I would like to thank Boon Wurrung Elder Aunty Carolyn Briggs and Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Di Kerr for their warm welcome to country.
I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.
Welcome to country is an ancient and significant Indigenous tradition.
Offering safe travel and a warm welcome when treading on the lands of others.
And it is now cemented in Australia’s modern democracy.
The Australian Government has changed the standing orders so after every federal election, the Parliament will be officially welcomed to country.
In celebration and acknowledgement of Australia’s First Peoples and their cultures that we celebrate as the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
I also want to acknowledge the role of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
To Congress members here this morning, I want to say how much I look forward to working with you as the new voice of Indigenous Australia.
This year, in NAIDOC Week we are also acknowledging the contribution made by our First Peoples – we are paying tribute to the ‘Unsung Heroes who are Closing the Gap by Leading Their Way'.
In my job I have the great privilege of meeting many of these unsung heroes.
They don’t usually make the headlines but they deserve to.
Their names might not be well known, the work they do may not be common knowledge but they are heroes in every sense of the word.
People who every day get up and go to work providing services in key areas like health and education; the people on the ground encouraging, supporting and reaching out to people who need a hand.
Quietly, steadily at the grass roots levels they work for change that makes a difference in people’s lives.
People like Nathan Griffiths, who turned to meenah mienne in Launceston – a mentoring program that uses the buddy system to connect Aboriginal artists with vulnerable “buddies” to foster social wellbeing and cultural confidence.
Nathan just walked in the door one day. Program worker Aunty Phyllis says,
“There’s family out there, but he’s alone, and in need of emotional support."
meenah mienne means “my dream”, and Nathan says it has changed his life.
“It’s amazing where I’ve come. I’ve come from living in youth shelters and living on the street to having meenah mienne as a way of really achieving my goal to become an artist.”
To help meenah mienne support more young people like Nathan, I was pleased to provide a $50,000 boost in recognition of their good work.
And today, as part of NAIDOC week I am pleased to announce extra funding of over $1.4 million to boost Indigenous youth projects around the nation, including Victoria.
To reward those hard working, quiet achievers who care deeply about the young people in their community who are facing tough choices.
To support the mums and dads who are doing it tough to provide for their kids and get them a good education.
We also want to help people from children to older Australians, develop skills and strategies to manage their money so they can budget for everyday expenses, deal with unexpected financial costs and save for the future.
Of course this is more difficult in remote areas where financial services are often not as accessible as they are in the city.
This is why organisations like the Traditional Credit Union are so important.
Originally developed by a group of Aboriginal Elders to provide financial services to residents of Arnhem Land communities, this is another service provider which is quietly achieving so much.
Helping Indigenous people living in remote communities achieve the order and stability in their lives that financial independence can bring.
Today I am pleased to announce $14 million over 5 years to the Traditional Credit Union to improve access to financial services and financial literacy in remote communities in the Northern Territory.
This $14 million has been approved from the Aboriginals Benefit Account in the Northern Territory.
This funding will enable the Traditional Credit Union to set up an additional 11 fully functioning branches, which will become self-sustaining by the end of the 5 years.
With this initiative the Traditional Credit Union will train up to 330 Aboriginal people and provide 39 direct ongoing roles within communities. They estimate that over 9000 Aboriginal people in remote communities will have access to banking services as a result.
I’d also like to acknowledge the contribution of the National Australia Bank which is adding $1.25 million to this initiative.
It’s another example of what can be achieved when Indigenous and mainstream businesses work together.
I saw this in action again yesterday at the launch of Leadership Plus – an advanced Indigenous leadership program co-partnered by the Australian Indigenous Learning Centre, the Rio Tinto Foundation and the Telstra Foundation.
Partnerships like this, demonstrating the commitment to work together, are vital across all sectors.
This same commitment is reflected in the Indigenous Land Corporation’s support for the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence in Redfern.
With world-class facilities in sport, education and the arts for up to 5,000 young Indigenous people from around Australia each year.
I was at the opening of the Centre in February this year.
It is difficult to find the words to adequately describe the atmosphere – hope, a great sense of achievement and incredible excitement and pride.
I saw this same achievement and pride when I was in Nguiu on the Tiwi Islands in April.
I met Luke Tipaumantumirri and Florine Tipungwuti who had just bought a house for themselves and their children.
Like any home-buyers they were proud, excited and already planning some renovations.
Linda Pupangamirri is another happy home owner.
“I've lived in this house for the last 10 years,” she said “and I'm really happy that now I can own it.”
Linda works at the pharmacy at the local clinic and is studying to be an Aboriginal health worker. Her loan is one of 15 Indigenous Business Australia loans approved so far for new and existing homes in Nguiu.
'It felt really good to be able to own my house,” she said “I want to leave it to my nieces and nephews when I'm gone.”
Under the leadership of Dawn Casey, Indigenous Business Australia is exploring new directions to extend opportunity for Indigenous home ownership – flexibly and responsively.
Helping people like Kim Hunter who lost her home and everything in it and her car in the terrible Victorian bushfires.
All she had was the clothes she was wearing and a spare change of clothes from her cousin.
Kim wanted to rebuild her house and IBA did absolutely everything it could to back her.
In less than a year, her house has been rebuilt and one of her first non-family visitors was the local IBA manager.
I think this story not only says a lot about lending a hand it also demonstrates a willingness to look at new ways of doing things.
The potential for increased Indigenous home ownership is also being boosted through long-term leasing.
We are working with traditional owners on improving understanding on the benefits of long term leasing.
Senior Mantiyupwi land owner Walter Kerinaiua says traditional owners are seeing wider community benefits since signing a township lease in 2007.
He says, “We have seen more investment in our township, and more opportunities for future economic development recently than in the 30 years since our land rights were recognised.”
I can also announce today that my department will be sponsoring several leadership delegations from remote communities to other remote communities that are benefitting from long-term leasing.
It’s important for community leaders to see for themselves the benefits that come from strong governance and economic development – and to learn from the experiences of others who’ve been down the road of land tenure reform.
All of you here understand the value of hard work, team work and spirit.
It’s what you do day in and day out.
When we do this together, when we pull together as a nation we can achieve great things.
I look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve these great things.
Happy NAIDOC Week!
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