I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which I am recording this message, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders – past and present.
I extend this acknowledgement and respect to all First Nations people at the Summit today.
I’m proud to be part of a Government that is committed to delivering a Voice to Parliament for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
I would like to acknowledge and thank the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Ms June Oscar AO, for inviting me to speak with you today.
This Summit is the first of its kind, bringing First Nations women together with the guiding theme: We are the change; We are connected; We are the future; We innovate.
That message is a truly important one for all of us to hear.
It is this principle which is driving our Government’s commitment to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.
But also, through our steadfast commitment to working with First Nations communities and supporting local place-based decisions that are made by individual communities.
It’s about ensuring there is shared decision making in the national strategies that affect First Nations people, and working together for a better future for all Australians.
I hope that over the two days of the Summit so far, you have had the opportunity to explore initiatives and come up with innovative ideas across the four major topic areas of Wiyi Yani U Thangani leadership; language, country and culture, healing and societal wellbeing, and economic justice.
I hope it provides a chance to celebrate the remarkable work and lives of First Nations women and girls and to reflect on – and affirm – their unique rights, interests, strengths, and aspirations.
You will already know firsthand the invaluable contributions that First Nations women and girls are making nationally. So often it is women and girls caring for family and community, through unpaid and unrecognised work.
Despite this, the voices of First Nations women and girls are not being heard and not being effectively incorporated into the policies which affect their lives.
I can say how very important it is that governments hear the voices of First Nations women and girls – as we will through this summit.
It is critical that we develop government policy and programs which build on a foundation of evidence that has come from First Nations voices, knowledge, work, and research.
Already the work of the Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) project has influenced a number of key national strategies, and the potential to influence the work ahead, along with other First Nations groups and advisors, is significant.
The National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-32, launched last year by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments, is evidence of this.
The plan provides the foundations for a whole-of-society approach to ending gender-based violence in one generation. Importantly, it also re-affirmed the Albanese Government’s commitment to develop the first-ever standalone First Nations National Plan for Family Safety.
The standalone National Plan will be led by First Nations people and will explore solutions linked to the principles of truth telling and self-determination, which were key recommendations of the online Women’s Safety Policy Forum convened by the Women’s Voices Project in September 2022.
I was pleased to attend the Forum last year and I want to thank everyone who took the time to participate.
In addition to the standalone National Plan, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council on family, domestic and sexual violence is leading the development of a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan under the National Plan, to guide immediate investment now.
The Advisory Council is working in true partnership with my department and local communities to conduct nation-wide community consultations to inform the development of the Action Plan.
Consultation will build on the insights from the Wiyi Yani U Thangani report, and will be critical to ensure that the First Nations National Plan reflects the needs and priorities of First Nations peoples in all their diversity.
The work of the Women’s Voices project has also informed Safe and Supported.
The increasing rate of First Nations children in out of home care is unacceptable. Safe and Supported is the key national initiative to achieving Target 12 under Closing the Gap – to by 2031 reduce the rate of over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 45 per cent.
Wiyi Yani U Thangani makes it very clear that it is time for governments to listen to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls and work together in designing and implementing solutions.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan under Safe and Supported was developed with the Commonwealth, state and territory governments and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group along with SNAICC.
One of the principles of the Action Plan is to listen and respond to the voices and views of children and young people, and the views of those who care for them.
Similarly, our Early Years Strategy, to shape a vision for the future of Australia’s children and their families and to deliver the best possible outcomes for Australian children, will be informed by listening and responding to a range of voices, including First Nations voices.
The Strategy will build on the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Childhood Strategy and its vision that “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (0-5) are born healthy and remain strong, nurtured by strong families and thrive in their early years”.
I understand that the theme of today, the final day of the Summit, is ‘we innovate’. The opportunities for innovation are not limited to the national strategies which I’ve just outlined.
It’s also critical that we apply a local lens to government decision making and ensure that local communities are involved in the design of solutions for their communities.
In closing, I’d encourage you all to please seize the opportunity over the last day of the Summit for collaboration and co-design. I know that commitment will continue long after this Summit has ended.
I look forward to hearing the outcomes from the Summit and to working with you in the future.