Call for further ‘vital’ funding

VICTORIAN Aboriginal Affairs Minister Natalie Hutchins has called on the Federal Government to “step up” to its commitments to the homeless community.

In a visit last Thursday to Morwell’s Orana Gunyah centre, Ms Hutchins demanded an extension of Commonwealth funding under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.

Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency operates the facility, which staff said could close if the NPAH funding isn’t extended beyond its expiry date of 30 June, 2015.

Orana Gunyah is one of two centres in Victoria that specifically cater for the Aboriginal community and is funded under the NPAH commitment.

“It actually offers its services beyond the Latrobe Valley; it takes families from across Victoria and supports them in a time of need,” Ms Hutchins said.

“What we’re hoping to do is have those services continue so they can provide the great service that they are to the aboriginal families who need it.”

The Morwell refuge centre, whose name means ‘Welcome Place of Shelter’, relies on $2.4 million of funding to assist aboriginal women and children who have experienced family violence.

VACCA regional board member Margaret Atkinson said Orana Gunyah has accommodated for up to 30 women and about 50 children since it opened in April last year.

“Some of our local families have had to come in here, which means that they’re not leaving the area and our kids aren’t being moved around the country,” Ms Atkinson said.

“That would happen if this wasn’t here … it would be a big loss.”

NPAH began in 2009 under the former Labor government as an initial five-year $1.1 billion federal and state government investment into homelessness initiatives across the nation.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester claimed the Coalition was responsible for the additional $115 million investment into NPAH over the 2014-15 period, which allowed the program to continue into this year.

He said he had spoken with Federal Social Services Minister Scott Morrison about NPAH’s future, which will be considered in the 2015-16 Budget.

“I’ll be supporting the local community and advocating on their behalf for the continuation of funding for Orana Gunyah,” Mr Chester said.

Ms Hutchins said the State Government was committed to the services it already funded, but the future of centres such as Orana Gunyah remained unclear without a Federal Government decision.

“I just shudder to think what would happen if a facility like this were to shut down,” Ms Hutchins said.

This week Ms Atkinson will join VACCA board members in Melbourne, where she hopes to gain further clarification.

A decision regarding the Coalition’s commitment to NPAH is expected to be known by March.