Mr Howard made the remark after a meeting of indigenous leaders in Canberra which he convened to discuss the domestic violence issue.
He says he believes there is no issue of greater importance to indigenous people — and their leaders agree with him.
“It is primarily the view of indigenous leaders. And it’s been the view, incidentally, of female leaders within the indigenous community for quite a long time. I think it’s taken a while for there to be a greater acceptance among men in the indigenous community that the problem merits the attention that it’s now receiving.”
But former ATSIC chairperson, Lowitja O’Donoghue, says she made it clear to Mr Howard that the issue of domestic violence could not be separated from the history of the indigenous community in Australia.
“We had had an indication of course that he didn’t want us to talk about resources and about history. We had to make the point of course that it is all interconnected and that it needs to be taken into context.”
The Prime Minister says it’s clear there is no single solution to the problem of indigenous domestic violence.
He says local solutions have to be found, such as one community’s initiative to “shame” violent offenders.
“I think those sort of things have got to be tried and if they work in some communities they should be perpetuated. If they don’t they should be discarded. It is not a one size fits all approach and this is my view about alcohol. If communities want to ban alcohol good luck to them, if that is what they think will work in their communities.”
Four of the indigenous leaders at today’s meeting will continue working with the government on domestic violence initiatives, with Mr Howard to brief state and territory leaders on the issue at a meeting late next month.