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Time for Ruddock to return from holidays.



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MEDIA STATEMENT Hon Dr Carmen Lawrence MP

Shadow Minister for Reconciliation, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Affairs; the Arts and Status of Women Wednesday, 15 May 2002

Time For Ruddock to Return From Holidays

The Federal Government’s 2002 Budget contains no new ideas and no new funding for Indigenous Australians. The Treasurer did not even mention Indigenous people or their needs in his budget speech. Not one word.

This is to be expected from a Government which has turned its back on Indigenous people and a part-time Minister who has told people that Indigenous Affairs is his recreation.

The Government has boasted again that it increased indigenous specific funding, but as we have pointed out before, much of the funding they define in this way is only marginally related to indigenous interests or is, in fact, contrary to their interests eg fighting the claims of members of the Stolen Generations.

In last night’s budget: • Less than half the total funding goes to ATSIC which has had no increase in real terms; • Indigenous-specific funding included $2.2 million for pest and diseases monitoring and surveillance in North Queensland; • Over 30% of the budget for the Office of Indigenous Affairs was allocated for litigation against

Indigenous people’s interests; • Funds for Indigenous family violence were cut from $2 million last year to only $1.4 million; • Only $470,000 has been allocated to Indigenous substance abuse programs through a petrol sniffing

diversion pilot project; • Funds for Indigenous education through the Indigenous Education Strategic Initiatives Program were cut by 13.4% in the Northern Territory and 27% nationwide.

In the Social Justice Report 2001 released yesterday, Dr Bill Jonas pointed to “the lack of priority and urgency with which governments have pursued indigenous disadvantage over the past decade”.

“Redressing indigenous advantage is not merely something that is desirable, but is a matter of obligation in order to guarantee a free and equal society. Governments must take deliberate, concrete steps which are targeted as clearly as possible to reducing inequalities as quickly and efficiently as possible through the adoption of benchmarks and targets. Adequate monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are necessary in order that governments will be held accountable to do more than simply manage the existing inequalities in society. This is particularly so where the disadvantage that exists is the consequence of historic, systemic discrimination against a particular group.”

The Howard Government has now spent six years talking about their commitment to “practical reconciliation” and their “record spending on Indigenous people” - yet a closer look at the Federal Budget, and results on the ground, shows that far too little of this money goes directly to assisting Indigenous people overcome disadvantage. Neither is the Government devoting the necessary energy and commitment to work with Indigenous people to improve their circumstances.

Minister Ruddock - it is time to return from holidays.

Contact: Jo Fox Ph: (02) 6277 4181 or 0419 963 486