From CEO of the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), Ray Griggs AO CSC.
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Dear Ms Cross
I write to provide your readers with some balance to the views expressed by Megan Krakouer in your 11 August story entitled NT Government pours millions into preventative program for at-risk youth.
Suicide remains a scourge in our society and your readers sadly know only too well the devastating impact of it in Indigenous communities. The National Indigenous Australians Agency is committed to contributing to the Government’s suicide prevention efforts.
In the 2019-20 financial year, NIAA has provided around $85 million for social and emotional wellbeing, youth diversion activities, mental health and suicide postvention initiatives under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.
This is in addition to the $740.6 million that the Government announced in the 2019-20 Budget through the Health portfolio for mental health and suicide prevention, including $509 million for the largest ever youth mental health and suicide prevention plan.
The comments in the article give the reader the incorrect impression that NIAA is dominated by white men. As Ms Krakouer has been informed previously, the senior leadership of the NIAA is made up of 50% Indigenous senior leaders and half of these senior Indigenous leaders are women, including one of my Deputy CEOs, Ms Letitia Hope.
Ms Hope is the senior Indigenous officer in the Commonwealth public service and manages all of the Agency’s operations and delivery activities. She is supported by three Indigenous regional General Managers and an Indigenous General Manager for the Program Delivery function. In addition, the General Manager who is in charge of our crucial Northern Australia Economic Development policy agenda is an Indigenous woman.
The makeup of the Agency’s senior leadership has a profound effect on how the Agency operates and in its decision making. I know of no other significant sized Government Agency in the country with this substantive level of Indigenous representation at senior levels.
I, along with other senior public sector leaders, remain committed to ensuring there is even greater Indigenous representation across the Commonwealth public service more broadly as outlined in the recently released Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy 2020-2024. This strategy will invest in strengthening the recruitment pipeline, supporting talented individuals, and focussing on career development and retention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.
The NIAA, like all Government entities, operates within a defined budget and seeks to invest in programs that do not duplicate the role of State or Territory Governments, are well considered and have strong community support.
Funding decisions are subject to robust objective processes that ensures value for money is achieved for the Australian tax payer. These assessments start with our local NIAA teams across the country, nearly 40% of whom are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander staff, who provide recommendations on those projects that will have the most positive impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their area.
I hope this provides another perspective for your readers and underscores the importance of the roles of Indigenous staff in the NIAA.
Ray Griggs AO CSC
Chief Executive Officer
National Indigenous Australians Agency