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Expert criticises National Indigenous Council concept

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 23 November 2004

One of the world's leading experts on Indigenous rights and representation has criticised the Federal Government's new National Indigenous Council (NIC) model.

The council, which will consist of Government-appointed representatives, was unveiled earlier this month in place of the defunct Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC).

Leroy Littlebear, who is a Canadian Blackfoot Indian and a leading thinker on Indigenous issues, has criticised the concept.

Speaking in Canberra, Professor Littlebear says it is crucial for Aboriginal communities to elect their own representatives.

"People at the local level, as we say back home, at the grass roots level ... become very suspicious of those people who are strictly appointed from up on top," he said.

Professor Littlebear says he understands why some Indigenous people in Australia are cynical about the Government-appointed council.

"There's always this scepticism and suspicion on the part of the grass roots people," he said.

"So if things are going to work well, it seems that the right formula, the proper formula, is to have representation that arises from the local communities."

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