Budget fails First Peoples

Last night we witnessed a complete lack of urgency and substance in the Federal Budget to address the ongoing disadvantage faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Budget is all about priorities, and the government has failed to prioritise the health and wellbeing of the nation’s First Peoples.

The worse thing is, that government knows that things aren’t getting better for First Peoples. In fact in some areas, they’re getting worse.

In February of this year the Prime Minister reported that only one of the six targets that have been set for closing the gap is on track, and those targets don’t go near representing all of the social and economic issues that need addressing.

There’s no way of sugarcoating it, the government is failing to adequately address the disadvantage experienced by the nation’s First Peoples, failing to inject any sense of urgency in turning around these issues, and failing to listen to and work with First Peoples.  

The Prime Minister recognised the need to lift their game in February, saying that “..at a national level, progress needs to accelerate”, so it’s deeply disappointing that we haven’t seen any real commitment to do that in this Budget.

It is unquestionable that Government needs listen to and work with First Peoples to accelerate progress on closing the gap, but nowhere is the urgency to do that evident in this Budget.  

While the government is allocating funding to build a dozen multi-billion dollar submarines, and give tax cuts to corporations, it is all but ignoring the wellbeing of just 3% of the population, and the First Peoples of the land.

Where the government should urgently invest funds

This is what government should have done, as a starting point. It would cost far less than their corporate tax cuts, and it would save lives and improve health and wellbeing.  
  • Restore previous funding levels to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples as the national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Fund the establishment of peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing and education organisations to provide a national voice for those issues
  • Provide sufficient funding for the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023
  • Fund the development of a long-term National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social and Cultural Determinants of Health Strategy
  • Fund a national Inquiry into institutional racism in the health system
  • Prioritise disability services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including through making disability a priority in the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and quarantine an equitable share entitlement of the NDIS according to need
  • Ensure adequate funding for Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, including through allocating funding to ensure there is national coverage (regardless of geographic location) of FVPLS services.
  • 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.

It’s time to inject some urgency into meeting the government’s own commitments to closing the gap, and address ongoing social and economic inequality experienced by First Peoples.

If it doesn’t, we’ll be seeing yet another report on failure from the Prime Minister in February, at the expense of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Stand with us to tell government to get its priorities right when it comes to First Peoples.

 In Solidarity,

Andrew Meehan

ANTaR National Director