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Issue #1624      January 29, 2014

Congress calls meetings in wake of cuts

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples has called a series of public meetings sparked by government cuts to Indigenous organisations and a threat to its own funding. The meetings come after federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion met late last year with National Congress co-chairs Kirstie Parker and Les Malezer to inform them it was unlikely their organisation would receive any funding in the next Budget.

“I advised that the decision about future funding would be made as part of the Budget process, after the Commission of Audit reports,” Senator Scullion said. “However, I did stress that it was highly unlikely that funding would be approved as the government moves funding to frontline services to focus on delivering real outcomes for First Australians.”

Ms Parker and Mr Malezer promised that Congress would “continue as a strong, fearless national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples” and said they had met with their fellow directors to assess the government’s announcement that “it will, in all likelihood, renege on a $15 million funding commitment in the 2013 Budget.”

“Our founders protected Congress from the whims of government by ensuring we were established as an independent company owned and operated by our peoples – not as a construct of the government,” they said in a statement.

“Participate”

“Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own Indigenous decision-making institutions. We will continue to fight for the issues that are important to us as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Senator Scullion said Congress had about $8.3 million in its coffers.

“I encouraged Congress to use these resources to prepare and plan for the future,” he said. “There remains a role for Congress, but it is important that it build membership from its current level of approximately 7,500 and look to other sources of financial support in the future.”

Mr Malezer and Ms Parker said they would hold urgent meetings with members.

“The new government has shown that they do not support real decision-making for our families and communities through a national representative body chosen by our peoples, for our peoples,” they said. “The board remains focussed on the purposes of Congress, including securing economic, political, social, cultural and environmental futures for our peoples.

“Critical to this will be building a sustainable financial base for the long term. Congress will also continue to grow its extensive membership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Koori Mail

Next article – Film Review – Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

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