THE peak Aboriginal body has been told it must prepare to lose its federal funding from next July and find another way to support itself.
Labor had promised to keep the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples funded with $15 million for another three years in this year’s May budget.
Since the election, the congress has hoped the Coalition would honour Labor’s pledge.
But Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said he had met the group’s co-chairs yesterday to warn them that was highly unlikely and they must look beyond the government for means of survival.
The edict came as Tony Abbott said last night that the referendum to acknowledge first Australians must surpass the apology and the 1967 referendum as a unifying moment for the nation.
In a speech to mark the 60th anniversary of law firm Arnold Block Leibler, the Prime Minister said “symbols” were important to reconciling with Aborigines.
He said too many had “felt like strangers” in the only land they had known. “The best thing we could do for Aboriginal Australia right now is push on as quickly as we can with constitutional recognition,” he said. “We have it in our hearts to do this.”
Senator Scullion told the congress’s co-chairs that while the final outcome would be determined by the Commission of Audit and be revealed at budget time, there was no appetite to keep them funded and they must use the next six months to plan for a future without federal funds.
“The circumstances are that the funding is unlikely, so I met with them and advised them that our priorities are frontline services and indicated that the principle reason that I don’t think they will keep getting funded was . . . we never committed to it during the election and our priorities are with our election commitments,” he said.
“I told them I wanted to tell them early to allow them to make financial plans. I told them I would lift restrictions on their current funds if I could.”
Senator Scullion said the co-chairs had asked whether the government would contract them for roles on a fee-for-service basis, and that he would consider it.
“I told them they had a role to represent the nation’s first people and they needed to grow their membership,” he said.
“I am very doubtful that a positive decision will be made on their funding and I think they need to start preparing for that.”
With its four-year federal funding deal to expire this year, the congress had written in a submission to the Abbott government that its Commission of Audit needed to recognise “the need for a sustainable independent national body” to ensure a voice for indigenous people.
NACCHO welcomes your comments
- NACCHO News: THE Abbott government will strip funding from peak Aboriginal body (nacchocommunique.com)
- NACCHO 2012-13 Annual Report: Investing in Healthy Futures for Generational Change (nacchocommunique.com)
- NACCHO Aboriginal health news alert: Confusion still surrounds future of Aboriginal health in new government structure (nacchocommunique.com)
- NACCHO Aboriginal eHealth news : Will all Aboriginal clients be automatically enrolled for an e-Health record ? (ahcsaehealth.wordpress.com)
- Recognition of Aborigines in Australia’s Constitution is a priority (craighill.net)
- Indigenous legal aid to be cut by $13.4 million (sbs.com.au)
- Action plan for Australia’s Aboriginal advisors (radionz.co.nz)