NACCHO political news :Aboriginal organisation to defy Tony Abbott funding cut


The leaders of the national representative body for indigenous people have vowed to continue as a ”fearless” voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, despite the Abbott government indicating it is likely to cut its funding.

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples was set up in 2010 with an initial Commonwealth funding allocation of $29.2 million over five years. While it was envisaged that the organisation would become financially self-sufficient over time, it is yet to reach this stage.

From Dan Harrison SMH

In the May budget, the Gillard government provided a further $15 million in funding to flow over three years from July next year, but Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion met the group’s co-chairs on Wednesday and told them it was unlikely they would receive the $15 provided for by Labor.

But in a statement issued late on Thursday, Congress co-chairs Kirstie Parker and Les Malezer promised the organisation would continue to fight.

”The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples promised its members and supporters today that it will continue as a strong, fearless national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples,” the statement said.

”The new government has shown that they do not support real decision making for our families and communities through a national representative body chosen by our Peoples, for our Peoples.”

The statement said Congress would hold urgent meetings with members and would continue to build partnerships with other Australians to build a sustainable financial base for the organisation. It would also continue to increase its membership.

Labor’s spokesman on indigenous affairs, Shayne Neumann said the move brought into question Tony Abbott’s promise to be a Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

Mr Neumann contrasted the treatment of Congress with the government’s decision to provide $1 million to set up an indigenous advisory council chaired by former ALP president Warren Mundine.

”What Tony Abbott is proposing to do is slash funding to a body of elected indigenous representatives while spending $1 million to establish a hand-picked Ministerial Advisory Committee in its place,” he said.

Mr Mundine said this was ”nonsense” as his committee was not intended to be a representative body, but was created to provide policy advice to government.

Stressing he was expressing a personal view, Mr Mundine said he had always thought the funding provided to Congress was excessive, and in a tight budgetary situation, the additional funding promised by Labor could be better spent on other priorities in the indigenous affairs portfolio.

Senator Scullion said no decision had been made about the organisation’s funding, and the decision about future funding would be made as part of the budget process, after the Commission of Audit reports.

”However, I did stress that it was highly unlikely that funding would be approved as the government moves funding to frontline services to focus on delivering real outcomes for first Australians,” Senator Scullion said.

”I felt it appropriate to advise Congress of this as early as possible so it could make plans for the future,” he said.

Senator Scullion said he had encouraged the organisation to use the $8.3 million remaining in its reserves to prepare for the future.

”There remains a role for Congress but it is important that it build membership from its current level of approximately 7500 and look to other sources of financial support in the future,” he said.

In April, Senator Scullion said he did not believe the organisation should receive Commonwealth funding because it made the peak body dependent.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda wrote recently that Congress should be given time to establish itself.

”Organisations evolve over time and I believe that Congress has the fundamentals for robust representation and good governance,” he wrote in his annual native title and social justice report.

In its submission to the Commission of Audit, Congress said while it had not yet achieved financial self-sustainability, it continued to ”work assiduously towards that goal”.

”Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples take the view that government has certain obligations towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and this includes supporting a strong, sustainable, representative voice for our Peoples,” the submission by Congress said.

Read more:

NACCHO political alert: Peak Aboriginal organisation lashes Abbott and ticks off Labor

Congress Mob

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (Congress) has written to its 172 member organisations and almost 6500 individuals members, asking them to hold major political parties accountable for their policies and pledges regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the 2013 federal election.

An open letter by Co-Chairs Les Malezer and Kirstie Parker (pictured above top left) provides an overview of the policies and pronouncements both before and during the election campaign of the Australian Greens (Greens), Australian Labor Party (ALP), the Liberal Party of Australia and the Nationals (the Coalition).

Congress wrote to the parties in August asking for responses on key principles outlined in our document ‘Rights, Respect and Recognition: Congress’ Expectations of Australia’s Political Leadership’.


The responses from the parties are published on the Congress website.


PATRICIA KARVELAS From: The Australian  September 04, 2013 12:00AM

THE peak body representing Aborigines has criticised Tony Abbott for his lack of commitment to the organisation and failure to acknowledge the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in an evaluation of the major parties that was sent to its members.

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples questioned the major parties on their commitment to advancing the interests of Aborigines.

It says the ALP supported the UN declaration in April 2009, and in 2010 gave moral and financial support for the establishment of the congress, but “regrettably the ALP has yet to address the declaration to any meaningful extent”.

The congress said it was not aware of the Coalition having made any official announcements on the UN declaration or the rights of first peoples.

“The Coalition has not expressed support for representation and decision-making,” it said.

It noted that the Opposition Leader had instead made commitments to manage indigenous affairs from the portfolio of prime minister and cabinet, and to establish an indigenous advisory council headed by Warren Mundine. Mr Abbott had also pledged to spend time in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as prime minister and this promise extended to his ministers.

They say that the Coalition says it will change the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 to accede to freedom of speech and remove legal remedy to racial vilification.

“No party has yet committed to the proposed reforms of the Constitution that were recommended by the expert panel, particularly to the reform to prevent laws that are racially discriminatory.

“The ALP and the Coalition remain focused upon intervention in the Northern Territory through the Stronger Futures laws despite strong concerns identified by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights over breaches of Australia’s international human rights obligations under the race convention.

“The ALP has reinstated the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 to apply to the Stronger Futures laws but congress considers that this is not a sufficient response to end discriminatory provisions”.

On closing the gap they say the Coalition supports the continuing strategy but “it is unclear whether the Coalition would maintain or extend existing programs”.

They write that the ALP has made some changes to the Native Title Act 1993 during the last two terms of government, but “arguably not in ways that improve the return of lands, territories and resources to ownership and management by the First Peoples”.

“In particular, the ALP has not reversed the onus of proof, as has been widely recommended. The Coalition has made no commitment to increasing ownership of lands, territories and resources but Warren Mundine, who would chair a Coalition Indigenous advisory council, has flagged changes to Aboriginal statutory bodies including land councils, regional councils, homeland councils, and corporations”.

“None of the major parties have provided detailed proposals to advance the land rights aspirations of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples”.

They say the major parties are mostly silent on the cultural interests of the first peoples and offer no major policy developments or investments.

“By providing this overview to you, Congress does not seek to tell you how or whether to vote in the federal election. It is your decision. We hope that the information that we have provided adds to your understanding of the political landscape and gives you ideas as to how to influence the Parliament of Australia to respect the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples”.


5 key questions to political leaders

1.How will you work with Congress to ensure our legitimate role as a national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is respected?

2.What measures will you take to ensure the rights and purposes set out in the

3.How will you support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to achieve self-determination?

4.What support will you provide Congress to fully participate in the development, implementation and monitoring of government laws, policies and programs, including through COAG?

5.What steps will you take to ensure that policies and strategies that affect us have the agreement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

“We are not telling people how to vote or whether to vote in the federal election, and we have not endorsed any political party over another,” said Co-Chair Parker.

“Rather, Congress has provided our members with information to help them ask key questions of their local candidates in the federal election, draw their own conclusions about policies, and cast an informed vote on Saturday.

“Congress’ role is to promote and protect the identity and rights of the First Peoples, and this includes informing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of election promises by the next Australian Government.

“We are pleased the major parties remain committed to achieving equality through ‘Closing the Gap’ strategies,” said Ms Parker.

“We applaud this approach to set targets and to measure performances.

“The parties accept close scrutiny and accountability against housing, education, employment and health goals, and Congress notes that the ALP and the Greens now also accept our proposal to incorporate justice targets in the strategies.

“But achieving equality in social indicators is only one of six priority areas.”

Co-Chair Malezer said the most important objective, from the view of Congress, is the commitment to implement in Australia the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The Declaration upholds our right to self-determination and embodies the framework for development of Indigenous Peoples through community-based decision-making.

“Self-determination is essential, and our history in Australia proves centralised and unrepresentative government in Canberra cannot succeed, no matter how many advisors exist.

“Congress remains concerned that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are still harmed through racism at the individual and institutional levels.

“Constitutional reform to prohibit racism is recommended by Congress but the parties remain vague on the details for Constitutional reform.

“It is important that Congress members and our supporters are well informed and motivated about the important Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policies of the next Australian government.

“We believe the performances during this election period are not up to the standard we deserve and should expect in this land,” said Mr Malezer.

The five questions are contained in the document: ‘Rights, Respect and Recognition: Congress’ Expectations of Australia’s Political Leadership’ and can be downloaded from