Budget must invest in First Peoples

Tomorrow night, Treasurer Scott Morrison will stand in front of the nation and deliver the 2017 Federal Budget. It will lay out the priorities for investment and cuts, and we’ll be watching closely.

In meetings with the government, and with the help of our supporters who have tirelessly written to MPs, we’ve made it clear time and time again that you can’t cut from those most in need.

It is an appalling indictment on our country, that across almost every measure of health and wellbeing, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to fare the worst.

Government must look to invest in turning that around, not cut.

We know that people power matters when it comes to turning around bad decisions.

We fought tirelessly against cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal, Family Violence Prevention, and Child Care services and and other programs following the horror 2014 Budget. Much of that funding has been restored.

So, here’s some of what we’ll be looking for and judging this Budget on. We’ll be letting you know how it goes, and what we’ll be doing about it.

Representative organisations & engagement

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

Funding the establishment of peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing and education organisations to provide a national voice for those issues

Health

Provide sufficient funding for the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023, including by:

  • Identifying and funding the gaps in service provision, and providing sufficient and longer-term (5 year minimum) funding for Aboriginal and Torres STrait Islander health peaks and community controlled health services.  
  • Supporting and growing the capability of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce to meet current and future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health needs
  • Funding the development of a long-term National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social and Cultural Determinants of Health Strategy
  • Funding a national Inquiry into institutional racism in the health system (particularly in hospitals)

Disability

Prioritise disability services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including through:

  • Providing funding for community based disability advocacy program to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability
  • Making disability a priority in the Indigenous Advancement Strategy to increase services to First Peoples with a disability
  • Quarantining an equitable entitlement of the NDIS according to need ( this equates to approx. $1.6b)

Family Violence

Ensure adequate funding for Aboriginal Family Violence Protection Legal 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. Reinstating the National FVPLS Program with long-term funding agreements
  • Providing $2 million in additional funding per FVPLS member and $4.5 million in capacity building

Legal Services

Ensure funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services 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.
  • Developing in consultation with the ATSILS a funding mechanism that recognises increasing legal needs and the additional complexity of providing services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Increasing the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services funding from $295,000 p.a. to $750,000 p.a.

If the government can afford to build a dozen multi-billion dollar submarines, it can afford to address the wellbeing of just 3% of the population.

We’ll be watching closely and will take up the fight if government fails to meet these basic and reasonable needs.