NATIONAL CONGRESS is highly concerned by a $6 million funding cut to Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation announced in the South Australian budget last week.
"We are now asking the South Australian government how they intend to alleviate the already existing disadvantage and suffering of vulnerable families and communities?" National Congress co-chair Rod Little said.
"We are alarmed that these funds will be redirected at the expense of South Australian Aboriginal people’s welfare and will only break down the hard work of building relationships and reconciliation that has given many peoples hope for a better future.
"In last week’s budget, the South Australian Government announced the discontinuation of grant funding paid to SA Native Title Services, who engage in native title negotiations with the state."
The Government will also halve of the number of staff working in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet’s Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation division, cut more than $6 million of funding. This includes abolishing the Office of the Treaty Commissioner after the Marshall government decided to abandon state treaty process.
The Aboriginal Regional Authority Policy, developed by Labor in 2004, will also “no longer be performed in 2018-2019".
The government attempted to divert attention away from wide-sweeping cuts by drawing attention to its “alternative approach to Aboriginal affairs” to be developed in consultation with Aboriginal people across the state, according to Mr Little.
"However, it is clear that this budget deprioritises the needs and interests of Aboriginal peoples.
“National Congress is dismayed at the sweeping cuts to Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation in the South Australian budget.” Mr Little said.
“Treaty negotiations are clearly on the Federal Government’s agenda with the current Senate Inquiry and the Referendum Council’s report.
“It is highly disappointing that the South Australian government has abolished the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, when we are seeing such great progress towards self-determination, representation and treaties in other states including Victoria and the Northern Territory.”
Co-chair Jackie Huggins said, “The South Australian budget reveals an alarming trend: whenever there are budget cuts, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples feel it.
“We are not political playthings. These budget cuts will impact Victorian Aboriginal people’s lives and wellbeing. How can we expect social outcomes to improve when governments keep slashing funding to the programs which are supporting First Peoples? We can’t.”