Director-General's message

The past year has been significant for our department as we implemented a new way of working to deliver change real outcomes to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders to thrive culturally, socially and economically.

The department has embarked on an extensive program of reforms that are set to reframe the relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders. Underpinned by principles of self-determination, local leadership and reconciliation, we have worked in close partnership, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in responding to the unprecedented challenges of a global health pandemic.

It is with a sense of enormous pride, I am pleased to see the department go from strength to strength in influencing and leading positive change—at every level of government—in partnership with communities to develop innovative policies and programs that focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander priorities.

I would like to thank all staff for their contribution to the department’s continued efforts and the local leaders, communities and service providers we partner with, as we work together to deliver innovative, culturally-appropriate and well-considered services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders.

All of our achievements have been made possible by the dedication, commitment and legacy of those who came before us. Our shared commitment to enable First Nations people to thrive—no matter where they live, be it urban, regional, rural or remote Queensland—is the compass for our path forward.

Working in partnership to reset policy

Working together towards a reframed relationship will continue to be our focus as we design policies, programs and services in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders.

Following the unrest in Aurukun earlier this year, the department worked with local leaders, service providers and other government agencies to implement a recovery strategy that focusses on restoring community strength and healing while supporting the immediate needs of its residents. The department engaged Mr Bruce Martin, a proud Wik man from Aurukun and a former member of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, to develop a community-led strategy designed to build on community strengths and enhance positive social values. Working in collaboration with the Wik community, the department supported the establishment of an advisory group to identify the aspirations, goals and priorities of the community, while ensuring their voices remain prominent and at the centre of all decision-making.

During NAIDOC Week 2019, the Queensland Government reaffirmed its commitment to reconciliation through a Statement of Commitment. As part of this commitment, the department proudly launched two significant statewide reforms: Path to Treaty and Local Thriving Communities.

Connecting with culture and community

Queensland is home to dynamic and proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and our state is enriched by the ongoing social, economic and cultural contributions of First Nations peoples.

In 2019–2020, the department implemented a range of initiatives to support safe, caring and connected communities that value culture and heritage.

Our key achievements included:

  • working towards the legal recognition of Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice—a momentous step forward in the Queensland Government's journey to a reframed relationship with First Nations peoples
  • working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language experts in the co-design of Many Voices: Queensland Government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Language Policy
  • delivering $100,000 in funding for 31 initiatives to support the promotion, continuation and revival of traditional and contemporary languages as part of the inaugural Indigenous Languages Grants program
  • responding to 625 requests for historical records relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders.

Achieving economic outcomes

We continued to support economic participation programs and initiatives focussed on First Nations peoples succeeding, whether as a school student embarking on their first job and starting out in their career, a business owner with aspirations to be an entrepreneur or a first home owner.

Through Local Thriving Communities we have supported leadership and decision-making at the local level so that service delivery, investment and infrastructure continue to meet local needs and aspirations.

We supported the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses in government supply chains by delivering a range of government procurement and business development webinars and workshops. These sessions brought together business and government agencies to share best practice and to develop their skills and knowledge of major projects and procurement opportunities.

During 2019–2020, the department influenced improvements in service delivery and economic outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders.

Our key achievements included:

  • facilitating 1,033 job placements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander job seekers across Queensland, exceeding our annual target of 600 placements
  • strengthened employment outcomes, with 78.8 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders placed through the Youth Employment Program, who were still in employment three months after placement, exceeding our target of 70 per cent
  • making 31 houses available for ownership by Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples in targeted communities, exceeding our target of 30 houses.

In 2019–2020, we partnered with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to:

  • progress the Path to Treaty through statewide engagement and consultations
  • establish greater local decision-making authority in service delivery and economic development through the Local Thriving Communities reform
  • advance the national Closing the Gap agreement
  • refresh the approach to alcohol management by prioritising local-led solutions around community health, safety and wellbeing
  • establish the Remote Communities Therapeutic Services Taskforce to drive local reforms to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Responding to Novel Coronavirus

The emergence of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) created unique challenges and many opportunities for the department to work with elected Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in the remote and discrete communities, as well as communities with significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Achievements to date in the COVID-19 response could not have been possible without the outstanding leadership of Mayors, Chief Executive Officers and community leaders of remote and discrete communities and collaboration between local, state and commonwealth governments.

With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions there is an opportunity to reflect on our collective efforts, experiences and key learnings to inform future implementation of the Local Thriving Communities reform agenda and importantly, how we leverage local knowledge, leadership, expertise and collaborative strengths to resolve critical issues and positively impact outcomes.

While the immediate focus of Local Thriving Communities is on the remote and discrete communities, we will also explore options to build on these reforms with other Queensland communities with a significant proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

I am pleased to present the 2019–2020 Annual Report for the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships.

Dr Chris Sarra
Director-General