The Healing Foundation (THF)’s Pre-Budget Submission (PBS) urged the Commonwealth Government to take a strong lead on overdue action, and highlighted the ongoing challenges survivors of the Stolen Generations face.
Fifteen years on from the National Apology to Stolen Generations, a coordinated national strategy for intergenerational healing is yet to be seen.
“Since the release of the Bringing Them Home Report, very few of the recommendations have been implemented and in accordance with the Report’s findings,” the pre-budget submission notes in says the message from the Chair and CEO.
The PBS made clear that new funding is needed to continue THF’s work of equipping services, workforces, sectors and systems with healing informed approaches. In addition, the need for adequate healing funding for the network of Stolen Generations Organisations was emphasised, so they can continue to work alongside survivors as they age.
Pre-budget Submission Priorities and Proposed Initiatives
Two priority areas were requested of the 2023-2024 Federal Budget: Healing and Wellness funding Stream, and Systems Reform.
The Healing Foundation suggested four initiatives to address the first priority of funding Healing and Wellness.
- Firstly, The Healing Foundation proposed a universal Healing Card for Stolen Generations survivors, modelled on the existing Veterans Gold Card scheme, which entitles the cardholder to funding for all clinically necessary health care needs for all conditions.
- Secondly, to help Stolen Generations survivors and their families access health and aged care support and services and negotiate multiple systems and services, THF proposed that Systems Navigators be installed in Stolen Generations Organisations, to support the complex ageing needs of Stolen Generations survivors.
- Thirdly, a consistent national stream of funding for healing services, for men’s and women’s healing gatherings and spaces, such as healing camps run on country. Funding for such camps is currently limited and provided in an ad-hoc manner.
- Finally, increased investment and funding to Stolen Generations Organisations to increase evidence-based healing supports was proposed. Ad-hoc and short-term funding has undermined the growth and sustainability of this sector, so the THF called for a doubling of the current investment in the network of Stolen Generations Organisations.
To support the second priority of Systems Reform, THF’s PBS proposed three initiatives.
- Firstly, that funding be invested in developing trauma-aware, healing-informed workforces.
- Secondly, THF requested that effort is made to combat harm caused by misinformation and racism. This would include resources and communication campaigns to provide guidance and care to First Nations communities, as well as truth telling and ally knowledge to the wider community.
- Finally, investment was called for to build a sustainable organisation and support strong healing-informed sectors. The Healing Foundation has operated with inflating cost pressures and consistently increasing demand for our services over the last 14 years, with no increase in Australian Government funding. Our remit to elevate survivor-led testimony and influence national systemic change remains, but expanding our work across multidisciplinary sectors and partnerships requires more investment.
The 2023-2024 Budget fails to focus on healing
The Healing Foundation has expressed its disappointment at the lack of dedicated funding in the Federal Budget to invest in healing the trauma of the Stolen Generations and their descendants and the failure once more to act on the full recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth said this was particularly disappointing given this year marked 15 years since former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered the long-awaited National Apology to the Stolen Generations.
“More funding is needed to ensure information and support is available and that organisations such as The Healing Foundation and Stolen Generations Organisations are able to manage the surge on our services that is occurring,” she said.
“We have repeatedly warned governments about the risks to our community through increased racism. Groups such as the Stolen Generations and their descendants are at particular risk of being targeted through campaigns of misinformation and to suffer from increased stress and retriggering of trauma.”
Professor Steve Larkin, chair of The Healing Foundation, said the Budget had missed a critical opportunity to act on the evidence that there is a ‘gap within the gap’ in life outcomes for those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were removed as children.
The Healing Foundation’s calls for specific funding have gone unanswered, including:
- Targeted and prioritised healthcare support through a Stolen Generations survivors ‘Healing Card’ modelled on the Veterans Gold Card scheme, which entitles the cardholder to funding for all clinically necessary healthcare needs for all conditions.
- A Healing Navigators Network Pilot program beginning in 10 Stolen Generation Organisations to support the complex ageing needs of Stolen Generations survivors, who this year all become eligible for aged care.
- Increased men’s and women’s healing gatherings and spaces, for which current funding is limited and ad hoc.
- Doubling of the current investment in the network of Stolen Generations Organisations.
- Funding for a National Intergenerational Healing Strategy, with robust monitoring, accountability and urgency built in.
The Healing Foundation is also disappointed at the lack of support to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce who are at the frontline of mental health support that have not been recognised in the budget allocations and call on clarity around support for matters such as worker burnout and vicarious trauma.
Ms Cornforth, THF CEO said there were some welcome measures in the 2023-24 Budget.
To support aged care services that meet the needs of our Elders and enable them to remain connected to community, the Government will provide $4.1 million to develop mandatory cultural awareness training for aged care staff and $1.7 million in 2023–24 to appoint an interim First Nations Aged Care Commissioner. However, “awareness” training has its limits. A trauma-aware and healing-informed workforce would have a greater impact.
A further $52.1 million will increase funding available to aged care providers in very remote areas under the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program.
The Government is also investing $8.1 million to support providers to transition to new accountability measures and obligations under the proposed new Aged Care Act.
A particularly welcome measure was a $10.5 million investment to boost mental health support for First Nations people in the lead up to, during and following the referendum to recognise First Nations people in the Constitution.
“Like other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, The Healing Foundation has called for safeguards to ensure that any processes of systems change in Australia, such as the referendum, would promote healing and prevent new harm for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
“If we are to emerge through this referendum process as a stronger country, First Nations peoples of all walks of life, must have access to all that we have in our communities to draw from, that keeps us safe and well and along our healing journeys,” Chair Professor Larkin said.