‘An absolute national shame’: Government urged to invest more in Aboriginal-led services
28 June 2019 at 3:57 pm
The Australian government must invest strongly in Aboriginal community-controlled solutions if it wants better outcomes from the Closing the Gap refresh, Indigenous leaders say.
A coalition of nearly 40 peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations met in Adelaide on Thursday to discuss a new approach to Closing the Gap after this year’s progress report revealed only two of seven targets were on track.
The coalition of peaks recently formed a joint partnership with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to collaborate on the Closing the Gap refresh process, giving Indigenous groups shared decision-making responsibilities.
Patricia Turner AM is coalition convener and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation CEO. She said given the peaks’ lived experience and work within Indigenous communities, she was hopeful their positions would be received by governments with open minds.
“For the peaks, the most important part of Closing the Gap going forward is not the targets but reviewing how we go about achieving them,” Turner said.
“The peaks believe that the strengthening of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sector to deliver Closing the Gap services and shared decision-making is very important in this regard.
Turner told Pro Bono News it was vital governments invested more resources into Aboriginal community-controlled organisations that had ongoing successful working relationships with Aboriginal people.
She said this includes everything from Aboriginal community-controlled health services and legal services, to Indigenous child protection services and family support services.
“Governments need to radically rethink the way they work with Aboriginal people,” she said.
“We need to be equal partners in the whole process, from design, to the outcomes needed to close the gap and the investment in the resources required to do that.
“So we need governments to put their money on the table and invest strongly in Aboriginal community-controlled solutions.”
Turner recently called on Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt to restore $500 million taken from Indigenous-run health services by the Abbott government in 2014.
She said investment in the sector was needed to strengthen its service delivery arrangements, because “no organisation is currently funded by governments properly on the basis of need”.
“That’s reflected in the appalling [Indigenous health] data that still exists in this country today, which is an absolute national shame,” she said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said following the latest Closing the Gap progress report that the “top-down approach” taken in the past could not solve Indigenous disadvantage.
“Governments fail when accountabilities are unclear. When investment is poorly targeted, when systems aren’t integrated. And when we don’t learn from evidence,” Morrison said.
Turner said she was confident the PM had “seen the light” and realised the way forward must involve equal partnership with Indigenous people.
“There’s now a chance we’ll have much better outcomes than what has been achieved by governments alone over the last decade when we were totally excluded,” she said.
“We were the recipients of their largesse that got them nowhere.”