Cooee cottage funding in jeopardy

Tumut Regional Family Services manager Deb Sturt believes a $87,988 funding package announced this week falls well short of what’s required.

TUMUT Regional Family Services manager Deb Sturt is fearful for the future of the organisation’s Indigenous services such as Cooee Cottage after a dramatic fall in federal funding.

The service has received just over $87,000 as part of a $1 million federal government funding package designed to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians across Eden-Monaro.

The federal government has provided $5 billion across Australia through its program.

For Tumut Regional Family Services, its share is less than half of what it has received from the government in the past.

“With our funding amount, plus the SACS (Social And Community Sector) and GST we would normally get $181,536.43, so it’s less that half of what we would normally get,” she said.

 “It’s a tight budget as it is. Due to the funding restrictions that we currently have I can only afford 1.5 workers, so now we’ve got our male Aboriginal worker 35 hours a week and our female worker twenty hours a week.”

She is wondering how TRFS will be able to run its program and worries about its future.

“Just from Eden-Monaro it seems that on this side of the mountains, we’re not even considered,” she said.

“When you see that the Coalition Government is investing one million dollars to deliver services to improve services for Indigenous Australians in Eden-Monaro, and we are getting $88,000, there’s no equity in that to me.”

Senator for New South Wales John Williams said Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services will receive $1,123,000 for its project Koori Connections.

Senator Williams said the project will support 275 Aboriginal people per year from communities between Batemans Bay and Eden to address barriers to wellbeing and connection.

“I know they have a large Aboriginal population on the coast, but we still cover a big area and we’ve got those contacts as far as Albury, Deni, Griffith, Wagga; we are like a hub here and people come from all over and there’s lots of things that happen behind the scenes that people don’t know about that keep that program running and viable,” Ms Sturt said

She described the $87,988 as “an insult” although she initially feared that federal funding for the service would be cut altogether.

“This would have been devastating for our community for us to lose our funding altogether, and to come back with that (the $87,988) is insulting,” she said.

Ms Sturt is not giving up on getting a better funding package.

“I will be continuing to lobby to get our original funding back,” she said.

“When you’ve got a building and a vehicle and staff, wages, and overheads, you need it.

“They (the Government) stress that what they are looking for are Aboriginal organisations to be using the funding and delivering through Aboriginal corporations for the Aboriginal communities, and for me, yes we’re not an Aboriginal corporation, but we get the funding and we are the government body over that funding.

“Cooee Cottage (TRFS’s facility on Fitzroy Street which provides individual Support for all Aboriginal family members (non-Aboriginal members included) is run by our community members, and its always been for community needs, and we’re just there for the governance and they run it.

“It comes from the Aboriginal community, not us, it’s self-led, self run like it was an Aboriginal stand-alone program anyway.

“When you see that the IAS is $5 billon, this is just a speck, and I really feel that the money that’s coming to Eden-Monaro, is all over the other side of the mountain.”

Ms Sturt believes that those who have made these decisions have not been to Tumut and seen what goes on in the community, or the services program.

“We’ve always reached our KPIs (key performance indicators); we’ve met everything that has been asked of us, and just out of the blue, this comes,” she said.

“I don’t understand it.”