The Parliamentarian 2022: Issue One: Reflecting on two years of the COVID-19

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APPOINTMENT OF THE FIRST ABORIGINAL LIAISON OFFICER AT THE PARLIAMENT OF NEW SOUTH WALES It has been 12 months since the Parliament of New South Wales employed its first Aboriginal Liaison Officer, to ensure the Parliament is better placed to engage with Aboriginal communities across New South Wales. This historic and deeply significant appointment, only the second to be made in Australia, was a huge step towards making the Parliament of New South Wales a more welcoming place for Aboriginal communities. The role is an important resource for Members and staff, in supporting interactions with Aboriginal communities via their work in electorates across the State, providing advice on cultural protocols and significant events, assisting with committee activity and guiding Parliamentary events and programs. Over time, this role will help work towards breaking down the barriers that have traditionally been in place for Aboriginal people seeking to understand, access and engage with the Parliament of New South Wales, in recognition of the importance Aboriginal voices play in the future of the Parliament. The Parliament’s Aboriginal Liaison Officer Steven Collins is a Pitta Pitta man, whose traditional lands are in Queensland. Steven has had a long career in the public sector and has led many projects to help bridge the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. Steven’s recent role was at the New South Wales Public Service Commission, where he led the development of a training package designed to teach the State’s 400,000 public sector employees about the Stolen Generations and the impacts of forcible removal policies. The impacts of past forcible removal policies and practices on Aboriginal communities are still felt today. This period of Australia’s history is close to Steven’s heart, as he is a descendent of the Stolen Generations. Increasing participation in Parliamentary activities An important area of outreach for the Parliament is through its Committees, which regularly travel to rural areas across New South

Hon. Matthew MasonCox, MLC is the President

of the New South Wales Legislative Council since May 2021. He was first elected in 2006 and has held several parliamentary positions including Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Minister for Fair Trading.

46 | The Parliamentarian | 2022: Issue One | 100 years of publishing

Wales to engage and consult communities on particular inquiry topics. Historically, Committees have at times struggled to engage with Aboriginal communities appropriately on inquiries, and Steven Collins has been working with the Committee offices to understand the barriers and start to develop strategies for greater Aboriginal participation. Some of these include working with the Committee staff on rewriting Committee resources to make them more culturally specific and inclusive, and leveraging its social media channels with targeted posts. These have proven to be an effective way for Committee inquiries to engage with Aboriginal communities. In April 2021, the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control travelled to Narrandera in the Riverina region of southern New South Wales to meet with domestic violence victim-survivors, indigenous organisations, frontline services and local charities from the across the State. The involvement of the Aboriginal Liaison Officer commenced in the planning phase of the Committee to ensure he had a detailed understanding of what the inquiry was about, to be able to provide sound advice to the Aboriginal communities on what that issue was going to look like for their engagement. Steven Collins was also on hand in Narrandera to provide advice to the Committee Members on culturally appropriate questioning of Aboriginal witnesses, as well as to ensure the participants felt comfortable about participating in the Committee process. Following the hearing, Steven briefed Committee staff on how future Committees and site visits could be run to better include Aboriginal voices. Steven was also very focused on his own learnings from the experience, to better work with Committee members and help them understand and engage with evidence from Aboriginal witnesses. Further regional Committees were unable to go ahead, as travel outside of Sydney was prohibited during extended COVID19 lockdowns in New South Wales. Going forward, the Aboriginal Liaison Officer will be attending more regional Committees,

Hon. Jonathan O’Dea, MP is the Speaker of the

New South Wales Legislative Assembly and the Member for Davidson in northern Sydney. He was first elected in 2007 and became Speaker in 2019. He has held a number of parliamentary roles including Chair of the Public Accounts Committee and Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier and Treasurer.

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