Calls for creation of South Australian Aboriginal Ombudsman amid troubled Aboriginal corporations

PROPOSAL: Indigenous man Mark Koolmatrie, is backing the establishment of a South Australian Aboriginal Ombudsman.
PROPOSAL: Indigenous man Mark Koolmatrie, is backing the establishment of a South Australian Aboriginal Ombudsman.

Members of the Aboriginal Reform Group of SA and indigenous communities around the state are calling for the creation of a South Australian Aboriginal Ombudsman.

The calls come amid troubles surrounding Aboriginal organisations and Native Title groups.

This follows two Aboriginal land association groups having recently been put into special administration, including the Port Augusta-based Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA) and the Kokatha Aboriginal Corporation.

Ngarrindjeri man and chairman of the Original Southern SA Tribes Indigenous Corporation and the Heritage Tourism Alliance, Mark Koolmatrie, of Noarlunga, said there were problems in Aboriginal organisations across the state and an urgent need to set up an independent Ombudsman.

"Until some of the Native Title body corporates go into administration, it is hard to produce concrete evidence, but there is lots of unrest," he said.

Adnyamathanha woman and member of the Aboriginal Reform Group of SA, Cheryl Coulthard-Waye, of Port Augusta, said the way Native Title had been operating was letting down and dividing Indigenous communities.

"The youth of today are our lost generation. Drugs are a major issue. There are no jobs out there to keep them busy and there is nothing for them to be proud of," she said.

"Our own people ... are not teaching our young people their culture and how to move forward."

Ms Coulthard-Waye said divisions among Native Titles groups were splitting indigenous communities.

"We need someone out there with a voice and I will be that voice," she said.

"People are scared to come forward, but I am hoping to be an advocate."

As a member of ATLA, which recently went into administration, Ms Coulthard-Waye said an opportunity to provide for Aboriginal youth had been missed.

The future of youth is an issue Ms Coulthard-Waye is passionate about, having lost two sons to suicide and one to a chronic health condition.

"Many young people in our communities who have died of suicide have not had a future or anything out there for them," she said.

Mr Koolmatrie said Aboriginal people were leading the push for an independent Ombudsman.

"The real issues need to be addressed in a way they never have been before," he said.

"The state has put in measures in the past including regional authorities ... but they haven't adequately looked at communities.

"For at least 20 years, there has been a high level of destruction of Aboriginal communities and top down models have failed.

"What we are asking for is a 'bottom-up' approach where the community can say what needs to happen. Everyone needs to be on the same page.

"An independent Ombudsman can find out where the concerns are and how these concerns can be addressed."

Mr Koolmatrie said those pushing for the establishment of an Ombudsman wanted to see change.

"This should have started 20 years ago. The people should have been listened to 20 years ago. There have been 20 years of heartache for the Aboriginal people," he said.

"No one is worried about us because it is only us black fellas, but something needs to be done urgently and we need government support.

"Closing the gap should be no more. We should have alleviated poor health by now. We should all be doctors, lawyers, professors and living comfortable lives.

"I am ready to sit down with the government to create action."

A spokesperson said the state government had not been approached to set up such an office nor presented with any reason for it.

Premier Steven Marshall is the state's Aboriginal Affairs Minister.