The lack of significant new funding or initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the federal budget serves as an unhappy reminder of the lingering gap between the Government’s promises and action on Indigenous issues, according to the Australian Greens.
“Wayne Swan could not find any time in his budget speech to mention any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs, which is a very disappointing state of affairs,” Senator Rachel Siewert said today.
“I do welcome the fact that existing programs have largely been spared from cuts, and acknowledge that the mental health and training packages could have some specific components that will benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, there is very little in the way of new investment or new initiatives.
“A positive result is the provision of 40 new renal dialysis chairs, which will be a great boost for the growing number of elders forced to leave their communities to access treatment. The Greens have campaigned heavily for more renal dialysis services and I am pleased that this call has been answered.
“I also welcome the money for 15 new or expanded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health clinics, which are certainly a step in the right direction.
“Unfortunately, the budget contains little additional investment to tackle some of our major closing the gap priorities, including those which address disadvantage in community housing and infrastructure.
“I am also concerned that the tougher welfare measures will disproportionately impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, many of whom live in areas with limited labour market opportunities and are facing the effects of past underinvestment and poor outcomes in Indigenous education.
“I will watch with interest the Indigenous Ranger Cadets pilot program. Six schools is a small starting point, but this is a good initiative which has the capacity to give students hands-on learning with experienced rangers, and include the participation of cultural custodians,” Senator Siewert concluded.