A leading Noongar legal and human rights expert has renewed calls for an independent statutory office to strengthen accountability to Aboriginal people in Western Australia.

In 2018 ex-Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt sought feedback on a new independent body to advocate for Aboriginal people’s interests in government, but the plans are yet to materialise.

Dr Hannah McGlade said the “promising” discussion paper appeared to have been abandoned.

“This was a proposal for a new statutory office to focus on Aboriginal people and strengthen accountability to Aboriginal people,” she said.

“It is exactly what we need.

“Look at Banksia Hill breaching UN human rights standards, Aboriginal deaths in custody and child protection issues.”

Ms McGlade said the empowerment unit announced in May would lack independence and capacity.

WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti said the discussion paper had been a useful resource to strengthen accountability and advocacy in the Aboriginal Affairs department.

“The paper was published prior to the signing of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap in July 2020, which introduced a range of new accountability mechanisms,” he said.

“These mechanisms include the joint council on Closing the Gap, which brings together ministers and Aboriginal peak organisations, and 17 socio-economic targets which each state and territory needs to report against.”

Mr Buti said government had supported establishment of a consortium of Aboriginal community-controlled sectoral representatives in WA, as raised in the discussion paper.

“A report on progress will be included in the WA Government’s first Closing the Gap Annual Report later this year,” he said.

Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Aboriginal empowerment general manager Victoria Keeping said the department has begun establishing a core Aboriginal Empowerment Initiative team to start the coordination and delivery of activities.

“An important part of this process is engagement with stakeholders across the state, which will inform the work program,” she said.