Reconciliation Australia acknowledges that there will be no additional funding cuts to the Indigenous Affairs portfolio in this year’s Federal Budget. It is however, incumbent upon the Government to strengthen the sustainable funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs.
CEO of Reconciliation Australia, Mr Justin Mohamed, said, “the announcements that no further savings will be made at the expense of Indigenous Affairs, as well as the reinstatement of funding for legal services, is a positive indication that the government is listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
While the sustained levels of funding represent a positive step, Reconciliation Australia believes the savings of $534 million made during the 2014-15 Budget should be reinvested within Indigenous Affairs. Additionally, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples should continue to receive Government support until they are self-sustaining. A strong, representative voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is essential to ensure ongoing progress.
Currently, the exact detail and impact of many Budget measures is unclear, especially regarding changes to funding in the Northern Territory and remote housing support.
“We saw during the Indigenous Advancement Strategy funding process that a lack of transparency and engagement led to uncertainty and anxiety within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, said Mr Mohamed.
“Such an environment directly impacts our ability to work together to achieve positive outcomes for all Australians. The way to avoid this uncertainty is to meaningfully and genuinely engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, organisations and communities.”
The focus on the Employment Parity Initiative, increased government procurement and a commitment by the public service to achieve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment equality are important initiatives. Reconciliation Australia believes that the emphasis given to sustainable employment and procurement should be replicated across other key areas such as health, education, and access to justice. Reconciliation Australia will continue to advocate for targeted government investment these areas.
“While it is promising no further cuts have been made, it is essential that the Government ensure that there is better engagement and planning in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Mr Mohamed said.
“We hope this Budget signals a resetting of the government’s relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. We must create strong and respectful relationships as we build on our momentum towards a just, equitable and reconciled Australia.”