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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Consultation underpins new initiatives

The Canberra Liberals have announced a suite of initiatives for Indigenous Canberrans, with a focus on consultation and community-led delivery. Improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of the ACT was presented to local leaders in the Indigenous community on Friday 1 March.

The initiatives include providing culturally appropriate health services to focus on ‘healing the whole person’, targeted education and youth support programs, justice services focused on healing and rehabilitation and improving social wellbeing.

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, James Milligan MLA, said each initiative takes into consideration concerns raised by leaders in the Indigenous community.

“Our initiatives are the culmination of two years of listening to and learning from the Indigenous community,” Mr Milligan said.

CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (AHCS), Julie Tongs, said it is “such an important document” and she felt “privileged that we have been consulted and listened to”. The initiatives include plans to extend the Winnunga AHCS premises.

“At the end of the day it’s about our clients. It’s about people in this community. It’s about the struggle, it’s about the poverty, it’s about kids not going to school, it’s about too many of our mob being incarcerated. It’s all of those things. And this is a very good start, but we need to make sure they get implemented,” Ms Tongs said.

She expressed disappointment at the lack of a dedicated drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. “We are desperate in this community, we’ve got nowhere, we have to [refer] people interstate,” Ms Tongs said.

However, she acknowledged the Canberra Liberals’ commitment to a culturally appropriate model of care that includes a dedicated Indigenous residential program. Options to be considered are expanding current services, constructing a new facility or establishing a shared facility with an Indigenous element.

Ms Tongs also stated that improvements to the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) to turn it into “the prison it was meant to be, a human rights environment”, might ease the pressure and need for rehabilitation services. She also acknowledged the expansion of the Throughcare Program at AMC to include a dedicated Indigenous stream as part of the initiatives.

Kim Davison, Executive Director of the Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation, echoed Ms Tongs’ comments on consultation, saying “we’re not often listened to and how that drags us down as individuals within the community is something else”.

Ms Davison said she was looking forward to working with the Canberra Liberals on youth issues in the ACT. Gugan Gulwan is also identified in the document for expansion.

Other measures outlined include cultural awareness training for all ACT Health providers, an Indigenous business hub and business support and training, dedicated Indigenous parole officers and a restoration of Boomanulla Oval, among others.

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