By Amanda Parkinson
The government has committed a further $5.2 billion in this year’s budget to its programs Close The Gap and Stronger Futures. Treasury claims the 13.5 billion committed over the next ten years will create safer communities and improve living standards for disadvantaged indigenous Australians.
In a statement released by the treasury’s office, the government announced “This Budget reflects the need for a long term investment to close the gap in the Northern Territory. The place where the gap in Indigenous disadvantage is the widest across Australia”
Locals fear the Northern Territory intervention will erode their culture and traditions as funding is divided among housing, health, education and rural emergency services, with $28.3 million assigned to tactical police task units.
It is expected the second Northern Territory Intervention, Stronger Futures Bill, will pass the Senate with strong backing from both Labor and Liberals. The Greens have vowed to fight the bill claiming it is a violation of human rights.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said, “There is an overwhelming sense from Aboriginal People and their representative organisations…that the approach taken in both the Intervention and Stronger Futures undermines and disempowers Aboriginal people and their communities.
Senator Scullion, Deputy Leader of The Nationals yesterday proposed a stricter time frame be given to review process for Stronger Futures. The government has proposed parliament revisit the legislation in seven years but Senator Scullion believes this is inappropriate.
“We will be looking at amendments that can review the bill’s progress in three years, which is appropriate. Things should have changed in three years and if they have not we need as a parliament to inform ourselves so we can move forward,” he said.
Northern Territory elders are concerned the situation will only be perpetuated by a lack of appropriate housing and communities feeling disempowered by fiscal income management.
In a statement released by a coalition of Northern Territory elders, it was said “We feel very deeply the threat to our languages, our culture and our heritage. Through harsh changes we have had removed from us all control over our communities and our lives.”
Since the intervention was started in 2007, Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) says only 11 homes have been built and 86 homes refurbished; a stark comparison to the governments allegedly 600 new homes and 2100 homes refurbished.
Senator Siewert said “This inquiry has left me in no doubt that Stronger Futures is nothing more than an extension of the Northern Territory Intervention. It is a deeply flawed approach based on a substandard consultation process.
“Subjecting people to ineffective and damaging policies for a further 10 years is completely unacceptable,” concluded Senator Siewert.