On Monday, Minister for Northern Australia David Littleproud announced the appointment of six new members to the renewed Indigenous Reference Group (IRG).

The group will provide the Federal Government with advice aimed to be practicable and actionable on creating and broadening economic opportunities for Indigenous communities across the north of Australia.

The group includes Colin Saltmere as Chair, Tara Craigie and Jerome Cubillo from the Northern Territory, Queensland’s Troy Fraser and Gillian Mailman and Peter Jeffries from Western Australia.

These group members include prominent Indigenous business people who have successfully led large organisations and corporations.

The group will provide their insight and expertise to Minister Littleproud and Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt. Their advice will aim to ensure the interests of traditional landowners, communities and businesses are represented when policies for Northern Australia are considered.

Minister Littleproud, who also acts as Deputy Leader for the Nationals, spoke of the appointees’ “wealth of expertise and hands on experience spanning a range of industries and sectors”.

“I am confident in their ability to give us practical advice that we can act on,” he said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 15 per cent of Northern Australia’s population, and we must support them to in practical and realistic ways to increase business opportunities we know exist in the north and capitalise on their natural assets.”

Minister Wyatt commented on the “timely” nature of the re-establishment of the IRG, and said it “follows our release of the National Roadmap for Indigenous Skills, Jobs and Wealth Creation last week”.

This roadmap aims to demonstrate a long-term commitment and framework for the implementation of economically beneficial actions for First Nations People. Its delivery will utilise cooperative work from industry, the Indigenous community and all levels of government to create consequential change.

The roadmap centres on the three key policy areas of skill creation, job creation, and business development.

“One in six people in Northern Australia are Indigenous – Indigenous participation in the northern economy is therefore essential to increasing productivity, encouraging investment and entrepreneurship,” continued Minister Wyatt.

Minister Wyatt touted the IRG representation of the government’s commitment to Indigenous economic advancement.

Special Envoy for Northern Australia, Senator for Queensland Susan McDonald commented that “the reference group has worked closely with all levels of government, industry and Indigenous communities to develop tailored policy advice and initiatives,” since its establishment in 2017.

Beyond looking forward to continuing to work with the IRG to deliver more Indigenous jobs, Senator McDonald remarked on her familiarity “with the good work already being done by Colin Saltmere and Troy Fraser, and I share their belief that everyone in Northern Australia can enjoy the benefits and opportunities being created by the Federal Government’s investment in the region.”

Senator McDonald thanked the outgoing members of the group “for their passion and commitment to Indigenous economic development in Northern Australia”. Yet the Senator focused on the “benefits the new appointees will help us unlock”.

The IRG will concentrate their attention on creating opportunities for Indigenous participation and businesses through the implementation of the five-year plan described in the Our North, Our Future 2021-2026: Targeted Growth publication.

By Aaron Bloch