PLEA FOR PM TO STEP IN AND FIX INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS POLICY AND FUNDING CHAOS

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders are calling upon Prime Minister Tony Abbott to personally step in to address the federal Indigenous Affairs policy and funding environment, which they say is descending into chaos.

Representatives of the elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative body National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (Congress), National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS), National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (NFVPLS), National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Secretariat for National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), and the Healing Foundation – supported by the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) – met in Canberra today to discuss the detrimental impact of the 2014 Federal Budget on key organisations and frontline services.

The group said that, despite Government assurances to the contrary, Budget cuts to Indigenous Affairs were impairing the ability of community-controlled organisations to deliver frontline services in critical areas such as legal assistance, family violence, children, youth and women, drug and alcohol misuse, and health.

“This threatens long term damage to outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and prospects for a reconciled nation,” the group said.

“There is virtually no evidence of coordination between government agencies responsible for funding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and programs. Buck-passing appears to be the norm.

“This environment is one of confusion and this is causing instability, anxiety and uncertainty. Despite requests for information from many of our organisations, there are few answers. We’re simply told to ‘put it in writing’. Then, when we do, we get no response.

The group said there was a disconnect between the Government’s stated narrowly-focussed priorities of jobs, school attendance, and community safety and its actions.

Under the new Indigenous Affairs arrangements:

– Funding for 38 Children and Family Centres throughout the country ceased on 30 June this year. These centres have been vital hubs in our communities.

– Funding for Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services, which support thousands of Indigenous women and children every year, is currently due to cease on 30 June 2015.  There is no recognition of the national program under the strategy or any other form of commitment to extending these essential and specialised frontline services.

– Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services around the country are yet to learn how $13.1 million in cuts to their operations will be applied to frontline services, and their national advocacy and reform body NATSILS has been defunded. Due to this uncertainty, legal services are being forced to close offices, staff are leaving, positions are going unfilled and services such as duty solicitors reduced.

“How is community safety advanced when important building blocks such as crucial support for women and children experiencing family violence, and access to legal representation, are stepped away from?” the group said.

They called for:
– Emergency talks between Mr Abbott – who declared himself ‘Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs’ – and national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders beyond the Indigenous Advisory Council and other individual advisors.

– Immediate extension of transitional funding arrangements under the Government’s new Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) from six months and a year to a minimum of 18 months and two years. The IAS open grant and tender process due to commence on 8 September should be deferred while the Government urgently clarifies eligibility criteria and other areas of concern.

– Government assurance that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, service providers and advocacy bodies will be respected and supported to undertake community development and service delivery to their constituents.

– A Parliamentary Inquiry into the recommendations of the Forrest Review into Indigenous employment and economic development. The group expressed serious concern that the review dramatically overstepped its original terms of reference, denying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities an opportunity to make submissions on the range of issues it went on to cover and now seeks to limit and rush responses to recommendations contained in its ‘Creating Parity’ report.

“We call on the Government to start talking to the leadership that is backed by our communities, to stop the confusion, instability and chaos, and to provide much needed clarity and certainty,” the group said.

NACCHO political health news : Abbott Government cuts to impact on Aboriginal health

Shane

Closing the gap requires a coordinated approach at the state and federal levels as the challenges faced by Aboriginal people are interconnected.You can’t improve overall health outcomes without also looking at the social determinants, things like housing, education and poverty. Similarly, you can’t improve health outcomes while the numbers of Aboriginal people in our jails continues to rise,”

Said NACCHO chair Justin Mohamed .(see press release below) pictured above with Shane Duffy NATSILS

Congress calls upon the Prime Minister to show leadership and understanding of the need for increased capacity in our organisations and communities.  He can demonstrate that by ensuring the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services is retained and strengthened,”

Said Co-Chair National Congress Les Malezer.(see press release below)

Overview

Yesterday the Federal Government delivered the Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2013-2014.
Here are some things from the report as they relate to Aboriginal Affairs and Aboriginal Health and Health more broadly.
Ceased
-The Indigenous Carbon Farming Fund
-Remote Indigenous Energy Programme
-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Programme ($1.0 m in 2013-2014)
-Office of the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services
-$27m from the Healthier Communities Priority Infrastructure Programme
-$5m Chronic Disease Prevention and Services Improvement Fund
-National Rural and Remote Health Infrastructure Programs – 22.3m
-Public Health Program – $6mil
Established
-$45 mil for Vocation Training and Employment Centres for 5000 Aboriginal job seekers under the Generation One model
-$5 for Empowered Communities based on Jawun Model.
-$1mil for Indigenous Advisory Council (Chaired by Warren Mundine)
-$40mil of redirected funding to re-open Indigenous Employment Programme in remote areas

NACCHO Press release

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chair, Justin Mohamed, said cutting legal services made no economic sense when you take into account the wider implications of incarceration on issues such as employment, education and health.

“The fact is people in our jail system often suffer from poor mental and physical health,” Mr Mohamed said.

“Incarceration also can have broader impacts on the health of those left behind – on the imprisoned person’s family and broader community.

“With rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people increasing, we should be doing everything we can to turn around the huge numbers of Aboriginal people in our prisons.

“NACCHO supports the good work of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services – both who play an important role in keeping our people out of jail.

“They provide education and early intervention support and advice which can mean the difference between a life of incarceration and one that makes a contribution to the community.

“The Federal Government need to rethink their position and recognise how crucial a national voice on Aboriginal legal policy is in reducing the disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal people in the justice system.

“Aboriginal peak bodies understand better than anyone the issues their people face and the factors that contribute to them entering the justice system.

“Taking that voice from the mix to save a few dollars will just hamper future efforts to improve outcomes across a range of factors including health, education and employment.”

Mr Mohamed said closing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people needed an integrated approach.

“Aboriginal people make up more than thirty percent of the prison population, despite being only a fraction of the Australian population.

“Closing the gap requires a coordinated approach at the state and federal levels as the challenges faced by Aboriginal people are interconnected.

“You can’t improve overall health outcomes without also looking at the social determinants, things like housing, education and poverty. Similarly, you can’t improve health outcomes while the numbers of

Aboriginal people in our jails continues to rise,” Mr Mohamed said.

National Congress Condemns Cuts

 
The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (Congress) strongly opposes the decision by the Federal Government to cut funding to community controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.
The government’s ‘hit or miss’ funding cuts to our organisations, at the beginning of their term and before the completion of their highly-publicised inquiries, endangers the collaborative approach offered by the Prime Minister.
Today’s news that the national body for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services is to be defunded is a significant blow and does not reflect an effort to engage in partnership.
Having a national body for the legal services increases the skills, experience and effectiveness of all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, and brings greater efficiency to the expenditure incurred by those legal services.
“Congress calls upon the Prime Minister to show leadership and understanding of the need for increased capacity in our organisations and communities.  He can demonstrate that by ensuring the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services is retained and strengthened,” said Co-Chair Les Malezer.
“Our Peoples must be self-determining and will not accept Governments making decisions on funding priorities without us.
“Removing our capacity for policy reform and advocacy to legal assistance programs delivered by Aboriginal, community and legal aid services will affect the most marginalised and vulnerable members of our community.
“Congress supports organisations controlled by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to continue representing our interests and to provide expert advice on service delivery,” said Mr Malezer.
Congress recently made a strongly worded submission to the National Commission of Audit which reinforces our fundamental principles of self-determination and community decision making.
“Significant under investment by successive Governments makes our Peoples predicament comparable to some developing countries, “said Co-Chair Kirstie Parker.
“We cannot accept any reduction in Commonwealth spending on housing, remote infrastructure, legal services, community safety, native title, languages and culture, when investment and capacity building is what’s clearly required.
“We will continue to work with the Commission to engage with all of our members.
“Community input and ownership are highlighted as keys to achieve improvements by the Government’s own landmark reports – including the Department of Finance Strategic Review of Indigenous Expenditure (2011) and the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key indicators 2011 report,” said Ms Parker.
Contact Congress : Liz Willis 0457 877 408  NACCHO Colin Cowell 0401 331 251
 
 

Government avoids scrutiny by cutting Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous ServicesGeneral for Remote Indigenous Services.

“This cost cutting measure from the Government is deeply disappointing and will further undermine efforts to deliver on our Closing the Gap commitments,” Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues.
“The role of Coordinator General is to ‘monitor, assess, advise and drive progress relating to improvements in government service delivery in 29 remote Indigenous communities across Australia’.
Removing this role will directly affect the ability of the Government to monitor and report on the implementation of policies.
“This cut is a comparatively small amount of money that the Government admits will be used to either save money or fund other, unnamed policies.
It isn’t even being reinvested in other programs to help people in remote Australia.
“Decisions such as this make a mockery of Tony Abbott’s comments about being the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs, as once again his Government seeks to avoid scrutiny and accountability for its policies,” Senator Siewert concluded.