Respectful relationships key to reconciliation

On 27 February 2012, the House of Representatives passed three bills to replace the Northern Territory Emergency Response Act 2007 which is due to expire in August 2012. The Bills will now be debated in the Senate. The

 The Bills propose extending alcohol bans and increase penalties for breaches, strengthening community alcohol management plans and expanding the Improving School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM) to four towns and 18 communities.

Reconciliation Australia supports the overarching intention of the three pieces of legislation under consideration by the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs. However we also believe that the way in which policy is developed and implemented is just as important in moving towards a more reconciled Australia. In particular, we know that stronger relationships, built on shared knowledge and respect, are the basis for successful policies that improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We support the fact that the Commonwealth Government consulted widely with Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory on a discussion paper about what would be part of the new legislation. However we consider that the six-week consultation period was insufficient for people to consider the complex issues raised by the paper and so far the Government has not supported any of the local solutions that were put forward by participants during the consultations.

We hope that this may be announced as part of the 2012-13 Budget. We will also be looking in the Budget for investments in the governance capacity of local Aboriginal organisations and communities so that they can engage in the design and delivery of policies that affect them. In order for Government and communities to work in partnership, the Government too must continue to improve the way it engages and also be willing to support local solutions.

We are cautiously optimistic about the reforms to alcohol management in the Northern Territory which have the potential to support locally-owned solutions but we are concerned that the increased penalties include imprisonment sentences. We do not believe that the SEAM program will be successful in improving school attendance unless it is implemented on the strength of respectful relationships between the school, government representatives and parents. We also know that the SEAM program alone will not address the multiple causes of poor school attendance.

We recommend that the Government supports the development of local Education Management Plans (EMPs) which would provide a formal avenue for schools and communities to drive local solutions.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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