• VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher. (VACCHO)Source: VACCHO
While some Aboriginal community-controlled organisations have welcomed the Victorian state budget, others say they are disappointed and feel they've been "overlooked".
By
Keira Jenkins

Source:
NITV News
27 Nov 2020 - 2:38 PM  UPDATED 27 Nov 2020 - 2:38 PM

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) has welcomed investments in housing, infrastructure and employment included in this year's state budget.

The Victorian budget, announced this week, included $40 million for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.

An allocation of $86 million was made towards reducing the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care, while $21 million was announced for protection of cultural heritage and incorporating Indigenous knowledge into water management.

The treaty process in Victoria was allocated $20 million from the State government and $16 million went towards decriminalising public drunkenness.

A new $14 million Aboriginal Community Infrastructure funding rounds, and $23 million commitment to deliver services to Victorian Aboriginal communities during the pandemic and recovery were also announced. 

The allocations follow the $35 million package for Aboriginal housing announced earlier in the year.

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher welcomed the announcements.

"Aboriginal people already experience higher rates of homelessness than the general community, but Victorian Aboriginal people have the highest rates of homelessness of any Aboriginal population in Australia," she said.

Ms Gallagher also welcomed the $870 million allocated to mental health funding in the budget.

"This year has been one of the hardest years many of us have ever experienced and to only reach 74 positive cases of COVID-19 in our communities is testament to the importance of Aboriginal community control," she said.

"For too long Aboriginal people have fallen through the cracks of a fragmented and culturally unsafe mental health system.

"This year's budget investments in the health and wellbeing of Victorian Aboriginal communities are to be applauded as we look to rebuild a broken mental health system that has failed to meet our needs for many years."

'Overlooked'

However, Djirra CEO Antoinette Braybrook said the state budget had "overlooked" Aboriginal community controlled legal services.

Ms Braybrook said demand for services like Djirra and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service had not stopped because of COVID-19, especially when it comes to their work against family violence.

"We have also seen a spike in the numbers of women reaching out for support and safety and we have increased the number of days we offer counselling to meet the growing demand," she said.

"The number of Aboriginal women held on remand has risen dramatically for the period 2008-2018 (from 13.3 to 47.7 per cent).

"We know that 80 per cent of Aboriginal women in prison are mothers. We know that between 70-90 per cent of those Aboriginal women who are in prison are survivors of sexual assault and family violence and that most of them are in prison for low-level offences."

Ms Braybrook said this "under-investment" in Aboriginal Legal Services is not consistent with policies of self-determination or Closing the Gap agreements.

She said Djirra would continue to advocate for Aboriginal women and children, despite being disappointed at the lack of investment in the state budget.

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