1 April 2015 | General Interest
Dr Chelsea Bond, a senior lecturer in the Oodgeroo Unit at the Queensland University of Technology, has questioned the Government’s “new relationship of engagement with Indigenous Australians”, with news that more frontline services will be forced to shut their doors.
“According to the Federal Government, the Indigenous Advancement Strategy represents a ‘new relationship of engagement’ with Indigenous Australia,” Dr Bond wrote in a piece published through Croakey, the Crikey health blog.
“Yet it was just under a decade ago that we were inflicted with a ‘new paternalism’ by our Prime Minister, then the Federal Health Minister, in justifying a raft of Indigenous social policy measures including the Northern Territory Emergency Response, the introduction of Alcohol Management Plans in Aboriginal communities in Queensland and the mainstreaming of Indigenous services in urban and regional centres, which was continued under successive Labor governments.
“Perhaps the only new thing about this strategy is the $534 million funding cut from the Indigenous Affairs portfolio.”
Dr Bond criticises several aspects of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, the Federal Government’s new and recently implemented funding scheme for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services sector.
Dr Bond disapproves of new reforms that place additional scrutiny and surveillance on the Indigenous community-controlled sector, describing the thinly veiled measures as “all too familiar to Indigenous Australians who’ve lived under the protectionist and assimilationist policies of the last century and beyond.”
Using Inala Wangarra as an example – a community-based organisation for which she is a board member – Dr Bond calls into question the Government’s ability to accurately gauge the importance of services provided at the community level, claiming that programs with clear evidence of success were seemingly ignored.
“Recently our organisation was funded around $50,000 to deliver an outcome of 20 Indigenous people into careers as security guards, which was well shy of the actual costs of the program,” Dr Bond writes.
“And, this is despite our previous achievement under a Federal government ‘pilot program’ which placed 88 local Indigenous community members into jobs, most of which were long-term unemployed, and retained employment beyond 13 weeks. Despite demonstrating competency, Indigenous community controlled organisations are still deemed ‘too risky’ to funding providers and it is this ‘relationship of engagement’ that demands reform.”
Dr Bond wrote that “new reform” is needed, ensuring all funding (both Indigenous specific and mainstream) advances the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“Indigenous people are more than consumers of social services; we have the skills and capabilities to drive the services within our community. Our model of service delivery requires us to employ local Indigenous people and build the capacity of the workforce within our community and this is what makes the Indigenous community controlled sector so critical to achieving the Closing the Gap targets.
“Our model of service delivery doesn’t trade off old imaginings of Indigenous incompetence, dysfunction or despair.
“‘New reform’ in Indigenous social policy will only be realised through new imaginings of and engagement with Aboriginal people, communities and capabilities. Unfortunately the IAS has offered us nothing new in this regard.”