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NSW budget fails to deliver for Aboriginal communities

[by Ash Witoslawski]

NSWALC CEO James Christian. Image: supplied

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) is disappointed by lacklustre funding announcements to support Aboriginal communities in the 2020-2021 NSW Budget.

The NSW Government has missed an important opportunity to support locally-led economic recovery by ensuring sustained investment in Aboriginal housing, land and water rights, and the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage.

While some additional funding for Aboriginal housing has been earmarked, the NSW budget includes only 200 new Aboriginal homes.

There are already significant shortfalls in the housing supply for Aboriginal households of at least 11,000, which COVID-19 is expected to exacerbate. The amount the NSW Government has budgeted will not meet demand.

By comparison, we have recently seen the Victorian Government announce an investment of $5.3 billion in social housing, which includes 1200 new houses for Aboriginal people. 

Economists have continued to call for investment in social and affordable housing as a key economic stimulus measure, which the NSW government has ignored.

Much more is needed, including direct investment in the Aboriginal community-controlled sector and additional investment of at least $3.5 billion in Aboriginal housing.

While  funding commitments of $812 million for social and Aboriginal housing across NSW, $20-million to support the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, $660-thousand for the Aboriginal Food Security Program, and an additional $16.5 million to deliver the Roads to Home program are a start; they fall far short of what is needed.

The NSWALC CEO James Christian says he also looks forward to details on the Government’s commitment to Aboriginal cultural and landscape management.

“Landscape management including cultural burning initiatives are ongoing priorities for NSWALC due to their successful and practical applications as land management tools.

“In fact, recommendation 26 of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry is for the Government to commit to pursuing greater application of Aboriginal land management. Proper funding is essential to make this work,” he said.

NSW has obligations under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which it signed on to in July, that it needs to demonstrate its commitments to.

Under this agreement the budget proposals should have been developed with the community-controlled sector, but this has not happened.

  • Closing the Gap

 

The NSW Government has made a $20 million commitment to support the National Agreement of Closing the Gap and the equal participation of Aboriginal communities in the priority reforms outlined in the agreement.

The Government must ensure it supports initiatives that Aboriginal community-controlled organisations put forward and resource the implementation of these initiatives and reforms.

NSWALC and our colleagues in the NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations and the national Coalition of Peaks have been advocating for a better deal on Closing the Gap.

  • Aboriginal Food Security Program

 

The NSW Government has announced $660,000 for the Aboriginal food security program.

NSWALC has been working successfully with the NSW Government and corporates to deliver food and hygiene supplies to Aboriginal communities during COVID-19.

NSWALC will continue to work with the NSW Government to ensure that this program reaches vulnerable community members in a timely manner.

  • Roads to Home

 

The NSW Budget includes $16.5 million ($69.3 million grant expenses over four years) to deliver the Roads to Home Program, which will provide planning and infrastructure upgrades to up to seven further Aboriginal communities, in addition to the original ten communities.

NSWALC has long advocated for additional investment in infrastructure for discrete Aboriginal communities across NSW, and further investment is needed to support all communities across the state.  

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