• The co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First People Rod Little. (NITV)Source: NITV
Coalition freezes funding to the organisation, Labor won’t commit to more.
Ella Archibald-Binge

The Point
11 May 2016 - 5:47 PM  UPDATED 11 May 2016 - 5:47 PM

What you need to know

  • National Congress considers fundraising measures
  • Coalition says it will hand no further funding to Congress
  • Labor Party condemns cuts but won’t say if it will fund Congress if it wins election.

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples says it’s relying on donations and pending funding applications to the government to continue operating.

Rod Little. the co-chair of democratically elected National Congress, told ‘The Point’ that the last six years of political instability had hampered Congress’ ability to become self-sustaining.

“Government has its political cycle,” Mr Little said.

“If government changes, there’s a change of policy, a change of thinking.”

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Its financial status comes after Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion slammed National Congress for asking for more money after it had already spent tens of millions of dollars in funding.

“We provided congress with $30 million to support Aboriginal people on the basis that this became sustainable funding,” Mr Scullion told CAAMA Radio.

“Well the money ran out, and I can't find someone apart from those people who head congress that say that was money well spent.”

Congress looks for new ways of making money

The Labor Party says withdrawing funding from National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples is “a disaster”.

“If we’re fair dinkum about closing the gap, National Congress ought to be supported,” Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister told NITV from Queensland.

But the Labor Party has not yet revealed whether it will fund National Congress if it wins the July election.

“We will be making some announcements during the election campaign,” Mr Neumann said.

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The Coalition  withdrew $15 million from Congress in the 2014 budget and the organisation has seen no additional investment since.

According to its latest annual report, Congress has more than 8,500 members and more than 100 member organisations.

The report also states Congress received $62,114 in donations in 2015 and $33,753 in 2014.

Congress confirmed it’s hoping to capitalise on donations to continue operating.

“If we get this right, there’s going to be opportunity for that investment to be channelled into other places when Congress is self-sufficient,” Rod Little said.

“They may not be huge but at least they’ll be contributions or donations that help us consolidate our processes.”

Supporters step in

The Close the Gap campaign has thrown its support behind congress.

“Without Congress, who will represent Australia’s First Peoples collectively on issues at the national level?” it asked.

“The National Congress should be supported to continue to develop into a representative body that can advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia.”

Road map to recognition becomes clearer

The freezing of funds to National Congress comes as another Indigenous group working for the Federal Government endorses an Aboriginal advisory group to Parliament.

The Prime Minister’s Referendum Council says a potential referendum for Australians to vote on whether to change the Constitution to recognise Indigenous people will occur in 2017.

“The Council will commence its consultation process with three significant meetings with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, including traditional owners and representatives of peak bodies,” it said in a statement yesterday.

“The Council will conduct a concurrent series of Indigenous consultations and community-wide consultations in the second half of 2016.

“The Council will also lead a national conversation on recognition through an innovative digital platform that gives all Australians the chance to have their say.”