The ‘muddled narrative’ of indigenous affairs reform

Mike Gooda is worried the centralisation of Aboriginal policy in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has set back work. A report from the government’s commissioner is sobering.

The uncertainty created by Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s takeover of indigenous affairs has Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner Mick Gooda “deeply worried”, but he sees some steps in the right direction.

Reviewing the past year in his annual Social Justice and Native Title Report, Gooda (pictured) says the transfer of responsibility for 26 programs from eight federal agencies to the Prime Minister’s Department has caused “immense anxiety” among indigenous Australians.

The drastic machinery-of-government changes have brought about 2000 new employees into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, along with responsibility for over 150 separate initiatives and services, some 3000 funding contracts and relationships with about 1440 organisations. According to Gooda:

“It will take time to build the administrative systems, acclimatise staff in the new structure within PM&C, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, already cynical and fatigued by change, to have confidence in the competence of those implementing these new arrangements.

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