Topics: Safer Communities funding helping WA Indigenous youth, Department of Home Affairs staff
KIRSTY MCSWEENEY: Good morning. My name’s Kristy McSweeney. I’m the Liberal candidate for the federal seat of Swan in Western Australia. I’d like to pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging, and thank Bennett and Co. Welcome to this fantastic announcement this morning by the Morrison government to the Murlpirrmarra Foundation. Welcome to Minister for Home Affairs the Honourable Karen Andrews and Minister Ken Wyatt. Indigenous affairs is a huge passion of mine. I’m really excited that my senior colleagues have invited me here this morning. We’re absolutely delighted to continue the great work of the foundation in giving Indigenous kids in remote parts of Western Australia opportunity to fulfil their talents in education and continue on and hopefully provide – be in a position to be great role models to other Indigenous kids in their community and in their own family. So thank you so much, and I’ll pass to Minister Wyatt.
KEN WYATT: Thank you very much, Kristy. I also will start by acknowledging my elders part and present, but I also welcome Minister Andrews here. We both commenced parliament together in 2010. In the seat of McPherson the Minister has made an incredible set of achievements over her period of time. But as Minister for Home Affairs in working closely together we’ve both very much committed to Indigenous Australians and Indigenous youth. And it is with great pleasure that I welcome you to Perth, and it’s great to have you here both as a friend and as a colleague. Thank you, Minister.
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, thank you very much. And it’s an absolute pleasure to be here in Perth today and to be making a couple of announcements. So, firstly, if I can start with the announcement of $1.5 million that goes to the Murlpirrmarra Foundation. They will be supporting Indigenous youth – around about 2,800 Indigenous youth will get support through the funding that the Morrison government is providing to this foundation. It will be delivered over, I believe, 72 different locations right across the state. This is very much needed funding support to help our Indigenous youth, to assist them through, in this case, learning how to play tennis, look at sport, looking at opportunities for them to take part in the community, look at educational pathways. So this is a very significant announcement for Indigenous youth in this state here, and I congratulate the foundation on the work that they have done so far and that they will be doing in the future. So congratulations to them. I’d also like to take the opportunity to provide an update on the Morrison government’s Indigenous Justice Research Program. Now, Minister Wyatt and I have announced this program previously, but today I can announce that there are nine projects at seven institutions. They will receive more than $1 million in funding for further research into the factors that are going to affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. So this again is another worthwhile announcement that will go to supporting our Indigenous communities – in this case right across Australia. So it is an absolute pleasure to be here this morning for those two announcements. And can I invite the CEO of the foundation, Darren Patten, to make some further comments in relation to the project.
DARREN PATTEN: Thank you, Karen. Absolute pleasure to have you join us here today, as Ken. You’ve been instrumental in pulling this together from the get-go. But Murlpirrmarra Connections it’s a Martu word, to make strong, to make confident and empowered. So obviously we’re going to be able to continue to do that by giving tennis pathways to the most remote children and young adults in Western Australia who’ve never seen or touched the game. And with our core business of Murlpirrmarra being able to give them educational options, support them through their secondary school endeavours and be a safety net where need be for them and their families getting through to graduation and now traineeships and employment and beyond. So, yeah, we’ve been taking tennis to these communities for many years now. It’s nothing new. We just want to be able to reach the most remote places that have never seen the game, so take the tennis pathway and the journey that allows it to offer, whether that be overseas or in administration or become another Ash Barty or Evonne Goolagong – that would be fantastic. But there’s so many other avenues through the great game of tennis, and we want to give them that opportunity. And obviously the education is paramount, that we’re able to get them through and get as many of these young kids educated. It’s just one at a time. We’re not here to change the world. We just want to take one kid at a time and give them the best opportunity they have. So I’d like to thank you all for coming. Thank you, Ken and Karen, and our wonderful board and our Tennis West president. We’ve had great support over the journey. It’s been 12 to 14 years which we’ve been doing this. So it’s a gamechanger for us, and the announcement today is really, really welcome. So thanks very much.
JOURNALIST: Yeah, can you tell me a little bit about the research that’s going to be undertaken? What are some of the projects, or have they been decided yet?
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes, there certainly is more detail in relation to the project, and I will get Minister Wyatt to add to the detail of that. But all of these projects have gone through a rigorous assessment process, and clearly they are very supportive of our Indigenous communities. Research is very essential. We always want to make sure that whatever programs are being developed that they are clearly evidence based. And, of course, these projects, as I said, have gone through an assessment process and we’re very comfortable that they will deliver the research findings that will be so necessary to support our Indigenous communities and Indigenous people. So I’ll invite Ken Wyatt to make some further comments.
KEN WYATT: The point of this research underpins the work that we’re doing with the Closing the Gap targets. We have two targets for juveniles and for adults. Our aim is to reduce incarceration rates. All of the key areas of the research will underpin directions that we take collectively across this nation at all levels of government. But, more importantly, what are the outcomes that we need to wrap around individuals whose lives at a period of time have been disrupted, they’ve ended up in systems that have not allowed them to reach their full capacity and be a contributor to the economy of this country. And this is a great announcement because it is a game-changer and it will help all levels of government to achieve those targets.
JOURNALIST: Do we need more research or do we need more action?
KEN WYATT: We need both. Often action needs to be underpinned by evidence, because sometimes we fund initiatives over a long period of time and we don’t see the outcomes. So we need to understand why we’re not achieving those outcomes. And we still need to go back to the beginning and formative years of a child’s life because that is where patterns of behaviour occur. And we also have to look at what are the attitudinal issues that form mind sets around Aboriginal people being potentially guilty of a crime and, in fact, they’re not. So there’s a lot of work we’re doing. We do spend a lot of time working with ministers for Aboriginal affairs in other jurisdictions. My colleague works very closely with ministers that are within the remit of her portfolio. So this is a combined all-of-government approach.
JOURNALIST: A lot of the criticism of, you know, actual research in this field is that it had hasn’t been Indigenous led when it comes to youth affairs strategies and youth justice strategies. How does this research change that?
KEN WYATT: Actually, our government’s changing it. The Morrison Government is co-designing now with be Aboriginal people. We’re no longer saying programs are to be led by government agencies; we’re saying if we’re going to make a change, let’s sit down and co-design both the program services and the outcomes. And that’s what this initiative today is about. All those children in that region of the Kalgoorlie and out towards Laverton and Wiluna have to be considered in the context of opportunities for them. And so in doing that people are now starting to work with Aboriginal communities at the community level. And that’s why we’re working as a government on the Voice, so that local people have a say both in design but in their aspirations and the future for their children.
JOURNALIST: So it’s going to be the elders and the leaders of the corporations and Indigenous bodies out there that are going to have the key say over whatever comes out of this research?
KEN WYATT: That’s correct, but also families. Because if we want change we have to engage families. And that’s what our government’s been doing. And the work that the Prime Minister and our cabinet are undertaking within all of our portfolios is about the way in which we engage and work with Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islander people.
JOURNALIST: What’s the time line between how long will this research project take?
KEN WYATT: Look, often it depends on what is the focus of their work. Some of the work can be achieved within 12 months; others take three to four years. But the funding is given to them to create the opportunity to explore those areas that we need further answers to. And that’s why those announcements to me are very critical in the new direction that we are setting.
JOURNALIST: Are there any that you are most interested in or –
KEN WYATT: The ones that are important are those that go to what works and what’s not working. Because sometimes we fund things that don’t work and we don’t question it. And research evidence helps us reshape the thinking. And researchers have certainly challenged us in every sphere of government when they come back with report findings that say, “You really need to think about a parallel approach as well.” In Aboriginal affairs, if we think from 1972, funded programs have been there for a substantive period of time, but we’ve got these incredible gaps across every key area. So you’d expect that funding would have been the solution, but it’s not. The research will give us sense of direction that will complement what we are currently doing. But I think the most important thing is working with communities.
JOURNALIST: On the Murlpirrmarra funding, Darren mentioned before you’ve had quite a strong – I’ll get Minister Andrews as well, but just yourself, first, Minister Wyatt. You’ve had quite a strong association in the lead-up to this. What evidence have you seen that this is working and that this is deserving of the funding that it’s received today?
KEN WYATT: Well, what I first saw was when the Martu Eagles played a game here in Perth and I was impressed with the quality of the footballers, with the way in which the community had that strong sense of pride and then the flow-on effect to children. Because adults model and children aspire. And in sport, sport is a great avenue. And I look at the impact that Ash Barty has had on our young people, and I hope to harness Ash Barty’s tennis experience to look at how we engage more young people across Australia. What this project did when they first came and met with me, I loved what they were talking about. I loved the fact that they were involving children and focusing on children. They’re giving them a pathway that could take them out of poverty, could take them out of disadvantage, but also having experiences they would not have had. I was talking to Darren earlier about their trip to Malaysia. And when a child from the desert region sees a city like Singapore, it’s like a country kid coming into a capital city and having their first experience on an escalator – they’re not used to it, but it’s fascinating. So you see potential and opportunity. And that’s what this program does. For those desert kids, it opens up new avenues, new opportunities and a sense of what the world is like outside of their region.
JOURNALIST: On the funding, what kind of caveats are around it? Is it just a case of a set time that it has to be used for, or any objectives that you’re looking for the foundation to achieve?
KAREN ANDREWS: So this funding is part of the Safer Communities Funding, and we have provided about $315 million to various community organisations as part of this funding over a number of years. In relation to the funding that we have announced today, again, that goes through a rigorous selection process. What this funding is particularly focused on is engaging disengaged youth. So we do know that sports is an ideal way to engage all members of our community, but it’s particularly important for our young people to engage in sport. So particularly outside of school, after school or on weekends, it’s an opportunity for them to look after their physical health as well as their mental health and keep them engaged in things that are positive and proactive. So I’m very, very happy to support this organisation and the work that they’re doing. Now, we’ve also had discussions about tennis as opposed to other sports and, clearly there’s funding programs that available that support people in a whole range of sports. What is believed is that tennis is opportunity for people in our very promote Indigenous communities to engage, and we have heard stories that people in some of these communities have never had the opportunity to even see a tennis racket. So this will be a new opportunity for them to look at what the sport of tennis can offer them. So we will be looking at the outcomes. We will be looking at a range of factors that includes the number of people that are actually engaged. So the funding is based on there being around about 2,800 Indigenous youth that will be engaged in the program. We’ll be monitoring that throughout, but I’m very confident that this organisation has ticked all the boxes and that this is a great opportunity for Indigenous youth in very remote areas.
JOURNALIST: And does this funding go to things like facilities? I mean there’s a lot of those communities out here that don’t have a tennis court.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, we’ve discussed that. In fact, we I discussing that this morning – that some of these communities don’t have a tennis court. But I know that our communities are very creative. They can be very proactive, and if this opens up opportunities for tennis courts to be built, they don’t have to be perfect to start with; they just have to be an opportunity for the kids to get out there hold a racket and hit a ball over a net.
JOURNALIST: I’ve just got a question from Canberra for you: earlier this week you indicated you’d taken advice from your department on whether to launch an investigation into how a Home Affairs employee accused of child sex crimes gained secret level security clearance before being sent to Indonesia to work. Have you received that advice? And will you be launching an investigation?
KAREN ANDREWS: The advice that I have in relation to that individual was that these allegations were not known at the time that that individual was employed. My Department is working proactively now with the Australian Federal Police. We’re going to provide whatever information and support that is required for this investigation. And I’ve also been advised that the individual concerned has been suspended. Thank you.