• Indigenous Leaders with the signed 'Redfern Statement'. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
A coalition of Indigenous leaders have sent a signed statement, called the Redfern Statement, to all major parties with a vision for Indigenous affairs for the next parliament, in what they say has been a lacklustre election for Indigenous issues so far.
By
Laura Murphy-Oates

Source:
NITV News
10 Jun 2016 - 3:28 PM  UPDATED 10 Jun 2016 - 3:28 PM

The Co chair of the National Congress of Australia First Peoples Jackie Huggins has a warning message for all major parties this election.

“Ignore us at your peril because we vote too,” she says.

More than 50 organisations- including Reconciliation Australia, the Close the Gap Steering Committee and Amnesty International-  are throwing their support behind an urgent call to action, spearheaded by Congress.

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On Thursday the group sent a document to all major parties, titled the ‘Redfern Statement’, outlining their concerns and a comprehensive list of changes they want to see happen in Indigenous affairs in the incoming parliament.

The leaders are hoping to deliver the signed version to the incoming Prime Minister in his first week in office.

Indigenous leaders say this move was a necessary reaction to the lack of engagement with Indigenous people in this election, and the lack of engagement from governments over the past 25 years.

“At the moment we don't have a relationship with government,” says the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda.

“To date we haven't heard anything from the two major parties in relation to election policy,” says Ms Huggins.

That suggestions is refuted by both major parties

The suggested reforms span across health, justice, family violence, disability and early childhood. Some have been on the board for many years- such as implementing justice targets or properly implementing the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Health plan.

Reverse cuts and reform federal funding

The leaders are calling for the restoration of $534 million dollars’ worth of funding cut from Indigenous affairs in the 2014 budget.

Minister Scullion told NITV that the 2014 Budget "did not contain savings of $534 million" and the "amount of money saved was less than half that."

However, peak Indigenous organisations across the board said yesterday that their sectors are struggling, with urgent funding needed for family violence, legal centres, childcare and disability services.

Wayne Muir, the CEO of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (NATSILS), says they’re facing a crippling $6.6 million dollars of cuts to frontline legal services in 2017.

Furthermore the leaders are calling for future funding decisions to be made within a department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, run by senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander public servants.

Currently the portfolio sits under the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and all funding is channelled through a competitive tender process within the Indigenous Advancement Scheme (IAS) - a process that Indigenous leaders say has failed.

“They have no Idea how to deliver programs and that's been reflected in the IAS and how hopeless it is so we need our own department,” says NACCHO CEO Pat Turner.

The shadow minister for Indigenous Affairs Shayne Neumann  told NITV they will not be moving the portfolio out from under Prime Minister and Cabinet but they will be abolishing the IAS.

“Have a look at the senate inquiry and the recommendations and the findings of the inquiry which condemn the IAS, even the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had to admit they stuffed it up,” says Mr Neumann.

Fund Congress and establish more representative bodies

The leaders are also pushing for funding for the National Congress of Australia’s First People’s- Australia only nationally representative Indigenous body.

The body has attempted to raise funds outside of government after their $15 million budget was cut in 2014, but currently may only be able to continue on until mid-2017.

Furthermore, the changes would also see the establishment of individual national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative bodies for Education, Employment and Housing.