIC, Geoff Clark, thinks Aborginal people should be developing their own policies, not just advising.

"They may represent some very good values and as I say I wish them well in their endeavours, but the fact is that the principle of having a group advise government is I think certainly outdated and no longer applies to Aboriginal affairs," he said.

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