“It is time to give them that Voice.”

David Harris, NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty

Yet when Aboriginal people in NSW express their concerns to the Minister’s office about the “support” for the 120 Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and Registrar of Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NSW), he doesn’t seem to want to listen.

For instance, the influx of “fly-in consultants” appears to boost their earnings by extending timelines and adding prolongations when “rectifying” LALCs.

This is reminiscent of the allegations levelled against the Big Four consultancy firms.

“The contract ended up costing $4,307,421 – compared with an original contract value of $82,655 – after undergoing 11 changes in the two years to June 2020.”

5000 per cent increase by EY to the ATO, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald

To compound the issue, instead of collaborating with public officials and affluent entities in Canberra, there’s a potential that they are capitalising on the hardships faced by Indigenous communities due to colonisation.

And this shows they might prioritise their personal gains over bridging the inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in NSW.

19 LALCs, including three currently under administration (Stuart Island, Condobolin and Muli Muli) and the four non-operating LALCs, were not in compliance and were unfunded.” – NSWALC Annual Report 2021-2022 Part 1, Page 38

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, David Harris, Aboriginal Affairs NSW
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, David Harris, Aboriginal Affairs NSW

“We know that when Aboriginal people have a direct say on issues that affect them, we get better outcomes.” – Hon. David Harris MP, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty

However, when the Aboriginal community in Gunnedah voiced concerns about Tim Gumbleton, the consultant appointed by the Minister to review the Red Chief Local Aboriginal Land (LALC), the response was less than satisfactory.

Gumbleton’s audit controversially suggested that the Red Chief LALC be placed under administration.

And subsequently, he was granted an additional 6-month tenure as the Administrator for the Red Chief LALC, which would be screaming concerns to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs considering the potential conflict of interests.

Why wouldn’t a consultant recommend an LALC be placed into administration when they are guaranteed another contract and more money from it?

Despite these concerns, the Minister and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs seemed to prioritise the recommendations of a well-compensated non-Indigenous consultant over the genuine concerns of the Aboriginal community in Gunnedah.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, David Harris, Aboriginal Affairs NSW

And while David Harris MP made his remarks prior to the NSW Labor Party’s win, his office, upon assuming power and gaining knowledge of the issues, provided Tim Gumbleton with an additional 3-month contract, given that he couldn’t complete the task within the initial 6 months…

How about this?

Instead of spending heavily on a consultant who travels in and out monthly, why not employ a local from the community to expedite the process?

But then the consultants wouldn’t be paid as much so I guess that wouldn’t work…

“It is time to give them that Voice.” – Hon. David Harris MP, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty

Yes, if only Aboriginal people had a Voice to Parliament…

Conversely, if the government(s) were more receptive and genuinely committed to enacting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations might be bridged.

While opinions will vary, even within Aboriginal communities, progress will be stymied if governments remain complacent and prioritise prevailing sentiments over tangible results. This holds true even if there’s a dedicated Voice to Parliament.

“I will be voting yes at the upcoming referendum and encourage everyone to do the same on 14 October.”

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty, David Harris

Ultimately, if conditions within First Nations communities aren’t advancing, it suggests the state is either heeding the wrong voices or making misguided choices in its efforts to foster Indigenous self-determination and bridge the inequality gaps.

Anyways, we can only hope that the NSW Labor Party’s efforts with the proposed treaty with First Nations in NSW are better than the Federal Labor government’s Voice to Parliament.

If not, hopefully, First Nations can break away from the colonial state and join the United Nations…

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