National policy forum to progress Indigenous agenda

4 January 2018

ANU will host a major forum in 2018 on national Indigenous policies and governance, taking in the lessons from First Nations around the world and including participation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Federal politicians.

The forum, to be held in Canberra's Old Parliament House in July, will involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders from around Australia as well as experts and representatives from First Nations peoples from other countries.

Co-convenor Professor Mick Dodson AM said the historic event would work to provide solid policy options to help Australia advance Indigenous governance, recognition and policies.

"The forum will consider the lessons learned from other jurisdictions such as New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Scandinavian countries," said Professor Dodson, Director of the ANU National Centre for Indigenous Studies.

"ANU is well placed, not only because we are the national university and this is part of our role, but because we can bring objectivity and academic rigour to these challenging issues."

The forum will include presentations by Aboriginal politicians the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Indigenous Health, the Hon Linda Burney MP, Shadow Minister for Human Services, Senator Patrick Dodson and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy.

Minister Wyatt encouraged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to attend to help inform the political, social and community agenda.

"I congratulate ANU on bringing together Indigenous leaders," Minister Wyatt said.

"What is important is how we become involved in all tiers of government, how we shape our direction and aspirations, how we influence people.

"It is important for our future, it is important for the future of our children, and it is important for our longevity as the world's oldest living culture."

Ms Burney said the forum was a significant opportunity to put a wide range of ideas and collective experience on the table.

"We are going to examine what's important for First Nations," Ms Burney said.

"Issues like agreement-making and treaties, issues about representations to parliament, issues about how we can affect and change the agenda for our people. Issues around recognition, issues around constitutional reform, issues around making sure we have a voice at the tables where decisions are made."

The Forum will build on extensive work already done, including the Report of the Expert Panel on Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution (2012), the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (2015), and the Uluru Statement of the Heart from 2017.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said as the national university, ANU had an obligation to positively contribute to the discussion of national Indigenous policy reform.

"Australia needs to have an important conversation about Australian governance and our First Nations," Professor Schmidt said.

"As Australia's national university, ANU is in a unique position to convene the debate."