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National Congress: First Peoples voice will not be silenced

by National Congress Co-Chairs Les Malezer and Kirstie Parker 20 December 2013

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he National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (Congress) promised its members and supporters yesterday that it will continue as a strong, fearless national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Congress Co-Chairs Kirstie Parker and Les Malezer met with Congress Board Directors (pictured) to assess the Government’s announcement that it will, in all likelihood, renege on an official $15 million funding commitment in the 2013 Budget. Our founders protected Congress from the whims of Government by ensuring we were established as an independent company owned and operated by our Peoples – not as a

construct of the Government. Congress was also established based on the right to make decisions for ourselves. This is clearly articulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 18: Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions. We will continue to fight for the issues that are important to us as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Congress met with the Federal Minister Senator Nigel Scullion this week and was advised that the Abbott Government was unlikely to sign the funding agreement

that underpins the 2013 Budget commitment. The new Government has shown that they do not support real decision making for our families and communities through a national representative body chosen by our Peoples, for our Peoples. The Board remains focused on the purposes of Congress, including securing economic, political, social, cultural and environmental futures for our Peoples. Critical to this will be building a sustainable financial base for the long term. Congress will also continue to grow its extensive membership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Congress will now hold urgent meetings with members. We will also continue to build parterships with all Australians who are committed to achieve a just, fair and mature nation.

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National congress first peoples voice will not be silenced