This report is the culmination of 18 months of engagement and design work by Indigenous leaders, communities and organisations across the eight Empowered Communities regions. In it, we propose a range of reforms that build on decades of effort by Indigenous peoples to reclaim control in driving our own priorities for development.
There needs to be a fundamental shift away from the traditional social policy framework in which Indigenous affairs has been conducted, to a comprehensive Indigenous Empowerment agenda.
We seek formal agreement to a 10-year Indigenous Empowerment policy framework. Empowerment, in our meaning, has two aspects. It means Indigenous people empowering ourselves by taking all appropriate and necessary powers and responsibilities for our own lives and futures. It also means Commonwealth, state and territory governments sharing, and in some cases relinquishing, certain powers and responsibilities, and supporting Indigenous people with resources and capability building.
The principle of subsidiarity—that authority to decide and act should rest at the closest level possible to the people or organisations the decision or action is designed to serve—is an important element in our concept of Indigenous Empowerment. Together with Indigenous self-determination and the mutual rights and responsibilities shared between Indigenous people and governments, it is at the heart of our Indigenous Empowerment reforms.
Our Indigenous Empowerment framework is based on the premise that Indigenous Australians have a right to development, which includes our economic, social and cultural development as families, individuals and communities and as Indigenous peoples. It recognises the primacy of the local nature of peoples and places, and is aimed at the empowerment of the families and individuals connected to those peoples and places. We recommend national and regional institutions only to support an enabling framework for place-based development agendas. There are two parts to our development goal. They are each of equal importance, and are to be pursued concurrently and constantly tested to determine whether we are most productively using available resources and opportunities.
First, our goal is to close the gap on the social and economic disadvantage of the Indigenous Australians of the Empowered Communities regions. Second, we aim to enable the cultural recognition and determination of Indigenous Australians of the Empowered Communities regions so that we can preserve, maintain, renew and adapt our cultural and linguistic heritage and transmit our heritage to future generations.