The Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA) is putting the altruism of Canberra’s fat cat public servants to the test with an appeal for volunteers to spend up to a year living in a tent on the aboriginal lands the Commonwealth Government is about to take over.

FaCSIA departmental secretary Dr Jeff Harmer has the difficult task of finding staff for the administration hastily being cobbled together to service the Northern Territory Emergency Response Taskforce. Yesterday an email went out throughout the public service for volunteers prepared to put their ordinary careers on hold for the good of the cause.

But not just anyone is wanted. FaCSIA is after chiefs not Indians. Those wanted must be members of the senior executive service and they must be prepared to leave their families behind for the duration, although the email promised that there would be provision for trips home.

Inquiriesd this morning from the departmental public relations office for details of the early response were ubnaswered by our deadline.

The request for only senior and experienced staff probably reflects the difficult nature of the assignment given to the NT Emergency Response Taskforce. The powers it will exercise will be rather dictatorial and it will need good judgment by those on the ground in the 70 or so Aboriginal settlements if major conflicts are to be avoided.

The Taskforce, announced by Minister Mal Brough yesterday, is headed by Dr Sue Gordon, a Western Australian Magistrate in the Perth Children’s Court who is also Chair of the National Indigenous Council. Rather strangely Dr Harmer is not a member, with the only Federal bureaucrat being Dr Peter Shergold, Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet since February 2003. Dr Shergold chairs a committee of departmental secretaries with an involvement in aboriginal matters.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.