The Abbott Government is being urged to restore hundreds of millions of dollars in funding axed from Indigenous groups and services in tomorrow's budget.
The Abbott Government is being urged to restore hundreds of millions of dollars in funding axed from Indigenous groups and services.
The Closing the Gap campaign committee is urging to Treasurer Joe Hockey to reverse cuts made in his previous budget, as well as quarantine current funding from any further saving measures.
In the committee’s budget position paper issued on Friday, members said that an estimated $270 million had been cut from Indigenous primary health care services and programmes, originally funded for the following three years.
“These cuts occur at a time when these services are starting to have an effect in helping close the health and life expectancy gap,” the committee said.
The committee outlined a number of requests, including:
- The restoration of up to $130 million over five years for the Tackling Indigenous Smoking programme
- The restoration of $534.4 million over five years cut from the Indigenous Affairs budget through programme rationalisation
- The guaranteeing of approximately $18 million, previously committed to the implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy
The committee also voiced concerns about reforms to Medicare, which “passed into law, may have a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health”.
Call to keep remote communities open
The committee also voiced concerns over the potential closure of remote area Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.
Up to 150 remote communities may be forced to close, with the WA Government citing cuts in federal funding as the reasons.
An agreement was reached between the federal and state government in September 2014, when WA accepted $90 million in funding to take on responsibility for delivering the essential services.
The Closing the Gap campaign committee called on the government to stop the impending closures until the health and wellbeing impacts, as well as implications for other matters such as native title rights, of such closures are properly and independently assessed.
Wins, losses and backdowns from Budget 2014-15
The Abbott Government’s first budget saw significant reductions in both the numbers of, and funding for Indigenous programs and services.
Mr Hockey’s budget measures sought to reduce the number of indigenous programs and services from more than 150 to just five, estimated to save $534.5 million over several years.
The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples had its funding axed, despite the previous Labor Government having committed $15 million in its 2013 budget.
Indigenous legal services lost $15 million, though these cuts were reversed by Attorney-General George Brandis in March.
Budget figures from 2014-15 also stated that the Torres Strait Regional Authority would lose $3.5 million in funding by 2017-18, while the Indigenous Languages Support Programme would see a reduction in funding of about $2 million a year for the next four years.
There were several significant funding boosts as well, including:
- $54.1 million for a permanent police presence in several remote Indigenous communities.
- $3.8 million towards the Australian Federal Police's continuing involvement in the Northern Territory Child Abuse Taskforce
- $2.5 million to train eight new community engagement police officers in the Norther Territory
- $13.4 million over the next four years for The Clontarf Foundation
- $3.3 million for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies to digitise its collection
- $18 million funding boost to the Remote Schools Attendance Strategy
- $26 million to improving Indigenous teenage sexual and reproductive health
With Robert Burton-Bradley.