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"This is not what First Nations people want": Coalition of groups attack Peter Dutton's call for a Royal Commission

Dechlan Brennan -

The chief executive of Djirra, a specialist family violence Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation, has released a statement condemning the calls for a Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse in Aboriginal communities.

It comes after a coalition of welfare and Indigenous groups roundly condemned Peter Dutton for his comments around Sexual Abuse in Aboriginal communities.

Kuku Yalanji woman Antoinette Braybrook AM, who is also Co-Chair of Change the Record, said Djirra - along with many other Indigenous people - had been observing a period of silence out of respect for the "many millions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and others who were hurt and disappointed by the outcome of the referendum".

"We have been busy focussing inward, reaching out to Aboriginal women who rely on our services to stay safe and well, we have maintained silence in recognition of the thousands of women – mothers, grandmothers, aunts, daughters and sisters, who have put their trust in Djirra for over twenty years," she said in a statement.

Ms Braybrook said she has been forced to make a statement to oppose the calls for a Royal Commission that in recent days has been pushed heavily by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.

"The Australian people didn't want a continuation of the window dressing, they didn't want another committee, they didn't want another ATSIC, they want practical action," Mr Dutton told parliament on Thursday, saying the failure to address sexual abuse in Indigenous communities was letting down "those most vulnerable in our community".

His motion was defeated in the House of Representatives, but this hasn't stopped calls from his own party, as well sections of the media, from urging the Albanese government to launch a Royal Commission.

A government spokeswoman said a royal commission was not needed to explain more action was needed, whilst Health Minister Mark Butler called the motion in parliament a stunt.

"Our focus is on the immediate issue of keeping children and women safe," the spokeswoman said.

Ms Braybrook was adamant this was the wrong course of action.

"This is not what First Nations people, especially our women, want," she said.

"We want to be listened to and heard about our solutions to keep our women and children safe. We want our self-determined Aboriginal community controlled services at the frontline, on the ground, to be invested in.

"We want standalone, dedicated strategies for our women and children's safety. We want our children to thrive in culture and identity with their mums and within their families, not taken and caught up in an unsafe child protection system.

"We don't want government bureaucracies, opportunistic politicians or wasted tax-payer money on more Royal Commissions to tell us what they believe solutions are. This approach is a proven failure."

She argued that First Nations people already have the solutions and must be listened to. It mirrors the calls made by SNAICC chief executive Catherine Liddle on Tuesday, who said the idea was flawed and Indigenous voices must be at the forefront.

"Another Royal Commission is not a solution. There have been more than 22 reports into allegations of abuse and neglect in our communities since the Bringing them Home report in 1997," SNAICC said in a statement.

"We also know Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have the solutions to the issues we face. We know that education is key to turning around outcomes and that starts with our babies and making sure families have the support they need, delivered by community services they trust."

Ms Braybrook said Peter Dutton needed to stop politicising Indigenous women and children's safety and instead listen to Djirra and other similar organisations that were working at the coalface.

"We have the solutions," she said.

"Our lives as Aboriginal people, and the lives of our women and children, are not for Dutton to use as a political football for electoral gain."

On Thursday, 38 groups rejected Mr Dutton's call. They include the WA commissioner for children and young people, Jacqueline McGowan-Jones; the National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing Research; Australia's first Indigenous senior counsel, Tony McAvoy SC; SNAICC; and Onemda Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Wellbeing.

"The safety of children should not be politicised or used as a platform to advance a political position," a statement said.

"It is frustrating and disappointing to hear the opposition leader and Senator Price (Jacinta Nampijinpa Price) repeating the same claims and calls they made earlier this year, again with no evidence and no credible solutions.

"If any politician, or anyone at all, has any evidence about the sexual abuse of children then they must report it to the authorities.

"These calls for a Royal Commission into the sexual abuse of Aboriginal children have been made without one shred of real evidence being presented. They play into the basest negative perceptions of some people about Aboriginal people and communities."

They have all called for a national commissioner with legal powers.

"The most effective and immediate action government can take to make children safe and protect their human rights is to stand up a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's commissioner, with the legislated power to investigate and make recommendations on issues impacting our children," the statement said.

GetUp CEO and Widjabul Wia-bal woman Larissa Baldwin-Roberts said Senator Price, who brought the idea to the Coalition, "was not fit to advocate for Indigenous Australians".

"Jacinta Price has lost touch with our reality - calling for a royal commission when First Nations communities are suffering is a despicable attack on our children and families," she said.


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