Update on Letter to the Prime Minister from the Presentation Society for the rights of vulnerable people
In July, the Presentation Society of Australia and Papua New Guinea sent a letter to the Prime Minister, Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, asking that the newly elected Australian Government make the rights of marginalised and vulnerable people a priority nationally and internationally.
The nine points in Society’s letter seek concrete action in areas of Indigenous youth in the justice system and funding of family violence services for Indigenous women; increasing the annual refugee intake; increasing the Australian aid budget and providing protection for the Syrian people.
The following reply dated 27 August 2016 was received from Gavin Matthews, Assistant Secretary, Community Safety of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
“Thank you for your email dated 20 July 2016 to the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, conveying the congratulations of your organisation as well as its concerns regarding better services for Indigenous Australians, humanitarian entrants and refugees. I have been asked to reply on the Prime Minister’s behalf.
The Australian Government is concerned about the high rates of contact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people have with the criminal justice system and wants to work with states and territories, which are responsible for the administration of the criminal justice system, to reduce incarceration rates for Indigenous youth. The Government is focused on supporting practical measures that improve safety in Indigenous communities, and address the underlying disadvantage that drives much of the contact young people have with the criminal justice system.
The Australian Government has allocated $4.9 billion to the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS), over four years to 2018-19, to deliver better services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Of this, over $1 billion will be provided to improve community safety and wellbeing, including for youth leadership and sport and recreation activities; youth healing and advocacy services; alcohol and other drug residential rehabilitation services; rehabilitation and reintegration support for young people exiting youth detention; night patrols; and social and emotional wellbeing activities.
Reducing violence against women and their children is also a priority for the Government. As part of the 2016-17 Budget, the Government announced $100 million for initiatives that reduce domestic violence. This will include $25 million for initiatives to reduce violence against Indigenous women and their children. This funding is in addition to the $100 million committed as part of the Women’s Safety Package announced in 2015, of which $21 million was provided for Indigenous specific activities. The Government also continues to fund family violence prevention legal services to deliver critical frontline services to Indigenous victims of family violence or sexual assault.
The Australian Government shares your sense of urgency in relation to the Syrian conflict. More than 280,000 people have now died, the majority of whom are innocent civilians. It is clear the only acceptable resolution to the Syrian conflict will come through a political solution. As a member of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), the Australian Government is working with its partners to place pressure on the warring parties to recommit to peace talks mediated by the United Nations. Australia has provided $213 million in aid in response to the Syrian crisis. The Government recently announced a new $220 million package over three years. The Australian Government will also provide for the resettlement of 12,000 vulnerable refugees from Syria and Iraq. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is working with UNHCR and other international partners to deliver this commitment as soon as possible. Of the additional 12,000 places offered, over 8,500 visas have been granted and almost 2,500 Syrians and Iraqis have already settled in Australia.
The Australian Government believes in a strong and effective aid program that promotes prosperity, reduces poverty, and helps to support stability in our region and beyond, and to ensure that taxpayers’ money spent through the aid program is effective and accountable, and to ensure Australia’s development goals are balanced against budget considerations.
The Australian Government’s decision to reduce the aid program in 2013-14 was driven by the need to address Australia’s substantial fiscal deficit and to focus on improving aid efficiency and effectiveness. The Government has allocated around $3.8 billion in Official Development Assistance in 2016-17 which is substantial by international standards. Total funding is expected to increase in line with the Consumer Price Index from 2017-18 onwards. Further information on the 2016-17 aid budget can be found in the Australian Aid Budget Summary 2016-17, available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website www.dfat.gov.au/aid
Finally, I advise that as a party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and its Second Optional Protocol, Australia has an obligation to abolish the death penalty in its jurisdiction, to ensure that no one within its jurisdiction is subject to the death penalty, and to ensure that our laws and policy are consistent with those requirements. Australia is bound nationally and internationally to continue to oppose the reintroduction of the death penalty.”