Australia’s largest Indigenous organisation forced to shut up shop
29 July 2019 at 5:30 pm
The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples has officially closed its doors after the peak representative body went into voluntary administration in June.
Co-chairs of the Congress, Rod Little, and Dr Jackie Huggins announced over the weekend that they had accepted an informal offer of redundancy.
Despite being promised funding in the 2015-16 forward estimates, in 2013 the Abbott government withdrew its support and commitment to any future funding.
Congress then entered a fee-for-service agreement with former Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion allowing the organisation to stay afloat, but this forced staff cuts and a reduction of services.
At the beginning of June, the organisation entered into voluntary administration so it wouldn’t trade as an insolvent entity.
“We regret that no funding was forthcoming from any source. This meant that Congress was unable to continue its business of representing the rights and interests of its members at the national level now or into the future,” Little and Huggins said in a joint statement.
National Congress had grown to be the largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait organisation in Australia, representing 10,000 members and 180 organisations.
Little told Pro Bono News that a lack of commitment to long-term funding by the government was disappointing, and meant Congress’ 10,000 members were left without a strong voice to fight for them.
“Our individual members and organisations are now going to be left to fight for themselves, which we don’t want,” Little said.
He said the organisation had not been given time to build itself up to a point where it could be financially sustainable.
“We’ve only been around for eight years and only got Deductible Gift Receipt status four years ago so we could receive donations easily. It takes many more years than that to become successful,” he said.
He said he was now holding out hope that the newly-appointed minister for Indigenous affairs, Ken Wyatt, would step-up and reinstate funding to revive the organisation.
“I have hope that Congress will run again, but it’s going to need Minister Wyatt to step in and help,” he said.
Pro Bono News contacted Wyatt’s office for comment but did not receive a response before deadline.