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National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples officially unveiled

Posted on: 4 May, 2010
Issue: Vol 10 No 2, April 2010 - June 2010
Related to Justice Policies

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples has officially begun its to operations. For the first time since the abolishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 2005, this body will enable effective national representation of Australia’s First Peoples. An independent steering committee, chaired by former Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma, has finished the development phase and selected the eight board directors. These are :

  • Sam Jeffries (co-chair), from the Murrawari nation from north-west New South Wales and southern Queensland, born and raised in Brewarrina, New South Wales
  • Kerry Arabena (co-chair), a descendant of the Meriam people of the Torres Strait
  • Josephine Bourne, a mainland Torres Strait Islander woman born in Townsville, Queensland, with ancestors from the Mabuiag, Murray and Moa (Kubin) Islands in the Torres Strait
  • Peter Buckskin, a Narungga man from the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia
  • Ned David, a Torres Strait Islander man linked to the Komet tribe of Mer (Murray Island) and the Tudulaig of the Kulkalgal nation (Central Islands of the Torres Strait)
  • Colleen Hayward, a senior Aboriginal woman of the Noongar nation in the south-west of Western Australia
  • Klynton Wanganeen, a descendant of the Narungga and Ngarrindjeri nations in South Australia
  • Daphne Yarram, a Noongar woman, born at Gnowangerup on an Aboriginal mission in South West Western Australia, now living in Victoria.

The Congress was developed through consultation and submissions to a Steering Committee, auspiced by the Australian Human Rights Commission. As a result the Congress will be guided by values including sustainability, integrity, merit-based selection, independence from government, accountability, openness and transparency.

An ethics council has been responsible for developing standards for the Congress since January 2010, and will continue to provide independent advice on standards and guidelines for the Congress. Members of the ethics council are: Mr Tom Calma, Ms Megan Davis (Co-Chair), Mr Wesley Enoch, Ms Mary Graham, Ms Nalwarri Ngurruwutthun and Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney (Co-Chair).

The creation of the body was recommended in a report handed down to the Government by former Aboriginal social justice commissioner Tom Calma, and will be made up of 120 people who will be elected by Indigenous Australians.

Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda urges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, industry, governments and the public to commit to working in partnership and respect with the National Congress to improve human rights.

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