Minister Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Women, Minister for Sport and Recreation, Minister for Disability Services and Community Development

Reports of Estimates Committees
4 July, 2018

Mrs PETRUSMA – The budget Estimates showed that in my portfolios of Aboriginal Affairs, Women, Sport and Recreation, Disability Services and Community Development, we have a great deal to be proud of in these areas.

Building on the gains we have made so far, the Hodgman Government is committed to continuing the reset of our relationship with the Tasmanian Aboriginal people.  During Estimates I was asked to provide an update on our 2017-18 key activities on our resetting the relationship with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community, which I will now provide to the House as well as to table.  Keeping in mind that this document is provided on an annual basis and it is the 2017-18 update and 30 June was only four days ago, I thank the department in being able to provide this update.There have been a couple of comments in regard to funding.  I want to note that across the forward Estimates $20 million is provided in regard to all programs and services for Aboriginal Tasmanians.  In regard to resetting the relationship with the Aboriginal community, key priority 1 is a new approach to Aboriginal eligibility.  A new approach to eligibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people-specific programs and services commenced on 1 July 2016.  All Tasmanian government agencies are working collaboratively to ensure a streamlined approach for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Tasmania when accessing programs and services.

This work has included several operational improvements such as the introduction of agency guidelines, introduction of a more user-friendly eligibility form, changes to acceptable forms of communal recognition and the expansion of organisations that may provide communal recognition, and all relevant agencies are now accessing and using the Aboriginal Eligibility Register from early January 2018.

In regard to key priority 2, focus on Tasmanian Aboriginal history and culture in the delivery of the Australian curriculum, the Department of Education is leading the development of the Tasmanian Aboriginal histories and cultures framework.  The framework is underpinned by an online multimedia platform which will provide teachers with a bank of resources to deliver Aboriginal histories and cultures in Tasmania’s classrooms.

This multimedia platform is known as the Orb and is a culturally safe resource that features Aboriginal voices sharing knowledge of people, community, identity, living culture, country and place.  An official launch of the Orb is scheduled for mid-August 2018.  Additional teaching resources for delivering the Tasmanian Aboriginal histories and cultures framework have also been developed and include classroom videos, a teaching and learning guide and a framework for culturally responsive practice.  The multimedia curriculum resources, specifically ochre, stone, tools, muttonbirding and fibres, will also be released when the website is launched.

In regard to key priority 3, constitutional recognition of Tasmanian Aboriginal people, an historic amendment to Tasmania’s constitution to recognise Tasmanian Aboriginal people received royal assent on 15 December 2016.  This involved recognition of the first Tasmanians and has also been consolidated by practical support for the Reconciliation Council of Tasmania.  Now called Reconciliation Tasmania, the council was supported by the Tasmanian Government in its establishment in August 2017.  Reconciliation Tasmania is working to bring Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Tasmanians together in the spirit of reconciliation.

Key priority 4 is to explore joint land management arrangements and to review the current land return model.  The review of the land return model was commenced in May 2017, however the release of the discussion paper to guide community consultations was put on hold in early 2018 on the advice of the Tasmania Electoral Commissioner until the conclusion of the 2017-18 Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, or ALCT, elections.

During this process, the department of Premier and Cabinet has still continued to progress the review work, including a jurisdictional analysis on land return and management models in other jurisdictions.  With the ALCT elections concluding on 30 June 2018 the discussion paper is now intended for public release by September 2018.

The Tasmanian Government is also continuing to progress Aboriginal joint management of reserved lands in Tasmania.  A key objective of this work is close collaboration with Aboriginal Tasmanians to ensure their ancestral knowledge and past and current cultural practices are integral to informing the contemporary management of the Tasmanian landscape.  The Aboriginal Heritage Council also plays a key advisory role in this work.

We are also committed to exploring joint land management arrangements in parallel with the land return process.  We will ensure full consultation with all stakeholders on any possible changes to land return process as we fully accept that a connection to country, land and sea is a most fundamental pillar of Aboriginal identity.  This Government also believes that land return and joint land management options are an important step in the reconciliation process, as well as for creating economic, tourism and employment opportunities for Aboriginal Tasmanians.

As part of this priority area working on country, Aboriginal trainee rangers are now working for the Parks and Wildlife Service and are undertaking six-monthly placements within Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania.  The trainees are acquiring the technical skills required to identify and record Aboriginal heritage sites and to more fully participate in the joint management of reserves.

Key priority area 5 is Closing the Gap.  The Government is continuing to invest in activities that support COAG’s Closing the Gap agenda, including the following projects.  The Aboriginal Family Safety initiative with family safety workers employed at the Bridgewater, Ravenswood and Burnie child and family centres is delivering support to Aboriginal families, including referrals to specialist services.  The initiative will also see the delivery of a pre-employment training program in southern Tasmania that will equip participants with skills to gain employment in Human Services.

There is also the Aboriginal Employment Strategy for the Tasmanian State Service which is currently being finalised by the State Service Management Office and will be released later this year.  The strategy will support improved recruitment and retention practices, including raising cultural competence across the service and working in partnership with the Aboriginal community to identify stronger pathways for young people to engage with employment opportunities.

An indigenous or Aboriginal procurement policy is also being finalised that will take the distinctive nature of the Tasmanian economy into account and drive stronger awareness by suppliers of local benefits, including Aboriginal employment and community engagement, when tendering for government businesses.  This policy is important because our reset agenda includes ensuring that more Tasmanian Aboriginal people benefit from and share in our booming economy.

Following the lead of the Australian Government with the indigenous procurement policy, the Government is exploring options for a policy that will bring us into line with other jurisdictions and which is appropriate for the Tasmanian environment.  We want a policy that will drive real outcomes for Tasmanian Aboriginal people and improve economic opportunities for businesses and for individuals.

In 2017-18 the Tasmanian Government also provided further financial support to the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania for the wukalina cultural walk from Mt William National Park to Eddystone Point.  This signature tourism experience has completed its first season, showcasing the cultural natural values of north-eastern Tasmania and is delivering strong benefits to the Tasmanian tourism sector and pathways to employment for Aboriginal people in the areas of hospitality, guiding, heritage and land management.  The project also reflects the aspirations of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community to develop the cultural tourism sector in recognition of the community’s traditional and continuing custodianship of Tasmania.

Additional activities undertaken in 2017-18 included development of an issues paper on the review of the Aboriginal and dual naming policy.  The consultation and stakeholder feedback report is now available and the review is currently progressing to a second round of targeted consultation.  One of the fundamental commitments of the Hodgman Government in this term of parliament is to complete this review of the Aboriginal dual naming policy.  The further round of stakeholder consultations will form the basis of the final recommendations to be put forward to me and the minister, Ms Courtney.

We also commence the new amendments to the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1975.  The rich Aboriginal history of Tasmania stretches back more than 40 000 years and our Government is aware of the role we play in partnership with the Aboriginal people in recognising the significance of this heritage and ensure that measures are in place to value its significance and to protect it.  During our first term the Government will work with the Aboriginal community to introduce several significant amendments to the Aboriginal Relics Act 1975.  The 1975 act is an unfortunate example of exactly how Aboriginal people, their culture and their history has been treated for far too long in this state.  The change of name to the Aboriginal Heritage Act, removal of the offensive cut-off date for the creation of Aboriginal heritage and a significant increase in penalties for unlawful interference or damage to Aboriginal heritage were important first steps in Tasmania as a whole moving forward by seeking to reduce wilful, reckless or negligent impacts on Tasmania’s Aboriginal heritage.

The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1975 provides for statutory guidelines to encourage people to exercise due diligence in minimising the risk of impacting Aboriginal heritage.  Under the act, a statutory Aboriginal Heritage Council has been established to provide advice to myself as minister in this important area.  To support the amendments, Aboriginal heritage standards and procedures were developed to assist proponents to navigate the Aboriginal heritage assessment processes.  Two new facilities, the Aboriginal Heritage Property Search website and the Dial Before You Dig referral service, have been established.  These provide the first step for land managers and developers to determine whether there is a need to seek further advice about the presence of Aboriginal relics in an area.

Increased Aboriginal heritage awareness presentations to key stakeholders has also been undertaken as part of raising awareness across all sectors in the community.  Supporting the work in this area is a dedicated branch of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment – or DPIPWE – in Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania.  Within Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania, the cultural management group is responsible for the delivery of the key desired outcomes of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area – TWWHA – Management Plan 2016.  Major achievements include the assessment of Aboriginal Cultural Values Project, which is a multi-year project commissioned by DPIPWE.  This project aims to fulfil the Tasmanian and Australian government’s commitments to provide the World Heritage Committee with more detailed information on the Aboriginal cultural values of the TWWHA and their relationship to its outstanding universal values.

Two components of this project have been completed, resulting in the Aboriginal Heritage of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area literature review and synthesis report and a detailed plan for a comprehensive cultural assessment of the TWWHA.  The final component of this project, the cultural values assessment of the 2013 extension of the TWWHA project, is scheduled for completion in December this year.

As Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Women, I am delighted that this week’s NAIDOC theme recognises and celebrates the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have made and continue to make to their communities, families and our history.  NAIDOC Week is the week for all Australians to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and is a great opportunity to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

This year’s theme, Because of Her We Can, acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are pillars of our society.  They have played, and continue to play, active and significant roles in the community, local, state and national levels as leaders, trailblazers, politicians, activists and social change advocates.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women continue to influence as doctors, lawyers, teachers, electricians, chefs, nurses, architects, rangers, emergency and defence personnel, writers, volunteers, chief executive officers, actors, singers, song writers, journalists, entrepreneurs, media personalities, board members, accountants, academics, sporting icons and Olympians.  The list goes on.

For over 40 000 years in Tasmania, Aboriginal women have carried their dreaming stories, songlines, languages and knowledge that have kept their cultures strong and enriched us as the oldest continuing culture on the planet.  The Tasmanian Aboriginal Community celebrates NAIDOC Week through numerous community activities and events around the state.  Events include flag raisings, arts exhibitions, community lunches, cultural activities and on country excursions to recognise, thank, congratulate and acknowledge our outstanding Tasmanian Aboriginal women and girls for their invaluable contributions and achievements that they have made and continue to make.

This includes young women like Mackenzie Adams, Melissa Smith and Amelia Tulip, who were acknowledged today by being the successful recipients of the 2018 Ida West Aboriginal Health Scholarships, which are an ongoing tribute to the life and work of Aunty Ida West, a respected Aboriginal Elder who made a significant contribution to social justice and reconciliation in both Tasmania and at a national level during her lifetime.

We are seeing some progress but I know Aboriginal women still face additional barriers and the Hodgman Liberal Government will continue to work hard so Aboriginal women have equal opportunity to participate in, and contribute to, Tasmania’s social, political, economic and cultural life through an increase in Aboriginal women’s representation in the State Service through the Aboriginal employment strategy.

We know Aboriginal women are between two and five times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to experience some form of family violence as victims or as offenders.  When children are exposed to family violence it can be very detrimental to their emotional, psychological and social development and can affect their ability to form healthy relationships.  This is why we are funding culturally appropriate services for Aboriginal women and children affected by family violence through the Aboriginal Family Safe initiative which I briefly mentioned earlier which is an action under our nation leading Safe Homes, Safe Families plan.

Due to the Hodgman Government’s more inclusive approach to eligibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs and services, more Aboriginal women can now access this vital service and get the help and support they need during such a challenging time in their life.  This initiative aims to deliver stronger pathways for Aboriginal women affected by or experiencing family violence to supports including the Family Violence Counselling Support Service.

To help benefit more in the Aboriginal community, our initiative has resulted in more employment for Tasmanian Aboriginals within the State Service with the creation of three identified positions for Aboriginal family safety workers.  The positions commenced in July 2017 and have supported nearly 500 Aboriginal parents and children.  Their roles are to act as conduits between Aboriginal community organisations and child and family centres to ensure Aboriginal women and children who are affected by, or are experiencing, family violence are supported as they navigate the service system, including the Child Safety Service, Safe at Home and the Safe Families Coordination Unit.

Our Government has been working in partnership with the Aboriginal community to achieve and deliver these outcomes.  However, we recognise there is a lot more to be done.  To this end, I would like to express my deep appreciate and thanks to all the members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal communities for their time and patience in answering my endless questions and who continue to work with us and to entrust our Government to work in partnership with them in ensuring we do reset the relationship.

The Hodgman Liberal Government has a vision for a more inclusive Tasmania and our recently launched Tasmanian Women’s Strategy 2018 to 2021 is a critical step in this process, especially in leadership and participation.

In the State Service the heads of departments have established a goal to achieve gender equity in the senior executive with a target of at least 40 per cent of senior executives to be women by 2020.  As at March 2018, I am delighted to report women make up approximately 39.19 per cent or 58 of the 148 senior executive service officers.  This is an increase of nearly 10 per cent from 2014.  In 2013-14, women comprised 30 per cent of senior executive staff in the Tasmanian State Service, 34 per cent in 2015-16 and 36.91 per cent in 2016-17 and are now 39.19 per cent at March 2018.

Likewise, I am delighted to say women’s representation on all government boards and committees has increased from 33 per cent in July 2015 to 41.1 per cent in June 2018.  As of 6 June 2018, 53 per cent of government business enterprise directors are women and 43 per cent of state-owned company directors are women.  These figures represent a significant increase in the number of positions held by women since the Liberal Government was elected in 2014.  The Government will continue to move towards a target of 50 per cent representation of women on government boards and committees by July 2020.

In regard to women and girls, the increased funding to Cricket Tasmania is a commitment that I am extremely proud of.  Over 2018-19 we will provide $800 000 to Cricket Tasmania and this funding is due recognition of the effort Cricket Tasmania have put in to rebranding their women’s high performance program under the Tigers’ banner.  With the two teams, one club culture, Cricket Tasmania is now striving to implement cricket for all Tasmanians no matter what their gender.  Funding for increased participation for women and girls in both AFL and cricket is the major objective under our Levelling the Playing Field program to upgrade new women’s sports facilities with the expressions of interest stage of this program now closed.  I thank everyone who applied for this EOI process and we look forward to confirming successful applicants for stage 2 in the near future.

In April this year the Hodgman Government made a $75 000 commitment to Hockey Tasmania in order to secure Tasmania’s place in the AHL for the coming season.  We are delighted that we have been able to support the Tigers and Van Demons for the coming season.  We are also excited that through our support of hockey we have been able to secure Hobart as one of three host cities along with Sydney and Melbourne for next year’s debut of the Hockey Pro‑League.  Tasmanians will have the opportunity to see Australia’s men’s and women’s team play Pakistan, Germany and China thanks to this Government’s support of hockey.