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New indigenous body announced

A two-year wait will come to an end shortly with the establishment of a new national representative body for indigenous Australians, the government has announced.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been without a representative body since January 2008 when the Rudd government abolished the hand-picked National Indigenous Council, established by its predecessor in 2004.

The new body will be a company limited by guarantee and will consist of a national executive made up of eight board members, including two full-time co-chairs.

Decisions to be made by 120 indigenous delegates

Labor this time is not going down the popularly-elected track it adopted in 1987 with the establishment of ATSIC.

The decision will be left to an annual congress and 120 delegates representing indigenous organisations and communities.

Senior and respected indigenous Australians will oversee the integrity and ethics of office holders and candidates as part of a new ethics council.

Body to focus on ‘forging relationships’

Initially, the new body will focus on forging strong relationships with peak bodies, governments, regions and the private sector, federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said.

The government will provide $6 million initially to help establish the body and an additional $23.2 million for operational costs from January 2011 to December 2013.

The new body will need to demonstrate funding is used responsibly in order to hold partisan support in Canberra, and will also be required to broaden its financial support from across other sectors.

According to Mackling, indigenous people had indicated they wanted to be represented by a body that was credible and capable of leading, influencing and monitoring public policy development.

“Indigenous Australians must have a voice if we are to achieve change,” she said.

Both sides of politics have struggled with separate representation for indigenous Australians.

Labor established ATSIC, the Howard government abolished it in 2004 and replaced it with the National Indigenous Council.