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The Howard government's review did not recommend abolishing ATSIC

By Brian Johnstone - posted Thursday, 20 May 2004

Given the history of the Howard government, it's a fair bet the ATSIC-identified unmet need in spending on infrastructure in Aboriginal communities will remain unmet.

It's a fair bet it will also remain largely out of sight and out of mind.

Public debate will be firmly focused on the future administration of Aboriginal Affairs.


This session of Parliament will see PM Howard introduce legislation to realise a long cherished political dream: the abolition of ATSIC and to replace it with a hand-picked advisory body.

It is interesting, in the context of the parliamentary debate we are about to witness and what has occurred since, to go back and carefully read what Howard said when he announced his intentions at a joint news conference with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Amanda Vanstone, at Parliament House on April 15. Howard told the assembled media he had called the news conference "to announce the results of Cabinet's examination of the report into ATSIC (pdf, 444KB) and related matters, which we commissioned last year, conducted by the former Senator Bob Collins, Jackie Huggins and the former New South Wales Attorney-General John Hannaford."

As a result of examination of that report and also a very extensive examination of Indigenous affairs policy, we can announce that when Parliament resumes in May, we will introduce legislation to abolish ATSIC.

ATSIC itself will be abolished with immediate effect from the passage of the legislation.

The regional councils will be abolished by the 30th of June 2005.

Our goals in relation to Indigenous affairs are to improve the outcomes and opportunities and hopes of Indigenous people in areas of health, education and employment.


We believe very strongly that the experiment in separate representation, elected representation, for Indigenous people has been a failure.

We will not replace ATSIC with an alternative body.

We will appoint a group of distinguished Indigenous people to advise the government on a purely advisory basis in relation to Aboriginal affairs.

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Article edited by Ian Miller.
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First published in the National Indigenous Times.

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About the Author

Brian Johnstone is a columnist for the National Indigenous Times. He was Director of Media and Marketing at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission between April 1998 and December 2002. Before taking up that position he was a senior advisor to former Federal Labor Minister, Senator Bob Collins, and a senior correspondent with Australian Associated Press.

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Related Links
ATSIC Review website
Department of Immigration and Mulitcultural and Indigenous Affairs
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