There is little new Indigenous-specific spending in the Budget.
This is notable, given the recent Prime Minister’s report indicating that little
progress has been made in meeting the Closing the Gap targets.
A number of more general measures are likely to have significant impacts on
Indigenous people, particularly measures affecting costs of and access to
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Studies (AIATSIS) has been given $40.0 million over four years
from 2016–17 to support the ongoing effort to preserve, restore, manage and
digitise their collection of cultural and heritage material.
Funding for preserving AIATSIS’ collection has previously been on a
year-by-year basis, with one-year funding being provided in both the 2014–15
($3.3 million) and 2015–16 ($5.0 million) budgets to address immediate risks. This spending
has been previously supported by the Labor party. This new long-term
commitment will be welcomed, particularly in the context of falling budgets for
other cultural institutions.
Concessional Loan to the Indigenous
The government is making a concessional loan of up to $65.0
million to the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) in order to reduce the
‘crippling’ impact of interest on debt incurred when the ILC purchased the
Ayers Rock Resort. This will enable the ILC
to refocus on its core business activities. The terms of the loan are
commercial-in-confidence, so the amount is not included in the Budget.
Rum Jungle rehabilitation project extension
The Budget provides $10.8 million in 2016–17 to extend site
study and management of the former Rum Jungle uranium mine in the Northern
Territory. Pollution from the Rum Jungle mine has caused ongoing distress to
the site’s traditional owners, the Kungarakan and Warai people, who have
refused to make a land claim on the site due to its polluted state.
Total site rehabilitation costs of Rum Jungle are estimated at $200.0 million.
None of the Federal Government, the Northern Territory Government or the site’s
former managers Rio Tinto have expressed willingness to assume this cost.
Towards constitutional recognition
of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
The Budget notes previously announced funding of $14.6 million
over two years from 2015–16 for the Referendum Council to support national
consultation on constitutional recognition. This includes funding of $5.0
million to Reconciliation Australia for their Recognise campaign.
Business Australia business support arrangements
$23.1 million in 2016–17 is being redirected from Indigenous
Business Australia (IBA) to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C)’s
Indigenous Advancement Strategy. This will then be granted back to IBA, to
enable IBA to conduct Indigenous business planning, advice, workshop and
training activity that would otherwise be outside IBA’s enabling legislation,
with no net change in IBA’s or PM&C’s budget.
There are a number of health measures which are particularly
relevant for Indigenous Australians.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are caused by
alcohol consumption during pregnancy. They are increasingly recognised as a
severe problem in Indigenous communities; the Lililwan Project found that 12 per cent
of Aboriginal children born in 2002–03 in the Fitzroy Valley had FASD.
The Budget includes $10.5 million over four years to reduce FASD, focussing on
prevention in high risk remote and rural communities, including diagnostic
clinical support and working with communities. This builds on the National
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Action Plan announced in 2014.
The Budget provides $4.5 million over four years to the
Queensland Government to fund healthcare staff and workers to reduce the risk
and prevalence of blood borne viruses (BBVs) and Sexually Transmitted
Infections (STIs) in the Torres Strait. This is a high risk region due to the
prevalence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and other STIs and BBVs in
Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Torres Strait, and the free flow of people
between PNG and the Torres Strait. The Budget also notes
continuing funding for Torres Strait–Papua New Guinea Cross-Border Health
Issues ($19.0 million over four years) and for controlling the Asian Tiger
Mosquito, which can spread dengue fever, Ross River virus and chikungunya ($3.0
million over three years).
There is also an additional $0.4 million, on top of $2.7
million announced previously, to extend the National Partnership Agreement on
Rheumatic Fever Strategy into 2016–17.
Funding of $32.2 million from the Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet’s existing Indigenous Affairs Safety and Wellbeing program
budget is being transferred to the Department of Social Security to partially
offset new spending in domestic violence. According to the
Minister for Social Services, this new spending will ‘provide targeted
assistance for Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse women and
their children’. For more details, see
and family violence’ brief in this Budget
Three Indigenous tertiary programs are being
consolidated, and some funding is being transferred from the Department of
Prime Minister and Cabinet to the Department of Education for the Bachelor
Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. These measures are described in
more detail in the ‘Tertiary
education’ brief elsewhere in this Budget
Measures such as the Try, Test and Learn Fund for the
long-term welfare dependent and the Youth Jobs PaTH can be expected to boost
Indigenous employment if delivered appropriately.
Customised pre-employment training, non-standard recruitment strategies and
wage subsidies have been shown to have good results for Indigenous employment
in the past, when delivered in culturally appropriate ways.
As Indigenous employment is currently not on track to halve the gap by 2016, it
is to be hoped that these programs will take Indigenous needs into account.Funding
of $5.1 million over four years is provided to fund two trials as part of the
Third Action Plan under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s
Children. The trials to build
capacity in parents of vulnerable children ($1.2 million) and assist children
in out of home care transition to independent adulthood ($3.9 million) may
assist Indigenous parents and Indigenous children in care – there is general
agreement that investment in childhood is the most cost effective way to
overcome Indigenous disadvantage.
The government has previously announced that the Cashless
Debit Card proposed by Andrew Forrest in his review of Indigenous Jobs and
Training would be trialled at a third site. This is noted in the Budget,
although no money is yet specified as negotiations with commercial service
providers are still taking place. It appears likely that
the trial site will be Geraldton. Approximately 9.5 per
cent of Geraldton’s population are Indigenous.
Indigenous sector reactions
Indigenous sector organisations and stakeholders have
generally condemned the Budget as offering little or nothing for Indigenous
Australians, although they have noted some positives such as the grant to
AIATSIS, and non-Indigenous specific programs such as the Try, Test and Learn
program, the trial to build capacity in parents, and the trial to assist
children in care transition to independent adulthood.
Stakeholders called for the government to reverse the 2014 Budget’s $534
million cut to the Indigenous sector, restore funding to the National Congress
of Australia’s First Peoples, reverse cuts to Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander
Legal Services, continue funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Child Care Centres, and act on Indigenous incarceration rates.
Indigenous Health stakeholders stated that the Medicare rebate freeze would
place increasing financial pressure on Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services,
but welcomed the new FASD package and other health spending.
D Margetts and M Lees, ‘Indigenous
Concerns’, in Minority report, Senate Select Committee on Uranium
Mining and Milling, The Senate, Canberra, 1997.
Budget Paper No. 2: 2016–17, op. cit., p. 137.
Budget Paper No. 2, op. cit., p. 119.
Budget Paper No. 2 : 2016–17, op. cit., p. 111.
Budget Paper No. 2 : 2016–17, op. cit., p. 141; Portfolio Budget
Statements 2016–17, Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio, op. cit., p. 23.
J Griffiths and M Harrington, ‘Tertiary
education’, Budget Review 2016–17,
Research paper series, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, May 2016.
Budget Paper No. 2 : 2016–17, op. cit., p. 85, 142.
Budget Paper No. 2 : 2016–17, op. cit., p. 144.
A Forrest, ‘The
Healthy Welfare Card’, in Australian Government, Creating parity: review
of Indigenous jobs and training, Department of the Prime Minister and
Budget Paper No. 2 : 2016–17, pp. 139–141.
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR), Indigenous
Affairs forgotten in the budget, media release, 4 May 2016;
Reconciliation Australia, Consultation,
long-term planning critical to Closing the Gap, media release, 4 May
2016; National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (NATSILS), Budget
2016-17 denies many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access to
justice, media release, 3 May 2016; National Family Violence Prevention
Legal Services, Action
to combat violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
invisible in the Budget, media release, 4 May 2016.
All online articles accessed May 2016.
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