This discussion paper outlines a proposal for a new statutory office to strengthen government’s accountability to Aboriginal Western Australians and to advocate for Aboriginal people’s interests in government policy and performance. The office would be independent from the Government of the day, have statutory powers and work with a specific focus on Aboriginal people and the issues that matter to them.
The purpose of the discussion paper is to: • explain why the Western Australian Government thinks there should be an office for advocacy and accountability in Aboriginal affairs, • describe some of its basic features, and • seek feedback about the proposal (page 10).
In June 2018 the Hon Ben Wyatt MLA, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, called on the community to provide feedback on a proposal for a new statutory office to: 1. Strengthen government’s accountability to Aboriginal Western Australians. 2. Advocate for Aboriginal people’s interests in government policy and performance.
The discussion paper explains the Government's reasons for the proposal, describing some basic features the proposed office would have, and seeking public input on the general idea as well as specific elements of the proposal.
The Government also made sweeping changes to the number and structure of government departments. Among the changes was the abolition of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, whose functions were shifted to other State government departments, and establishment of an Aboriginal policy function in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.
Moving Aboriginal policy into a central agency ensures that Aboriginal issues are given the highest priority and embedded in the Government’s core policy agenda.
There remains a gap in the State’s institutional framework – there is no independent entity with the express function of holding Ministers and agencies accountable for improving opportunities for Aboriginal people.
Over the years, many different consultation processes, reviews, and reports, including the Service Priority Review, have consistently shown the government’s contribution to Aboriginal people’s well-being can be improved with: 1. Better coordination across agencies and levels of government 2. Better policy implementation and more customer-focused service delivery 3. Stronger, more systematic engagement with Aboriginal people 4. More effective and coordinated use of data and evaluation
Despite great diversity among Aboriginal people in Western Australia, on average there is a significant gap between the life outcomes of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, in the areas of education, health, and socio-economic well-being. This government believes that greater accountability and advocacy will contribute positively to the kind of political and policy environment needed for lasting change.
Aboriginal people make up a small proportion of the Western Australian and Australian populations. This makes it harder to influence government policy through the electoral system.Other factors that can result in a reduction of Aboriginal people participating in these process are: 1. geographic dispersion across large distances, 2. multiple cultural and political diversity within Aboriginal communities, 3. language and education barriers, 4. being dissuaded from participating in decisionmaking structures or processes that can be perceived as alien or unwelcoming.
This discussion paper proposes the establishment of a new independent office to hold government accountable for policy and performance affecting Aboriginal people, and ensure that the Government understands and responds to the views and interests of Aboriginal people.The paper is asking for the community's suggestions on what would best suit their needs with regards to: 1. Function of the new office. 2. Business of the new office 3. Structure and powers of the new office 4. Name of the new office e.g. “Commissioner for Accountability in Aboriginal Affairs”, “First Nations Voice”, or “Advocate for Aboriginal people” etc. 5. Appointment process
It is anticipated that new funding and supporting legislation will be required, therefore the proposal will be contingent on budgetary and Parliamentary processes.