NACCHO Aboriginal health : Radical rethink of housing is key to a healthy future in remote communities: Scullion


Opinion article by NIGEL SCULLION Minister for Indigenous Affairs

As published in The Australian March 2014

PICTURE ABOVE from THE STRINGER TONY ABBOTT MUST DO  :Inspection of Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Programme work in Santa Teresa, Northern Territory, April 2011. Tony Abbott with Adam Giles, Alison Anderson and Nigel Scullion.

The National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing initiated by the former government in 2008, has not delivered on the promise of being a ‘long-term fix to the emergency’ in remote Indigenous housing.

 The byzantine national agreement arrangement is unwieldy and does not reflect the very different environments that need to be dealt with across the country.  Bilateral agreements with states and the Northern Territory may be a better way to go.

In very remote Australia, housing is central to meeting our priorities of getting kids to school, encouraging adults into work and providing for safe communities where the rule of law applies.

More than $2.5 billion was spent by the Rudd/Gillard government from 2008 through the national agreement.  Indigenous Australians tell me that they have not got value for money.

Delivery of housing in remote communities has been marked by delays, cost blowouts and bureaucracy.

New houses can cost more than $600,000 and have an average lifespan of only 10 to 12 years.  There have been poor standards of construction, unsatisfactory rental payment arrangements and sub-standard tenancy management.

Despite this massive expenditure there can be no argument that overcrowding remains chronic in remote Australia where there is no regular, functional housing market. There are no private rental options and no home ownership opportunities in most of these places. Most of these communities are dependent on Commonwealth funded public housing and this has been badly managed.

Residents of remote communities need to have the option, as others in Australia enjoy, of private rental and home ownership. Any strategies that we adopt must work towards that goal.

A radical rethink is overdue.

The states and Northern Territory governments must manage remote Indigenous housing just as they do other public housing.  Rental agreements should be in place and enforced; rents should be collected; any damage caused by occupants should be paid for by occupants; and, municipal services should be delivered to acceptable standards by the jurisdictions.

This is how social housing operates in non-remote areas.  Why should it be any different in remote Indigenous communities?

Why have we come to expect lower standards from housing authorities and residents in remote areas? Is it another layer of passive racism to accept less for Indigenous people in remote Australia?

Why are we building houses in places where land tenure arrangements prevent people from ever buying the house?

One aspect that I will be focusing on is how we can offer housing in a way that encourages mobility for those who want to move to areas with better employment opportunities.

I will be working with the states and Northern Territory governments to reform the current arrangements that are clearly failing residents of Indigenous communities.

In negotiations, I will want to set some conditions that might include:

  • moving relatively quickly towards building social housing only in those places that have appropriate land tenure arrangements in place for home ownership;
  • attractive mobility packages for remote residents, including portability of special housing and home ownership eligibility for those who want to move to areas with stronger labour markets;
  • ensuring rents are set at mainstream social housing rates and requirements of tenants are specified, understood and complied with;
  • a requirement for states and territories to apply their usual sale of social housing policy, as occurs in urban and regional areas, based on realistic market values; and
  • priority for the allocation of social housing to families in employment or where children are regularly attending school.

We also need to ensure that people in social housing are not adversely affected when taking up employment opportunities. This however is mainly an issue for mainstream social housing rather than remote Indigenous housing.

I know that a number of jurisdictions are focused on reform and I look forward to working with them.

However, if a state or territory is not up to the task, the Commonwealth might have to step in and take over delivery of social housing or contract providers with significant Indigenous and community involvement to do the job.


You can hear more about Aboriginal health and social determinants at the NACCHO SUMMIT June Melbourne Convention Centre


The importance of our NACCHO member Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHS) is not fully recognised by governments.

The economic benefits of ACCHS has not been recognised at all.

We provide employment, income and a range of broader community benefits that mainstream health services and mainstream labour markets do not. ACCHS need more financial support from government, to provide not only quality health and wellbeing services to communities, but jobs, income and broader community economic benefits.

A good way of demonstrating how economically valuable ACCHS are is to showcase our success at a national summit.



NACCHO political debate alert :Aboriginal policy- check out where the parties stand

    Indigenous health   

According to the latest census figures from 2011, there are 548,370 people in Australia who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

From the ABC website Anna Henderson CLICK here for page

NOTE: Provided for the information of NACCHO members and stakeholders but not endorsed in anyway

In the Northern Territory just under 27 per cent of the population identified as Indigenous.

Across the rest of the country, the proportion of the state or territory population who identified as Indigenous was 4 per cent or less.

But Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remain over-represented in prison system, have lower average life expectancy, higher child mortality rates and a higher likelihood of living in poverty.

Earlier this year, then prime minister Julia Gillard delivered the latest report card on the Government’s efforts to close the Indigenous disadvantage gap. She said the Federal Government’s investment in the portfolio has been unprecedented but she noted eliminating disadvantage would take a sustained commitment over many years from all governments, the business sector, non-government organisations, Indigenous people and the wider community.

What aspects of Indigenous Affairs policy do the major parties agree on?

Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous People

The major parties have given in principle backing for this goal. Former prime minister Julia Gillard originally agreed to hold a referendum by the 2013 election but shelved that plan because of a lack of public awareness about the issue.  Instead an Act of Recognition was passed in Federal Parliament in February 2013 on the anniversary of the national apology with a two-year sunset clause for holding a referendum. The Coalition has also committed to put forward a draft amendment to the Constitution within 12 months of winning government and establish a bipartisan process to assess its success. There are some differences of opinion between the parties about the exact wording that should be used to make the constitutional amendment. Federal Parliament has established a Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. They are working with the funded group Recognise.

Despite the bipartisan agreement to hold a referendum, the issue became political divisive in July when Kevin Rudd announced his intention to hold a referendum within two years and asked the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to “join that journey”. Mr Abbott reacted by pointing out the Coalition’s one-year timeframe for an amendment means an Abbott government would act more quickly on the issue than a re-elected Labor government.

Closing the Gap

The major parties have backed Labor’s 2008 targets:

  1. Close the life expectancy gap within a generation.
  2. Halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade.
  3. Ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four-year-olds in remote communities within five years. The Government says this will be met this year.
  4. Halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for children within a decade
  5. Halve the gap for Indigenous students to stay on for Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates by 2020
  6. Halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians within a decade

Indigenous representation in Federal Parliament

All parties have expressed interest in ensuring there are Aboriginal and Torres Strait representatives holding seats in Federal Parliament. The Coalition welcomed the first Indigenous Lower House MP, the member for the WA seat of Hasluck Ken Wyatt at the last election. The former prime minister Julia Gillard intervened in local preselections in the Northern Territory this year to appoint a “captain’s pick” for the top spot on Labor’s NT Senate seat, Nova Peris. She will be the first Aboriginal woman to represent the party in the Federal Parliament if successful. The Greens have a policy aim to ensure Aboriginal people have political representation, and the party has recruited a number of Aboriginal candidates for this year’s election.

Economy and jobs

The major parties have all promoted the idea of ensuring Aboriginal people living in remote communities have access to a job. The high unemployment rates in the communities are partially due to the lack of economically viable industry in those areas. Labor has been promoting private investment to create jobs. The Coalition is also focused on the need for economic investment and has flagged the prospect of flying workers in and out of nearby resources projects so they remain connected to their home country but are also earning money to support their families. The Greens policy emphasises the importance of Aboriginal communities determining the kinds of economic projects they have in and around their communities.

What are the key differences between the major parties?

The Indigenous Affairs portfolio

Under Labor the portfolio has been held by Minister Jenny Macklin. The Coalition has appointed NT Senator Nigel Scullion as its spokesman. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has announced that if elected, the portfolio would become part of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Senator Scullion would remain as spokesman but Mr Abbott says he would also effectively be the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs. The Greens have also had a spokeswoman Rachel Siewert appointed to oversee the portfolio.

The Northern Territory Intervention

The Coalition announced an Intervention into the Northern Territory under former Prime Minister John Howard. Labor changed some elements of it when it implemented the Stronger Futures legislation. The Greens want to rescind those laws.

Homelands (also known as outstations)

In the 1970s, family groups in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia began to reject the mission and settlement communities where they had been relocated, and wanted to move back to their traditional and ancestral lands. The remote Homelands have been an ongoing political issue because it is expensive and inefficient to provide services to them. It is estimated that thousands of people are continuing to live in the Homeland environment, particularly in the Northern Territory. The Federal Government was responsible for Homelands until the former Liberal prime minister John Howard handed responsibility to the NT government as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response in 2007.

As part of Labor’s 2012 Stronger Futures package, the Federal Government has committed $206 million for basic services in the NT, including water, power, roads, sewerage and other infrastructure. The Coalition’s Indigenous Affairs spokesman Nigel Scullion has criticised the Government for not providing enough funding for adequate service provision. He has also stated the Government should not be funding the services and they should be paid for with council rates. The Greens have a strong view that Aboriginal people should have government support to maintain a connection with their traditional lands.


Labor is hoping to seal a deal with all the states and territories, along with the Catholic and independent sectors on its Better Schools package as recommended in an expert report conducted by David Gonski. The report outlines a funding formula with a base figure for all students and extra loadings. Some of those loadings are specific to remote areas and Indigenous students. The Coalition has sent mixed messages about whether it would honour the deal in government but it is unlikely unless most, or even all, schools sign up. The Coalition is more likely to extend the existing funding model if elected. The Greens say remote communities should have access to government services and the party advocates for culturally appropriate education incorporating language and culture.

What we know


  • Want to see parliament revisit a referendum on recognition of Indigenous people in the constitution within two years
  • Close the Gap targets, agreed to by COAG in 2008. Results collated and presented in parliament each year by the PM
  • Funding through national partnerships agreements for health, education and housing
  • Stronger Futures package of measures in the NT
  • Cape York welfare reform trial
  • Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people – latest progress report
  • Funding land and sea ranger programs


  • The Indigenous Affairs portfolio would be move into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Changing the constitution to acknowledge Aboriginal people – draft amendment would be put forward within 12 months
  • If elected Tony Abbott would spend a week each year in Aboriginal communities and take senior decision makers with him
  • Consideration of tailored governance processes for different communities
  • Concentration on creating economic opportunities
  • Look at fly in, fly out job prospects for Indigenous people in remote communities to work in the mining industry
  • Attendance data for all schools would be published (not just Indigenous schools, to avoid stigma)
  • Income quarantining- supported but not linked to school attendance. Instead it is proposed there would be on-the-spot fines for parents.
  • Encourage longer term postings at remote schools and clinics and aim to attract high quality teachers and health professionals
  • All larger Indigenous communities would have a permanent police presence


  • Compensation for the Stolen Generation
  • End the NT Intervention
  • Close the Gap targets
  • Recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution
  • Respect the link between Indigenous people and the land
  • Comply with international agreements on Indigenous rights including he Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Aboriginal people have the right to self determination and political representation and must partner in programs and services that affect them
  • Aboriginal people should benefit financially from their cultural heritage and the biodiversity of their lands and waterways
  • Dispossessed Aboriginal people have a right to be assisted to acquire or manage land and waterways that belong to them
  • All Australians including those living in remote communities have the equal right to essential government services
  • Protection of Aboriginal cultural traditions
  • Culturally appropriate health, housing and infrastructure
  • Culturally appropriate education incorporating language and culture
  • Allowing Aboriginal people to control their own education system when they want to
  • Qualified interpreters at hospitals, courts and government meetings
  • Rescind Stronger Futures legislation
  • Full implementation of recommendations from key Indigenous Affairs reports
  • Strategies to deal with impacts of climate change on indigenous communities
  • Food security for Aboriginal people in remote areas
  • Long term sustainable funding for land and sea ranger programs

What don’t we know about the major parties’ policies?

Policy release

The major parties had not released their full Indigenous Affairs election policies by the middle of the year, though Mr Abbott and Ms Macklin have delivered key speeches outlining their vision for the portfolio this year. The Greens have a policy document on their website and have flagged the prospect of some further announcements before the election is held.

What we don’t know

  • Whether the Coalition would be open to changing the structure of the powerful land councils
  • How the Greens would fund the full suite of policies that have been put forward

Key reports on Indigenous Affairs

Bringing Them Home

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

NT, WA and SA Coroner’s recommendations on petrol sniffing

The Little Children are Sacred report

HREOC reports on petrol sniffing, suicide

The Evatt Review

NACCHO social policy news:Indigenous Australians a quarter of Australia’s prisoner population. It’s a social policy disaster.But could there be solution!


Firstly though, politicians and the public alike need to understand and admit that the current policy ethos, and its reliance of incarceration, is a failure, both socially and economically.

Australia spends $2.6 billion a year incarcerating adults

But could there  be  solution!

We invite our members to make comment see below

Reproduced from the DRUM : Paul Simpson and Michael Doyle

The continual rise in incarceration rates of Indigenous Australians represents nothing short of social policy disaster.


If reducing the numbers of those in prison is to be achieved, then we need to end the reliance on incarceration and invest more into new thinking and rigorous research on non-incarceration alternatives.

Marking 20 years of monitoring since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the Australian Institute of Criminology finally released its ‘deaths in custody‘ report last Friday and the figures reaffirm the increasing over-representation of Indigenous persons in custody.

In 20 years rates have gone from one Indigenous person in seven incarcerated to one in four.

Indigenous persons make up 26 per cent of the prisoner population yet only constitute 2.5 per cent of the Australian population.

The over-representation of Indigenous persons in Western Australian prisons is the highest of any Indigenous group in the OECD.

Addressing Indigenous over-representation in custody requires new thinking and tested approaches to the offender population.

Firstly though, politicians and the public alike need to understand and admit that the current policy ethos, and its reliance of incarceration, is a failure, both socially and economically.

Australia spends $2.6 billion a year incarcerating adults. Punitive penal policies cost Australia big time.


While happy to scrutinise the effectiveness and efficiencies of all other sectors and services, political authorities seem quite content to overlook the billions poured into the prison system.

The return on this ‘investment’ amounts to very little. It simply does not prevent re-offending.

Longitudinal studies show that two-in-five people are re-imprisoned within two-to-five years of release.

Those who advocate for new thinking beyond the current social policy failures have hailed Justice Reinvestment (JR) as one new approach.

Justice Reinvestment was introduced to the US in 2003 by the Open Society Institute and has subsequently been adopted in eleven US states.

It involves identifying geographic areas from where significant numbers of the incarcerated population emanate and investing in services in these areas.

Importantly, at the policy level JR aims to divert funds that would be spent on criminal justice matters (primarily incarceration) back into local communities to fund services that are said to address the underlying causes of crime, thus preventing people from engaging with the criminal justice system.

Detention under this model is seen as a last resort – for only the most dangerous and serious offenders.

The goal is to shift the culture away from imprisonment and to restoration within the community through restorative health, social welfare services, education-employment programs and programs to prevent offending.

The effectiveness of JR was reported on at the First National Summit on JR in Washington in 2010, where lawmakers from several American states discussed how they had enacted policies to avert projected prison growth, saving several hundred million dollars, while decreasing prisoner numbers and recidivism rates.

Australian scholars have reservations about the type of JR model adopted in some US states, specifically querying who controls and receives the funding. Is it the community-sector or another state agency?

Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Dr Tom Calma commended JR as a possible solution to Indigenous over-representation in Australia’s criminal justice system. Several other Australian commentators have followed suit.

Despite the increasing popularity of JR, Australia so far lacks evidence to support it beyond its appealing rhetoric and, some might argue, simplistic notion as a viable policy alternative.

Members of the Indigenous Offender Health Research Capacity Building Group (IOHR-CBG) and the Australian Justice Reinvestment Project based at the University of NSW have begun research efforts to address this paucity of information, .

Following two national Justice Reinvestment forums convened by IOHR-CBG member Dr Jill Guthrie, a three-year JR research project has begun at National Centre for Indigenous Studies.

Using a case study approach, the research explores the conditions, governance and cultural appropriateness of reinvesting resources otherwise spent on incarceration, into services to enhance juvenile offenders’ ability to remain in their community.

The Australian Justice Reinvestment Project is currently is examining JR models from overseas in order to provide a sound theoretical and practical foundation for the future development of JR strategies in Australia.\

There is also a Citizens’ Jury research project being run this year by IOHR-CBG researchers aimed at eliciting the values and priorities of a critically informed Australian community with respect to JR.

Citizens’ Juries have been used in various policy fields internationally, including in health in Australia. They involve bringing together group of randomly selected citizens, giving them a variety of evidence-based information on the issues to hand and asking them, as representatives of the community, about their preferences for certain policy options or priorities for resource allocation.

The project also assesses how the results of the Citizens’ Juries might influence the decision making of government policy makers.

Research of this nature is critical in order to imagine and test new and viable alternatives to incarceration. Unfortunately, the current amount invested in such research is minute.

As the recently-emerged adage says, a ‘tough on crime’ approach needs to be replaced by a ‘smart on crime’ approach. A new policy platform to justice is well overdue.

This platform must be informed by evidence and not the tired political populism that exploits the fears of the electorate if we are to ever make inroads in reducing the hugely disproportionate Indigenous incarceration rate in Australia.

Paul Simpson and Michael Doyle are research fellows with the Justice Health Research Program at the Kirby Institute, University of NSW, and are also members of the Indigenous Offender Health Research Capacity Building Group.

NACCHO health news:Healing Foundation welcomes $26.4 million funding announcement

Richard weston 

Richard Weston, Healing Foundation CEO

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation welcomes today’s funding announcement by the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin.

 The funding, $26.4million over 4 years, will ensure the Healing Foundation’s significant work with communities throughout Australia continues.

 ‘This funding will ensure the Healing Foundation builds on its work with our communities to Close the Gap through healing’ said Richard Weston, Healing Foundation CEO.

 Initial funding for the Healing Foundation, announced in 2009-10 Budget context, was to establish a national organisation that provides practical and innovative healing services as well as education, training and research on Indigenous healing.

 Over the last 4 years the Healing Foundation has funded over 90 projects nationwide. These projects focus on the Stolen Generations, young people, connection to culture and country, and men’s and women’s healing.

 ‘It has been a privilege to be part of the development phase of the Healing Foundation. I look forward to consolidating our work around areas such as Stolen Generations, intergenerational trauma and traditional healing’ Mr Weston said.

 More information about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation is available at

You can also find us on facebook at and on twitter @HealingOurWay


Media contact: Shivaun Inglis 0451 148 380

NACCHO condemns Aboriginal flag “skins for smokes” that covers up health warnings

Skins 2

NACCHO condems the use of “skins for smokes”  that uses cultural content and copyright imagery on cigarette packets to  negate health promotion efforts, such as Australia’s recent introduction of plain packaging laws and calls on the Federal Government to ban the sale under that legistlation

Authors: Karen McPhail-Bell, Chelsea Bond & Michelle Redman-MacLaren (see details Blow)

For just $5.29 Australians can now purchase “Skins” from local, independent grocers to cover their cigarette packet with the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander flag.

We argue that this use of cultural content and copyright[1] imagery on cigarette packets negates health promotion efforts, such as Australia’s recent introduction of plain packaging laws and the subsequent dismissal of a legal challenge from the tobacco industry.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people smoke over twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians (ABS 2010). Health promotion practitioners working to reduce these smoking rates face the challenge of the broader historical and cultural context of smoking behaviour.

In response, health promotion efforts have endeavoured to shift, displace and resist the notion that unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, are inherently part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

Some examples of this approach include Queensland Health’s Smoke-free Support Program (Smoking: It could cost us our culture), the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health’s Deadly Choices campaign and other initiatives beyond Queensland (for example, Adams et al 2010; Basinkski and Parkinson 2001).

Brady (2002) has noted how throughout colonial contact, Europeans have exploited Aboriginal addiction to nicotine and therefore as health practitioners, we are concerned about what may be the continued exploitation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for economic gain.

We also note that Skins are available with the Australian flag and are concerned that more broadly, cultural and national pride is being manipulated by these companies. In other words, the sale of products that appropriate cultural content and copyright imagery for the purpose of enhancing the appeal of cigarettes is cause for alarm for us.

As a practice, health promotion endeavours to secure equal opportunity and resources to enable people to achieve their full potential in life. Thus, we raise this issue for your awareness and welcome your analysis, comments and suggestions for action. We are also working on possible responses with advocacy organisations.

Acknowledgement: The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Arika Errington (NACCHO) to this article.


Adams K, Liebzeit A, Jakobi M. (2010). “How’s your sugar?: A deadly website for you, your family and your community.” Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, Aug;34(5):2.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2010). “The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, October 2010.” Journal ABS Cat No 4704.0(Issue)

Basinski D, Parkinson D. (2001). “’We saw we could do it ourselves’: Koorie Cultural Regeneration Project.” Australian Journal of Primary Health;7(1):111-5.

Brady, M. (2002) “Health inequalities: Historical and cultural roots of tobacco use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 26(2): 120-124

[1] We note that both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are copyrighted materials and therefore must be reproduced in accordance the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 or with the permission of the artists, respectively Harold Thomas and the Island Coordinating Council.

[i] School of Social Work and Public Health, Queensland University of Technology; ?

[ii] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit, University of Queensland;

[iii] School of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University;

NACCHO election 2013 alert: Macklin claims Abbott’s not-so-secret plan to cut $1.6 billion from Indigenous Australians

Tony Abbott

Throughout the election period NACCHO will present views from all sides of politics

The following is a release from the Hon Jenny Macklin

Tony Abbott’s budget reply speech last night didn’t include a single sentence on his priorities for Indigenous Australians – but that doesn’t mean Indigenous people aren’t in his sights.

Buried in his speech was Tony Abbott’s real plans for Indigenous programs and organisations:

“by not implementing any of the budget spending measures unless specified”

  • Tony Abbott, Budget in reply, 16 May 2013

Tony Abbott wants to keep it a secret, but the fact is he will make savage cuts to programs and organisations that improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

This week’s Budget continued the Gillard Labor Government’s unprecedented investments to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

The Budget included $1.6 billion in funding for improved health, education, essential services, welfare reform, recognition and advocacy.

Funding included:

  • $777 million for a new National Partnership Agreement to improve health services for Indigenous Australians;
  • $22 million to help young Indigenous people finish secondary school and go onto university, including a $10 million boost to the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation;
  • More than $24 million to continue the Cape York Welfare reform measures, building on the significant gains we’ve already made for Indigenous families in these communities;
  • $12 million to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, which assist people in the juvenile and criminal justice system and help Indigenous women to escape domestic violence;
  • More than $44 million to help deliver services in about 340 remote Indigenous communities, including power, water and road maintenance;
  • $15 million to continue supporting the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, which provides Indigenous people with a strong national voice;
  • More than $6 million to refurbish hostels that provide Indigenous people with safe and affordable temporary accommodation; and
  • $1.3 million to continue building support for the recognition of Indigenous people in our Constitution.

This funding directly improves the lives of Indigenous people – so why does Tony Abbott want to take it all away?

It’s clear that Tony Abbott will cut services to the bone if he is elected Prime Minister – and Indigenous people won’t be spared.

He wants to keep it a secret – but the truth is already out.

“Coalition sources confirm Aboriginal Affairs will see the axe wielded, should Tony Abbott take Government in September.”

  • Paul Bongiorno, Ten News, 19 April 2013

After years of underinvestment and neglect under the Howard Government, this Labor Government has made unprecedented investments to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage, with more than $5.2 billion in funding for employment, education, health services, community development and community safety.

We have set out a clear pathway to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage, and we’re making the investments that are needed to get there. The progress we’ve made over the past five years in partnership with Indigenous people has delivered encouraging results.

Mr Abbott puts all of this progress at risk.

Only Labor can be trusted to deliver for Indigenous Australians.

NACCHO press release: NACCHO praises release of FPDN 10 point plan for Aboriginal people with a disability.


Access to DisabilityCare critical for Aboriginal people Measures to increase awareness of the benefits of DisabilityCare Australia within Aboriginal communities and establish targets to improve access to disability services are both welcome given thehigh numbers of Aboriginal people living with disabilities.


  • 50% of Aboriginal people have some form of disability or long term health condition (ABS 2011 Disability and Carers Survey)
  • This prevalence of disability is more than twice that of the non-indigenous Australians.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chair Justin Mohamed (pictured below) today praised the 10 point plan developed by the First People’s Disability Network (FPDN pictured above) ) which would use peer to peer methods to get the message to communities about how DisabilityCare can improve their lives.


For more info about the FPDN click here

Mr Mohamed also welcomed the announcement by Minister Jenny Macklin that NACCHO will form part of the working group to help the Federal Government set new targets aimed specifically at increasing access to services for Aboriginal people with a disability.

“The fact is that around twice as many Aboriginal people have a disability than non-Aboriginal people,” Mr Mohamed said.

“The introduction of DisabilityCare Australia has the potential to turn around the lives of these people by providing them with quality care and support to help them reach their full potential.

“However it is often the case that as Aboriginal people we don’t always recognise disability or seek the appropriate levels of help.

“This is often highlighted in remote communities where service provision is low and there is less acceptance of help from outside.”

Mr Mohamed said Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services can play a key role in helping to spread the word about DisabilityCare Australia.

“For DisabilityCare to have the impact it needs in Aboriginal communities, it’s critical Aboriginal Community Controlled Health services play a central role

“We are already a trusted source of comprehensive primary health care within our Communities in urban, regional and remote areas and we can help in educating and bringing awareness to our communities about the changes to the system and ensure they are not left out.

“We look forward to being key players in developing targets and mapping out the means through which to deliver quality access to disability services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

For more info about the FPDN click here

Ten Point Plan

  1. Recognise that the starting point is the vast majority of Aboriginal people with disability do not self-identify as people with disability. This occurs for a range of reasons including the fact that in traditional language there was no comparable word for disability. Also that many Aboriginal people with disability are reluctant to take on the label of disability particularly if they may already experience discrimination based on their Aboriginality. In many ways disability is a new conversation in many communities therefore with regard the NDIS we are starting from an absolute baseline position. And as a consequence change in this area may evolve on a different timeline to that of the main part of the NDIS.
  2. Awareness raising via a concerted outreach approach informing Aboriginal people with disabilities, their families and communities about their rights and entitlements. And as well informing Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities about the NDIS itself and how to work this new system effectively. There is simply no other way to raise awareness then by direct face-to-face consultation. Brochures and pamphlets will not do the job in this instance as this will be as stated earlier a new conversation in many communities.
  3. Establish NDIS Expert Working Group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People with disability and the NDIS. In recognition of the fact that there is a stand alone building block for the NDIS focused upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities the FPDN views it not only as critical but logical that a new Expert Working Group be established focused upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities. The new working group would operate in the same way the 4 current working groups do, that is it would be chaired by 2 members of the National People with Disability and Carers Council. To ensure its effectiveness but also critically to influence prominent Aboriginal leaders as well as the disability sector, members would be drawn from Aboriginal leadership as well as involving prominent disability leaders. The FPDN believes such an approach is warranted not only because of the degree of unmet need that is well established but also because this has the potential to be a very practical and meaningful partnership between government, the non-government sector and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  4. Build the capacity of the Non-Indigenous disability service system to meet the needs of Aboriginal people with disability in a culturally appropriate way. Legislate an additional standard into the Disability Services Act focused upon culturally appropriate service delivery and require disability services to demonstrate their cultural competencies.
  5. Research including into the prevalence of disability and into a range other relevant matters. Critically this work must be undertaken in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities to ensure a culturally appropriate methodology. There remains very little reference material about disability in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities this needs to rectified to ensure that we are getting a true picture of the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities.
  6. Recognise that there already exists a workforce in many Aboriginal communities that continues to do important work often informally. This work needs to valued and recognized with the potential being the creation of employment opportunities in some communities.
  7. Recognise that it’s not always about services. Many communities just need more resources so that they can continue to meet the needs of their own people with disabilities. There may be perfectly appropriate ways of supporting people already in place, however what is often lacking is access to current technologies or appropriate technical aids or sufficient training for family and community members to provide the optimum level of support.
  8. Recruitment of more Aboriginal people into the disability service sector.
  9. Build the capacity of the social movement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with disabilities by supporting existing networks and building new ones in addition to fostering Aboriginal leaders with disabilities. These networks play a critical role in breaking down stigma that may exist in some communities but are also the conduits for change and will be integral to the successful implementation of the NDIS in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  10. Aboriginal ‘Launch’ sites focused upon remote, very remote, regional and urban settings. It is critical that this major reform be done right. Therefore it is appropriate to effectively trial its implementation. To this end the FPDN can readily identify key communities that would be appropriate as trial sites.

NACCHO Close the Gap:Prevention not intervention,$22 million funding boost

Julia Education

The Gillard Government will be delivering a $22 million funding boost to help more than 3000 Indigenous students across the country complete their secondary education.

School Education Minister Peter Garrett today announced the Government will provide an additional $10 million to the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation this year, and a further $12 million under the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program over the next four years as part of the 2013-14 Budget.

Mr Garrett said the extra funding for the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation will help support another 733 Indigenous students to attend boarding school.

“This funding boost means that since 2008, Labor has delivered a total of $32 million to the Foundation, benefitting more than 2,300 Indigenous students across the country,” Mr Garrett said.

“As part of our agreement with the AIEF, every dollar the Commonwealth invests is matched by a dollar from corporate and private support, meaning the organisation will benefit from a total of $64 million as a result of our support.

“These scholarships are crucial in helping young Indigenous people complete Year 12 and ensuring they have an opportunity to secure a job and lead fulfilling lives.

“Education is the passport out of poverty for many young Indigenous people and this extra funding will help even more students reach their goals.

“It also has a ripple effect in communities. The more young people who finish school and get into university, the more role models there are for future generations of Indigenous youth. ”

The new funding for the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program will support 204 new scholarships for Indigenous students.

The additional funding in this year’s budget will provide scholarships for 68 students in 2014 in each of Years 7, 8 and 11.

Since 2006, more than 1,500 secondary and tertiary students have been assisted under the IYLP. More than 86 per cent of students have been retained in the program or have completed Year 12, and more than 98 per cent of students who have begun Year 12 have completed the year.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said the Gillard Government had made unprecedented investments to help close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

“After years of underinvestment and neglect, Labor’s investments are making a real difference for Indigenous people,” Ms Macklin said.

“This year we are meeting our first closing the gap target, with more Indigenous children having access to pre-school or kindergarten than ever before, and our target of halving the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five by 2018 is also on track to be met.

“The new funding announced today will build on this good work, helping even more Indigenous kids gets every chance at a good education, a good job and a brighter future.”

Ms Macklin said the Government was delivering sustainable, long term investments to close the gap.

“Mr Abbott has so far refused to guarantee funding for Indigenous programs and organisations,” Ms Macklin said.

“This Labor Government has set out a clear pathway to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage, and we’re making the investments that are needed to get there.

“We won’t close the gap without the certainty of these long-term investments, or without partnerships between government and Indigenous organisations.

“The progress we’ve made in partnership with Indigenous people is at risk under a conservative Abbott Government.”

This additional funding is on top of around $690 million already invested by the Gillard Government in Indigenous education, including:

  • $543 million to support the Stronger Futures NT National  Partnership;
  • more than $128 million to for the Australian Indigenous Education  Action Plan; and
  • nearly $20 million for the Teach Remote program which places high   quality teachers into remote communities.

The Gillard Governments National Plan for School Improvement will also include a particular focus on the needs of Indigenous children.

Funding for schools will be based on a Schooling Resource Standard, which includes a base amount per student and additional funding for schools and students that need more support, including indigenous students.

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NACCHO news alert: $24.5 million to progress Cape York Welfare Reform


Picture Noel Pearson on Cape York with some of his mob: Picture The Age

It is clear that communities in Cape York are making changes and want to take responsibility for themselves and their families. We will continue to support them to do this.”

Press release Minister Macklin

The Australian Government will invest $24.5 million over two years to build on the significant gains that have been made in improving Aboriginal people’s lives in the four communities participating in the Cape York Welfare Reform trial.

This funding injection in the 2013-14 Budget will continue the Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC) and other key parts of the program, as well as introducing new measures to further support school enrolment and attendance, and re-engage disengaged youth with education, jobs and life skills in the communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge.

The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the Australian Government’s funding includes provision to operate the School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM) in the participating communities, to help ensure children attend school every day.

“The recently released evaluation of the Cape York trial showed that the Family Responsibility Commission is very effective in increasing parental responsibility and school attendance amongst many families it works with,” Ms Macklin said.

“While we have seen a significant increase in school attendance through the trial, it is clear that for some families more needs to be done to ensure all children are getting a decent education and attending school every day in all four communities.

“The local Family Responsibility Commissioners have told us that further efforts are needed to engage hard to reach families and ensure they send their children to school.

“That is why we want to work with the Family Responsibility Commission and our welfare reform partners to implement SEAM as part of the Cape York welfare reforms, with a key role for the FRC.

“The Queensland Government has a key role to play in ensuring children attend school and I am asking them to work with us to support the introduction of SEAM in these communities.”

Under the enrolment component of SEAM, parents will be required, if requested, to demonstrate to Centrelink that their children are enrolled at school.

The Family Responsible Commission will be made aware of parents of children who are not enrolled and will work with them to address any barriers to enrolment.

If children fall below the set attendance benchmark, the Family Responsibility Commission will work with families, the schools and Centrelink to develop attendance plans.

If parents do not meet their part of the agreed attendance plan, income support payments may be suspended. Payments will be reinstated once the parent complies with their responsibilities.

Ms Macklin said that the evaluation also showed that there a number of young people who are not participating in education, training or employment.

“We want to see young people fulfilling their potential and learning the benefits of personal responsibility,” Ms Macklin said.

“That is why we will also introduce a package of measures to support disengaged young people between the ages of 16 and 21.”

Newly funded youth workers will be available to provide better support to young people in the communities.  They will work closely with the FRC and with disengaged young people to help them develop an action plan to undertake education or training, address any barriers to participation, develop the skills needed to get a job, and where relevant, improve their parenting skills. The FRC will also have the option of referring them to income management.

Ms Macklin said that while progress has been made in the Cape York Welfare Reform communities, the Australian Government did not underestimate the challenges that remain.

“It is clear that communities in Cape York are making changes and want to take responsibility for themselves and their families. We will continue to support them to do this.”

“The Australian Government’s continued investment and the introduction of the additional measures will help build on the significant gains already made, as well as target the harder to reach groups in the communities,” Ms Macklin said.

“Local communities have shown they want to take responsibility and the Australian Government is committed to working with them to do this.

“The Queensland Government has a clear role to play in relation to school attendance and support for disengaged young people, as well as in ensuring that the important gains already made through the Cape York Welfare Reforms are not lost.

“I will continue to urge the Queensland Government to fulfil their ongoing responsibility to the people of Cape York.”