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He Came. He Saw. We Hope He Listened

27/08/2015 10:24 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Alex Ellinghausen, Fairfax Media

According to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, his agenda for the week is to focus solely on Indigenous Issues as he visits the tip of Australia and the Torres Strait.

Mr. Abbott is the first Prime Minister in over 18 years to visit the Torres Strait and pay his respects to the Mabo Family, and even visit the grave of the late Eddie Mabo.

The Prime Minister says that the importance over this week should be to focus on discussions around constitutional recognition after the select committee met at the weekend. Those who met with the PM agree we're on the right track to constitutional recognition, which will be one of the main focuses for the Prime Minister during his trip in the Torres Strait.

The Prime Minister said that he wanted to see first-hand the struggles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, while coming up with viable ways to ensure those on remote communities are able to participate in the nation's everyday life.

Even before office the Prime Minister spent time out of Canberra on remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, making a conscious effort to understand the needs and wants of the First Nation's people.

This historic visit to Murray Island, and his week in remote areas of Cape York, sees the PM fulfilling one of his many election promises. Mr. Abbott says he thinks it "fair that a Prime Minister should spend about 2 percent of the year in a remote part of Australia focusing mainly on Indigenous issues."

Yet it seems that political critics aren't convinced the PM is doing everything he can to listen to those on remote communities. Researcher Paddy Gibson, from University Of Technology Sydney's Jumbunna House of Indigenous Learning, says that the disconnect between the Government and the real issues of Indigenous people is evident.

"Tony Abbott's main concern is to present his support for constitutional recognition as some kind of evidence that his government is committed to improving the situation for Aboriginal people while they continue with policies of dispossession and forced assimilation," Mr Gibson said.

Mr. Gibson also said that this trip is a deflecting act for the Government from the real on-the-ground issues that are affecting Aboriginal people across Australia.

"The Prime Minister most certainly wants to use the issue to deflect attention away from his savage cuts to frontline services, the push to close down remote communities, the ongoing deterioration of conditions for Aboriginal people living under the Northern Territory Intervention."

Although some may be upset by the trip, claiming that the PM is using Indigenous affairs as a way getting votes, this is a great step forward for the Government in addressing first-hand issues which Indigenous Australians face every day.

Not only is he addressing issues on the ground, he appears to be listening to the needs of the communities. Especially those in Bamaga, in Cape York, where he visited the local school and engaged not only with the children but also listened to how he could help teachers on remote communities.

However, there is still more for the PM to address when it comes to Indigenous affairs, such as the growing ice epidemic on communities, domestic violence and getting kids into schools.

How does the Government do this?

It would potentially be achieved by not defunding essential Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs and organisations. A prime example can be seen in Central Australia, where essential services were defunded during the Government's Indigenous Advancement Strategy. This was providing, in some cases, essential services in helping stop antisocial youth behaviour.

This trip has proved that the Prime Minister and his Government is committed to closing the gap and addressing core Indigenous issues, allowing First Nation's people the opportunities to be able to participate in wider Australia.

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