NSW Indigenous Coalition Reunites to Push Change for Aboriginal People
13 August 2018 at 4:28 pm
An Indigenous leader believes the newly re-formed Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations (CAPO) offers a “once in a generation opportunity” to push positive change for Aboriginal people.
In an unprecedented show of unity, the coalition – comprising of New South Wales land council, medical, legal services, child and family services, and education groups – launched a campaign last week during a march in Sydney, encouraging the government and the community to support a Makarrata process.
The term Makarrata, a word “gifted” from the Yolngu language, means “coming together after a struggle”, and has been used nationally since the National Aboriginal Conference in the 1970s.
Link Up CEO Terry Chenery – who leads one of the seven agencies part of CAPO – spoke to Pro Bono News following the march and said it was the reach and “breadth” of the agencies which was “the most important reason for them to come together”.
“The beauty of CAPO is it’s the seven largest Aboriginal organisations in NSW, and our membership therefore covers so many more Aboriginal people, more than any other organisation can do on their own,” Chenery said.
While CAPO first launched in 2007, Chenery said the coalition didn’t have the “character or the sophistication” they did now.
“Times have changed a lot and we’re willing to stand beside each other compared to what we were. Back then it was so ego-driven and we were all fighting,” he said.
Chenery said due to events such as the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, and increased media coverage of Aboriginal issues, their strength within the community had grown.
“We have a lot of support from non-Aboriginal people, and there are really good people in those agencies, so we’re prepared to use our muscle now, and strike while the iron is hot,” he said.
New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) chairman, Roy Ah-See, said their desire for Makarrata was “about putting our future into our own hands”, and he invited the community to “walk with us”.
“We are asking all political parties to commit to genuine partnership, to face our challenges together, and [to] grow and support our successes,” Ah-See said.
“We want Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and both sides of politics to come together for a better future for all Australians.”
Last week The Guardian reported that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her government were prepared to “negotiate three priorities” with CAPO.
Chenery said this “watershed moment” came about due to their “unity”.
“That was the first time ever a sitting premier has sat down with CAPO as a group, and that in itself says a lot,” he said.
According to both Ah-See and Chenery, Berejiklian had initially agreed to “four or five” priorities, which was later reduced to three, but Chenery said this would encourage CAPO to make their response more “sophisticated”.
“For example, we can’t just say we want to make child protection a priority, it has to be [reducing] the amount of children in out-of-home care and we would like you to do X, Y and Z,” he said.
While there have only been informal discussions within CAPO about the three priorities, Chenery said education was his priority.
“I see education as the key to everything because it just opens doors to everything,” he said.
CAPO has approximately six weeks to respond to Berejiklian.