Indigenous Australia

Abbott's Indigenous funding cuts all about assimilation

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PM Abbott's Indigenous cuts are designed to diminish Indigenous culture and promote assimilation, says Natalie Cromb, who provides a tribute to the recently deceased Indigenous trailblazer Gavin Jones.

THE ABBOTT GOVERNMENT has appointed an Indigenous Adviser and, together, they have announced that they are creating efficiencies by cutting $600 million from the Indigenous Affairs portfolio to ‘eliminate waste.’

I recently commented on cuts to legal funding for Indigenous Australians, but one of the most recent cuts to be uncovered is the funding for Deadly Vibe, an initiative started by recently deceased Indigenous trailblazer Gavin Jones. Deadly Vibe was created to empower Indigenous people, it was a platform to celebrate the culture, the achievements of Indigenous people and overcome stereotypes.

Gavin understood Indigenous people; he recognised that there was a disparity between mainstream media and what the Indigenous community needed. He recognised that Indigenous people needed an outlet to feel pride as opposed to isolation and he set out to provide that outlet.

The Indigenous community is in mourning for Gavin, so it is a double blow for Indigenous Australians to not only lose Gavin but to effectively lose his legacy.

Gavin was one of the first to stand up and create a forum for recognition for the wonderful achievements of Indigenous Australians and aptly entitled it, the  ‘Deadly Awards’. The word ‘deadly’ for Indigenous people is synonymous with greatness, strength, courage and respect. To call someone ‘deadly’ is high praise.

To receive a Deadly Award was an extraordinary honour and the awards were so popular and such an amazing platform of empowerment that seventy per cent of the Indigenous population would tune in to watch them on television.

As a result of the funding cuts to Deadly Vibe, or Vibe Australia, an announcement was made that confirmed the reason for the funding cuts was that the funding was to be

‘... directed to the Government’s programs that deliver front line services from 1 July 2014.’

I query what the Government considers to be frontline services, thus far it appears employment is the primary concern, which fits in with the policy key point of individual Indigenous wealth accumulation.

The Abbott Government, and his hand-picked advisor and friend, Warren Mundine, are completely disconnected from the Indigenous community and appear to be systematically cutting policies and programs that benefit the Indigenous people and pushing forward an agenda of assimilation — specifically, to get jobs, make money and accumulate wealth.

The Abbott Government, in the official Policy for Indigenous Affairs, highlights individual empowerment as a key point, along with ‘support for empowered communities.’ What does this mean exactly?

Here is a quick summary of the cuts we know about so far:

Now, here is what the Government is actually doing:

  • Building more police stations in Aboriginal communities;
  • Initiating the following ‘programs’:
    • jobs, land and the economy;
    • children and schooling;
    • safety and wellbeing;
    • culture and capability; and
    • remote Australia strategies

What these programs actually entail, nobody knows. This is a government of rhetoric and very little substance — if any at all.

So, the Government will provide more police to target Indigenous people — but not the legal funding in order to ensure that Indigenous people receive natural justice.

The Government has a ‘policy’ to empower Indigenous people — but what could be more empowering than a national Indigenous awards and media program?

The Government has a policy of ‘empowering communities’ — but have cut funding to the national representative body that speaks for Indigenous people, ensures their rights are understood, and fights for their equality and self-determination.

The Government has a policy to close the gap — yet they are cutting funding to Indigenous health.

And, just to twist the knife, they cut funding towards keeping Indigenous languages alive.

Whilst there is no Indigenous representative body to stand up and fight for Indigenous Australians, we are meant to count ourselves lucky we have a ‘leader’ in the form of Warren Mundine looking out for our best interests.

So committed to Indigenous Australia is Warren Mundine that he not only endorses the swingeing cuts made by the government, but he says the cuts don't  don't go far enough and recommends more.

The Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs has activated policies that widen the gap, disempower Indigenous Australians and illustrate contempt for communities seeking to retain any sense of their cultural practices. This Government, and its adviser Mundine, not only let down the Indigenous people but are blatant in their policies of assimilation.

On the surface, the employment and training programs are a great way in which Indigenous people can become more highly skilled and employable. However, employment training and recruitment are important and valid programs — but they should not be the only programs.

When considered on a deeper level – in the context of cuts to health, education, legal services, cultural linguistics and worst of all, cuts to the national representative body that would provide a compelling voice to First Australians – it becomes clear that the employment programs are an attempt to assimilate the Indigenous people into the Liberal agenda of individual wealth accumulation and tax paying. For us to forget our culture and fade into the wider community. It is the outrageous, racist policy championed by Liberal Party elder Peter Coleman recently on ABC Q&A.

Despite the Government’s obvious attempt to undermine the Indigenous people, we will not forget the legacies of our ancestors. We will not neglect the true courage they have shown to bring Indigenous people closer together and strengthen our resolve to stand against oppression, injustice and inequality.

So I would like to take this opportunity to say: thank you Gavin.

Thank you for the love and compassion you had for your people.

Thank you for your courage to stand up for the Indigenous people and form such an influential organisation that empowered our people.

Thank you for your leadership, thank you for your vision.

Thank you for illustrating what a true leader is.

Rest in peace, you will be sorely missed by your people.

Those who are against the cut of the funding to Gavin’s legacy, please sign this petition and support this cause.

You can follow Natalie on Twitter @NatalieCromb.

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