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PM welcomes shift over Aboriginal welfare

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 5 December 2004

Prime Minister John Howard has welcomed moves by Aboriginal leaders to embrace the principle of mutual obligation and to open communications with his Government on Indigenous issues.

Leaders Patrick Dodson and Noel Pearson say they both back mutual obligation and the move away from welfare dependency as part of finding solutions to problems affecting Aboriginal communities.

Mr Howard met Pat and Mick Dodson, along with AFL star Michael Long in Canberra on Friday.

Mr Howard has told ABC TV's "Insiders" program that there is a lot of work facing the Government and Aboriginal leaders.

"It is important that we focus on areas of agreement between the Government and the Aboriginal communities," he said.

"That means inevitably focusing on what I might call the welfare practical reconciliation agenda and there does appear to be a markedly greater willingness on the part of Aboriginal leaders to do that and I think that's a wholly welcome thing."

Mr Howard says any work with the leaders will not sideline the Government's new National Indigenous Council.

"It will be the principle source of advice to the Government on Indigenous issues, so I want to make that clear in no way will that body be sidelined, but that doesn't prevent me or Amanda Vanstone from talking to other people," he said.

"I've long respected Noel Pearson."

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