ACT News

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Services left in funding limbo by federal government

AN AWARD-WINNING Aboriginal health service in Canberra does not know if it will receive funding after June 30, throwing the future of its programs into doubt.

Winnunga Nimmityjah CEO, Julie Tongs talking about the Governments lack of discussion on indigenous health with the ACT ...
Winnunga Nimmityjah CEO, Julie Tongs talking about the Governments lack of discussion on indigenous health with the ACT being left behind. Photo: Melissa Adams

Treasury has said ''everything is under review'' and refused to release any information until the budget is handed down.

The Community Council for Australia said the uncertainty created by the government's position was also affecting charity and non-profit service providers.

Chief executive officer of Canberra's Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Services, Julie Tongs, said a three-year agreement with the Commonwealth would expire on June 30.

''We want to know if we are getting funding at the same level or with indexation or if it will be different,'' she said. ''We have been told 'everything is under review'. We have never, ever been in this position before.''

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Community Council for Australia chief executive David Crosbie said the pain was widespread.

''Workers in the car industry now have more job certainty than many people working in the charities and not-for-profit sector,'' he said. ''It's time to end this crisis of uncertainty and make sure it never happens again.

''Australia cannot afford the price we are paying for this lack of planning and lost productivity.''

Mr Crosbie said a survey of 248 not-for-profit organisations completed last week showed 87 per cent did not have agreed government funding contracts beyond June and more than 60 per cent had not been able to extend existing staff contracts.

''The current situation is farcical - you cannot run an organisation effectively, employ staff, maintain offices and equipment, and continue to provide vital services to our communities when you have no budget certainty beyond June 2014,'' he said.

Ms Tongs said the funding advice she received had come down through the bureaucracy of both the Treasury and of the office of Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion.

''There are 150 Aboriginal community controlled health services nationally and none of us are guaranteed after June 30,'' she said.

When contacted by Sunday Canberra Times, neither Mr Scullion's spokesman nor a Treasury spokesman would speak about funding for Aboriginal health services because they did not want to comment on the budget.

''It is clearly up to the government which programs they choose to support or cut,'' Mr Crosbie said. ''But why not let people know if their programs are going to be cut or continued - or at least allow a grace period beyond 10 weeks?

''Ultimately this is not just about the organisations or their staff - it is about services to our communities.''