Indigenous Communities, Economic Participation

Hon. GW ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Premier) (2.26 pm): Things are changing for the better in Queensland’s Indigenous communities. An emerging group of new community leaders and an agenda from this government based on actions that enable economic opportunity are seeing some exciting new projects and proposals. I am actively working with local Indigenous councils to identify opportunities for sustained economic development that are based on sound commercial principles, that are sustainable and that are self-sufficient. In the past, commercial activities that relied on ongoing government funding ensured that they were not sustainable or operated in the real economy. Those days are over. I will not set Indigenous communities and businesses up to fail. Any commercial activity must have the community driving it and being responsible for its outcomes.

I was pleased recently to visit Palm Island and Yarrabah, which both have realistic proposals for a stronger local economy based around tourism. The Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council has also recognised an important economic development opportunity for a turf farm to meet landscaping needs generated by the state government’s ambitious social housing program on the cape.

I also visited Hope Vale, where a proposal for a banana farm as part of the Cape York Welfare Reform has become a commercial reality. The Yarrabah and Palm Island Aboriginal shire councils have both raised with me the prospect of developing tourism based projects within their communities. I was at the Palm Island council with the Minister for Tourism. Mayor Neal sees opportunities for Yarrabah to capitalise on providing day or half-day cultural tourism experiences for the thousands of international visitors in Far North Queensland. Mayor Lacey and his Palm Island council are also keen to capitalise on Palm’s proximity to Townsville and the Great Barrier Reef islands which draw tens of thousands of tourists to the area each year.

Both the minister and I will support both councils where we can to realise their dreams. A dream which is now a reality is the banana farm at Hope Vale, developed with state government assistance through the Cape York welfare program. The farm is an excellent example of how economic development can be achieved in Indigenous communities with the right assistance. In full production the farm will employ 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and provide significant revenue for the community which can be used for the community’s benefit. With increased employment in the community will come greater stability, hope and a stronger sense of community pride. The farm is already looking at expanding into other commercially viable crops.

The Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council has identified a great business opportunity to establish a turf farm at Bamaga to supply turf for ongoing social housing being built by the state government across the cape. The development of a turf farm would mean great economic opportunities for people in the NPA.