Australia’s peak indigenous organisations have released their long-awaited Redfern Statement, calling for urgent government action in a complete overhaul of indigenous strategy, engagement and funding.

The declaration, backed by dozens of key bodies responsible for a kaleidoscope of services covering health, education, disabilities, justice and legal services, child protection, domestic violence and human rights, is a milestone moment in the evolving relationship between government and key indigenous bodies.

It calls for the creation of a Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs – run by Indigenous public servants – and separate indigenous bodies overseeing housing, employment and education.

The Redfern Statement also called on the Turnbull Government to;

  • restore the $534m they say has been shaved from Indigenous Affairs portfolio;
  • Reform the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and other Federal funding programs with greater emphasis on service/need mapping through better engagement;
  • Restore funding to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples;
  • Convene regular high-level ministerial and departmental meetings with Congress;
  • Set targets and develop evidence-based, prevention and early intervention oriented national strategies which will drive activity and outcomes in family violence, justice, child safety and disability services;
  • Implement a national suicide prevention strategy, and;
  • Adequately fund national legal services and strategies that attack family violence.

“In the past 25 years – a generation, in fact – we have had the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the Bringing them home Report, Reconciliation: Australia’s Challenge: the final report of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation,” the statement said.

“These reports, and numerous other Coroner and Social Justice Reports, have made over 400 recommendations, most of which have either been partially implemented for short term periods or ignored altogether.

“In the last 25 years we have seen eight Federal election cycles come and go, with seven Prime Ministers, seven Ministers for Indigenous Affairs, countless policies, policy changes, funding promises and funding cuts – all for the most marginalised people in Australia.

“For the last quarter century, then, we’ve seen seminal reports which have repeatedly emphasised that our people need to have a genuine say in our own lives and decisions that affect our peoples and communities. This, known as self-determination, is the key to closing the gap in outcomes for the First Peoples of these lands and waters.”

The Statement was backed by the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, First Peoples Disability Network, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, the powerful National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (NACCHO), National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum, Secretariat for National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), Australian Indigenous Doctor’s Association (AIDA), Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM), Indigenous Allied Health Australia, Jaanimili Aboriginal Services & Development Unit – Communities, NSW & ACT, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers Association (NATSIHWA), National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Physiotherapists, NGAOARA – Child and Adolescent Wellbeing, The Healing Foundation, The Lowitja Institute, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service and the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion disputed claims that $534 had been taken out of the budget, and said the Turnbull Government was committed to improving outcomes for all First Australians.

“The 2014-15 Indigenous Affairs budget did not contain savings of $534 million,” he said.

“After money was redirected to new priorities, the amount of money saved was less than half that – out of a Budget of $4.9 billion. Since then, additional funds have been put into the Indigenous Affairs budget including $48 million to support land tenure measures through the Developing Northern Australia White Paper and $14.6 million for constitutional recognition.

“Our record stands clear and our commitment remains strong. I look forward to these peak bodies working with us to deliver on the priorities of our First Australians.”

Indigenous leaders address the media after delivering their Redfern Statement.
Indigenous leaders address the media after delivering their Redfern Statement.