More bang needed for the indigenous buck says Noel Pearson

31 Mar 2015 12:15 AM - Publication: The Australian - Gina Rushton

A body akin to the Productivity Commission should act as an “objective umpire” to ensure relationships between the federal government and Aboriginal communities were “empowering to the indigenous side”, says Cape York leader Noel Pearson.

Mr Pearson appeared on the ABC’s Lateline program to discuss the Empowered Communities: Empowered Peoples report which lays out a policy reform agenda, endorsed by eight Aboriginal communities, that redefines the role of government in indigenous policy.

“As long as we see the Aboriginal predicament as a kind of service delivery problem, there’s no end to the budgets that we require for Parliament to solve those kind of service delivery needs,” Mr Pearson told the show’s host Emma Alberici.

The “tender concerns” and “anxious desires” for indigenous Australians were not being realised despite costly investment, he said.

The report found that the government spent $30.3bn on services for indigenous people in 2012-2013; $43,449 per Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person.

“We need to get a better bang out of the money that’s going into indigenous Australia,” Mr Pearson said.

Mr Pearson said the united policy would be on an “opt-in basis.”

“The communities and organisations that agree with our reform direction are given the ability to either opt in or stay with the existing default arrangements,” he said.

A third body would act as a middleman or “umpire to sit between” the government and Aboriginal communities, he said.

Ms Alberici asked Mr Pearson whether Aboriginal communities see Prime Minister Tony Abbott as the “Prime Minister for indigenous Affairs” as he vowed to be when elected.

“That was the hope and I still harbour that hope and I think it can be achieved if he recognises the agenda we’ve put forward here,” he said.

“What we’ve proposed is not a comprehensive agenda, but it is a very substantial part of the challenge which is social and economic empowerment.”

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