National treaty talks must begin as part of a radical shift in indigenous affairs policy, a coalition of peak groups says, arguing that the long-term failure by governments to address disadvantage has made reform “a matter of national priority and urgency”.
Updated 10.00 am on release of Redfern Statement Press Release
“In the area of health, the alliance calls on all parties to recommit to Closing the Gap in order to achieve health equality in this generation. The alliance views funding the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan (2013–2023), a policy developed through best-practice community consultation, as a priority. The alliance also recommends making Aboriginal Community Controlled Services (ACCHS) the preferred providers for health services, a measure which would promote the self-determination essential to closing the gap in life outcomes for First Peoples.”
Meeting in Sydney’s inner-city Redfern today, indigenous leaders will present an election manifesto saying their people have seen little benefit from 25 years of government and coroners’ reports and more than 400 recommendations, many of which have been partly implemented for short periods or ignored altogether.
They will express “deep concern” that indigenous Australians continue to experience unacceptable disadvantage, are isolated to the margins of the national debate and suffer because of policies that “continue to be made for and to, rather than with, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.
“In the last 25 years we have seen … seven prime ministers, seven ministers for indigenous affairs, countless policies, policy changes, funding promises and funding cuts — all for the most marginalised people in Australia,” they will say.
To be delivered by National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples co-chairwoman Jackie Huggins, the statement will be signed on behalf of at least 55 organisations including Reconciliation Australia, the First Peoples Disability Network, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, the Secretariat for National Aboriginal and Islander Health Care and the Lowitja institute. Non-indigenous signatories include the Australian Council of Social Service, Amnesty, Oxfam, the Law Council of Australia, Save the Children and the Fred Hollows Foundation.
The group will call for a government commitment to “address the unfinished business of reconciliation … (including an) agreement making framework (treaty) and constitutional reform”. This will be followed within days by a campaign on social media and elsewhere for treaty talks and the establishment of national working groups.
The peak group will also demand the restoration of $500 million funding cut from the 2014 federal budget, reform in how government funds are spent, a commitment by the federal government to deal with all peak bodies and to make a new Closing the Gap commitment, including a focus on women and children as victims of family violence and on high rates of child out-of-home care, and access to justice and disability services.
The group’s make-up is a rebuke to Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, who has questioned whether the Congress is representative of indigenous Australia. Dr Huggins said the elected peak organisation was “taking the advice of the minister and making ourselves as front and centre (as possible)” by its involvement in today’s statement with the other peak organisations.
Last month’s budget committed $5m to the Recognise campaign, to raise awareness around plans for constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians in a referendum.
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