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First Nations communities continue to be left behind

  • 22 April 2020
In season and out of season, in these times of COVID-19 emergency as well as when they were first written, the words of dual Miles Franklin award author Rodney Hall OAM remain true: ‘That our overseas image is so deeply dependent on the people we oppress is the deepest shame to us all.’

During the crisis that sweeps over us all, there has been a strong implicit admission by government that the health and wellbeing of the First Nations people in Australia has been long disregarded; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the only group listed as vulnerable over the age of just 50 — a full two decades below that of the general population so listed.

On the other hand, while there have been literally billions of dollars allocated to the crisis in general and to very many organisations, it is astounding that the most vulnerable group of all remains at the bottom of the pile. First Nations people themselves and their allies remain nonplussed at the clear lack of resources allocated to First Nations people. No one left behind? The facts suggest otherwise.

Who else in our nation is living in housing with another 26 or so people?

This huge, rarely mentioned and ongoing deeply shameful situation regarding the health and housing of First Nations people comes into sharp relief by the present crisis.

The searing shame of the Coalition’s Northern Territory 2007 Intervention and its aftermath by Labor’s terrible ten-year extension has seen, despite elaborate promises, little benefit in housing. 13 years on overcrowding is rampant in NT's 72 remote Aboriginal communities and 500 homelands, leading to grave fears in the present crisis.


Pat Turner CE of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) grimly summarises, ‘If coronavirus gets into our communities, we are gone.’  

My article in Eureka Street, 'Funding cut signals the destruction of Aboriginal life in Australia' was published back in April 2015. Many articles and other reports in Eureka Street and other publications have revealed the scandalous situation of funding cuts over past decades including under the immediate past Minister for Indigenous Affairs in his six-year tenure to May 2019. It would be tedious to recite the many continuing allocations of funds to non-Aboriginal organisations rather than direct to Aboriginal communities. A shameful zenith was reached with allocations to organisations that were actually opposing Aboriginal claims.

As a result of course First Nations leaders/health authorities are deeply concerned about