Responding to the 2017 Federal Budget, Oxfam Australia chief executive Dr Helen Szoke said:
“At a time when Australia’s First Peoples live 10–17 fewer years than other Australians, and babies born to Aboriginal mothers die at more than twice the national rate, this Budget really needed to act on the dire state of Indigenous health.
“The Budget’s business-as-usual approach to this crisis means no long-term funding increase to close the gap in life expectancy and improve health outcomes generally for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“Nor does the Budget respond to the key concerns of many Indigenous organisations that have asked for a reversal of the savage cut to Indigenous programs of $534 million in 2014, and for funding of the democratically-elected National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
“Just weeks before the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, this Budget amounts to another missed opportunity to improve the lives of the vast majority of our First Peoples.
“Oxfam’s recent report on Indigenous rights made it clear that funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been inadequate and misdirected – the government needs to urgently prioritise funding for Indigenous organisations.
“Far too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still live in levels of poverty we would usually expect to see in developing countries; Oxfam research shows that more than one in five Indigenous households are in the poorest 10 per cent of Australian households.”
While Dr Szoke welcomed the $83 million rise in funding for Indigenous health, this boost is not sustained over the forward estimates, and Indigenous social security and welfare funding will be lower over the next four years.
“Oxfam is calling on the Australian Government to restore the $534 million in cuts to programs and to commit to five-year funding, as specified in the Redfern Statement issued by peak Indigenous organisations,” Dr Szoke said.
“The government has outlined plans to spend $40 million evaluating the Indigenous Advancement Strategy. While reform of the IAS is crucial, some of this money would be better spent on building capacity for Indigenous organisations.”
“The Budget’s piecemeal measures do not amount to a sustained strategy to address the situation facing our First Peoples.”
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