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Malarndirri McCarthy says budget is helping Indigenous communities in the NT

Dechlan Brennan -

Federal Senator Malarndirri McCarthy says the funding in both the federal and Northern Territory budget will help First Nations communities, as well as the wider NT population, in health and housing.

The NT senator and Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health and Indigenous Australians told ABC Darwin the 270 houses a year in the $4 billion joint investment with the NT government was “critical”.

“We want to make sure that we reduce overcrowding, and we want to make sure that we certainly reduce homelessness,” the Yanyuwa Garrawa senator said. 

While the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Association (NATSIHA) has criticised the federal government’s housing plans in the budget, NT Shelter has commended the doubling of funding for housing and homelessness via a new $9.3 billion National Agreement on Social Housing and Homelessness (NASHH).

“270 houses is quite a lot of houses,” the senator said.

“I was just out at Maningrida last week having a look at the housing program there. We've had to also install additional resources like better water in terms of the pipe fixtures.

“So, we know that there's a number of things we have to do…We want those houses, and we want them built.”

Senator McCarthy also spruiked the government’s health commitment to remote Australia, with $10 million in funding to NACCHO for mental health support and $12.5m to facilitate community-led distribution of menstrual products in regional and remote Indigenous communities.

“This one is a really important one for remote and regional areas to be able to produce women's business …in terms of sanitary products freely,” she said, noting they will likely be free “straight away” for Indigenous communities. 

“I think [it] will assist greatly. I've been out to places like Yarralin, and where we've seen with the flooding and the concerns around food security, one of the things that I looked at - both there and also out at Gapuwiyak - the cost of nappies and the cost of sanitary napkins in terms of support for women.” 

Having promoted Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations (ACCHOs) at a conference in Fremantle earlier this month, Senator McCarthy backed the NT budget, which promised $20 million for a new health centre for Borroloola to improve primary care across the Roper Gulf.

The clinic that is in Borroloola at the moment, is certainly not large enough to cope with the needs of not only the Borroloola people, but the region,” she said. 

“We will certainly be complementing that [the NT government] with four renal dialysis chairs that will be rolled out over the next 12 months.”

Palmerston MP Luke Gosling and Lingiari MP Marion Scrymgour announced a new medical school at Charles Darwin University - long called for by medical groups across the NT as a way to retain doctors across the Territory. 

“For too long Territory students with the ambition and ability to study medicine locally have not been able to due to lack of Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs), with some having to move interstate,” Mr Gosling told Parliament on Wednesday. 

“No longer.”

Senator McCarthy said the investment was a sign that her government was supporting people in the NT and wasn’t concerned about a removal of placements for international students. 

“When we announced the medical school, we said the medical school was for locals so that we had local people applying and that we can have local doctors who stay in the Northern Territory,” she said. 

“We have so many Territorians who need jobs…we have to focus on our local people, especially our First Nations remote communities, to ensure that those jobs are on the ground.”

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