Indigenous Peak Body Warns of Closure
3 November 2016 at 10:31 am
A cash-strapped Indigenous peak body has warned it is likely to be forced to close its operations in 2017.
The board of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples said it met on Monday and passed a budget for the 2016/17 financial year along with a financial forecast which would likely “see operations cease in December 2017 unless there is serious further investments”.
“In 2014, the federal government failed to honour the bipartisan support for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples to act as a voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, by not funding the peak body,” co-chair of the National Congress Rod Little told Pro Bono Australia News.
“This is while congress, as a charitable organisation, has been paying an Australian Government statutory body approximately $20,000 per month for rent over the past five years, which it can longer afford.
“We have passed a shoestring budget in order to continue our operations. As a board we operate under severe constraints and have demonstrated due diligence in our operations. [But] we will be forced to run a virtual office with not staff.”
Little said the organisation would now increase its public fundraising efforts to continue its advocacy work.
“We have always had our DGR status and we have had donations over time. Once we realised that the funding wasn’t forthcoming it has allowed us to continue on our strategy to really ramp-up the fundraising and look for philanthropic support,” he said
“We will continue to pursue philanthropic donors over the coming months and we are relying on volunteer support to be able to do that because we don’t have the organisations structure and resources to be able to do that so we are relying on the goodwill of people.”
Little said there was still a great deal to do to ensure a level playing field for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families and communities.
“This government has I think also wiped out advocacy. Advocacy for any government would assist in informing and strengthening their policy position. That’s the logical thing but if you don’t have that advice then you are stumbling around based on your own assumptions,” he said.
“The government’s own reports show the appalling state of our situation. Just look at the incarceration rates and the rates of domestic and family violence and child removal across the country – does this not tell you the efforts of governments are not having the desired impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?”
Co-chair Dr Jackie Huggins said: “Whilst social indicators continue to deteriorate, congress has operated with a declining budget and little to no response from government, with the exception of a meeting with Senator Scullion two weeks ago.
“Senator Scullion has commenced meeting with us to renew the relationship between his office and congress.
“It’s about time we are recognised as the peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander body in Australia.”
She said the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples had a strong heartbeat and was not going without a fight.
“We have much more work around the Redfern Statement which is real and tangible, and aims to make a difference in the lives of our mob. Having our sectoral peaks come together to progress the Redfern Statement proves the commitments to congress and our communities,” Huggins said.
“A democratically elected body with a membership of approximately 9,000 people and 180 organisations, the National Congress is in the prime position to be the coordinating and unifying voice that can effectively inform the government.
“We are committed to a renewed national congress.”