The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the only national body representing Indigenous Australians, has entered voluntary administration due to a lack of funding.
In a letter to members last week, the National Congress said, “with great regret” its board had voted to enter administration due to its “uncertain financial position which affects the organisation’s ability to continue its operations.”
The letter also said the body had “struggled financially” since the start of 2014 due to future funding commitments being withdrawn by the Abbott Government and the ending of its secretariat lease by the Indigenous Land Corporation.
An Administrator from Cor Cordis, Alan Walker, has been appointed to assist the National Congress.
“Since 2008, the Congress has relied almost solely on funding from the Federal Government which has been directed at key programs to benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders,” Mr Walker said.
The National Congress represents 10,000 individual members and 180 organisations but without significant Federal Government funding, the body will be forced to shut up shop.
“This will leave Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples without a strong united voice,” said Co-Chairman Rod Little.
Since its establishment, the National Congress has had many accomplishments including:
- Establishing the National Health Leadership Forum
- Establishing a national voice for housing and health issues affecting First Peoples
- Welcoming the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to Australia in 2017
- Developing and presenting the Redfern Statement to then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and then Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to highlight crisis in Indigenous communities.
Mr Little said the National Congress was eager to work with the Federal Government to achieve outcomes beneficial to all Indigenous Australians.
“It is an important time in our future especially now that the Federal Government has appointed its first Indigenous Affairs Minister [Ken Wyatt] to drive reform in this area,” Mr Little said.
Before meeting with the National Congress last week, Minister Wyatt told NIT in a statement he would work with the Administrator, National Congress and all Indigenous organisations “on an outcomes basis to support self‑determination, empowerment and representation for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.”
Minister Wyatt neither confirmed nor denied whether the Morrison Government had cut any funding to the National Congress.
After the meeting, Minister Wyatt said his office would continue to liaise with the organisation but provided no further comment on whether he will support any Federal Government funding to keep the National Congress operational.
National Congress’ Administrator Mr Walker said there was no official commitment to funding by Minister Wyatt and that the organisation would have to satisfy a range of conditions before being able to apply for Federal funding.
“We are confident of meeting those conditions outlined by the Minister and gave the undertaking to work closely together to secure the Congress’ future,” Mr Walker said.
The Administrator said the body must restructure its financial affairs before a report is presented to its creditors in approximately three weeks.
Mr Walker said since he’s been appointed Administrator, he has been inundated with offers of help.
“There is a strong desire in the community to see the Congress survive,” Mr Walker said.
By Hannah Cross