Media Release issued by Women for Wik – 26th November, 2007

Spillover of the Federal Political Landslide to NT Government Provide Ground-Breaking Opportunity to Aboriginal Minister

The spillover of the Federal political landslide to the NT government has provided a ground-breaking opportunity for NT Minister for Family and Community Services and Child Protection, Marion Scrymgour, who has become the first Indigenous woman to become Deputy Leader of a State or Territory government.

This follows earlier political ground-breaking by Scrymgour, when she became the first Aboriginal woman to hold a Ministerial position in a State or Territory.

In an unanticipated turn of events, Clare Martin and her Deputy Sid Stirling, stepped down from their posts of Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. The new Chief Minister is Paul Henderson, the former Education Minister.

“Aboriginal people are estactic to see Marion Scrymgour as Deputy Chief Minister. Marion has always listened to her constituents and she has done her best for her people,” said Ms Cummings. “We are very proud that an Indigenous woman has become Deputy Leader of a State or Territory government.”

Ms Scrymgour has been very vocal in her criticisms of the NT intervention. In late October, she used the 2007 Charles Perkins Oration at Sydney University to blast both the motivation and its implementation, calling it a ‘vicious new McCarthyism’.

The then Indigenous Affairs Minister, Mal Brough called for Ms Scrymgour’s resignation, arguing that she was not prepared to help her own people. She later retracted the strength of some of her words.

The support of Aboriginal people for Ms Scrymgour’s view of the intervention is indicated by the outcomes of the Federal election, which gave Labor returns of up to 95% in polling booths in some remote Northern Territory communities,including the community of Wadeye, regularly visited by Mal Brough.

In an ironic turn of events Ms Scrymgour has become Deputy Chief Minister, while the outgoing Indigenous Affairs Mal Brough has lost his seat.

“Marion stood up against the intervention,” said Ms Cummings. “Her father, who passed away recently, was a member of the Stolen Generation. He would be really proud of her, as we are.”

The news that Clare Martin has stepped down was met with some dismay.

“I am sorry to see Clare Martin go,” said Eileen Cummings, former Policy Advisor to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. “Clare was very supportive of Aboriginal people. She made a point of funding family violence and sexual abuse programs, and she did the best she could with the resources available to her.”

“The intervention made things very difficult her. The Federal government refused to take into account what the NT government was doing to address those issues-even programs that had been funded by the Federal government.”

“Clare Martin has stepped aside in an order to allow new people to take advantage of a new situation”, said Olga Havnen, CEO of the Combined Aboriginal Organisations of the NT. “The social policy area has been the greatest challenge faced by Clare Martin’s government. Given the legacy of neglect of past governments, she was presented with an extraordinary challenge that the NT government could never hope to address on its own.”

“What this country needs is well-informed evidence-based policy making,” said Ms Havnen. “We have to identify what we know works, and be honest about the level of resourcing and investment that is needed to make the necessary changes”.

“While we have always welcomed the increase commitment of Federal resources to the NT, we have been concerned that these resources were not producing the results that communities need.” Said Ms Havnen. “Now we have an opportunity to realign those resources so that they provide effective community outcomes. Effective outcomes do not include the more than 700 pus new public servant positions that have been created so far.”

“Marion Scrymgour has enormous support from her constituency and she is well placed to contribute to Territory leadership in this critical period of transition,” said Ms Havnen.

Ms Scrymgour was one of the first, and most prominent, endorsees of the grassroots campaign ‘Women for Wik-Monitoring the Federal Action in the NT.’