Not fit for modern Australian society: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the new arrangements for the administration of Indigenous affairs

Kerry Arabena

Dec, 2005
Product type: 
Discussion paper
Volume number: 

In the discussions about the Shared Responsibility Agreement (SRA) negotiated with the Mulan community, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma stated that:

It would be unacceptable for Indigenous people to be denied basic citizenship services that all Australians take for granted...any proposals must comply fully with the Racial Discrimination Act and the principle of non-discrimination more generally. Proposals which fail to do so should be rejected outright as morally repugnant and not fit for modern Australian society.

Jackie Huggins made an argument to the Senate that there is a need to reflect on, and analyse the new approaches to Indigenous affairs, and our responses to them. Jackie also suggests that:

Change is fine – as long as it makes sense and isn’t change for the sake of it or even worse change for purely political reasons that bear little relevance to the daily lives of my people.

The complexities of the new arrangements are difficult to communicate in their entirety, however, we need to consider the impact of the new arrangements because, as the then ATSIC Commissioner Alison Anderson has forewarned us all:

The potentially destructive impact of the move away from self-determination to mainstreaming will be seen in the immediate future. Our concern is that once again we will be experimented on and that, in another five to ten years time, we will be back to discuss what went wrong.

This paper then, is one Indigenous woman’s reflection and analysis of the first twelve months in the new arrangements in the administration of Indigenous affairs.

Last reviewed: 21 Jul 2017