Retired Queensland supreme court chief justice Margaret White will replace Brian Martin in heading the royal commission into the abuse of juveniles in Northern Territory detention centres.
Indigenous leader Mick Gooda will join White as co-commissioner.
Gooda was chosen after indigenous minister Nigel Scullion consulted with the Aboriginal community about who they would like to see as their representative.
Senator Brandis said Gooda, Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner, was the “obvious candidate” after being the most often nominated choice.
The attorney-general announced justice White’s and Gooda’s appointments after Martin resigned over a potential conflict of interest involving his daughter.
Martin was appointed to the role by Brandis and prime minister Malcolm Turnbull last Thursday. Gooda’s appointment comes after indigenous leaders complained that the government had failed to consult them before appointing Martin last week.
Senator Brandis said he told Martin he did not need to stand down, but “notwithstanding that, he made a firm decision”.
White most recently investigated the Queensland racing industry. She was also a junior counsel representing the Queensland government in opposing the Mabo native land rights case.
The prime minister announced the royal commission last Tuesday after ABC TV program 4 Corners aired footage of children as young as 13 being abused in the Don Dale juvenile detention centre in the Northern Territory.
Reports into problems with the treatment of juvenile detainees in the Territory were released nearly 12 months ago, but the government of chief minister Adam Giles was accused of failing to act in response.
The Turnbull government is conducting the inquiry in conjunction with the Giles government, which is facing an election later this month, and has backed the appointment of the two commissioners.
Last week Gooda called on the federal government to sack the NT government. Asked today if he still held that view, Gooda said “we’ll wait and see”.
“I’ve been fairly vocal about Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people needing to have confidence in the process,” he said.
“I think I may have set myself up a bit because I will be now part of that process.”
The new commissioners hope to stick to the timeline originally outlined under Martin last week, beginning their inquiry next month and handing down their report in March 2017.
“The government has acted swiftly and decisively to ensure that the resignation of Mr Martin will not delay the work of the royal commission,” Brandis said.
The new lineup should allay some of the criticism Turnbull’s original choice attracted from indigenous leaders and Labor.
“The royal commission is too important to become a political plaything,” Brandis said.
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