The Australian Greens said today that the Prime Minister needs to reflect on his Government's approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues following today's release of the Social Justice Commissioner's Social Justice and Native Title Report 2014.
"The Report covers a number of very important issues and it is clear that there are significant changes that should be made to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can enjoy and exercise their human rights," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues said today.
"Central to this has to be improved engagement and consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. I can't help drawing the conclusion that the Government has it wrong in a number of areas.
"The Social Justice Commissioner, Mr Mick Gooda, speaks of the ‘upheaval and lack of clarity' caused by the Government's budget, identifying concerns that important services and organisations will be de-funded.
"Mr Gooda raises a number of concerns, including the Federal Budget, the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and the lack of consultation that has been undertaken, Closing the Gap and justice targets.
"We have already heard and seen evidence of language, legal and health services being affected, along with family violence centres and other essential services as a result of the Government's $534 million in cuts, despite assurances that front line services would not be affected.
"It is notable that the report identifies the Government's lack of consultation on the Indigenous Advancement Strategy. This reflects a lack of respect and understanding of the people affected by these measures and the need for community driven and owned processes.
"It is obvious the funding process for the Government's Indigenous Advancement Strategy is in chaos, with the Government needing to extend funding applications due to the tight time frames, issues arond the quality of some applications and the fact other organisations didn't or felt they were unable to apply.
"The report notes that the largest area of new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spending in the Budget was for the extension of income management in existing locations. This expensive and unjustified regime continues, despite the lack of evidence to support it. The Evaluation of New Income Management report is with the Government but Minister Kevin Andrews admitted this week that he hasn't read it. This typifies the Government poor approach to policy making.
"The cumulative effects of the Government's cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander funding, combined with proposed cuts to our income support system and the outcomes of the Forrest and McClure reviews mean the overall impact of this budget remains unknown.
"The Mr Gooda identifies a lack of a "coherent approach" from the Government, highlighting again the flawed way they have gone about their entire budget process.
"I agree with Mr Gooda when he says ‘Overall, this upheaval and lack of clarity is deeply worrying and is causing widespread uncertainty and stress, particularly among our communities'," Senator Siewert concluded.