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Indigenous groups angry about Abbott’s new role

Tony Abbott has agreed to become the Prime Minister’s special envoy on Indigenous affairs, but Aboriginal groups and the federal Opposition are not impressed

Aboriginal leaders are furious at the appointment of Tony Abbott to a newly-created indigenous role, but Scott Morrison insists he is the right man for the job.

The former Prime Minister was given the role of special envoy for Indigenous affairs after being left out of the new Prime Minister’s ministry, in an effort to heal the wounds of last week’s damaging leadership coup.

Rod Little, Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, said Abbott had a poor record on Indigenous affairs as Prime Minister.

Little said to work to improve education, employment, health and other outcomes for first Australians did not involve nearly enough consultation during Abbot’s term.

“There wasn’t enough conversations with communities on the ground to listen to their needs and work out solutions and work with them,” Little told ABC Radio.

“We certainly don’t have any faith or hope in that this envoy and this role will make the slightest bit of difference.”

However, new Prime Minister Morrison said he had travelled with Abbott to remote communities and experienced his passion firsthand.

“I know how passionate Tony Abbott is about changing generationally the life circumstances for Indigenous Australians,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Abbott cautiously accepted the job after hesitating at first, and expects to make recommendations on improving education in remote areas.

“I’ve been to a lot of remote schools over the years,” Abbott said.

“We need to get attendance up and standards up because there is no better thing we can do for kids than ensuring that they’ve got the best possible schooling.”

Both as Prime Minister and as a Minister, Abbott spent one week each year in remote Indigenous communities.

Morrison also counts Indigenous education rates among his own personal passions.

“What more important job could there be than that for those indigenous young people,” he said.

The federal opposition has called into question Abbott’s record on Indigenous affairs.

“This is a person who as Prime Minister cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of Indigenous funding, who famously said living in remote communities was a lifestyle choice,” Labor frontbencher, Richard Marles, said.

“This is an attempt to throw a bone to Tony Abbott and hopefully make him happy, given the destruction that’s been caused to the Liberal Party over the last 10 days.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Abbott had been a disappointment to Indigenous Australians and needed to prove he was genuine in the new role.

“If they want a reset on treating first Australians with some degree of decency, Abbot and Morrison need to reverse their cuts to remote housing,” Shorten told reporters in Perth.

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