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Greens call for justice target and reversal of cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander funding

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 19 Nov 2014

The Australian Greens said today that the Productivity Commission's report Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage should send a clear signal to the Federal Government that they must reverse their budget cuts and put in place a justice target.

"Tony Abbott said he was the Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, but he has cut over half a billion dollars from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander funding," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues said today.

"While there have been improvements in life expectancy and child mortality, areas that have seen significant funding investments in the past, incarceration, self-harm, chronic disease, alcohol abuse and disability are all significant areas where the gap is not being closed. Cutting funding from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs will only compound these problems.

"Mr Abbott is overseeing cuts to the delivery of services, chaos in the present funding round for the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and organisations that do not know whether they will be able to keep operating.

"There must be an end of polices that come from the top down, which is what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have been saying for years. Unless we have a dedicated approach to make sure that community driven, culturally appropriate programs are developed we will not see the improvements we need in outcomes.

"The Government has been ignoring the growing rate of incarceration and the calls for a justice target as part of our commitment to closing the gap. They cannot ignore this any longer and must put in place a justice target.

"The Government has cut funding to legal services, while the incarceration rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remains unacceptably high and we still have not implemented the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody.

"Just this week we heard that the Kimberley Interpreting Service, which is an essential part of delivering justice in Western Australia, is likely to close next year because the State and Federal Government have not been able to reach an agreement for continued funding.

"We also have the WA Premier announcing that he is going to close up to 150 Aboriginal communities, which will create more problems for Aboriginal people, dislocating families and create significant problems around homelessness, a lack of access to services and support.

"It's time for the Prime Minister to start focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and he can start by reversing his budget cuts," Senator Siewert concluded.


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