Dr John Gardiner-Garden
After a year of structural rearrangement in the
administration of indigenous affairs programs, the Budget has provided $4.9
billion for the continuation of the Government’s Indigenous Advancement
Strategy (IAS). It also provides for the indexation
of IAS funding in 2018–19 and anticipates the cost of administering the IAS
falling from $311.1 million in 2014–15 to $279.0 million in 2015–16.
The Budget has retained most of the $534.0 million in
funding reductions from the 2014–15 Budget, disappointing the co-chairs of the
National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples who assert that the funding cuts
and uncertainty arising from last year’s Budget, together with the new IAS
procedures, continue to ‘wreak havoc’ on indigenous communities and
organisations. The 2015–16 Budget also
left in place the mandatory work-for-the-dole in remote communities that was
introduced in December 2014 and which has been challenged by some as
impractical. The Budget also
disappointed Close the Gap campaigners because it has no new funding for indigenous
Municipal and essential services
The Budget provides for further transitioning to the states
and territories of full responsibility for delivering municipal and essential
services to remote indigenous communities. The Australian Government officially
ended its Municipal and Essential Services program on 30 June 2014. This was
followed by the redirection (originally announced in the 2014–15 Budget and
confirmed in the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2014–15) of $120.9
million from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) to
assist the governments of Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia
(WA) with the transition.
Despite concerns that that this process might lead to the
closure of many communities, the 2015–16 Budget continues the process,
confirming $15.0 million in 2014–15 for South Australia and providing $154.8
million in 2015–16 to the Northern Territory (NT).
With respect to South Australia, the measure gives effect to a recently reached
transition agreement over services outside Anangu Pitjantjatjara
Yankunytjatjara Lands. An agreement with the NT
has yet to be announced—the Chief Minister Adam Giles has said he would ‘like
to sit down with Cabinet and see if we're willing to accept and what it
actually means’ while Opposition Leader Michael Gunner said it looked like an
‘upfront sweetener’ before making the NT Government pick up the bill forever
National Partnership Agreements
The Budget replaces several National Partnership Agreements
The existing NPA on Remote Indigenous Housing will be replaced
with a new Remote Indigenous Housing Strategy—$1.1 billion will be provided
over three years for the New South Wales, WA, South Australian, Queensland and NT
governments to build new houses and refurbish existing houses in remote
Indigenous communities. This latest recasting is represented by the Government
as putting a new focus on increasing indigenous home ownership and,
controversially, supports the building of accommodation in urban and regional
areas for Indigenous Australians who relocate from remote communities for work
or training. The 2015–16 allocation is down on 2014–15 funding—$95.0 million was
redirected mid-financial year for the ‘Reform of the Remote Jobs and
Communities Programme’ measure, which included the introduction of mandatory
work-for-the-dole in remote communities.
Funding of $988.2 million over eight years will be redirected
from the NPA on Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory to establish in its
place, with an additional $61.3 million over four years, an NPA on Northern
Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment. The Stronger Futures NPA was agreed in
2012, supported by Commonwealth legislation and accompanied by ten years of
funding commitments. The new NPA is
represented by the Government as prioritising schooling, community safety and
employment, and includes the above-mentioned funding to transition
responsibility for municipal and essential services. Australian Government administered
funding of $1.4 billion, currently part of the NPA on Stronger Futures in the
Northern Territory, will not be included in the new NPA, but will continue
outside the NPA framework administered by the departments of PM&C and
Funding of $6.7 million over three years will be redirected from
the Department of the Treasury, where it was supporting the NPA on Remote
Indigenous Public Internet Access, to PM&C to provide remote indigenous
internet infrastructure and training under the IAS.
and education outside remote communities
The Budget includes measures intended to support the seeking
of employment and education outside remote communities:
$10.0 million over five years will be provided to extend the
ABSTUDY Under-16 Boarding Supplement to approved hostels
$5.4 million over two years will be provided to continue to
support specific non-government schools for the additional costs associated
with boarding and educating indigenous students from remote communities
home loans and financial support will be made portable for
Indigenous Australians living in remote communities who choose to move to
another location to take up a job or undertake education. It will support
Indigenous Australians in the transition from renting to home ownership by
extending financial support grants to cover start-up and ongoing home ownership
expenses. The cost will be met from within the existing resources of the Indigenous
Business Australia’s Indigenous Home Ownership Programme.
As part of the Government’s smaller government reforms,
another budget measure ends the operations of a number of trusts and combines
their trust accounts into a single Indigenous Real Estate Investment Trust.
N Scullion (Minister for Indigenous
Affairs), Government continues significant reforms in Indigenous Affairs, media release, 12 May 2015; S Martin, ‘Indigenous
strategy intact’, The Australian, 13
May 2015, p. 10.
The budget information in
this article has been taken from the following document unless otherwise
sourced: Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2015–16. Australian Government, Portfolio
budget statements 2015–16: budget related paper no. 1.14: Prime Minister and
Cabinet Portfolio, p. 45.
National Congress of Australia's
First Peoples, Indigenous affairs environment remains a trauma zone, media release, 13 May 2015.
Australian Government, Mid-year
economic and fiscal outlook 2014–15, p.191; N
Scullion (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), More opportunities for job seekers in remote communities,
media release, 6 December 2014; J Altman, ‘Workfare
in Australia: indigenous Work for the Dole policies’, Power to Persuade website,
30 March 2015.
Human Rights Commission, Funding
quarantined but uncertainty remains, media
release, 13 May 2015; D Mara, ‘Budget 2015: indigenous groups call for more funding certainty’, SBS news, (online), 13 May 2015; Oxfam Australia, Brakes put on closing the gap in Indigenous health in Federal Budget, media release, 13 May 2015.
economic and fiscal outlook 2014–15, op.
cit., p. 190.
C Dunlop, ‘Budget 2015: Call for remote towns to stay’, Northern Territory News, 19 May 2015.
N Scullion (Minister for Indigenous Affairs)
and K Maher (South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and
Reconciliation), Funding certainty for remote SA Indigenous communities, media release, 13 April 2015.
. A Betts,’ Budget
2015: concerns raised over federal plans to hand funding of Indigenous
outstations to NT, in deal similar to WA’, ABC News, (online),
13 May 2015.
Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2014–15, op. cit.,
p. 191; and Australian Government, Portfolio
budget statements 2015–16: budget related paper no. 1.16: Treasury Portfolio, p. 49.
Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012; Council of Australian Government
Partnership Agreement on Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory, COAG,
C Pyne (Minister for Education and Training), $5.4
million to help Indigenous boarding school students, media release, 29
All online articles accessed May 2015.
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