New Indigenous Fund to Tackle Budget Cuts
12 June 2014 at 8:56 am
The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples has revealed at the ACOSS National Conference that it will set up a public fund in response to the Federal Government cutting its cash commitment to the advocacy peak body.
At the conference, in Brisbane, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples Co-Chair Kirstie Parker said that as well as the Congress losing all Federal funding, other advocacy bodies, such as the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services had lost funding as a result of the recent Budget.
As well, she said hundreds of Indigenous organisations were only given a commitment of six to 12 months of forward funding.
"Congress member organisations have told me that they cannot speak out amidst the chaos while they wait to see what their future holds, how their vital services will fit into programs that have yet to be developed," she said.
"We are being asked to accept that that more than $500 million will be cut through savings in bureaucracy and centralised decision-making, without disruption to our peoples.
"Congress remains unaware of any meaningful discussions about the Budget cuts being held with any national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations."
Parker said that despite Government cuts to the Congress being seen as a blow to its self-determination, it was by no means a knockout punch, and the new public fund was just part of an overall plan to diversify its funding base.
"Our membership continues to grow and, with restructuring already undertaken and considerable belt tightening, we expect our reserves to sustain us for the next two to three years while we work to diversify our funding base," she said.
"In the near future, we will be launching what we hope will become an iconic and nation- building public fund, to which decent and fair-minded Australians can contribute to help ensure that this representative voice chosen by our people for our people will endure and continue to build.
"Now more than ever we need to unite and support strong black organisations to defend and promote our human rights and represent our Peoples.
"And we know our mobs are not alone in this Budget wreckage.
"Every week, it seems, a little more detail is released. Another example – and we know there are many – is the recent decision to cut all funding, too, to the Refugee Council of Australia. This was money that had already been accounted for and the total annual savings from this measure amounts to just $140,000."
Also part of the Not for Profit’s plan is a Congress Supporters Accord program, which Parker revealed ACOSS was among the first signatories and invited other organisations to consider becoming part of the program.
"We believe that a great strength in the NGO sector is the willingness of organisations to collaborate and work together to deliver successful outcomes for people and their communities," she said.
"We have been privileged to have had the support of ACOSS since the inception of Congress, and we have formalised these relationships in our Supporters Accord program – ACOSS being among our first signatories to this program.
"Supporter organisations show their support for Congress and our work, based on the key principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and on recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Australian Constitution through real and meaningful constitutional reform.
"At Congress, we will continue to fight for our peoples whether it means: fighting for essential protections in the Racial Discrimination Act; working to close the great divide in our nation in health and life expectancy; reducing the devastating numbers of our people in prison, and getting services to our mobs – by our mobs."
For more information on the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, click here.