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Turnbull Budget has Glaring Omissions for Indigenous Australians

10 May 2017 at 11:20 am
Rachel McFadden
The delivery of the 2017 budget for Indigenous Australians was a “mixed bag” of support and omissions, leaders of key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations said.

Rachel McFadden | 10 May 2017 at 11:20 am


Turnbull Budget has Glaring Omissions for Indigenous Australians
10 May 2017 at 11:20 am

The delivery of the 2017 budget for Indigenous Australians was a “mixed bag” of support and omissions, leaders of key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations said.

More than 30 representatives met in Canberra after the unveiling of the federal government’s 2017 budget, on Tuesday night, to discuss its implications for Australia’s First People.

The National Congress of Australia’s First People said: “The urgent needs of our peoples are almost invisible.”

Most notable were a lack of specific measures to address all but one of the seven Close the Gap targets.

National Congress co-chair and Close the Gap co-chair Jackie Huggins told Pro Bono News that infant mortality, one of the close the gap targets, had increased in the past few years.

“We would have liked to see more investment in Close the Gap targets. We still have people dying 10 years younger and infant mortality has also gone up,” Huggins said.

“In the past 10 years, in our country we have seen 88 per cent increase in Aboriginal inceration rates.

“We know that young Aboriginal males have the highest rate of suicide [than any other demographic]. “

Huggins said she would like to see disability, incarceration and justice measurements added to the Close the Gap targets.

“Another glaring omission was funding around child protection where we see our children in and out of home care quite significantly,” Huggins said.

“And there was no addition funding for National Congress.

“There are some things to be welcomed like the NDIS. We know that more 50 per cent of our people have some kind of disability.”

Huggins said the problem was that since Indigenous populations were submerged within larger schemes there was no way of telling whether something like the NDIS was having a direct impact on the target populations.  

She said the same went for health funding.

“We welcome funding back to the community legal services. Indigenous businesses have also had a big boost,” she said.

The opposition’s response to the Turnbull budget was more scathing.

“The 2017 budget fails to deliver for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians,” leader of the opposition Bill Shorten, Senator Patrick Dobson, Warren Snowden, Linda Burney and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy said in a joint statement.

“While the budget includes piecemeal proposals for better employment and health outcomes, there is no comprehensive strategy to make progress on the stalled Closing the Gap targets, or to address other longstanding issues such as the incarceration crisis.

“The budget also fails to secure the future of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples with proper funding. Congress is our independent, elected, national Indigenous representative body – it must be respected and resourced.

“The government’s entire approach to Indigenous affairs is defined by savage cuts to services, a loss of local control, a failure to listen to Indigenous voices, and policy-making which is paternalistic and overly bureaucratic.”

Family Matters Campaign co-chair Gerry Moore said he was disappointed that the budget did “nothing” to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families in child protection systems.

“If we do the same things we will get the same results,” Moore said.

“We have an escalating crisis in the nation’s child protection systems and we are still on track to triple the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care by 2035.  This Budget does nothing to address this.”

“Unless we see an injection of funding to promote preventative measures and the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled services we remain pessimistic about the future of our children” he said.

Rachel McFadden  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Rachel is a journalist specialising in the social sector.

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