Image Source: SBS
By Giorgina McKay | @ggmckay11
Indigenous Australians currently represent around three per cent of the Australian population, yet they are one of the most marginalised groups of people.
According to Reconciliation Australia’s community survey, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to feel barriers to accessing materials, with 23 per cent considering their living conditions to be worse compared with the majority of people in Australia.
In addition, Aboriginal and Torres Islander people have reported feeling like they cannot be true to their culture or personal beliefs in a number of different settings, including at work, interactions with police and courts, and government departments.
“Health outcomes and life expectancy in Aboriginal communities are affected by many different factors, such as housing, educational opportunity, access to community-controlled primary health services, a culturally safe workforce, racism, and trauma and healing,” Co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Rod Little said.
“I want Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have the same opportunity to live full and healthy lives, like all other Australians.”
With the federal election this weekend, it is critical for whoever forms government to work hand-in-hand with Indigenous communities to address key issues and policies.
“We have a right to self-determination and full participation in decision-making about matters that affect us,” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner, June Oscar AO said.
“We need to invest in and support on the ground voices and solutions. An investment in our community-controlled organisations is an investment in success.”
The Indigenous policies outlined by the four major political parties include:
- Recognition and response to the legacy of pain and trauma the stolen generations and their families continue to experience through a compensation scheme that will provide ex-gratia payments of $75,000 to survivors in the Northern Territory, ACT and Jervis Bay.
- Establishment of a $10 million National Healing Fund for the Healing Foundation to provide support for the Stolen Generations and their families.
- Establishment of a Funeral Assistance Fund to provide one-off payments of $7000 to stolen generations members to assist with funeral costs.
- Commitment towards working with First Nations people at the national and regional level to allow them to have a voice in parliament.
- Establishment of a Makarrata Commission for agreement-making and truth-telling purposes.
- Establishment of a national summit within the first 100 days of being elected to respond to the high rates of First Nations Children in out-of-home care.
- $40 million funding over four years towards the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services.
- Commitment to working with the states and territories to adopt justice targets under the Closing the Gap framework, as well as growing and sustaining alternative sentencing mechanisms to reduce pressure on the justice system.
- $21.75 million investment over four years to progress justice reinvestment.
- Establishment of three new launch sites in a major city, regional town and remote community to explore the role of justice reinvestment in preventing crime and reducing incarceration.
- Establishment of a national coordinating body through the Council of Australian Governments as recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission – to build an evidence base, collect data and measure progress as new targets are implemented, and monitor the effectiveness of justice reinvestment.
- Commitment to working with First Nations women to address the high rates of violence against Indigenous women.
- Investment in Aboriginal-controlled frontline services, including at least $20 million for refugees and safe houses, and a $21.5 million boost to Family Violence Prevention Legal Services over four years.
- Commitment to double the 1600 full-time-equivalent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rangers, and provide the required funding for them over five years under the Working for Country program.
- Implementation of an education package—through the refreshed Closing the Gap framework targets—that will see removal of all or part of the HELP debt for 3,100 students to encourage more teachers to work and stay in very remote areas.
- A $5 million investment in remote areas for projects that support and promote school attendance, and an extra $200 million to give more Indigenous students the support and mentoring needed through their secondary studies.
- Continuation of the $12 million yearly funding for the Connected Beginnings program.
- Establishment of an Indigenous Procurement Policy 2.0, which will demand 3 per cent of the value of Commonwealth contracts are awarded to Indigenous businesses within a decade.
- A $1.75 million dollar investment in Muru Mittigar to support 154 Indigenous job seekers to find employment opportunities across Western Sydney.
- A $2 milllion investment for Multicultural Community Amenities Grants in the Northern Territory to help with greater participation in social, economic and sporting life.
- Commitment to increase the involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in the development of policies and the delivery of services that benefit Indigenous communities.
- $40 million fund over four years for tourism planning work with Indigenous communities and individuals interested in pursuing tourism opportunities.
- $60 million fund to support a world-class Indigenous-led World Heritage Kakadu Visitor Centre in Jabiru.
- Making First Nations Peoples key decision makers in policies and programs that affect their communities, enshrining a voice to Parliament and establishing a path to treaties.
- Adoption of the Change the Record campaign recommendations to reduce the rate of incarceration of First Nations Peoples.
- Promotion of a Justice Reinvestment approach that prioritises the services known to keep people out of jail.
- Funding towards a system that will focus on keeping First Nations children out of the care system through early intervention and support services for them and their families.