The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples today announced the appointment of Geoff Scott as chief executive officer until June 2014.

“Geoff will inject a renewed energy into this next critical phase of our organisation’s development,” said Congress co-chair Kirstie Parker.

The appointment follows the announcement in December to cut government funding to community-controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.

“Recent funding cuts, flagged by the federal minister, mean that Congress will be making some tough decisions. Now we are calling on our members and supporters to unite and help us continue as a strong independent voice for our mobs,” said Les Malezer, Congress co-chair.

“Now more than ever we need to unite and support strong black organisations to defend and promote our human rights and represent our Peoples,” added Parker.

Scott said he was honoured to play his part in working to secure the economic, social, cultural and political futures of Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders through the Congress.

“Together with our members, supporters, Board and staff we will build on existing achievements and drive an agenda based on a foundation of self-determination and real decision making by our Peoples.”

Cuts to services condemned

When the funding cuts were announced late last year, response from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community was swift.Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 2.37.44 PM

Congress condemned the government’s “hit or miss” funding cuts, which the organisation said highlighted the government’s lack of support for real decision-making for Indigenous Australians.

“Our Peoples must be self-determining and will not accept governments making decisions on funding priorities without us,” said Congress co-chair Les Malezer.

“Removing our capacity for policy reform and advocacy to legal assistance programs delivered by Aboriginal, community and legal aid services will affect the most marginalised and vulnerable members of our community.”

“We cannot accept any reduction in Commonwealth spending on housing, remote infrastructure, legal services, community safety, native title, languages and culture, when investment and capacity building is what’s clearly required,”  co-chair Kirstie Parker added.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 2.29.11 PMThe defunding of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services has also been widely criticised.

Although Warren Mundine, chair of the government’s Indigenous Advisory Council, has publicly defended cuts to some Indigenous services, he expressed concerns that cuts to the National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service (NVPLS)—$3.5 million over the next three years—wasn’t the right place to start.

In delivering news of the cuts, the government claimed frontline services won’t be affected. But national convenor for the NVPLS, Antoinette Braybrook, disagreed.

“There is simply no such funding provided for individual services to engage in policy and law reform. Services will have no choice but to cut back frontline service delivery given that this is where services direct their funding,” she said.

“Cuts to services mean fewer victims of family violence will have access to legal and support services to keep them safe,”  Braybrook said.

“Rather than reduce service funding, we look to government to work with us by investing in legal and support services that address family violence, and thereby increase access to justice for the most vulnerable people in our society,” she said.




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