Budget a hollow commitment to Australia’s First Peoples.

This Budget fails to address the great needs of Australia’s First Peoples in the critical areas of health and housing.

Oxfam is concerned that in responding to the Closing the Gap Refresh, the Government has addressed – in a questionable way – only one of the proposed new targets, education.

While funding of $276 million over four years for education is encouraging, half of this new money is delayed for four years. Given the scheme refers to ‘scholarships and mentoring’, it’s unclear how much of the funding will actually go to Indigenous students.

The extension of the Cashless Debitcard at a cost of $129 million over four years is a concern if this rollout occurs without obtaining the consent of communities and through proper consultation. We urge the Government to adhere to the United Nations principle of free, prior and informed consent.

The $35 million funding for prevention of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children is welcome, but the reality is this funding essentially reverses previous cuts to this sector. The restructuring of Government funding for legal services risks diminishing or losing the unique cultural safety role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) offer their clients. We are extremely dismayed that the Government is abandoning funding of stand-alone legal services for Indigenous people.

Australia’s First Peoples are one of the most marginalised and disadvantaged communities in Australia. This Budget does nothing to help people lift themselves out of poverty. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples face a widening health deficit and the world’s highest rates of incarceration. Despite this, the Government is unwilling to respond comprehensively to the new targets that have been developed under the review of Closing the Gap.

The Government’s pledge to engage more meaningfully with First Peoples through a new Joint Council on Closing the Gap with Indigenous peak organisations is starting to look like a hollow commitment given the lack of operational funding in the Budget.

Ngarra Murray, National Manager
Oxfam Australia’s First Peoples’ Program