“It appeared the funding round had preferenced non-Aboriginal health providers over Aboriginal medical services. She said the latter had proven they could provide culturally-appropriate community-focused health programs, which had been successful in delivering on Close the Gap outcomes.
Michelle Nelson-Cox the chairwoman of the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia. Story 1 She told Guardian Australia
“Many of the organisations that are being de-funded are community controlled and it seems to be an ideological shift away from them. This flies in the face of the evidence, particularly in the health sector that says they are best placed to deliver the best results.”
Spin continues and the gap widens. New Indigenous funding is a dangerous misstep
“I said to the Prime Minister you have got to understand that when you are talking about closing a community, it sends a 200-year chill down the spine of Aboriginal people’,
The chairman of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren Mundine, met Mr Abbott yesterday
The Minister Nigel Scullion advises that hotline has been setup to deal with
#IAS funding inquiries 1 800 088 323
Senate inquiry to target contentious Indigenous funding strategy
The Senate has supported a motion calling for an inquiry into the rollout of funding under the Indigenous advancement strategy, which has been described as confusing, fractured and systemically racist.
Western Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert moved on Thursday for the Senate finance and public administration references committee to examine the program’s tender process, and particularly its impact on the efficiency and sustainability of service delivery.
She also called on the government to release the full list of who would and would not be funded under the program.
“At the moment many distressed groups are scrambling around trying to work out if they have made the cut, while other groups are still trying to find out what they have been funded for and for how much,” Siewert said.
“Many of these groups provide essential services that are integral to stopping disadvantage within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, they do not deserve to be left in the lurch.”
Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion announced the first $860m round of funding earlier this month. At the time, Scullion said 964 organisations had received funding to deliver 1297 projects and would be contacted by staff from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to “finalise funding arrangements”.
A number of Aboriginal medical services in Western Australia have told Guardian Australia that they have received a letter saying they will receive some funding, but have not been told how much.
Others, such as the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service, say they received significantly less than applied for and lost money paying for consultants to complete the convoluted application process.
The medical service’s chief executive, Vicki O’Donnell, said it received $2m over three years from the Indigenous advancement strategy funding – equivalent to its previous funding. But it applied for $8m in response, O’Donnell says, to a call in the application process to be “innovative” and expand its services.
One of its subsidiaries, Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service, applied for $5m but received $1m . That’s just one year’s funding – they’ll have to reapply next year, which O’Donnell said would sap resources from service delivery and lead to staff uncertainty and, potentially, job losses.
Some job losses have already been confirmed. The national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services body has confirmed it will close after it lost funding. Other organisations have also flagged job losses, including the north Australian Aboriginal justice agency, and the Barkly and MacDonnell Ranges regional councils.
Spinifex Health Service in Tjuntjuntjara, a remote community of 200 about 680km northeast of Kalgoorlie, is one of those that says it does not know its final funding allocation.
“I have given up second-guessing what the government does; both sides, state and federal,” manager Vicki Taylor said.
A spokeswoman from Scullion’s office told Guardian Australia organisations recommended for funding would enter negotiations with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet before any contracts were finalised. Once that was done, the details would be posted on the department’s website within 14 days.
Michelle Nelson-Cox is the chairwoman of the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia. She told Guardian Australia that quantifying the funding lost was difficult, because the federal government had not released a finalised list. But she said discussions with local Aboriginal medical services showed the total funding shortfall could be as much as $100m, which she said would lead to widespread job losses.
The Aboriginal health sector is the second-largest employer of Aboriginal people in Western Australia, employing about 6200 compared to the 6700 employed in the mining industry.
“This is going to have a devastating impact in regards to sustaining Aboriginal employment, particularly in remote areas,” Nelson-Cox said.
Nelson-Cox said it appeared the funding round had preferenced non-Aboriginal health providers over Aboriginal medical services. She said the latter had proven they could provide culturally-appropriate community-focused health programs, which had been successful in delivering on Close the Gap outcomes.
Spin continues and the gap widens. New Indigenous funding is a dangerous misstep
Tony Abbott’s description of remote Aboriginal communities as a “lifestyle choice” rightly caused anger among the Indigenous community. It showed a lack of understanding of the deep connection that Indigenous people have with their traditional country and seems to have left even his Indigenous supporters shaking their heads. But the furore was a distraction from a much more fundamental and disastrous misstep that the Abbott government is unleashing on Indigenous communities across the country.
The results of the government’s new approach to funding Indigenous issues is now becoming clear. After centralising Indigenous programs into the department of prime minister and cabinet, funding will be issued through an Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS). It is, according to the website, “a new approach … to achieve results.”
If the news trickling out of Indigenous organisations last week was anything to go by, the results are disastrous.
The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the national representative body, predicted the mess and has been calling on the government to make this major funding process more transparent. In September last year, the Congress was calling for an extension of transitional funding arrangements under the IAS. It wanted the government to defer the open grant and tender process until it could clarify eligibility criteria and other areas of concern.
Geoff Scott, the CEO of the National Congress, has been the CEO of Atsic, head of the department of Aboriginal affairs in NSW and CEO of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council. He’s been around Indigenous affairs for a very long time and is not impressed. He has described the process as “dangerous and harmful”. He notes that there was inadequate advice and guidance given about the programs and projects to be funded. It has led to an environment of uncertainty and anxiety.
And now the decisions have been made, the community is trying to piece together the results. Scott observes that the government has provided no schedule of organisations that applied or what projects were put forward, nor have they given any indication of the results of that process. But snippets of information have been given to the media to show “good news” stories and this seems to be the preferred mode of information dissemination.
Thanks to Senate Estimates, we do know that 2,472 applications were received for 4,948 projects.
What these figures mean in practice is devastating.
Pat Turner is the deputy chairperson of the Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD), an education and registered training organisation. It is one of central Australia’s oldest community-controlled organisations, established in 1969. The funding cuts it has just suffered means that it may no longer be able to operate. Turner has been the CEO of Atsic, deputy secretary of the department of prime minister and cabinet and CEO of Centrelink. She is worried about what comes next.
The IAD is situated in Alice Springs – a place with high unemployment among Aboriginal people and a large transient Aboriginal population who have moved from remote communities. Expect an increase in these transient, homeless communities as remoter communities lose their services. Their closure hasn’t led to increased investment in infrastructure and services in other places.
The work of IAD is critical in Alice Springs and the surrounding areas. The organisation’s work concentrates on providing training that will assist Aboriginal people into jobs. It has several programs that deliver good results, including business and IT training packages. It also runs language and cultural programs and has a small publishing arm that produces language dictionaries. From a government who says its key priorities are education and jobs for Aboriginal people, the cuts to IAD defy logic, especially given the need in the community that surrounds it. It helps skill Aboriginal people who have come in from country to gain employment. Its small size means it is able to deliver programs that work for this unique and distinct client base from its purpose-built education campus.
The IAD received just 7% of what it bid for – an inexplicably small amount that is not enough to even protect its assets. In the short term, it means staff losses. If additional funds are not received, the board will have to consider whether the IAD can even continue.
Turner is worried about the impacts the closure of the IAD will have on the Aboriginal community in central Australia. With no appropriate training, no prospects of real jobs and no future to look forward to, there will be inevitably a negative impact on health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people into the future.
Of course, IAD is not alone. Across the country, Aboriginal organisations have been coming to terms with fierce funding cuts or complete funding cuts as the government has announced who hasn’t got the IAS money. These are cutbacks at the coal face.
There seems to be a more sinister legacy too. Many of the organisations that are being de-funded are community controlled and it seems to be an ideological shift away from them. This flies in the face of the evidence, particularly in the health sector that says they are best placed to deliver the best results.
In announcing the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, the government described it as “new relationships of engagement” with Indigenous Australia. As Geoff Scott has observed,
… these claims are farcical. This new relationships is one of subservience and benign subordination. Spin continues and the gap widens.
Among the job losses and myriad organisations trying to decide if they are viable, there is chaos, uncertainty and a deep loss of morale as people who have worked for decades watch the fruits of their work disappear.
As with many government initiatives, the Indigenous Advancement Strategy seems to do the opposite of advancing Indigenous people. What its real agenda has been might become clearer if and when the full outcomes of who did and who didn’t get funding is released. In the meantime, the impact of these funding decisions is about to start hitting the Indigenous community hard, especially where it is weakest and most vulnerable.
TONY Abbott’s description of remote indigenous living as a “lifestyle choice” sent a “200-year chill” down Aborigines’ spines, his indigenous adviser says.
The chairman of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren Mundine, met Mr Abbott yesterday for “a few choice words” about why his remarks had caused such offence to indigenous people.
Mr Abbott triggered a backlash among indigenous leaders across the country last week when he said taxpayers could not afford to support Aboriginal people who chose to live in very remote communities.
“I won’t say exactly how we exchanged words but it was very frank and very open, and strong comment in regards to what these words mean,” Mr Mundine told The Australian following an hour-long meeting at Parliament House yesterday.
“I said to the Prime Minister: ‘You have got to understand that when you are talking about closing a community, it sends a 200-year chill down the spine of Aboriginal people’,” he said.
“He has to understand exactly what those words are — they may have been innocently put, or they may have been a misjudgment, but he has got to understand and learn and accept what that means.”
But Mr Mundine said the Prime Minister did not apologise.
“He didn’t apologise, I didn’t ask for an apology; I was more concerned that the words detracted from the real issue … but he acknowledged that he needed to communicate better.
“There is no argument he does have foot-in-mouth disease.”
Mr Abbott said that people could “quibble” about his choice of words, but he defended the comment as a realistic appraisal of the difficulty of providing services to remote communities.
Mr Mundine said the pair recommitted to a focus on reform targeting job creation, closing the health gap and improving school attendance.
Mr Abbott’s provocative comments — which he has claimed accurately reflect the funding challenge facing governments — centred on West Australian Premier Colin Barnett’s threat to close up to 150 of the state’s 274 indigenous communities as a result of cuts to municipal services funding.
Today, people of the Fitzroy Valley in the far north Kimberley region of Western Australia are due to march against remote community closures.
About 3500 Aboriginal people live in the valley in more than 30 remote communities and in Fitzroy Crossing, where the march will be held.
Patrick Green, chairman of the region’s largest Aboriginal corporation, Marra Worra Worra, said people felt the federal government was abandoning Aboriginal people, 50 years after indigenous Australians won the right to be subject to federal law.
“The commonwealth was given responsibility to make laws for Aboriginal people after the 1967 referendum … this is the commonwealth trying to pass it on to the states and the state is responding by closing us down,” he said.