Liberal Senator Kerrynne Liddle claims the long-accepted test to establish whether a person is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian is being “tinkered with” in favour of self-identification. Senator Liddle, an Arrernte woman from Alice Springs, told parliament last week she was concerned that an “astonishing” increase in the number of Australians who consider themselves Indigenous would have consequences for government policies and programs and the people who needed them most. The South Australian senator made her remarks as a regional NSW land council pushes for Labor’s proposed National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate what it says is the scandal of non-Indigenous people and organisations claiming contracts, jobs and benefits intended for Aboriginal Australians.

Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council chief executive Brendan Moyle has asked the joint select committee on the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill to insist the watchdog has a mandate to pursue what he says are clever workarounds by enterprising individuals. Mr Moyle believes some government agencies are accepting statutory declarations from job applicants as proof of Aboriginality, a breach of rules in departments that are supposed to abide by the accepted three-part test. That three-part test says a person is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander if they have Indigenous heritage – sometimes this is confirmed in writing by a land council or other Indigenous organisation – if they consider themselves Indigenous and if the community in which they live accepts they are Indigenous.

Senator Liddle said the test was not perfect but there was no evidence that it was broken, nor was she aware that it had become irrelevant. “I am alarmed at tinkering with this definition and its impact and consequences for program and service delivery for the people who need it most,” Senator Liddle told parliament. “There should be no place in government or in policy for a self-identification test or for fluidity in the definition, depending on program or policy application. “With self-identification, there’s no validation, no accountability. It counts people who should not be counted; it relies on the box-ticker having a moral compass. “It risks greater access to specialist services by charlatans to those services designed for the those who need it most. “It fails, fails, fails every test.”

Ms Liddle cited the most recent Census which showed an increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians that was far greater than the birthrate. On June 30, 2021, there were 984,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 3.8 per cent of the Australian population. This is an increase of 185,600 people – or 23.2 per cent – since June 30, 2016. “That is possibly explained by the reply email sent from Ancestry tracing sites that tell people they are indeed Indigenous through a relative where there is no lived connection, no lived experience, no life experience and not for maybe even more than a century,” she said. “What should be occurring is accountability of the government its agencies and community organisations ensuring the bona fides of Indigenous claims and we better get it right before we ask Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to elect representatives to the Voice, should that be successful at referendum.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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