Over the years, NSW has seen a myriad of politicians, mostly non-Indigenous, take on this mantle, and each has brought their own approach and vision, which hasn’t really delivered much for Aboriginal people in NSW, e.g. close the gap targets.
And while it’s challenging to draw direct comparisons with Aboriginal-state managers of yesteryears, there’s an emerging view that David Harris might just be one of the most controversial figures to hold this position under the NSW Labor banner.
But it’s worth noting that the bar hasn’t always been set high.
With the previous Liberal/National Aboriginal Affairs minister left much to be desired regarding effective leadership and tangible results.
However, even with this backdrop, Harris’s tenure hasn’t started off well.
For example, David Harris MP promised an audit and potential crackdown on consultants in Aboriginal Affairs who have been accused of doing the same thing as the Big Four consulting firms, potentially extending contracts just to profiteer.
But since being in office, he hasn’t done anything in relation to cracking down on consultants in the Aboriginal Affairs space…
On the contrary, he’s been extending their contracts.
Take for example, the following story I wrote earlier this year:
So not only did the consultant not have an event policy to allow Aboriginal members to run events for the community, but almost at the end of his 6 months, he still hadn’t achieved his primary goal for being appointed as administrator, which was to hire a new CEO and onboard new board members.
Hiring a new CEO and onboarding new board members doesn’t take 6 months… a consultant who knows what they’re doing could get it done within a month.
But instead of criticising the lack of progress, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs David Harris gave him a slap on the back and extended the contract for an extra 3 months… so 9 months in total at $13,500 per month.
David Harris, the worst Minister for Aboriginal Affairs?
In the realm of Indigenous politics, many promises are made with the expectation of delivery.
But for the Aboriginal community of NSW, these promises are not just about political gains but about the very essence of their lives, culture, and future. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, David Harris had a golden opportunity to make a difference, set a new standard, and genuinely serve the community he vowed to represent…
Yet, as the evidence suggests, Harris’s tenure has already been marked by a series of missteps and unfulfilled promises.
And the issue of consultants in Aboriginal Affairs is just one glaring example of his inability to follow through on his commitments. The extension of contracts, especially in the face of evident inefficiency, raises serious questions about his judgment and priorities.
While it’s true that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs role is challenging, with a history of predecessors who have also fallen short, it’s essential to hold our leaders accountable.
Because the Aboriginal community deserves leaders who make promises and work diligently to fulfil them…. and leaders who understand the gravity of their position and the impact of their decisions.
In the end, whether David Harris will go down in history as the worst Minister for Aboriginal Affairs under the NSW Labor banner remains to be seen.
But what’s clear is that his current trajectory is not promising.
And the Aboriginal community of NSW deserves better, and it’s high time their voices are heard, their concerns addressed, and their futures prioritized.