It is all too common to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people left out in the cold at Budget time.
Worse than that, this government has seen Indigenous Affairs as fair game for making cuts!
The 2014 Budget was a horror budget for First Peoples, with $535 million dollars slashed from the Indigenous Affairs Budget.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services were cut, Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Services were cut, Aboriginal Child Care agencies were cut, and the peak representative body - National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples was defunded. $165 million was cut from the Indigenous health budget alone.
We’ve been campaigning tirelessly since then, with the help of our supporters, to reverse those decisions, with some success - legal service and family violence prevention legal services have had the cuts reversed, and National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples has as well.
But not only was all of that money not reinvested back into Indigenous Affairs, government has last night failed to prioritise addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage, and inject some urgency into working with and listening for First Peoples.
It’s little surprise that the Prime Minister stood up in Federal Parliament in February and declared that 5 of the 6 closing the gap targets were not on track.
Here’s what we called for to begin to revitalise efforts to address First Peoples disadvantage, and how the government fared:
FAIL: Restoring previous funding levels to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples as the national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
FAIL: Funding the establishment of peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing and education organisations to provide a national voice for those issues
FAIL: Provide sufficient funding for the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023
FAIL: Fund the development of a long-term National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social and Cultural Determinants of Health Strategy
FAIL: Fund a national Inquiry into institutional racism in the health system
FAIL: Prioritise disability services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including through making disability a priority in the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and quarantining an equitable share entitlement of the NDIS according to need
FAIL: Ensure adequate funding for Aboriginal Family Violence PreventionLegal Services, including through allocating funding to ensure there is national coverage (regardless of geographic location) of FVPLS services commensurate with need within 3-5 years.
FAIL: Ensure funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) that is able to meet the level of need, including through implementing the Productivity Commission’s Recommendation from its Access to Justice Arrangements Inquiry Report to provide an additional $120 million of Commonwealth funding to the Legal Assistance sector.
FAIL: Fund reforms to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system
Further substantive reforms are encompassed in the historic Redfern Statement which government must work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to implement.