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First Nations peoples critical to developing northern Australia

11 December 2017

Joint media release with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion

The voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the development of Northern Australia has been further strengthened through the establishment of a reference group made up of senior Indigenous leaders from across the nation’s north.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, said the Indigenous Reference Group would ensure the northern development agenda was inclusive of Indigenous interests and provides tangible benefits for Indigenous land owners, workers and businesses.  

“Our Government takes northern Australia seriously. I’m proud to live in Northern Australia and I regularly visit the towns and communities across all parts of this expansive region,” Minister Canavan said.

“The establishment of the Indigenous Reference Group is an opportunity to match up Indigenous policy outcomes within the broader strategy to bring new jobs and new investments to the North.”

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, said the Coalition Government has established the Indigenous Reference Group as part of its commitment to ensuring First Nations voices are front and centre of our ambitious agenda to develop Northern Australia.

“Indigenous land is a significant proportion of Northern Australia and the Coalition Government recognises that Indigenous Australians must have a seat at the table and have the opportunity to pursue development that they want on their land if we are to realise the potential of our North,” Minister Scullion said.

“The opportunities we are hoping to pursue in Northern Australia are enormous, especially for First Australians. That is why it’s so critical that we work with Indigenous communities as we look at how we develop the North so everybody benefits from the potential opportunities before us.”

Indigenous Reference Group appointee Dr Donna Odegaard (Northern Territory) said members of the group wanted to grow the capability of communities and businesses, with many having their own successes which others can learn from.

Fellow appointee Peter Yu (Western Australia) said Indigenous representatives would embrace the challenge to investigate and explore the development of policies to drive critical growth and capacity development amongst Aboriginal and the wider northern communities.

The group is currently developing actions to advance the Indigenous business sector, grow the capability of Indigenous land owners to engage in development and support Indigenous innovation in northern Australia.

The Indigenous Reference Group has met to discuss future propositions to enhance Indigenous benefit and participation in the North.

The group will be attending the next Ministerial Forum on Northern Development that will be held early in 2018 to further these northern development discussions.

The Indigenous Reference Group appointees are:

  • Mr Lawford Benning, Chair, MG Corp and CEO, Gelganyem Trust

  • Mr Peter Yu, CEO, Nyamba Buru Yawuru

  • Dr Donna Odegaard, CEO of Aboriginal Broadcasting Australia

  • Mr Joe Morrison, CEO, Northern Land Council

  • Cr Vonda Malone, Mayor of the Torres Shire Council

  • Mr Colin Saltmere, Associate Professor at the Aboriginal Environments Research Centre at the University of Queensland

  • Ms Fiona Jose, Executive General Manager, Cape York Partnership

  • Mr Nigel Browne, CEO, Larrakia Development Corporation and member of the Northern Australia Advisory Council.

Media contact: Minister Canavan's office 02 6277 7180