Established in 2007, the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement is a point of contact for Aboriginal people to express their concerns about issues that matter to them.
The Commissioner provides advice to the state government, as well as promoting Aboriginal inclusion more broadly through the non-Aboriginal community.
Dr Roger Thomas, a well-respected Aboriginal leader in South Australia, was appointed as South Australia's Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement on 18 July 2018.
The role of Commissioner provides Aboriginal leadership in South Australia, advocating on behalf of all Aboriginal people and communities across the state.
The Commissioner is the public advocate for engagement between the broader community and Aboriginal people, and investigates and advises on systemic barriers to Aboriginal people’s access and full participation in government, non-government and private services.
- Provide advice to government, non-government and private organisations on issues and barriers raised with or identified by the Commissioner.
- Act independently, impartially and in the public interest.
- Consult with non-government organisations and peak Aboriginal bodies and represent their views to government as appropriate.
- Provide written advice at each meeting of the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council through a standing agenda item.
- Consult with the Chief Executive, Department of the Premier and Cabinet and the Premier, as the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, when public statements are to be made, consistent with agreed protocols.
- Report regularly on their activities to the Premier, as the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation.
On 3 December 2020, the Commissioner provided a report on the achievements of his office for the period July 2018 to November 2020 to the Parliament of South Australia’s House of Assembly.
South Australian Aboriginal Engagement Reform
The Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement met with the Premier in July 2020 to review the progress of the Aboriginal Engagement Reform because of the implications of COVID-19. It was concluded that due to the impact of COVID-19, any engagement with the Aboriginal community was to be deferred.
Notwithstanding this, the Premier has endorsed the following key aspects to the proposed South Australian Aboriginal Engagement Reform initiative, to be addressed in 2021:
- Draft legislation for an election of five candidates from five wards in South Australia
- Draft election rules to include but not limited to: eligibility to be registered to vote, enrolment provisions, complaints and dispute resolution process, election methodology and ward composition
- Establish an electoral roll for Aboriginal people in South Australia that enables them to vote in an election including eligibility to be registered to vote, how to enrol to vote and all other necessary rules. Develop administrative systems for all voters to be registered on the roll.
About Dr Roger Thomas
Dr Thomas has extensive experience in conducting public consultations and negotiations with the Aboriginal community and has held various positions on state, national and international advisory committees working on strategic initiatives.
He has presented numerous papers at conferences and forums nationally and internationally in such countries as Germany, the United States of America, Colombia and the United Nations.
He was the inaugural Professor of Indigenous Engagement and Adjunct Professor of Education at the University of Adelaide and the Dean of the Centre for Australian Indigenous Research and Studies, Wilto Yerlo.
From February 2017 to July 2018, Dr Thomas was the South Australian Treaty Commissioner.
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