*** This post was updated and expanded on 4 & 5 April ***
The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector has sounded the alarm over the Federal Budget’s failure to invest appropriately in comprehensive primary healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council said its members were constantly being expected to do more “because of the government’s continual failure to adequately resource the sector”.
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) also expressed disappointment about a lack of funding in the Budget for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) also highlighted concerns about the impact of the NDIS under-spend upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
VACCHO said that barriers to Aboriginal people accessing NDIS services are effectively funding tax cuts, with two-thirds of all funds allocated to Aboriginal NDIS participants not having been spent.
VACCHO also said it was disappointing the Budget delivered nothing of substance for the working poor, and joined other groups in raising concerns about the extension of cashless debit card trials.
The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples stated: “The $128.8 million spent on the trials over the next four years would be better used to fund vital health, education and support services which enhance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ self-determination instead of taking it away.”
Some groups welcomed individual funding measures, such as those targeting Indigenous suicide prevention, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific solutions to family violence, Indigenous specific initiatives for the implementation of the national strategies for blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections, and for the Lowitja Institute.
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
“Funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health was absent from Federal Budget”
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) said that funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health was absent from Federal Budget.
NACCHO stated that it was disappointed at the lack of funding allocated in the 2019-2020 federal budget for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector.
NACCHO welcomes the $15 million allocated for Indigenous suicide prevention and the $20 million for Indigenous specific initiatives for the implementation of the national strategies for blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections. However, we know that this commitment is well below the need.
“The gap between the health outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians will continue to persist unless there is a significant commitment to supporting the work of Aboriginal community controlled health organisations,” NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner said.
NACCHO has long called for an increase to the baseline funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to support the sustainable delivery of high quality, comprehensive primary health care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.
“We know that closing the gap will never be achieved until primary health care services are properly funded and our clinics have good infrastructure and are fit for purpose; until our people are living in safe and secure housing; until there are culturally safe and trusted early intervention services available for our children and their families; and until our psychological, social, emotional and spiritual needs are acknowledged and supported,” Ms Turner said.
“The physical and mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities needs to be a priority for the Australian government. Our communities suffer disproportionately higher rates of suicide, cancer, kidney disease and obesity compared to non-Indigenous Australians,” Ms Turner said.
“We are disappointed that the Federal funding commitment does not match this critical need,” she said.
“We call on the all political parties to put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and full funding of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector at the heart of their election commitments.
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services provide at least three million episodes of care each year for about 350,000 people and employ about 6,000 staff.
“The life-saving and life-changing services our members provide have a tremendous impact on our communities. Without additional funding commitments from the Federal Government, our service capacity and reach are limited,” Ms Turner said.
Aboriginal Health #Budget2019 2 of 5
CEO Pat Turner NACCHO Press Release and @NACCHOChair Donnella Mills #NACCHOTV Interview : Funding for #IndigenousHealth Absent from Federal Budget @KenWyattMP @IndigenousX @congressmob https://t.co/BL6V39cOPA pic.twitter.com/7mlUWZ7f8R
— Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands ❤️?? (@NACCHOAustralia) April 3, 2019
Croakey acknowledges NACCHO for compiling this overview of budget responses, which we have drawn upon.
Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council
Federal budget once again fails the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community:
Josh Frydenberg’s budget has failed to fund Aboriginal and Islander Community Controlled Health Organisations (AICCHO) to enable them to continue their work towards Closing the Gap.
The burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland is unacceptable. 10% of our babies are born with low birthweight. Our children make up 49% of Queensland’s new and recurrent cases of acute rheumatic fever. Chronic diseases including diabetes continues to be on the rise. For our men aged 15-34 years, suicide rates are more than three times higher than non-Indigenous men.
Previous attempts by the Federal Government to achieve better health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the Closing the Gap agenda, have failed. Chronically under-funded government programs in AICCHOs contribute to this. This budget has funded a selection of specific projects for collaboration with community-controlled organisations at a strategic level, however the benefits will take years to trickle down to real action on the ground. Inadequate primary health care is a burden on the tertiary care system, contributing to excessive public expenditure.
“From health promotion and health literacy through to diagnosis, treatment, management and end of life care, investment in the health system is essential now if health equity is to be achieved.” Neil Willmett, CEO of Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) said.
“The AICCHO Sector is already achieving ground-breaking results in health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland. We are achieving more than ever before for less funding, but our Members are being expected to do even more because of the government’s continual failure to adequately resource the sector.”
QAIHC Chairperson, Gail Wason, explains “Community driven solutions are proven to be most effective. Our AICCHOs have been driving the solutions. Equitable to need, the sector receives 47% less Commonwealth funding than mainstream health services. This doesn’t equate to government supporting community led solutions. Government needs to prioritise greater investment in AICCHO’s, rather than just talking about Close the Gap.”
In Queensland there are 26 AICCHOs offering culturally appropriate comprehensive primary health care to over 180,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people make up 4.6% of Queenslanders, and that percentage is growing.
QAIHC is calling for political parties to respect and resource the Aboriginal and Islander Community Controlled Health Sector to achieve real results this election. You can follow the campaign via QAIHC’s social media platforms.
Federal Budget robbing Aboriginal people with disabilities to pay for tax cuts
Barriers to Aboriginal people accessing NDIS services are effectively funding tax cuts, according to Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) Acting CEO Trevor Pearce.
“While the Federal Government is claiming it will deliver a surplus and is offering pre-election tax cuts, part of that money is coming from the fact that two thirds of the funding allocated for Aboriginal people living with disabilities for NDIS services is unspent. It’s not unspent due to a lack of need but due to significant barriers preventing people from accessing the NDIS,” Mr Pearce said.
“How are we supposed to Close the Gap when there are 60,000 Aboriginal people living with disabilities who aren’t getting support, according to the First Peoples Disability Network?
“The fact that two thirds of all funds allocated to Aboriginal NDIS participants has been left unspent speaks volumes about the difficulties so many people in the community face in accessing the NDIS, especially in Aboriginal Communities.
“Knowing that pre-election tax cuts are being handed out while 60,000 Aboriginal people living with disabilities aren’t able to access services is nothing short of appalling.”
Mr Pearce said it was disappointing the Budget delivered nothing of substance for the working poor.
“We’re very concerned about the extension of the failed Cashless Debit Card trials and what that could mean for Victoria. Many of our Members are worried they could come here,” he said.
“It’s critical that the funding allocated to Aboriginal mental health and family violence issues not only be focused on delivery in remote areas. The majority of Aboriginal people live in urban and regional areas and live with similar levels of disadvantage, especially on these key issues.
“We know from data from our Members that the second highest prescribed medication in SOME clinics is antidepressants, just behind relievers commonly known as Ventolin. This tells us how prevalent mental health issues are in our Communities. An allocation of $5 million over four years nationally for youth suicide prevention is not going to make an impact on that significant a problem.
“We are also disappointed that dental health received no additional funding given spending in dental health actually saves money by preventing additional, more expensive health conditions.”
Mr Pearce said the Federal Budget did appear to have some highlights for Aboriginal people but the lack of clarity around much of the funding, and apparent lack of new money especially around Closing the Gap measures, meant it was difficult to be certain.
“The $10 million allocated to the Lowitja Institute is great, as funding Aboriginal-led and designed research is so important as part of self-determination,” Mr Pearce said.
“It’s good to see that the Medicare freeze has been lifted, and we hope that any GP practices that aren’t currently bulk billing Aboriginal people will start doing that given their increased funding.
“We look forward to further clarification on the Closing the Gap refresh spending and the realisation that self-determination and community control are fundamental to attaining this aim.”
The Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister has all but admitted today there is no major item in the Federal budget for First Nations people
Indigenous leaders and lobby groups are outraged because there are several items they say are priorities for funding including money to help drive the reform of the Closing The Gap process. Listen to ABC interview.
The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment of additional funding to address key challenges; however, the budget lacks concrete measures in areas of high importance for First Peoples. More needs to be done to remedy the structural causes of the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians.
National Congress is pleased with the commitment of $453.1 Million to the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education, and $276.5 Million to the Indigenous Youth Education Package as part of the Closing the Gap Refresh. However, we are concerned that the budget documents are vague in terms of implementation.
Simplistic measures such as school scholarships may be beneficial but are insufficient to overcome the structural challenges which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children face at school including sharing our histories, languages and cultures.
While we welcome the commitment of $35 Million to fund Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific solutions to family violence, this must be provided to community-based and controlled organisations to be effective. Over 50% of our peoples have a disability and funding of $528 Million for the Royal Commission into disability services is welcome, provided our needs are taken into account.
Funding for the Lowitja Institute is welcome. While research is important, significantly more funding for services is required to address the disparities in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous communities. In addition, $5 Million over four years will be inadequate to remedy the incidence of youth suicide which afflict our communities.
National Congress is concerned by the amalgamation of funding for Legal Aid Commissions, Community Legal Centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services under one National Funding Mechanism. In the past, amalgamation of funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy failed to deliver positive outcomes to our communities.
We are disappointed by the Australian Government’s continued rollout of cashless debit card trials. The $128.8 Million spent on the trials over the next four years would be better used to fund vital health, education and support services which enhance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ self-determination instead of taking it away.
Dr Jackie Huggins, Co-Chair, National Congress said, “No progress has been made on the economic empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Government must ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations receive adequate funding to provide our peoples – the traditional owners of the land – with support, advice and representation.”
No increase to Newstart means recipients will continue to bear the enormous financial and emotional stress of not knowing if they will have enough for the bare necessities each week. Planned tax cuts have little impact on the disproportionate number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are low income earners.
There have been no changes to the Community Development Program; participants continue to work below minimum wage, and are in constant fear of being subject to harsh penalties for even minor breaches of program requirements. Money allocated under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy continues to be wasted on culturally inappropriate and ineffective services, while our organisations are forced to shut down due to lack of funding.
Mr. Gary Oliver, CEO, National Congress said, “The Minister for Indigenous Affairs’ budget press release boasts that the Indigenous Advancement Strategy has doubled the rate at which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations deliver services. More than anything else, this highlights the Australian Government’s total failure to understand what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, organisations and communities require.
Our aim is not merely to increase the speed at which services are provided, but to ensure that they are effective; that they enhance our self-determination; and that our peoples and organisations are granted the opportunity to use our expertise to remedy the challenges which we uniquely face and understand.”
Gary Oliver, CEO said, “The #Indigenous Affairs’ #Budget2019 press release boasts IAS has doubled the rate at which #Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations deliver services.This highlights the Govt’s total failure to understand what we want. https://t.co/U99bj5oBb5
— National Congress (@congressmob) April 2, 2019
While we welcome the commitment of $35 Million to fund Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific solutions to family violence, this must be provided to community-based and controlled organisations to be effective. https://t.co/U99bj5oBb5 #FirstPeoples #Budget2019
— National Congress (@congressmob) April 2, 2019
Dr Jackie Huggins, Co-Chair, National Congress said, “No progress has been made on the economic empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. " https://t.co/U99bj5oBb5 #Budget2019 #FirstPeoples
— National Congress (@congressmob) April 2, 2019
Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention
Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) Director Professor Pat Dudgeon and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health (NATSILMH) Chair Mr Tom Brideson cautiously welcomed yesterday’s mental health and suicide prevention budget announcements but looked forward to more detail being released before committing to a response. Professor Dudgeon said:
I am especially pleased to see commitments to a National Suicide Information System. This is something that CBPATSISP and, prior to that, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP)called for. But it must operate in our communities and it’s not clear on the information provided whether it will. This is critical, such a system should help us get the people and resources to where they are needed faster, to help prevent suicide ‘clusters’, and better assist Indigenous families and communities after a suicide.
Professor Dudgeon also welcomed a $5 million commitment to an Indigenous leadership group to implement an Indigenous suicide prevention strategy; and similar funding for Indigenous youth leaders to respond to Indigenous youth suicide. She said:
A national Indigenous suicide prevention strategy was developed in 2013 and about $20 million implementation funding given to the Primary Health Networks (PHNs). While many PHNs are doing the best they can, the key ingredient – Indigenous governance and leadership in how that money is spent – has too often been lacking. It is my hope that the new Indigenous leadership group will not only lead a more effective and efficient national and regional response to Indigenous suicide, but also address these accountability problems. But again, we need more information about how these bodies will operate, and the leaders must be Indigenous and enjoy wide community support.
Mr Brideson called for greater funding for Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention:
$15 million Indigenous specific funding in a $461 million youth mental health and suicide prevention package, within a $736 mental health package, is not enough to meet our needs. Indigenous people comprise 3% of the population and have about double the suicide prevention needs, and three times the mental health needs, of other Australians. In terms of equity, we estimate about 9% of the total package, about $70 million, should be dedicated Indigenous expenditure. While this may seem a significant amount, it should not be forgotten that the bulk of Indigenous mental ill-health is preventable with access to primary mental health care, and yet the social costs of untreated Indigenous mental health difficulties are likely to run into the billions.
In fact, a long called for reinvestment funding approach to our mental health, particularly justice reinvestment, should eventually enable the Australian Government to make savings in many areas as well as making a big contribution to ‘Closing the Gap’ and Indigenous wellbeing. This is particularly in relation to the enormous cost of imprisoning over 13,000 Indigenous people, many of whom are in prison because of untreated mental health and related issues.
Professor Dudgeon and Mr Brideson closed by calling on Ministers Wyatt, Hunt and Scullion, their shadow ministry counterparts and the newly announced Suicide Prevention Coordinator to meet with them and other Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention leaders to discuss the detail of the package, and ensure that Indigenous peoples get their fair share of the mainstream elements of the mental health, suicide prevention, drug strategy and other budget initiatives:
We will be working with other Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention leaders to ensure our people, and young people in particular, benefit from all the budget measures according to their greater need. This includes the extra funding for headspace, the adult mental health centres and many other promising mainstream initiatives. CBPATSISP and NATSILMH want to see a partnership approach with the Australian Government to help ensure we get the detail right, and that the total $736 million package results in better mental health and suicide prevention outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Change the Record
Change the Record has condemned the Federal Government’s Budget, demanding that the Government stays committed to self-determined legal services and stops punishing people struggling to make ends meet.
“Research shows that our people are locked up at such high rates because of the poverty we experience, especially for First Nations people with disability,” said Damian Griffis, co-chair of Change the Record.
“Instead of Budget providing a roof over our heads and meeting basic needs, this Government is punishing our people who are caught in the poverty trap. Sacrificing critical legal services and NDIS and punishing women through ParentsNext for budget surplus is inhumane – these are our lives they are playing with.”
The Government has decided to end the national standalone Indigenous Legal Assistance Program which funds all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, rolling it into a mainstream national mechanism.
“We are the most incarcerated people in the world, and the Attorney General is abandoning a 50 year commitment to a dedicated national program focussed on ending Indigenous disadvantage in the justice system and funding culturally safe legal services,” said Cheryl Axleby, co-Chair of Change the Record.
“Meanwhile it is the sixth year vital Family Violence Prevention Legal Services did not receive more funding. For 25 years there’s been no increase to Newstart. This Budget will mean even more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison, mostly women and children who are criminalised for surviving family violence and poverty.”
The Federal Budget has continued the punitive ParentsNext program, significantly expanded cashless cards in Aboriginal communities and continued the racially discriminatory work-for-the-dole Community Development Program.
“Government is punishing single Aboriginal mothers on ParentsNext and First Nations people in remote communities for experiencing poverty. Government is taking self-determination away through cashless cards, making us work for free and docking payments – like mission times,” said Ms Axleby.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability and women experiencing violence are less likely to have a home, which leads to courts denying bail and government removing children. Government needs to abolish or amend laws that target people experiencing poverty. We need Aboriginal-run support services, appropriate public housing and a robust social safety net.”
The Budget failed to provide much needed funding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled services.The Government reversed $16.7 million over three years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, and provided additional funding of $20 million for legal assistance broadly – a tiny fraction compared with the $310 million recommended by the Law Council and Productivity Commission. Aboriginal-run Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, disability services and child protection supports all went without funding.
“Many of our peak representative bodies who provide critical culturally safe services, essential to pulling people out of poverty, were not even invited to the Federal Budget lock up. We were told we were not a priority. We welcome the Disability Royal Commission funding but our people will need support participating with culturally safe services,” said Mr Griffis.
“Our people are trapped in prison due to poverty and need our community-controlled services. We are urging people to sign our petition to tell this Government that they must free our future, they must not punish our people living in poverty. This is a guaranteed way to cure Australia’s mass-incarceration epidemic,” said Ms Axleby.
MEDIA RELEASE: https://t.co/0rzaDGSXYr
— Change the Record (@Change_Record) April 2, 2019
National Peak Body for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services
National Peak Body for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) released the following statement warning that abandoning the standalone Commonwealth Indigenous Legal Assistance Program after a 50 year long commitment threatens self-determination and cultural safety
NATSILS welcomes the overturning of the planned and ongoing cuts to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS), introduced in a 2013 ongoing savings measure.
However, Attorney-General Christian Porter is also walking away from the Commonwealth’s 50-year long commitment to ATSILS by disbanding the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program (ILAP), days after the Government’s Independent Review into the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program recommended retaining a standalone specific program.
NATSILS has categorically rejected the move, which will reduce ATSILS’ community-control over the strategic direction, priorities and cultural safety of their legal services.
“We urge the Attorney-General to retain the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program. Self-determination and community-control is the only way that our legal services can be culturally safe and effective. We go above and beyond for our communities to get true justice” said Cheryl Axleby, Co-Chair, NATSILS.
This decision comes only weeks after the Prime Minister agreed to a historic partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on Closing the Gap and despite an independent review which lauds the ILAP’s effectiveness.
“We urge the Attorney-General to honour the Government’s promise to treat us as equal partners on Closing the Gap, which means supporting a specific standalone program. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the most incarcerated peoples in the world – it is vital that we have a specific Commonwealth program addressing the disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the justice system.”
There are many benefits to retaining ILAP:
The distinct aim of ILAP is to focus on the disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system and ensuring their access to culturally safe legal services is necessary and appropriate.
A separate ILAP is important to maintain ATSILS unique, culturally safe and community-controlled approach to legal services, and for the self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This includes the flexibility provided through ILAP for ATSILS to directly determine service priorities and locations based on local knowledge and needs.
ILAP provides us with greater funding certainty, the budget allowing us to see the ILAP funding into the forward projections. By contrast the national mechanism does not provide funding certainty beyond the end of the agreement.
“ATSILS represent families at death in custody inquests, we run custody notification services, we confront racist and discriminatory laws and we challenge police brutality. We develop innovative programs to ensure contact doesn’t happen in the first place. In some remote places, we are the only legal service at all, because we are committed to our communities and working in partnership to benefit our communities.”
“Without ILAP, ATSILS will not have funding certainty and will not be able to ensure culturally safe services are delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A separate ILAP with funding coming direct to ATSILS is the only way to guarantee a culturally safe, community-controlled service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”, concluded Ms Axleby.
Government is walking away from 50 years of having a dedicated national program for culturally safe legal services. ILAP has been administered by AGD since 2004. Before that it had different name, but was administered by Dept of Aboriginal Affairs, ATSIC & Dept of ATSI Services.
— NATSILS (@NATSILS_) April 3, 2019
Budget changes put Aboriginal legal services at risk
Peak body Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) has raised concerns that the Federal Government’s proposal to ‘mainstream’ funding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS), as announced in the Budget, will compromise the ability of Aboriginal organisations to provide culturally-appropriate legal services to Aboriginal people in need.
From 30 June 2020, the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program (ILAP) will be disbanded and Commonwealth funding for ATSILS rolled into a Single National Mechanism for Commonwealth Legal Assistance. Funding will then need to be negotiated with the States and Territories.
Already, the ALS has been advised by the Federal Government that funding for the life-saving Custody Notification Service (CNS), which expires on 30 June this year, is conditional on the NSW Government agreeing to extend the CNS to all Aboriginal people in police custody, including those in protective custody.
Chairperson Bunja Smith said with the deadline and conditions imposed by the Federal Government putting the CNS in jeopardy, the ALS had sought urgent clarification from
NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman for