About 250 Aboriginal people and their supporters gathered in solidarity at the steps of South Australia’s Parliament House on June 17 to protest against the proposed federal budget.
Included in the budget is $534 million in cuts to Aboriginal programs around the country. The rally was organised by Narungga elder Tauto Sansbury.
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) released information showing how the cuts will affect Aboriginal communities. They include a $15 million cut to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples; a $9.5 million cut to funding for Aboriginal languages and a $13.4 million cut to Aboriginal legal services.
ANTaR national director Andrew Meehan said: “The Medicare co-payment would have a disproportionate effect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who, on average, are poorer and unhealthier.
“Previously announced defunding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, such as the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention, and Legal Service that will be in the budget, should be revisited.”
Speakers at the rally included Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement CEO Cheryl Axelby, who expressed appreciation for non-Aboriginal support and offered encouragement to Aboriginal communities to keep up the fight. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, Ian Hunter, slammed the budget cuts, saying they would only lead to even greater unemployment.
Greens MLC Tammy Franks said she could see the development of apartheid coming through in the budget cuts. Chairperson for the Aboriginal Health Council South Australia, John Singer, pointed to the impact of the cuts on Aboriginal health.