Subjects: Redfern Statement, Indigenous Caucus, WA Election, Koori Courts


LOLA FORESTER: Senator Dodson, hey welcome to the program, a deadly Yawuru man.

DODSON: Good to talk to you Lola as always and hello to all your listeners.

FORESTER: How are you fitting in there now that you’re in the government now, you’ve always been there up against the government and now you’re sitting on the opposite side. What’s the feeling like since you’ve been in there?

DODSON: Well it’s a funny experience you sit there and you hear the arguments and the conversations and then you see a flurry go on outside the chamber and you wonder what that is then you come back and there’s a different deal done and the argument stops, so it’s a bit like being at the bus stop, sometimes catching the bus, other times the bus goes past, but it’s a very interesting place the Senate and when you realise you’re actually making law – your decisions, whether you’re for a Bill or against it, is in part making the laws that run the country, so it chastens you a bit.

FORESTER: Do you think the Redfern Statement will be an effective statement even though it probably has everything there that I say goes back to 1938?

DODSON: Yes, well it has got that element to it and you can’t do everything. Obviously people have got to realise that it’s about public sector management or how do we manage that in order to get the best outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and how do they get advantage from those public sector outlays in order to improve their social conditions and have proper defences for their legal rights, and have proper living conditions, and education opportunities, as well as employment and training and business opportunities. It’s a Statement that now needs to be backed up by the workshops that the Minister has promised to engage in, and by taking on a new approach to actually bring in the Aboriginal organisations for the delivery and strategy that needs to be undertaken, not only to close the gap but to deal with many other challenges that Indigenous communities face. So, subject to the Minister’s commitment to pursue a new path with those organisations, to involve them more in the framework to help set the budget parameters and to try and clarify the priorities within that, if he actually engages in that, it could be a very good thing because it allows the people to have a say in how the government of the day goes about setting its budget and setting the priorities with clear Indigenous input into it and obviously then engaging the organisations  in the delivery of those strategies or those outlays so they can get the better outcomes.

FORESTER: They talk about five workshops. How many more talks do we need to have when we haven’t done the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody? You stood up strong in Melbourne at the Reconciliation Convention. We’ve had so many different meetings and now we’ve got the Referendum Committees moving around the country. Why do we need all these meetings when everything is down on paper already that needs to be implemented?

DODSON: I think because people don’t read the stuff and the corporate memory is pretty selective sometimes in the public sector. Remember this Redfern Statement has come in the wake of a huge reform where they moved all those programs into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, they created this thing called the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and they allocated a certain amount of dough into that, and they crunched 120 programs into 5, so there’s a whole lot of chaos that arose from that and the Australian National Audit Office was scathing about that activity. They cut $500-million off the allocation that the organisations were hoping would assist them in their various tasks. So it came with an internal revolution within the public sector, a whole lot of people came in with not with any great background or expertise about Aboriginal people, it also cut out many Aboriginal organisations from the delivery of the services that they’d been doing prior to the change the Government made, so I think the Government’s realised some of its fault and folly and is now trying to re-engage with Aboriginal Organisations about the better way to improve the delivery of the services and get the better value for the dollar. Those discussions go on all the time and fortunately we know that the message clearly from the organisations who delivered the statement to the Prime Minister and Bill (Leader of the Opposition) – they said we know what do, just give us the opportunity to be part of the process, that’s really what they’ve said.

FORESTER: OK then Pat we’ve got all you Senators now, we’ve got you and Malarndirri, we’ve got Linda Burney, you two in the Senate, Linda’s in the lower house and we’ve got Ken Wyatt over there in the Liberal Party, do you think this is really going to make a difference and all of you be able to push through because you’ve all been around for a long time and know the issues – that’s probably the incredible thing with Aboriginal people, it’s not just one knowledge we have, it’s right across the board because everything is holistic. Do you think you can make a change and get them to listen to the members?

DODSON: I’m a bit of an optimist, I always have been. I don’t pretend that some of these things are easy but there is good will. I’ve had long discussions with the Minister, I’ve had discussions with Ken Wyatt. We do have meetings periodically with Ken and our side of politics. The Minister has indicated his willingness to go down a different track we will need to see the evidence of his words in practice. If we’re participating in those discussions, well and good and I think the Minister’s intentions were for us to be part of that so we could keep him honest and put challenges to him. If not, we’ll take it up to him in other ways. This last report card on Closing the Gap was such a damnable document - backwards on infant mortality – such a damning indictment. It’s 9 years since the process has been in place, we’re coming up to 10 years, I think the Government realises it’s got to change the way it goes about business and bring back the involvement of Aboriginal organisations clearly into these theatres.

FORESTER: Pat you’ve been around for a long time have you still got the fire in you? Do you reckon you can still do it and get out there because you’ve been on the other side, now you’re in the parliament, do you reckon you that you’ll be able to burn baby burn?

DODSON: Burn baby burn (laughs)

FORESTER: It’s just you’ve been around a long time and you’ve gone through so many of these issues and it must be very frustrating for you and all of a sudden you’ve stepped into politics to see if you can make a difference. Do you have a timeframe for yourself?

DODSON: Well I’m elected for 3 years and I’ll see how that goes at the end of the 3 years as a Senator. We have made a difference to date in terms of the Labor Party which has an Indigenous Caucus committee set up which Malarndirri chairs, we’ve been focussing on domestic violence, on out of care custody situations for kids and we’re obviously looking at the constitutional outcomes whenever they’re going to appear. We do have I think an impact on the Labor Party, we have commitments to look at enrolments, encouraging people to join the Party but also to encouraging them to stand for the Party. We’ve got to convince them that our policies are right and that’s where Malarndirri, myself and Linda have a fairly big impact on reshaping what the policies are and how we respond to demands that organisations are throwing up. It’s not only the organisations and the legacies, there’s also the other positive things that are going on. There’s a lot of young people graduating out of universities. There are 5 doctors here in the West, Aboriginal Doctors, a number of Lawyers and professionals coming out in different universities. They will take some time to make an impact and some of them will go into business, so slowly at the top end where our elites are, they’ve got to keep their contacts with their communities and help bridge those gaps that we all know are crippling many of our community people.

FORESTER: You’ve also got the youth parliament coming again sitting in Canberra will you and the girls make sure that you’re there with the youth parliament?

DODSON: We’d love to. There was a Heywire group that came in recently – with a number of Indigenous kids in that, a marvellous little recording of young people’s lives and their histories. A group of kids from Kalgoorlie – so youth are coming through the Parliament getting exposed to the workings of the Parliament, getting interaction with their local members and other parliamentarians and getting a feel that the politics is really about democracy and democracy is a very precious and valuable factor in any civil society. How we participate in shaping our civil society is critical to respect for difference and diversity and that is something that everyone has got to stand up and defend, otherwise you end up with people with terrible jaundiced views about people of colour or race or religion.

FORESTER: We’re seeing that now in the elections coming up in Western Australia where Liberals are giving their preferences to One Nation putting the conflict between the Nationals and Liberals. How do you feel that will affect your area especially if there is One Nation because they’re saying One Nation could take up a lot of those votes?

DODSON: The Labor Party’s got a good candidate in the Kimberley, Josie Farrer. Josie’s very experienced, she was Shire President of Halls Creek, she’s played a leading role in responding to those young people’s concerns particularly in the suicide area, she was the Member of the Parliament who got Constitutional change to recognise Aboriginal people as part of this State, so Josie’s been a very active member, a very strong advocate for the Kimberley, promoting development as well as being aware of the environmental concerns. She’s been an advocate for all sorts of people in the Kimberley. I don’t think despite the history, because Broome was one of the places of the highest turnout for One Nation at one stage in Pauline Hanson’s first incarnation, but Josie will do well I think.

FORESTER: Hey Pat thanks for coming on the program, I believe too you’ve been cruising the Koori Courts as well, do you think that’s one of the solutions for reducing the high incarceration rates of our youth, by having these courts.

DODSON: I have great admiration for what I saw at the Parramatta Koori  courts, the way the Magistrate and the Elders dealt with the young people coming forward and the way the prosecution operated, the way the legal services interacted  and the people who provide the wrap around services and the way the young people presented at that Court gave me some heart that there is really a way in which the criminal justice system can be adapted in order to make the encounter with the criminal justice system something that is reformative, restorative, it helps young people get confidence that they can improve and do things better and it makes people accountable for their activities without crushing them. I was very impressed with the court out there and with the people and with the Elders, the way the Elders interacted with the Magistrate.

FORESTER: Hey look Pat it was wonderful talking to you. I’ll be up again next month having a yarn with you and when you visit Sydney please drop in.

DODSON: Let’s keep the burn burn going.

FORESTER: Burn Pat, Burn. He’s burnin up the highway or burnin in the air. You see that smoke in the air, you know that’s Senator Pat Dodson flying overhead. Have a great weekend Pat. Bye for now.

DODSON: Thank you Lola, bye.


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