NIT Editorial

With the Western Australian election happening this weekend, speculation is rising around who will be given the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio.

Should WA Labor win in the predicted landslide, the portfolio will be left vacant by outgoing Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Wyatt.

It’s understood a number of Labor members are vying for the position, and Traditional Owners across the State are concerned the portfolio will not be given the sole focus and devotion it deserves.

Many are worried dual portfolio responsibilities will see competing interests clash, relegating Aboriginal Affairs to the backburner as has happened in the past with pairings such as Treasury and Aboriginal Affairs.

A portfolio valuing State revenue above all, Treasury has no choice but to put all other interests aside in the pursuit of profit. As a result, mob have felt that many State decisions in the past have come at the expense of cultural heritage values.

Among Traditional Owners now, the current consensus is feelings of relegation, disrespect, and a disregard for culture, Country and community.

Should Aboriginal Affairs be paired with the revenue hungry Treasury or a justice system with an Aboriginal prison population of almost 40 per cent, Aboriginal lives will suffer in the same way – if not worse.

It paves the way for a return to the paternalistic thinking of the past, A.O. Neville style. This is something we cannot allow.

Some Ministers in WA already have a chequered past when dealing with mob, representing the police against Aboriginal people.

And now, with an Aboriginal man as the outgoing Minister, it would be an insult to place someone in the position who might wind back any shred of progress WA’s Traditional Owners have seen over the years.

The Aboriginal Affairs portfolio not only deserves a sole focus from a dedicated Minister, but it deserves a fearless and compassionate leader who will back mob and fight relentlessly for better outcomes cross-sector.

By Hannah Cross