As the Western Australian election approaches, NIT brings you the major parties’ policies affecting or relating to First Nations people.
Common priorities between the parties centre around mental health care, cultural heritage protections and tourism.
Read on for a summary of policies from the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Greens, and the Nationals before you cast your vote on March 13.
Current Premier Mark McGowan’s Indigenous policies for the election focus on key issues of health and employment through the commitment of funding and new development.
Beyond a commitment to staffing culturally appropriate support services, a total of $29.5 million has been promised to fund Aboriginal health and mental health programs.
This is being headlined by a $17.6 million investment into social and emotional wellbeing at five Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) sites including the Kimberley, Pilbara, Goldfields, Midwest and South West.
In terms of employment, WA Labor’s Indigenous job creation policies concentrate on providing other services whilst creating employment.
Examples such as upgrading the facilities at Boongarup Pool in Walyunga National Park, expanding the Indigenous Ranger Program, and the Northern Native Seed Initiative all seek to create Indigenous employment whilst also providing key services and improvements for the Indigenous community.
Labor’s other policies include two new Aboriginal-led family violence courts plus investment in Indigenous housing, tourism and arts.
A further $50 million has also been promised for an Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Perth alongside the $20 million promised for Indigenous tourism.
Led by Zak Kirkup, the WA Liberals also have a strong focus on mental health and tourism in addressing Indigenous issues.
Promises include $35 million in funding for a state suicide prevention strategy, with a specific Aboriginal suicide prevention plan included, along with the delivery of workforce mental health programs in the Indigenous affairs sector.
A total of $22 million has also been promised by the Liberals for Indigenous tourism, similar to WA Labor’s $20 million.
The funding includes four new ‘Camping with Custodians’ campgrounds, four new Living Knowledge Centres staffed by local Aboriginal people, improving employment, and planning an Indigenous Cultural Centre in cooperation with the WA Indigenous Tourism Operators Council.
WA Liberals have also committed to an Apprentice Kickstarter program, which will provide new job opportunities for a variety of groups, including Indigenous people.
The Greens came out with a wide range of policies for Aboriginal affairs far earlier than the other major parties. Their priorities are diverse and cover most issues affecting Indigenous people, without a focus on a select few issues like their major party counterparts.
The Greens have big plans for the justice sector, saying they will urgently implement the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, raise the age of criminal responsibility and support community-led social reinvestment projects.
They also have plans to invest heavily in health, mental health, rehabilitation and reintegration services.
The Greens also have policies aimed at protecting First Nations cultural heritage, in particular establishing a new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act and amending the current Mining Act 1978 (WA).
Further protections would include increasing funding to ensure strong industry partnerships with Traditional Owners and investing in First Nations industry and business training and development.
With a narrow Indigenous platform and range of election promises on Indigenous issues, the Nationals are keen to address cultural and mental health issues.
The WA Nationals have committed to establishing an Aboriginal Arts Ranger program among their policies on culture and arts. They have additionally committed to doubling spending on mental health community support programs – an investment of $100 million – which are said to include Aboriginal-specific programs.
Beyond these key issues, the Nationals support investing in remote Aboriginal community infrastructure, and improving culturally appropriate housing choices for Aboriginal families through an Aboriginal Housing Fund.
For each party, mental health is a priority issue, so Western Australians will likely see greater investment into mental health support services after the election.
However, it remains unclear as to how stringent new cultural heritage regulations will become in the State, despite the destruction of Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara last May.
The WA election is on Saturday, March 13.
By Aaron Bloch