Transcript - Triple J - Interview with Avani Dias

Avani Dias:    Noongar man Ken Wyatt was recently sworn in as the first ever Aboriginal person to become the Minister for Indigenous Australians. It was an amazing moment and a long time coming.

He was wrapped in a kangaroo skin cloak and thanked his mum who was a member of the Stolen Generations. For the first time we have a Minister in this space who has skin in the game and knows what it's like as an Aboriginal man to face the problems in his portfolio.

Transcript - Doorstop - National Indigenous Week Conference

31 May 2019

James Back:    So this week is National Reconciliation Week: Grounded in Truth, Walk Together with Courage. This morning was the biggest breakfast ever hosted at Crown here and we have over 1350 leaders from across the West Australian community from the corporate, community and government sectors. We all did a bit of unlearning. We all did a bit of relearning.


And the Minister’s foreign speech has filled our hearts with passion and energy to go ahead now together, to walk with courage and build a more united, stronger Australia together. So, a really solid day. We're looking forward to the Walk, which is happening at Yagan Square this afternoon and we welcome everyone to join us there to attend.


Ken Wyatt:       James, can I thank you and Reconciliation Australia for the work that you continue to do along with your co-chairs.


If we are to change the outcomes for Indigenous Australians, then we, as a nation, need to walk side by side in developing the outcomes that we've been striving for through, Closing the Gap.


But more importantly, it is about humanity. It is about looking after each other in that journey for our children so that we have a stronger and better future.


And when I look around that room and see 1350 people and you listen to the corporate bodies that were involved, then it is an outstanding commitment from corporate Australia to walk alongside all of the other organisations that were in there.


So, Reconciliation Australia has continued to walk with fellow Australians, outlining the advantages and directions that we need to seriously consider and their barometer is very rewarding in the outcomes, where people across this nation are expressing high levels of support for what we're striving to achieve.


The five key planks that Reconciliation Australia has, particularly equity and equality, is a significant one in how I address this in my portfolio and the work that I have to do.


Now, are there any questions on Reconciliation Australia?


Question:          I have some questions about Indigenous affairs [indistinct].


Ken Wyatt:       [Talks over] Yeah, we’ll go to those after this. Let's focus on this first. Alright. If there's no other, thanks very much, James. You were great…


James Back:    [Talks over] Thank you, Minister. Appreciate your time today.


Ken Wyatt:       … It’s a brilliant time today.


James Back:    Thank you. [Indistinct]


Question:          Federal Labor was promising a 10-year funding deal for remote housing. Is that something you will consider a long-term funding agreement with the State Government in your new role?


Ken Wyatt:       All arrangements that have been put into place will continue to be the basis of the way we move forward.


There will be discussions with state and territory ministers on a raft of issues. And in respect to directions that we need to take, nothing's off the table in terms of those ongoing discussions because the bottom line for all of us is to improve the outcomes for Indigenous Australians regardless of where they live.


It's been a priority of government since certainly 1972, with the establishment of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, through to this government, who's strongly committed to having improved outcomes in educational opportunities, reducing youth suicide, encouraging Indigenous Australians to become entrepreneurs and innovators but also to have jobs within the workforce that is on parity with all other Australians.


Question:          Are you convinced the Community Development Program and the Cashless Debit Card are functioning properly or working as intended?


Ken Wyatt:       Look, the cashless debit card in communities where I’ve been, individuals have indicated that the outcomes have resulted in less evidence of alcohol being abused, hospital reduction rates from injuries, an impact on domestic violence, the outcome of children going to school having been fed.


Now, they’re key fundamental human rights, and where a community chooses to take that pathway, I will support them. Where a community has issues, the more we talk them through.


But I think that we have to look at solutions that are favoured by community because I do know there are communities who have asked for it. So, let's look at each of those on a case by case basis. Let’s acknowledge the merit of that program. But where there are shortcomings, like any program that we deal within government, then we will tackle those issues accordingly.


Question:          [Indistinct] more specifically the CDP there. Do you have any concerns of how that’s been operated?


Ken Wyatt:       Look, I've not been across CDP because it was not my area of focus. I focused on aged care and Indigenous health.


But now all matters within my portfolio will become the focus of my attention.


Question:          There was a story about a leak in the Courier Mail just around a proposal [indistinct] to the Prime Minister about a Makarrata Commission. Are you describe what your idea is?


Ken Wyatt:       Now, what it was it's not government policy. What it was, as a Member of Parliament and having been co-chair of the expert- sorry, the co-chair of the Constitutional Recognition Committee, the one solution that I wanted to tease out with the PM just to see what his thoughts were was a draft paper.


Now, all of us in our roles produce draft papers. I do it on behalf of my constituents in Hasluck. They’re just ideas, and until I have that discussion with the Prime Minister, it has no status. It has no position.


The idea being, that if I took it forward to the Prime Minister and he saw merit in it, then I would start to feed that into Nigel Scullion. I did have a brief discussion with Nigel and for him then to take that forward.


The perception that I was trying to position myself for Aboriginal affairs is far from that at all. It was about finding a solution to a very complex issue on constitutional recognition because there have been five reports, and the latest report that was tabled in the last Parliament by Julie and Lisa, who was co-chair with Senator Pat Dodson, has the foundation for further discussion with our people across this country because any concept or construct around constitutional recognition has to be owned by our people.


It has to be owned by Australians and it has to be owned by every state and territory because the Constitution has a high benchmark of the majority of states and territories, the majority of Australians. So we need to do plenty of work on it.


Question:          So what was it based on, the idea? Was it from conversations or consultation or- where did it come from?


Ken Wyatt:       No, no. I've always liked the structure of the Productivity Commission and it was based purely on the Productivity Commission because I saw the power, more recently, of the Productivity Commission when the current Prime Minister was Treasurer and he commissioned, the Productivity Commission, to look at the complexity of the GST issues facing Western Australia.


And that report, once it had been undertaken, identified a raft of matters to do with our economy, but particularly Western Australia's position of being at an unfair disadvantage.


And on that basis, the Productivity Commission came back with a way forward and it provided sound advice, and so therefore, we saw the flow of money from the Commonwealth to fix that gap that we had with GST and for the GST, that was important to drive the West Australian economy plus provide essential services.


Question:          When did you hope to speak to the Prime Minister about this idea of yours?


Ken Wyatt:       Look, that's now within the mix of all matters that we will have discussions as colleagues across Cabinet.


It is about my focus on our people. Closing the Gap and refreshing and then focusing on how we move forward as a nation.


But to build on what I saw today in this room, of industry – big, corporate, small industries, non-government organisations – wanting to walk to make a better future for Indigenous people but more importantly for our children.


Question:          Are you happy with the State Governments response to the Coroners inquest into suicide in WA?


Ken Wyatt:        Look can I acknowledge the McGowan Government for committing to addressing all of those recommendations. They’re complex and the loss of any life is not acceptable. It’s one of my priorities and I look forward to working with Minister McGurk, Minister Wyatt and Minister Cook.


Question:          Could an indigenous advisory council be a part of any proposal put forward for a referendum – constitutional referendum? Is Voice to Parliament concept still on the table?


Ken Wyatt:       I think what’s on the table is still all of the matters raised in that last report.


I acknowledge that Senator Dodson, pre the election talked about regional structures and that’s a key element of that report.


So, I have an open mind I certainly want to work with our indigenous people across the country and find solutions that is acceptable to both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.


We are a people of one nation. So we need to walk together in order to find a solution but I know that there is strong support within the broader community for some sort of constitutional recognition.


The issue is the set of words and how the voice is defined because that has an element of complexity but it also has an element of simplicity; in that Aboriginal people are saying; listen to us, when you make your policies.


Question:          So a structured advisory council is still an option in your mind?


Ken Wyatt:       [Indistinct] face those issues as we work them through.


Question:          Can I just ask you how you’re feeling today? It’s the end of reconciliation week and a massive group of people in there to hear you and others speak?


I guess what does this week sort of mean to you, in your new role and how are you feeling out there today?


Ken Wyatt:       There’s two ways I feel; one as an indigenous Australian, an immense sense of pride. Pride in talking with all of our indigenous people in that room about very strong emotions and feelings; the acknowledgement of wanting to have the truth told.


But as a minister I’m also buoyed by the number of the people in that room who are prepared to commit. The goodwill that is evident across this nation.


I want to work with in order to effect real changes. But those changes will not be down out of Canberra, or at the Canberra bubble.


It’ll be done out of me sitting and talking with our leadership and with our communities. I’m going to spend some time sitting down on the dirt with communities. Where I hear the views of people who are affected every day by levels of inaction or levels of non-accessibility to Government services; doesn’t matter if it’s State or Commonwealth that all of us take for granted.


But there are others who don’t get that opportunity and I want to remedy that. So this is about improved educational outcomes, health, employment opportunities, wealth creation. Not a dependence on welfare.


Question:          But you have to get out there and sit down in the dirt. How soon do you want to be out there?


Ken Wyatt:       I want to do that very soon. I’m already starting here in my own electorate. Aboriginal organisations in my own area have already been in touch saying they want a meeting ASAP.


Today I think I got about 30 requests from key aboriginal organisations wanting to meet. In terms of communities out in the bush, I will be meeting with people. Not just remote or the north it is also groups in urban context, wheat belts and across this nation.


But I will be doing it with my colleagues. I’m already planning a visit to a remote area of Australia, with my colleague Stuart Robert. Because after I was sworn in a number of my colleagues came up and said; we want to work with you and walk with you.


And I think the Prime Minister’s appointment of me to the Portfolio has seen an incredible willing of wanting to make a difference. So we’ve got a great opportunity. And I want to invite media also to be part of that journey of making a journey along the ground.


We can always look at those things that go wrong, and write about them or talk about them. But we also need to celebrate the strengths and where communities themselves are doing it and making a difference because that is the power of reform. We can make policies but its how it’s implemented down to the family within the community that’s what makes the difference.


Question:          Has that been missing up until now, that kind of genuine consultation that isn’t tokenistic with those communities?


Ken Wyatt:       Look, I wouldn’t say consultation has been tokenistic. I think the issue is in the translation of a voice from the ground to the translation of a policy.


Because often governments are challenged in how they develop a policy that reaches everybody. One size doesn’t fit all. And we’re going to have to look at flexibility in the way in which we deliver services, have that overarching guidance. The analogy for me is like an umbrella and all the spokes on the umbrella.


We’ve got to get the covering right, we have to get the spokes right, but we have to allow for diversity across this nation.


Question:          Do you have a resolution to the [indistinct] issue this term?


Ken Wyatt:        I would rather take my time. I haven’t talked to Noel Pearson yet, but I noticed in yesterdays, West, he is of the same view.


Let’s do this properly because if we think about the republic debate and the referendum for Australia being a republic, it lost. It’s now confined to a dusty shelf and it’ll take some time to resurrect. And I’m talking about 20 years ago.


I don’t want this to happen here. I’d rather be methodical, thorough and have the support of our nation collectively for the words that will go into the constitution. But we are committed as a Government to constitutional recognition; that is broadly accepted.


Question:          Some questions on another matter. The report into bullying in your office, what changes have you enacted since that report?


Ken Wyatt:        The recommendations of the report were enacted. All those matters are now finalised. It was an independent process as would be the case in instances where complaints might be made about you as a journalist. And the outcomes are in partial recommendations and they’ve been implemented.


Question:          Will Paula Gelo remain in your office?


Ken Wyatt:        Look, I think focussing on an individual is inappropriate. There is a process that occurred and I’m in the process of filling positions for the work that I require in Aboriginal Affairs.


Question:          She has been  the subject of bullying accusations-


Ken Wyatt:        Can we leave that. There are legal actions in respect to this, so let’s not proceed to that at all.


Question:          Can you guarantee there will be no further reports of that kind coming from your office?


Ken Wyatt:        In any office, in a parliamentary context, right across this nation whether it’s: state, territory or federal. There are work pressures that require people to respond in very tight timelines and there is tension occasionally but it’s how that’s interpreted that’s the issue. It’s no different to any organisation, we have processes that are fair, that are transparent, and deal with the matters and those matters have been dealt with.


Question:          That’s it, thank you.






Breakfast and Panel

7.15am – 9am

Friday 31 May

Crown Towers Grand Ballroom

Burswood WA

I think I am almost as emotional as I was last Sunday.

I thank Dr Richard Walley for your Welcome to Country. You are always incredible in the way you talk about the unity of all of us, its importance for our culture and our way of life.

In Noongar language, I say kaya wangju – hello and welcome.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we’re meeting today, the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation, and pay my respects to our Elders past, present and emerging.

I also acknowledge:

·       The Governor of WA, His Excellency Kim Beazley

·       Minister Simone McGurck

·       Police Commissioner Chris Dawson – what a fantastic initiative you have undertaken in the Police

Service, it is so far removed from the days of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and thank you for your Contribution.

·       Carol Innes and Gary Smith (Co-Chairs of Reconciliation WA)

·       Karen Mundine (CEO of Reconciliation Australia)

·       Glenn Kelly (on the Board of Reconciliation Australia)

·       A food friend and colleague who has taught me much, former Aboriginal Affairs Minister Fred Chaney

·       Russell Gibbs (Chairman of the West Coast Eagles and Chief Executive of Hawaiian)

·       Edgar Basto (BHP Billiton’s Asset President, WA Iron Ore)

·       Liza Harvey MP, representing the Leader of the Opposition. Liza is the one who talked me into going into politics. She saw me at an event and asked me to get a real job, and because of her request I have taken the journey that I have.

·       Zara Fisher (Vice President of HSE for RioTinto Iron Ore)

·       Nolan Hunter (CEO Kimberley Land Council)

·       And all distinguished guests joining us today, in particular all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whose pathways have interacted with mine, who have been there and walked with me on so many issues over the past four decades, I thank you.

I want to share with you last Sunday. Anna and I were just talking about a message that Ben had tweeted about his father, Cedric, my cousin, and he was acknowledging Sorry Day.

After that, we talked about Sorry Day and my mother. Then Anna asked me very pragmatically if I would go and hang out the washing.

I took my phone with me in my pocket and I looked at it and saw that Scott Morrison had come up, and I thought “I’ve probably still got aged care”.

And he started by saying “I want to thank you for the work you’ve done in aged care, you’ve got a big heart. I would like you to become the Minister for Indigenous Australians”.

Because we’d been talking about Sorry Day, I was emotional and I couldn’t answer. He heard two sort of gasps and it took me about two minutes before I said: “Yes, Prime Minister”.

I realised what he was asking, I realised the implications of the journey that I would take over the next three years, in leading and walking with not only our people, but our fellow Australians whose passion and commitment are about improving outcomes.

So, what an amazing gathering – it warms my heart to see more than 1300 people together here this morning, to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and contributions.

To celebrate our deep past and enduring presence, across this great state and our vast country.

What a privilege that I have been made the first Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians, during National Reconciliation Week.

This morning I want to reflect on how far we’ve come on the journey of Reconciliation - how I got here, with a bit of my story - and how far we’ve come as a nation.

Any of us who are old enough to remember the 50s and 60s will tell you it’s a long, long way.

I was born in 1952 on Roelands Mission, the eldest of 10 children. My father was a railway ganger. My mother was a member of the Stolen Generations.

In those days, they had to get permission to marry. Permission to travel. They could be arrested if they were out after 6pm and not back in the designated sites which were Aboriginal Reserves.

If the Department of Native Welfare came around and thought you weren’t providing good care, they could take your children away.

We moved to a tiny town called Nannine, just 26 miles west of Meekatharra. My schooling at first was by correspondence – working a radio with a foot pedal, like an old sewing machine, for two hours at a time.

Soon afterwards, my parents moved down to Corrigin. At that point, my life changed.

It’s no exaggeration to say I’m standing here today because of my parents’ dedication to our family and their commitment to going to school and getting an education – and that started with my Year One teacher, Miss Abernethy.

She saw that I was behind the other children, so she asked me to come to school half an hour earlier every day. When I was home with whooping cough, she came over every afternoon to bring lessons and reading books so that I could keep with my peers.

She believed in me, supported me and never gave up on me. And fifty years later, she even campaigned for me in the seat of Hasluck!

While she was building my confidence – and my vocabulary – there was a petition being circulated to have us moved out of the town, but people refused to sign it. They held to an ethos of giving them a go, so it failed. The townspeople wanted us to stay.

Just a few years later, Australia voted overwhelmingly for inclusion in the 1967 Referendum.

I was in high school in Perth, and Fremantle had the second highest ‘Yes’ vote in the nation.

Things were changing. We were making progress. For the first time, we had a sense that as Australians we were indeed walking together.

Four years later, Neville Bonner became the first Aboriginal person in parliament as a Senator for Queensland.

The next year, 1972, saw the creation of the first Department of Aboriginal Affairs - the precursor to the new Agency I will now lead.

In the mid-70s, the Commonwealth Government introduced the Racial Discrimination Act and the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

These were landmark reforms that opened the way for every move toward rights and equality that have followed.

In fact, between the 1960s and the 1990s, the law of the land changed so much.

And in the decades since then, I know we’ve seen a significant cultural shift.

The Reconciliation movement, and the work Senator Pat Dodson and many others did all those years ago, has driven a great deal of that change.

It started small, but its ripple effect outwards has been tremendous.

It’s had an incredible impact not only at the local level, but in the way large corporates have embraced it, and undertaken commitments in Reconciliation Action Plans that would have been unthinkable 25 years ago.

I believe it’s been one of the major social reforms driven by ordinary Australians and Indigenous people in Australia.

Its impact shows up in Reconciliation Australia’s recurring study.

Every two years since 2008, the Australian Reconciliation Barometer has measured attitudes and perceptions towards reconciliation on five overlapping dimensions: Race Relations, Equality and Equity, Institutional Integrity, Unity, and Historical Acceptance.

What the latest study shows is that the overwhelming majority of Australians believe that the linkages between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are important, and that knowing our history and truth-telling are vital to this relationship.

80 per cent of Australians support formal truth-telling processes, and 86 per cent believe it’s important to learn our shared history.

Still more encouragingly is that 95 per cent of people agree it’s important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a say in matters that affect them.

This echoes the ‘Yes’ of 1967 Referendum and it resonates with my appointment as Minister for Indigenous Australians.

The days of complete control by the police or the bureaucracy over Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives are gone, but there is still much more work to do.

Since those days we’ve travelled more or less steadily towards greater freedom, autonomy, and equality.

And, crucially, we’ve travelled together.

As I said after my swearing-in this week, policy won’t be made in my office. It will be made in conjunction with Indigenous Australians at all levels, from the grassroots to the peak representative bodies.

I firmly believe it’s only through genuine partnership, through walking together, that we will solve our problems.

We need to jettison forever the historic mindset of our people as passive recipients of services and programs.

We need instead partnerships based on mutual respect, mutual resolve - and mutual responsibility. Indigenous Australians must be truly regarded as equal and active partners, involved and informed.

One of my priorities in this role is working on a refreshed Closing the Gap framework.

As Prime Minister Scott Morrison said earlier this year, the original Closing the Gap process was good-hearted and well-intentioned, but it took a top-down approach, not one based on true partnership. It failed on its own tests.

In refreshing that approach, we now have an opportunity to do things differently. To do things in partnership.

We’ve established a partnership with a coalition of peak organisations, and a Joint Council through COAG.

But of course the key is partnering with people on the ground, so that they can drive local, community-led solutions.

And though the approach has changed, the heart and soul of Closing the Gap has not.

We want to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children getting the best start in life, the same opportunities, schooling, healthcare, and life outcomes as their peers.

As well as Closing the Gap, we remain committed to recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in the Constitution.

We will continue to work with Indigenous communities to design a model for constitutional change that reflects their needs and aspirations, and we will hold a referendum once we’ve settled on the right model.

This is a long-term process. We need to get it right. If we don’t, we risk putting this issue on hold for another 30 or 40 years.

In keeping with the Australian Reconciliation Barometer finding that a majority of Australians support learning about the past and undertaking a formal truth-telling process, we have committed to work on that with Indigenous communities.

And as part of that process, we will support the establishment of a National Resting Place.

For more than 150 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains were removed from Country and placed in museums, universities and private collections in Australia and overseas.

The National Resting Place will be a central place for commemoration, reflection and healing. A place for ancestral remains to rest in honour and peace, where all Australians can celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. 

In all this work, we will be partners, walking together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Looking back across this shared journey - my own and the much larger story of reconciliation - I can see the progress we’ve made.

Ensuring the barriers and barbs in life do not become bollards.

For example, the primary teacher who told me I should leave school and get a job, because nobody would employ me as an adult.

The birthday party where a number of the invited children didn’t show up because I was invited too.

The comments and emails I got when I was running in Hasluck – just 10 years ago, not back in the 1950s.

But those aren’t the stories that have shaped my life.

Many of you in the room today will have similar stories to tell.

Those things scar you. Of course they do.

But they don’t define you.

I apply the same lens to our larger journey of reconciliation. Yes, we acknowledge the suffering and the wounds. Indeed we can’t go forward unless we tell the truth about the past.

But every step we take, every progression we make, is because of hope.

It’s because of optimism - because we choose trust over distrust, and courage over fear. 

As I said at the beginning of this Reconciliation Week – we must ensure the greatness of our many nations is reflected in the greatness of our Australian nation, now and forever.

I believe with all my heart that the only way forward is together. I’ve seen the power and strength of sitting together, of listening and talking together, and of walking and working together.  Grounded in truth. Walking with courage.

As we say in the traditional Noongar of the country on which we are meeting:

“Ngyung moort ngarla moort, ngyung boodja ngarla boodja.”

Meaning: “My people our people, my country our country.”

That’s the reason we’ve come so far.

All of us, as leaders, we will all walk together – and not ahead or behind - that’s the force that will take us forward.

And I thank Reconciliation Australia and every one of you in this room for the journey that we have undertaken thus far with reconciliation and the way in which your genuine commitments and efforts have pulled together all, in a way that unifies us for having dreams and aspirations for a better future for all of our children, and those who come after us.

I thank you for everything today.

Transcript - ABC Radio Perth - Breakfast - Interview with Clint Wheeldon

Clint Wheeldon:                 The Commonwealth of Australia was formed 118 years ago but over all those years, for more than a century, there has never been an Indigenous Australian in Cabinet until now. Yesterday, Ken Wyatt was sworn in as the Minister for Indigenous Australians, which means for the first time, there will be an Indigenous person at the table, making decisions and influencing policy at the very highest level of government.

Transcript - Radio National - Interview with Hamish Macdonald

Hamish Macdonald: He's a man facing a monumental challenge in a history making position. Wrapped in a kangaroo skin cloak, decorated with the feathers of a red tailed black cockatoo, Noongar man, Ken Wyatt was yesterday sworn in as Australia's first Indigenous member of Cabinet and indeed the first Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians. As he carries the hopes and aspirations of Indigenous Australians, he has plenty to do - working out how to achieve constitutional recognition, finalising new Closing the Gap policy targets and tackling alarmingly high rates of Indigenous suicide. Ken Wyatt joins me now from our Perth studios. A very good morning to you, Ken.


Ken Wyatt:        Good morning Hamish.



I am honoured to be Australia’s first Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians and am committed to pragmatic action that draws together all levels of expertise – from local Elders to Ministers – to build a better future for our people and for Australia as a whole.

I thank the people of the electorate of Hasluck, the Prime Minister and all Australians for this opportunity and I am committed to honouring our Australian nation, our Indigenous people, our traditions and our shared heritage.