State Plan: representation of women on the APY Executive Board

First posted on 29 September 2008 under APY Lands.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: elections, governance, State Strategic Plan & women

Summary

The South Australian State Strategic Plan originally aimed to increase the number of women on government boards and committees to 50% (on average) by 2008.

In support of that target, the Government encouraged and assisted Aboriginal women to take up leadership and decision-making opportunities.[i]

The APY Executive Board is a government-funded statutory authority. Between November 2005 and April 2009, all of its 10 members were men.

In April 2009, an Anangu woman won an election to fill a casual vacancy on the APY Executive Board.

The Paper Trail

Across South Australia, Aboriginal communities are justifiably proud of the skills and achievements of their women leaders.[ii]

In remote communities, Anangu women have often played a leading role in responding to entrenched problems like substance abuse and family violence.[iii] Since 1980, the NPY Women’s Council has provided important leadership at a regional level.[iv]

In April 2008, Ms Alison Milyka Carroll and Ms Makinti Minutjukur were the only representatives from the APY Lands selected to attend the 2020 Summit in Canberra. In a pre-summit statement, they called for gender balance in Aboriginal leadership (“half should be women”).[v]

State Plan: women in leadership

In 2004, as part of its State Strategic Plan, the South Australian Government established a target (Target 5.1) to:

increase the number of women on all State Government boards and committees to 50% on average by 2006.[vi]

The Office for Women – in the Attorney General’s Department – had primary responsibility for making sure this target was reached.[vii]

In June 2006, an independent audit of the Plan reported that while progress had been made against this target it was “unlikely to be achieved in the timeframe.”[viii]

In January 2007, Target 5.1 was amended to:

increase the number of women on all State Government boards and committees to 50% on average by 2008, and maintain thereafter by ensuring that 50% of women are appointed, on average, each quarter.[ix]

Explaining this change, the Government stated that the timeframe had “been moved out by two years to reflect more realistic, but still ambitious, levels.”[x]

In July 2008, a second independent audit reported that while the percentage of women on government boards and committees had risen since January 2004, the “rate of growth [had] slowed over the most recent year” and that it was unlikely that the target would be met. [xi]

Aboriginal Boards and Committees

The South Australian Government has established a number of Aboriginal boards and committees, including the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Committee and the Aboriginal Heritage Committee.[xii] The Government also funds the operations of three Aboriginal land-holding bodies:

  • the Aboriginal Lands Trust,
  • Maralinga Tjarutja, and
  • Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara.[xiii]

In July 2006, the full membership of the Aboriginal Lands Trust was appointed for a three-year term. At that time, four of its 11 members (36%) were women.[xiv]

In October 2007, Maralinga Tjarutja confirmed the membership of its Council for the coming year. At that time, six of its 17 members (35%) were women.[xv]

In November 2005, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) elected its Executive Board for a three-year term. None of the 10 members (0%) were women.[xvi]

The APY Executive Board

In June 2004, a State Parliamentary Committee recommended that the South Australian Government should, as part of any review of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981 (Act), consult with Anangu to determine:

how specific provisions and sections of the Act should be amended to ensure that … a significant number of Anangu women is always elected and/or co-opted on to the Executive [Board].”[xvii]

In 2005, the South Australian Government conducted a series of consultative meetings with Anangu about possible changes to the Act.[xviii] The issue of women’s representation on the Executive Board does not appear to have been discussed as part of those consultations.

In October 2005, the Parliament of South Australia substantially amended the Act.[xix] This included, for example, extending the term of office of the APY Executive Board from one to three years and inserting provisions to ensure good governance. At that time, no statutory provisions were established to ensure Anangu women are always represented on the APY Executive Board.

On 28 November 2005, the State Electoral Commission conducted an election for representatives to the APY Executive Board. As no women nominated for any of the 10 positions on the Executive Board, all the available positions were filled by Anangu men.[xx]

In July 2008, the Acting APY Chairperson called for Anangu women to be nominated to fill casual vacancies on the Executive Board. He commented: “We need that balance on the Board, particularly at this time.”[xxi]

A week-long nominating period for the next APY Executive Board election concluded on 11 November 2008. The State Electoral Commissioner received and accepted 23 nominations. This included three from Anangu women.[xxii]

Formal elections were held on 3 December 2008. A total of 623 Anangu voted in those elections.

None of the three female candidates won a place on the APY Executive Board.

The Paper Tracker was pleased that some women decided to stand in the 2008 election. We remained concerned, however, at the overall low number of female candidates (only 13% of all candidates were women) and the inability of those candidates to win a place on the Executive Board.

Next Steps

The Paper Tracker believes that it may be necessary to establish a statutory mechanism to ensure that a significant number of women are always represented on the APY Executive Board.  Such a provision could, for example, establish a process for co-opting additional women members if and when less than three women are directly elected. The Paper Tracker notes that a process of co-opting women to the Executive Board was previously established in the 1990s but was, for unknown reasons, discontinued in 2003 or thereabouts.[xxiii]

In September 2008, the Paper Tracker made a formal submission to the independent review of the 2005 amendments to the Act. In our submission, we argued that the issue of representation of women on the APY Executive Board was so closely aligned with broader issues of good governance that it warranted examination within the context of that review.[xxiv]

On 30 October 2008, the report of the independent review was tabled in State Parliament.[xxv] In addition to endorsing the Paper Tracker’s comments, the review recommended that the Act should:

be amended to ensure that there are always at least five women represented on the APY Executive Board. Such a provision should establish a mechanism to co-opt additional women on to the Executive Board if and when less than five women are directly elected.[xxvi]

On 4 November 2008, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Jay Weatherill MP) indicated that his government would consider the report of the independent examination and “consult with all relevant stakeholders before determining its response.”[xxvii] A timeframe for this process was not announced.

As the APY Executive Board is a government-funded statutory authority, the Paper Tracker had thought that the gender of its membership would be included as part of any calculation of progress made under State Plan Target 5.1. As it turned out, this was not the case.

On 11 November 2008, the State Government’s Office for Women (OFW) advised the Paper Tracker that it did not include the APY Executive Board in those calculations because it is an incorporated body “constituted by the Aboriginal traditional owners.”[xxviii] At that time, the Office only included three Aboriginal boards and committees in those calculations:

  • Aboriginal Heritage Committee
  • Aboriginal Lands Trust
  • South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Committee.[xxix]

Additional information (added 12 May 2009)

In early 2009, a position on the APY Executive Board became vacant.[xxx]

Two Anangu nominated to fill this vacancy, one of whom was a woman.[xxxi]

On 30 April 2009, the State Electoral Commission conducted an election in the Pipalyatjara/Kalka electorate. Of the 33 Anangu who cast votes in this by-election, 20 voted for the female candidate. Accordingly, Mrs Milyika Paddy was elected to the Executive Board for the remainder of its three-year term.[xxxii]

This article was last updated in May 2009. It has been archived and will no longer be updated. It will, however, remain accessible online as a source of background information for anyone wishing to undertake further research on this issue. Information included in the article was current at the time it was archived. Keep in mind, however, that Ministerial changes and names of departments, among other things, may have since changed.


[i] The fact sheet for Target 5.1 commits the Government to continuing work aimed at ensuring that under-represented group – including Aboriginal women – are “included on all South Australian boards and committees through targeted recruitment … and promotion of opportunities” (Government of South Australia, 2008, “T5.1: Boards and Committees,” State Plan Target Fact Sheet. Available at: http://www.saplan.org.au/images/TargetFactsSheets2008/t5.01%20target%20fact%20sheet.pdf  Accessed 27 September 2008).

[ii] Significant Aboriginal women leaders include: Lowitja O’Donoghue, the late Mrs Ruby Hammond and the late Mrs Gladys Elphick. Ms Kerry Colbung has chaired the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Committee. Mrs Mima Smart has for a number of years been the Chairperson of Yalata Community Council.

[iii] For a recent example, see letter written by Makinti Minutjukur of Pukatja community and presented to the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs (Hon Jenny Macklin MP) on 13 August 2008. See also: Mantatjara Wilson’s comments on ABC Television’s Lateline on 21 June 2006: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2006/s1668773.htm. Access 28 September 2008.

[iv] The Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council was formed in 1980: “The push for a separate [Anangu] women’s forum came about during the South Australian Pitjantjatjara Land Rights struggle of the late 1970s. During consultations over land rights, many women felt that their views were ignored, so they established their own organisation” (NPY Women’s Council website: http://www.npywc.org.au/html/about_us.html%20Accessed%2029%20September%202008). The Council’s advocacy work was arguably one of the key factors leading to the establishment of the 2002 Coronial Inquest into the petrol-sniffing deaths of three Anangu.

[v] See: Carroll, A. and Minutjuku, M. April 2007, “Minyma Kutjara (Two Women) go to Canberra.”

[vi] Government of South Australia, March 2004, South Australia’s Strategic Plan, p47.

[vii] Each of the State Strategic Plan’s targets has been allocated to a specific government agency which then “has responsibility for developing implementation plans and strategies to achieve the target within the given timeframe.” The Department of Justice is the lead agency for Target 5.1 (see Government of South Australia, 2008, “South Australia’s Strategic Plan: Lead Agencies,” http://www.saplan.org.au/content/view/88/146/ Accessed 27 September 2008). See also: Government of South Australia, 2008, “T5.1: Boards and Committees,” State Plan Target Fact Sheet. Available at: http://www.saplan.org.au/images/TargetFactsSheets2008/t5.01%20target%20fact%20sheet.pdf  Accessed 27 September 2008.).

[viii] South Australia’s Strategic Plan Audit Committee, June 2006, South Australia‘s Strategic Plan: Progress Report 2006, p69.

[ix] Government of South Australia, January 2007, South Australia‘s Strategic Plan 2007, p31.

[x] Government of South Australia, January 2007, South Australia‘s Strategic Plan 2007, p57.

[xi] South Australia’s Strategic Plan Audit Committee, July 2008, South Australia’s Strategic Plan: Progress Report 2008, p82. Available at: http://www.saplan.org.au/images/ProgressReport2008/prog%20rep%2008%20objective%205.pdf Accessed: 27 September 2008.

[xii] For the list of members of these committee, as of June 2007, see: Department of the Premier and Cabinet, 2007, Annual Report 2006 – 2007, p79-80. On 1 May 2008, the State Government announced that five of the 10 Aboriginal people appointed to the Aboriginal Advisory Committee were women (See: Weatherill, J. 1 May 2008, “Membership of Aboriginal Council announced,” news release).

[xiii] In 2008/2009, the State Government grants to these bodies for the purpose of administering their statutory obligations under respective legislation were: Aboriginal Lands Trust ($521,110), Maralinga Tjarutja ($468,054) and Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara ($1,100,004): see Weatherill, J. 30 June 2008, Hansard, Estimates Committee A, Parliament of South Australia, p191.

[xiv] Government of South Australia, 6 July 2006, The South Australian Government Gazette, p2172.

[xv] Maralinga Tjarutja, 16 October 2007, “Periodic Return” provided to the Office for Consumer and Business Affairs.

[xvi] Government of South Australia, 8 December 2005, The South Australian Government Gazette, p4141.

[xvii] Parliament of South Australia, 2004, Report of the Select Committee on Pitjantjatjara Land Rights, pp218, p4.

[xviii] See: Parliament of South Australia, 2007, Annual Report of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee 2005/2006, pp219, p22-23.

[xix] These amendments were enacted with the proclamation of the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act 2005 (hereafter 2005 Amendment Act).

[xx] Government of South Australia, 8 December 2005, The South Australian Government Gazette, p4141. See also: Mousley, K. 15 December 2005, Letter and enclosures to Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia.

[xxi] Williamson, B. S. 11 July 2008, “APY calls for Senior Women to be considered for Executive Board vacancies,” Press Release.

[xxii] Nguyen, T. 11 November 2008. Email to K. Newman.

[xxiii] See: Parliament of South Australia, 2004, Report of the Select Committee on Pitjantjatjara Land Rights, pp218, p89.

[xxiv] UnitingCare Wesley Adelaide, 17 September 2008, “Submission to the Independent Review of the operation of the 2005 amendments to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981,” p2-3.

[xxv] See: “Papers,” 30 October 2008, Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p753.

[xxvi] [Thurtell, J et al]. October 2008. “Review of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981,” p36.

[xxvii] Weatherill, J. 4 November 2008. Letter to Rev P McDonald.

[xxviii] Pitcher, S. 11 November 2008. Letter to Rev P. McDonald

[xxix] Pitcher, S. 11 November 2008. Letter to Rev P. McDonald

[xxx] see: Minutes of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Executive Board Meeting held on 3 March 2009, p 3. Available at: http://www.waru.org/organisations/ap/apyminutes/execmins090303.pdf. Accessed: 12 May 2009.

[xxxi] see: Minutes of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Executive Board Meeting held on 7 April 2009, p 1. Available at: http://www.waru.org/organisations/ap/apyminutes/execmins090407.pdf. Accessed 12 May 2009.

[xxxii] Government of South Australia, 7 May 2009, The South Australian Government Gazette, p1683. Also see: Minutes of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Executive Board Meeting held on 7 April 2009, p 1. Available at: http://www.waru.org/organisations/ap/apyminutes/execmins090407.pdf. Accessed 12 May 2009.

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