Indigenous affairs

Budget Review 2010-11 Index

Budget 2010–11: Indigenous affairs

Dr John Gardiner-Garden

The 2010–11 Budget offered no significant new directions and only a few new funding allocations in the area of Indigenous affairs. The total of all portfolio Australian Government Indigenous expenditure (AGIE) figures would appear to remain at a steady level—for 2008–09 $3,507 million, for 2009–10 $3,348 million and for 2010–11 (budgeted) $3,482 million.

The budget measures listed in the Government’s Closing the gap—Building Momentum budget statement are billed as continuing the Government’s commitment to ‘closing the gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and include the following:

  • $56.0 million as a temporary transfer of unutilised capital from the Home Ownership on Indigenous Land program, initiated in 2006 to provide loans secured by leases on community-titled land (typically in remote Indigenous communities), to the Home Ownership Program, which since 1975 has provided loans secured by freehold title (typically in cities and towns), while further land tenure reform takes place on Indigenous land in remote communities
  • $46.0 million in response to the first report of the Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services for a Remote Service Delivery Flexible Funding Pool to fund priority projects that are not able to be funded through existing programs.
  • $44.3 million over four years from existing allocations (mostly from the national community development funding) to extend the reforms of the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program which commenced in other areas in July 2009, to the Torres Strait. These reforms involve new CDEP entrants receiving income support payments instead of CDEP wages and paid jobs being created in state and local government services, while continuing CDEP participants will receive CDEP wages until June 2012
  • $38.5 million over four years to expanding the roll-out of Opal fuel (not sought for petrol sniffing) as part of a strategy to reduce petrol sniffing in Indigenous communities, assisting in expanding storage and distribution facilities to meet demand in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland
  • an additional $34.9 million over four years for the Indigenous legal aid services across Australia to assist in meeting increasing demand
  • $15.4 million over four years from existing Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations resources for a flexible funding pool to support projects that improve education outcomes for children and young people as part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010–2014[1]
  • around 100 Indigenous early childhood services are also expected to benefit from the $59.4 million allocated to raise the quality of early childhood services to meet the requirements of the new National Quality Framework for early childhood education and child care
  • $15.2 million for the National Indigenous Television to continue for another year while a review of the Government’s investment in the Indigenous broadcasting and media sector is undertaken
  • $9.2 million over two years for the Australian Federal Police to continue their work as a part of Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory while new Northern Territory Police complete their training and become fully operational
  • $6.9 million for Aboriginal Hostels Limited to make necessary repairs to a number of its hostels
  • $6.6 million over two years for the National Indigenous Child Abuse and Violence Intelligence Task Force to continue to investigate patterns of violence, serious crime and abuse of power and trust in remote Indigenous communities
  • $4.0 million over four years to continue the Business Skills for Visual Artists initiative which supports ethical commerce in the Indigenous visual arts sector and
  • $1.6 million to improve Indigenous employment, recruitment and retention practices in Commonwealth public sector organisations.[2]

All of the above measures are mentioned in the media release, Closing the Gap - Strengthening Indigenous Communities[3], but not mentioned there are four other policy developments.

Firstly, the Government will provide $410.5 million over six years for a new scheme of income management in the Northern Territory, and $17.4 million in 2010–11 to continue the trial of income management in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Although theoretically not Indigenous-specific measures and therefore not treated as such in the budget papers, the income to be managed will almost exclusively be that of Indigenous people.[4] For more detail see the Income Management brief in the Social Policy section of this publication.

Secondly, the Government will provide $29.2 million over five years from 2009–10 to establish the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, funded by reducing funding to the Indigenous Communities Strategic Investment program, which funds individual and community capacity building activities.[5]

Thirdly, it is apparent from Minister Macklin’s Closing the Gap budget statement that the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) program, which is meant to be delivering on the Commonwealth’s commitment to the National Partnership Housing Agreement, is seriously behind schedule. That budget statement reports:

Concern about slow progress on capital works had led the Australian Government to set up an Office of Remote Indigenous Housing in the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and to deploy staff to key jurisdictions to help oversee the rollout of this National Partnership Agreement. [6]

The statement then pronounces progress as ‘on track’ though the number of new houses completed nationally is just 33 and, in the Northern Territory, just seven:

The target for 2009‑10 is for 320 new houses and 587 refurbishments to be completed.  There has been an improvement by the state and Northern Territory Governments in progressing this work. We are on track to achieving these targets with 320 new houses underway, 33 completed and more than 640 refurbishments also completed or underway [...] By 2013, SIHIP will have delivered 750 new houses, 230 rebuilds of existing houses and 2,500 refurbishments across the Northern Territory....[and/but] at the end of April 2010 the construction of over 80 new houses was underway, with seven completed. Over 180 existing houses had been refurbished or rebuilt and over 110 existing houses had refurbishments or rebuilds underway. In total, work on over 380 housing lots was underway or completed. [7]

Fourthly, Budget Measures: Budget Paper No. 2, 2010–11 states that the Government, in making the ‘new funding arrangements for Indigenous Land Corporation’ that guarantees the Indigenous Land Corporation a minimum annual draw-down from the Indigenous Land Fund of $45 million, is going ‘to ensure that the capital value of the Land Account is not eroded’. However, the prevention of such an erosion is not guaranteed in the Social Security and Indigenous Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2010 which is currently before Parliament and will give effect to this measure. [8]

[1].    For the plan and its background see the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs web-page viewed 17 May 2010,,29978.html

[2].    Australian Government, Budget statements 2010–11: Closing the gap — building momentum (Cover title, Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians), Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010, viewed 12 May 2010,

[3].    J Gillard (Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations), J Macklin (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs), N Roxon (Minister for Health and Ageing), R McClelland (Attorney General), M Arbib (Minister for Employment Participation), P Garrett (Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts), and W Snowdon (Minister for Indigenous Health), Closing the Gap – strengthening Indigenous communities, media release, Canberra, 11 May 2010, viewed 12 May 2010,

[4].    Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, Commonwealth of Australia, 2010, pp.170–71 and 176.

[5].    Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, op. cit., pp.178–79.

[6].    Budget statements 2010–11: Closing the gap —Building Momentum, op. cit., p.26.

[7].    Ibid.

[8].    Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, op. cit., p.78.