Strengthening accountability and advocacy in Aboriginal affairs

A proposal for a new statutory office to focus on Aboriginal people and the issues that matter to them.
logo for proposed office of aboriginal affairs

In June 2018, the Hon Ben Wyatt MLA, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, sought feedback from the Western Australian community on a proposal for a new statutory office to:

  • strengthen Government accountability to Aboriginal Western Australians
  • advocate for Aboriginal people’s interests in Government policy and performance.

The office would be independent from the government of the day, have statutory powers and work with a specific focus on Aboriginal people and the issues that matter to them.

Background

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The proposal arose from an independent reform review.

In 2017, the WA Government embarked on a suite of reforms to improve public sector function. It commissioned an independent review to drive reform of government service delivery, accountability and efficiency. The review’s final report identified structural and systemic weaknesses in the State’s public sector, and set out a blueprint for reform.

A major finding of the report was the need for greater accountability and transparency across government, and better alignment of government services to community needs. On Aboriginal affairs in particular, the report noted that the existing systems and structures sometimes allow the public sector to continue doing what it has always done despite poor or worsening outcomes. The report recommended a number of actions for improvement, which are now part of the Government’s broader public sector reform program implemented in 2018 and beyond.

The Government also made sweeping changes to its departments. Among these was the establishment of an Aboriginal policy function in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. Moving Aboriginal policy into a central agency ensures that Aboriginal issues are given the highest priority and embedded in the Government’s core policy agenda.

While these changes are important, there remains a gap in the State’s institutional framework – there is no independent entity with the express function of holding Ministers and agencies accountable for improving opportunities for Aboriginal people.

Read the Minister’s media statement: New move to strengthen government accountability in Aboriginal affairs

Community consultation discussion paper

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Public input was sought on the general idea of a statutory office, and on specific elements of the proposal.

The discussion paper explains the WA Government’s reasons for the proposal and describes basic features of the proposed office.

Community feedback report and submissions received

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Community feedback in response to the discussion paper will inform a model for the new office that will be considered by the WA Government.

In total, the State Government received a total of 77 written submissions and held 43 verbal discussions about the proposal. In July 2019, it released a Community Feedback Report, which outlined the main ideas and concerns raised through the feedback process.

Read the written submissions received and the full community feedback report.

Publications

Page reviewed 28 January 2021