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Oxfam Australia has launched a grants program that is supporting First Peoples’ local community organisations across the country to continue on their path to self-determination.

The First Peoples Innovative Grants Program is forming partnerships that build on the knowledge and expertise of First Peoples who are still fighting to overcome the insidious legacy of colonialism.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People have faced inequality and injustices and still face these challenges today,” said Jimi Peters, proud Yorta Yorta and Wurundjeri man of the Kulin Nation. 

Jimi is the Acting National Manager of Oxfam’s First Peoples Programs.

“Oxfam has been working alongside First Peoples on campaigns and areas that are important to them since our Community Aid Abroad days, to close the gap and support our First Peoples’ allies and colleagues,” Jimi said.

A recent Productivity Commission report into the government’s national agreement on Closing the Gap recommended that self-determination should be the government’s priority reform, as years of top-down government assistance has largely failed.

The report highlighted the importance of genuinely sharing power with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so they can have control over decisions that affect their lives – a concept that Oxfam has embedded in its approach over many decades. 

While Oxfam is well known for its work abroad, it also has a long history of work in Australia, supporting more than 10,050 people in 2022-2023 through its work seeking First Peoples’ Justice.

Partnerships led by local organisations making a difference
A key component of the First Peoples Innovative Grants Program is to work with, rather than on behalf of, partner organisations and stakeholders. Grants are enabling political empowerment, First Peoples’ rights, and action and advocacy for change.

For example, in 2017, Oxfam partnered with the Kimberley regional body, Aarnja, to deliver the first Straight Talk Gathering in the region. An Oxfam small grant followed, helping to establish the Kimberley Aboriginal Women’s Council (KAWC), which continues to empower women to maintain their language, law and culture and ensure these are passed onto the next generation of female leaders.

A participant of Straight Talk, Leanne Sanders, received a grant to help set up the, which connects First Peoples’ young people with Wiradjuri Elders, helping the next generation set goals and achieve them. It is free to participate and is available to First Nations girls and women aged 8-16 years. Leanne said one of the key objectives of Butterfly Dreaming was connection.

“Connecting youth with their Elders online and supporting their overall well-being through counselling, IT and goal setting... it leads them into finding their identity and becoming accountable.”

Oxfam has also supported the Joonga Land and Water Aboriginal Corporation and the New South Wales Aboriginal Fishing Group, which advocates for traditional owners’ rights to perform cultural fishing without being targeted, harassed, fined and jailed by government authorities.

Oxfam, which has been supported by trusts managed by Equity Trustees, is seeking further funding to continue the First Peoples Innovative Grants Program, which is entirely funded by public donations.

Oxfam welcomes contributions to its Innovative Small Grants Program to facilitate more grants to community.
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