The democratically elected body set up to represent the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders could fall victim to the Federal Government’s expenditure review.
The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples has been given $29 million since 2010 to speak on behalf of Indigenous Australians.
However the Government is reviewing whether to provide any extra money to keep the organisation running.
Michael Coggan reports.
The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples was established in 2010 as a representative body with 120 elected members to fill the representative role played by the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
Kirstie Parker is the co-chair of Congress.
We’ve got, I think, just over 7,500 individual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members, of course representing many, many thousands of Indigenous families around the country.
Kirstie Parker says the role of Congress is to fight for the economic, social, cultural, and political rights of Indigenous Australians.
Congress has been given a total of $29 million in government grants but it’s not clear whether that funding will continue.
The former government announced ongoing funding support for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples in the 2013 budget. It is in the forward estimates and we would imagine that that would be honoured by this government.
Congress has had what it calls constructive meetings with the new Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, but he has some questions over how much it costs to run and how many members there are.
I think only 800 people performed their task and their democratic duty in the election of the last Congress. But look, this is a start and I think they’ve been pretty forthright and fearless with me in opposition and I expect them to be the same as a minister in government.
Senator Scullion describes Congress as useful but he won’t say whether it’s useful enough to justify spending any more public money on it.
Will Congress continue to get government funding at the level it’s getting at the moment?
Congress at the moment have some $8 million. The whole notion of Congress was that they were funded in a way that said at the end of this period of five years you will then be independent. That five years isn’t over. They have substantial funds in reserve. And I’ve yet to have that conversation with Congress.
The shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister Shayne Neumann says Congress needs longer term funding to give it a chance to build up a membership base.
We put $15 million aside in the forward estimates to continue the funding for this important representative organisation and I call on Nigel Scullion to do the right thing by Congress and Indigenous people of this country and commit himself to that funding.
The Government says no decisions have been made about the future of Congress but its funding is being reviewed.
Michael Coggin reporting.