The Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia and a local ACEG officer have slammed the Liberal government’s proposal to make changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.
AHCSA chief executive officer Mary Buckskin suggested the changes would have a direct impact on widening the health gap for Aboriginal people, resulting in a backflip of the government’s commitment to Close the Gap in life expectancy by 2031.
“Like many Australians, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, we are concerned that the proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act will give rise to more blatant racism and discrimination,” she said.
“This will have an impact on Aboriginal people’s health and will widen the gap in Aboriginal disadvantage that the government has spent millions of dollars trying to close.
“The proposed changes will only make life harder for Aboriginal people.”
Port Augusta Aboriginal Community Engagement Group co-chair Aaron Stuart echoed AHCSA’s concerns regarding the implications these changes would have on Aboriginal health.
He said if the Racial Discrimination Act protects victims of hatred and bigotry, and he fears the proposed changes may result in a ‘trickle down’ effect to service and healthcare providers.
“When does discrimination not apply to policy and applying for funds and health services?,” he questioned.
“You look at medicare and closing the gap service providers; people can feel discriminated against there, too.”
Ms Buckskin said the changes would promote self-interest, hatred and division, and undo many years of progress.
“Prime Minister Kevin Rudd talked about a future and a new partnership between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians in his historic apology to Indigenous Australians in February 2008,” he said.
“We are concerned that the proposed changes will undo progress and create a bigger gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.”
Mr Stuart agreed with this statement, describing Mr Rudd’s apology as a step forward, and these proposed changes as a 15-year step back in time.