Collier to miss bush meeting
Questions have been raised about Peter Collier’s ability to handle the education and Aboriginal affairs portfolios after revealing he would not be attending the Yule River bush meeting for the third straight year because of commitments.
Mr Collier confirmed he had made arrangements to attend an education council meeting in Adelaide before being formally invited to attend the Yule River meeting from today.
He said Regional Development Minister Terry Redman, who is leading the regional reforms process with Child Protection Minister Andrea Mitchell, would report to him as chairman of the Aboriginal Affairs Cabinet subcommittee.
Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Simon Hawkins said Mr Collier’s excuse was a slap in the face.
“He was invited 12 months ago by a petition to attend Yule River — that was a resolution made at the last meeting,” he said.
“He knows that’s the date, he knows he was criticised by traditional owners who were disappointed they have not had the chance to talk with him.”
Mr Hawkins said Mr Collier’s dual responsibilities in education and Aboriginal affairs meant he should be front and centre in remote services discussions.
“It doesn’t seem right the education minister would pick a meeting in South Australia over his own constituents,” he said.
Mr Redman would not be drawn on whether he believed Mr Collier should be in attendance.
He said significant progress had been made on the Regional Services Reform package since the last Yule River meeting.
“Meeting with Aboriginal com-
munities as part of the reform process will ensure genuine engagement of, and benefit to, Aboriginal communities,” he said.
Federal Labor Senator Patrick Dodson’s presence has been hailed a coup for the Yule River meeting.
Mr Hawkins said he expected more constructive conversation this year, after discussions about remote services reform were soured by former prime minister Tony Abbott’s “lifestyle choices” comment last year.
The meeting runs over two days.