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    Laura O'Donovan

    The 2014 Federal Budget measures aimed at the wider community will impact the most vulnerable poor people in Australia into deeper levels of poverty, particularly Indigenous Australians. For example, the fee of $7 co-payment for the use of General Practitioner’s services does not acknowledge that firstly, Indigenous Australians are expected to live 10-17 years less than other Australians, and secondly, they experience higher rates of preventable illnesses such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. While the medical fees may be considered a small amount for those in the middle income range and above; vulnerable groups including Indigenous Australians may be forced to choose between going to the GP or buying essential items such as food. The fuel levy further makes the cost of fuel, food and other items more inflated in remote communities.Consequently, people who have no choice but to avoid the doctor in order to save money, will result in an increase of illness and health costs across the country. Another measure in the budget which disproportionately impacts Indigenous Individuals is the pension age being lifted to 70 years old. This does not consider or acknowledge the fact that the average life expectancy of Indigenous men is 69.1 years old, and 73.7 years old for women. Indigenous Australians will therefore be unlikely to even make the retirement age, let alone collect superannuation.

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS), the national provider of legal services to Indigenous communities will be defunded by $13.4million.In June 2013, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders accounted for 27% of the total prisoner population. These cuts are going to further marginalise Indigenous Australians as it will affect the ‘frontline delivery’ of legal aid to Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders. It will contribute to the increasing trend of Indigenous imprisonment, harsher sentences and oppression of Indigenous Australians. The increase in police presence in remote communities, costing $54.1 million, further controls, disempowers and marginalises Indigenous communities. The extension of income management in Northern Territory and other trial cities is also discriminatory and stigmatising. According to ACOSS, the costs for this extension and expansion is estimated at $110.1 million per annum. This money would be better spent on improving the amount of income support payments and funding appropriate and effective services for struggling individuals and families.
    More than 200 years of dispossession, racism and discrimination have left Indigenous Australians with some of the lowest levels of education, highest levels of unemployment, poorest health and most appalling housing conditions. The 2014 Federal Budget measures to the wider community as well as discontinuation of funding to key Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander representative bodies creates significant barriers to improving the significant gap of quality of life between indigenous and no n-indigenous Australians. It does not acknowledge or validate Indigenous Australian social, economic and cultural rights and does not creates a significant barrier for creating better social, cultural and economic outcomes for Indigenous people.


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