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Mick Gooda 'obvious' pick for commissioner

AAP logoAAP 1/08/2016 Elise Scott

Being social justice commissioner for indigenous Australians helped Mick Gooda end up on the list of suitable people to jointly head a royal commission into Northern Territory youth detention.

His high standing in the indigenous community around the country was also a factor.

But it's likely his popularity with both sides of politics helped boost him to be an obvious choice to preside over the royal commission.

In 2010, Mr Gooda was appointed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission by a Labor government and in a display of bipartisanship, reappointed by the coalition.

Attorney-General George Brandis has "very high regard" for Mr Gooda - who has been involved in indigenous affairs for 35 years.

A Gangulu man from central Queensland, Mr Gooda is passionate about closing the health gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians and each year releases a progress report in Canberra.

He also vocally pushes for a justice target to close the gap in incarceration rates.

His name was "prominent" among those recommended during consultation with indigenous groups, the government said.

In one case, the coalition was told Mr Gooda would "demonstrate the government's commitment to building a respectful relationship with indigenous people".

Senator Brandis reckons Mr Gooda - who was visibly upset after ABC footage aired showing brutal abuse of young boys in NT detention - is an obvious candidate to help lead the royal commission.

He's not a lawyer - but his co-commissioner and former Queensland Supreme Court justice Margaret White fills that role.

"Mr Gooda obviously meets the need, which the government accepts, for there to be an indigenous voice among the commissioners," Senator Brandis said.

At least 95 per cent of young people in NT detention are indigenous.

While liked by both sides of politics, his neutrality has already been questioned after he called for the NT government's head when the footage aired.

"The federal government has to intervene and sack the NT Government," he wrote on Twitter last week.

While being revealed as co-commissioner on Monday, Mr Gooda defended that remark as one made on a "day of emotions".

"In the clear light of day, I probably wouldn't think that," he told reporters.

Mr Gooda and Justice White replace former NT chief justice Brian Ross Martin, who quit over perceived conflict of interest with both his career and that of his daughter's.

Mr Gooda's appointment was welcomed by the head of the Anglican Church in Australia, Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier.

"The highest possible involvement of Aboriginal people is crucial in the newly announced royal commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory," he said in a statement on Monday.

Dr Freier commended the former commissioner's decision to stand down and also praised the prime minister's speed in calling the inquiry after the ABC's report was aired.

"Having just visited a remote Arnhem Land community in my role as Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, I was made aware again of the high incarceration rate among indigenous youth," he said.

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