Director-General's message

It is a great privilege to lead our department to deliver solid outcomes through high expectation relationships between the Queensland Government and Queensland’s First Nations people.

Many of our achievements over the past year have been several decades in the making. I acknowledge the work of our old people—and our ancestors—in creating the foundations for us to walk together to empower more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to move beyond surviving to thriving.

An important and momentous challenge lies ahead of us in the coming years as we implement reform, but I am encouraged and determined by the positive outcomes highlighted in this report.

Working better together

The Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships is transitioning from traditional service delivery to a more central agency focus—to be better positioned to influence by partnering and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders so they are at the forefront of negotiations and decision-making, and leading changes that truly support communities to thrive.

We will build high-expectation relationships with communities and across government to enable them to be more effective in the communities we serve. This approach is part of our commitment towards a genuinely responsive government to give all our children a great start, keep communities safe and create jobs in a strong economy.

Our partnerships extend across the entire state, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders living in urban, regional, rural and remote communities; industry bodies and businesses, peak bodies and community organisations, universities and the philanthropic sector; and all levels of government.

We continue to lead change through enhanced relationships and improved decision-making across government to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders to truly thrive.

Thriving communities

Improved economic participation is one our leading priorities. Industries, workforces and communities become stronger when they engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The economic participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people results in positive life outcomes such as the ability to generate wealth and achieve home ownership.

I am proud of this department’s efforts in facilitating 1183 jobs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders, exceeding this year’s target of 850 jobs.

The dream of home ownership has also become a reality for more Indigenous Queenslanders during the year, with 36 houses made available for ownership by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in targeted communities, exceeding our target of 25 homes.

Past, present and future

As we continue to move forward, we reflect on the past as part of healing and truth-telling.

In 2018–2019, we connected 523 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders to their communities and family histories.

In acknowledging the impacts of past government policies, $756,794.63 in reparation payments for controlled wages and savings were made to 285 eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders during 2018–2019. In September 2018, the department closed the Queensland Government Reparations Scheme, with more than $20 million paid to 7284 people since the Reparations Scheme began.

Valuing culture, custom and heritage

Culture, tradition and connection to Country is fundamental to the wellbeing of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people.

This year we started a review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Acts through online and community consultation. The review is an important opportunity to ensure the appropriate balance between protecting and conserving cultural heritage, and facilitating business and development activity in Queensland.

Land users are increasingly seeking guidance from our department to better understand their obligations and play their part to protect and preserve Country, in partnership with Traditional Owners and Registered Native Title Groups. This is demonstrated by more than 24,000 cultural heritage search requests completed during the year via our cultural heritage online portal.

Across the state, we also continued to work with communities to realise their aspirations, celebrate their culture and promote reconciliation. Our Celebrating Reconciliation Small Grants Program funded 31 reconciliation events across Queensland in celebration of National Reconciliation Week.

During the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages, we continued to take steps to preserve and revive traditional languages for generations to come. This included:

  • launching the Indigenous Languages Grants Program in partnership with the Department of Education
  • funding $89,000 for the Queensland Indigenous Languages Advisory Committee to organise community forums in Rockhampton and Roma; and to support the Bana Guyurru Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Forum held in Cairns to inform the development of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Language Policy.

A $1 million investment over three years also continues to support our work with communities to introduce new laws that recognise Torres Strait Islander traditional child-rearing practice. This will be a historic outcome for our state and nation.

Continuing to change a narrative from disadvantage to optimism for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders to thrive culturally, socially and economically will challenge the status quo.

The 2019–2020 State Budget reflects additional funding for a range of initiatives, including implementing an Indigenous youth mental health and wellbeing program, increased funding for services to reduce alcohol-related harm, increased funding to support High Risk Teams to address domestic and family violence, and funding for initiatives to increase decision-making and improve life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders through co-designed local, regional and statewide initiatives. I am immensely proud of our shared achievements with community and I look forward to what the future holds as we all play our part to create a truly inclusive Queensland.

Dr Chris Sarra