9 August, 2022

Voices for the Bush Conference in Alice Springs – Keynote address by NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner

Good morning!

My name is Pat Turner, and I am the daughter of an Arrernte man and a Gurdanji woman. I begin by acknowledging the Arrernte people and their custodianship of Country where your conference is being held, in Alice Springs.  Your conference Voices for the Bush – Water in regional, remote and rural communities is very timely.

Please accept my apologies for not being able to travel myself to join you.

I’d like to thank the Australia Water Association, the Water Services Association of Australia and Corinne as today’s session Chair for providing this option to share some reflections with you by video-recording.

I am also delighted to take this opportunity to acknowledge and congratulate Senator Malarndirri McCarthy as Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Health.

Senator McCarthy, please accept my sincere best wishes for your success in these Ministerial roles and my support from one Aboriginal woman to another, and, as Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations, for continuing structural reform to benefit our peoples. 

I believe the conference speakers, registrants and ALL Australians share common ambitions for the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in rural and remote communities.

Water is life and this audience needs no reminder of this fact.  Access to water is a human right.

In my comments today, I’d like to share with you some reflections on key policy opportunities and what this means for each and every person here.  I call this the WHY, WHEN and HOW.  At this conference, you are focused on water yet the impact you can make is very much bigger.

I hope to give you some new ideas about ways of working together for the advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

First, to set some context, let’s go back to 2019.  Remember, that was the last year before the COVID pandemic struck!

In March 2019, a historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap was signed between COAG and the national Coalition of Peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Organisations.  This set the national bipartisan guarantee that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would share decision-making with all governments for the second decade of Closing the Gap.  

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