Oxfam welcomes support for self-determination for First Peoples

The latest Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report shows support for self-determination and community-based organisations is the way forward to address the systemic barriers faced by First Peoples, Oxfam Australia said today.

The Productivity Commission’s eighth report, which examines progress against 52 indicators, identified some areas of progress, but systemic problems remain in the high rates of removal of children from their families, incarceration, poor mental health, and in rates of suicide and self-harm.

“Oxfam has long advocated self-determination as a core element in addressing the challenges that First Peoples face. We welcome the report’s finding that shared decision-making and participation on the ground are common elements in successful outcomes,” said Ngarra Murray, National Manager of Oxfam’s First People’s program.

But Ms Murray added that law reform was needed to address the systemic bias that leads to high rates of imprisonment and child removal.

“A key area of concern in this report is this country’s extremely high rate of imprisonment of First Peoples, which causes social disruption, trauma and psychological distress,” Ms Murray said. “Numerous government reports have called for reform to stem the bias in the justice system that delivers these high rates of imprisonment, but governments around Australia have largely failed to act.”

Oxfam highlighted the critical role of community-based organisations in its report, In Good Hands, which showed how well-resourced Aboriginal service providers were delivering improvements in health care, family support and prison diversion.

“We were glad to see funding in the Federal Budget to support the role of community-based organisations, but this was still very modest, and the approach lacks a holistic framework that involves all Australian governments,” Ms Murray said.

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