A plan to transform policymaking on issues affecting Indigenous Australianswas announced on Wednesday, with the move receiving backing from both main political parties.
An “empowered communities group”, which will unite a number of prominent Indigenous Australians from communities in six states and territories and will be led by the Indigenous leader and director of the Cape York Institute Noel Pearson, seeks to “redefine the interface between Indigenous people and all levels of government”.
The group has received a pledge of $5m from both the Labor party and Coalition to develop the taskforce.
In a statement to the press, Pearson said: “Our most compelling challenge is that our 3% presence in the Australian democracy is a large part of our inability to get democracy and government to work with and for us.”
He added: “We can no longer rely on solutions that arise because sometimes we’re able to exercise political leverage to do some good – there are too many issues that require solutions. The Indigenous people in organisations on the ground need government to work with us and for us as a matter of course.” The group, which includes other high-profile leaders including Marcia Langton and Galarrwuy Yunupingu, would aim to set up “regional or place-based negotiation tables” to be used by Indigenous leaders and governments with an aim of encouraging Indigenous responsibility in key areas of public policy to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Speaking at the event’s launch in Sydney, the Coalition leader, Tony Abbott, said Pearson was “very possibly a prophet for our time”.
The new group has also received support from business leaders. In a statement, Tony Shepherd, the president of the Business Council of Australia, described the initiative as a “breakthrough that will improve policy reform implementation, productivity and effectiveness for Indigenous people”.
“We support the role in this plan for corporate Australia to work with government, NGOs and Indigenous leaders to help improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians,” he said.