The Prime Minister’s hand-picked Indigenous advisory council has written to Scott Morrison demanding a meeting and an explanation on the appointment of Tony Abbott as special envoy for Aboriginal affairs.
- Andrea Mason says she heard of Tony Abbott’s appointment through media
- She raises concerns about Mr Abbott’s lack of expertise in Indigenous education
- Scott Morrison asked Tony Abbott to take on Indigenous envoy role last week
The co-chair of the Prime Minister’s advisory council, NPY Women’s Council chief executive Andrea Mason, said the first she had heard of the appointment was through the media and she had still not received a briefing from the Government on the appointment.
Ms Mason said she had sent a letter to Scott Morrison on Friday last week raising questions and concerns about the “crowded” field in Indigenous affairs.
“Absolutely, we as a Council have written to the Prime Minister and really outlined to him the work that we’ve been doing since 2017, when we as a council were established by the previous prime minister,” she told RN Drive.
“[We] feel that we’ve done a lot of substantive work and we’re keen not to derail that process.
“Obviously there’s a bit of concern about how this new role will work with the council because we are indeed the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council.”
Ms Mason said she had not yet received a response and, as the official Indigenous council appointed to give the Prime Minister advice, there were questions that needed urgent answers on how the new role would work.
Concerns over Abbott’s Indigenous education expertise
Ms Mason said she didn’t think Mr Abbott had the specialist education knowledge to focus his new role on Indigenous education and was concerned about the former prime minister’s ideas around improving that area.
“We want to elevate the voices of Indigenous leaders who are working on the ground and we also want to ensure that we work from a place of gathering good evidence and speaking from leaders in the field,” she said.
“I’m sure that Mr Abbott would say he’s not an expert in education, we do have experts in Indigenous education and we do want those voices elevated.”
Mr Morrison asked Mr Abbott to take on the job last week, with Mr Abbott saying he wanted to focus on Indigenous school attendance.
“I did see the report of him talking about school attendance, he erred towards a much more negative message with school attendance and with parents having their role,” Ms Mason said.
“What we want is to support parents and to not take a punitive approach but a strength-based approach because we know that parents want good outcomes from their children attending school.
“Attendance is one aspect. We want a better structure of teaching and support, supporting teachers and leaders inside the school gate, so it’s a bigger picture.
“We want people who are in the system providing that advice to the advisory council.”
Asked about the letter of complaint, a spokesman for Mr Morrison told the ABC: “Important meetings with the Prime Minister are being scheduled over the coming weeks.”