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Issues and agendas to push

By Stephen Hagan - posted Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Dr Kelvin Kong said, when identified as Australia’s first Aboriginal surgeon: “The ideal day will be when it's not special - when there are thousands of Indigenous doctors.” (Sunday Telegraph, November 12, 2006.)

The affable Kevin Rudd continues to outshine opposition leader Brendan Nelson in the popularity stakes. In every poll presented since his National Apology address the PM has consistently recorded impressive figures greater than 70 per cent while his opposite lags well behind in unfamiliar single-figure territory.

His latest vision to bring together 1,000 of the best minds to the nation’s capital on April 19-20 to debate innovative ways of addressing Australia’s future challenges appears to have resonated well with the broader community.


Although the concept stumbled slightly when the he erred by nominating only one woman (actress Cate Blanchett) as session leader for one of the 10 summit topics, Rudd does appear largely to have made all the right calls on this and other issues of national significance in his first 100 days in office.

In the past week Dr Kelvin Kong stepped down from his role of session leader for the Indigenous session due to family health concern and was replaced by respected academic Dr Jackie Huggins. Dr Huggins inclusion has been warmly received by all Australians, especially Indigenous and female leaders respectively.

Now that the important and somewhat controversial session leaders have been identified, including Dr Huggins, belatedly for the Indigenous session, I anticipate more fervent monitoring of the next stage - the selection of the 100 delegates for each session - will be observed to ensure gender equity is evident.

At the home page for Australia 2020 Kevin Rudd he talks about the complex challenges that Australia is facing and the “need to get the best ideas we can from all Australians - business people, experts, community leaders - and just ordinary Australians”.

Dr Huggins, Chair of the Indigenous session, will have her hands full trying to maintain some semblance of order with 100 disparate Indigenous leaders and aspiring leaders who will bring to the table an myriad of issues and agendas to push.

I just hope that when she down to finalise the 100 Indigenous delegates to participate in this forum that she will not just select a predominance of the usual suspects.


I propose to Dr Huggins that she allocate 20 per cent of available positions to the “usual suspects” and allocate the balance to new players - those generally not invited to state or national conferences but work tirelessly within their community for their people - who can add to the national debate.

I also hope that she would secure an equitably representation of our youth, women and elders to be involved in the forum to address critical issues facing our people today.

To make it a bit easier for Dr Huggins I’ll provide my list of names of the 20 as a guide, most of whom I fully support while with others I have concerns about their politics: so she can do a cut and paste and then move on to the harder task of selecting 80 new names to come to the table with fresh ideas to complement established views.

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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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