The first elected co-chairs of Australia’s new national Indigenous body have been announced.
Les Malezer and Jody Broun will take over the two most senior positions of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
The National Congress is the first national representative body for Indigenous people since the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner or ATSIC in 2005.
Les Malezer is a veteran Indigenous advocate from southeast Queensland, who has been working full-time as a delegate to the United Nations on Indigenous issues, and previously worked for ATSIC.
His other roles have included implementing the Native Title Act in southeast Queensland and working on the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
In his new position, Mr Malezer says he wants to lobby against what he considers to be unfair government policies.
One of those policies is the Northern Territory intervention, which he says has been flawed since its beginning.
“We all know that they need services, they need health services, they need education outcomes, they need better occupations and employment available in their communities,” she told SBS.
“It’s really a case of how these things get delivered and emergency responses and using heavy-handed top-down approaches in which the people become the victims or vulnerable to that is not the answer.”
Mr Malezer’s co-chair is Jody Broun.
She’s been working in Indigenous affairs for more than 25 years and began her career as a teacher at the Clontarf Aboriginal College in Bentley, Western Australia.
Most recently, she worked as the Director General of the New South Wales Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Josephine Bourne has been acting as one of the appointed co-chairs of the new National Congress, pending the appointment of the elected co-chairs.
She says the organisation is now entering a new phase.
“We are still a new voice on the political landscape. It was only April last year that we incorporated as a company,” Bourne told SBS.
“We have been focused on establishing the model and growing the membership base. We are setting standards in how we as first nation’s peoples deal with accountability, with equity and democracy”.
Les Malezer says the election of the leaders of the National Congress is an historic occasion.
“For the first time since colonisation began, our people have exercised the right to unreservedly elect their own representatives, their own national leaders, in their own national organisation. It is historic,” he told SBS.
“As such it is a very first step towards self-determination, which is our political right. It’s our human right. It’s an inherent right and it’s also our right to equality with all other peoples of the world, including the peoples of the Australian nation”.
Les Malezer and Jody Broun will take up their new positions in July.