The failure of successive governments to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is condemning too many Indigenous Australians to stark inequality and entrenched disadvantage, according to an Oxfam report published today.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the report found funding for Indigenous services was inadequate, misdirected, uncertain and lacking in transparency.
Dr Szoke said new economic analysis by Oxfam had found more than one in five Indigenous households were in Australia’s poorest 10 per cent of households – more than twice the rest of Australia.
Each year we see considerable support amongst Australians for closing the gap. Yet less than one in four Australians polled by Oxfam had some degree of confidence the disadvantages of Indigenous people would be addressed in the next decade.
“Half a century on from the historic 1967 referendum, far too many Indigenous Australians live in circumstances akin to those in developing countries,” Dr Szoke said.
“Many of the fundamental rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have not progressed – at the heart of this injustice is the failure to genuinely include Indigenous people in decision-making.
“At a time when we should be celebrating, our Constitution still fails to recognise our First Peoples, Indigenous children are sent to detention in greater numbers than ever and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples still die 10 to 17 years younger than non-Indigenous Australians.”
Dr Szoke said as an international aid agency, Oxfam’s experience showed listening to and working in partnership with local communities was the key to achieving real change.
“Oxfam’s report is not only evidence of the problems, it also highlights what is working well and makes realistic recommendations which would reset governments’ relationship with indigenous people,” Dr Szoke said.
“These recommendations include funding for an elected Indigenous body, funding preference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers and minimum five-year funding agreements.”
Respected human rights campaigner and former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Professor Tom Calma said the Oxfam report provided a valuable perspective on the state of human rights for Indigenous people on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum.
Professor Calma said the report outlined 10 clear steps to move beyond recognition and bring about real change.
“The report highlights that the complexities of Indigenous affairs are not intractable, there is a clear way forward for Indigenous rights and the solutions lie with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ourselves, and not with policy and funding structured around the whim of a minister or life of a government,” Professor Calma said.
“I call on all Australian governments to implement these recommendations in full and as a matter of urgency. Partner with us and we will realise equality.”
Read the report here
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