Indigenous law and justice programs—redirection of funding

Budget Review 2012–13 Index

Diane Spooner

The Government will redirect $23.9 million over four years from Indigenous law and justice programs to support Indigenous community safety initiatives in the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory package.[1]

On 28 March 2012, Ministers Roxon and Snowdon and Senator Crossin announced measures in relation to safety in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities. Some of these were:

  • a $619 million funding boost to remote policing, community night patrols and legal assistance services for the next ten years
  • continued support of the Substance Abuse Intelligence Desks (SAID) and Dog Operations Unit, to disrupt commercial drug distribution networks
  • the Australian Federal Police will continue to support the Northern Territory Child Abuse Taskforce, and the Australian Crime Commission will continue to work with the National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Taskforce. [2]

Budget Paper No. 2 specifically refers to this media release for further information in relation to the expense measures for Indigenous Law and Justice Programs.

The redirected $23.9 million is to be taken from the following programs in the following amounts:

  • $4.1 million from the expensive cases component within the Indigenous Legal Aid and Policy Reform Program
  • $4.5 million from the early intervention grant component within the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program, and
  • $15.3 million from Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory law and order measures. [3]

The movement of funds from existing programs that provide Australia-wide assistance to Indigenous people to programs focussed on the Northern Territory means that less money will be available to assist Indigenous people in other states and territories. This is of concern, given the over‑representation of Indigenous people in the prison system throughout Australia[4]  and recognising that the highest rates of imprisonment of Indigenous people are in Western Australia and South Australia.[5] The Australian Greens have expressed concern that cutting some national programs to transfer funding to the Northern Territory is a poor outcome for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.[6]

In the Ministerial Statement, Budget, Stronger Regions, Stronger Nation, Government initiatives in regional Australia are set out by Portfolio.[7] The following information from the Attorney-General’s Portfolio is relevant to Indigenous law and justice programs:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services Program

Commonwealth funding overall for Indigenous legal aid will be $65.6 million in 2012–13. An additional $2.3 million will be made available in 2012–13 under the Stronger Futures initiative in the Northern Territory.[8]

Indigenous Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program

The statement says:

The Government will commit $19.1 million in 2012-13 to 14 Indigenous Family Violence Prevention Legal Service providers covering 31 identified high-need rural, regional and remote areas. [9]

Indigenous Justice Program

This program will provide funding of $11.7 million in 2012–13, of which, approximately $6.0 million has already been allocated to projects in regional and remote areas.[10]

Northern Territory Community Night Patrols

Community night patrols across 80 remote and regional areas in the Northern Territory. The Government will provide $28.8 million in 2012–13 towards these patrols.[11]

[1].       Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no.2: 2012-13, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012, pp. 85-86, viewed 9 May 2012. 

[2].       N Roxon (Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Management), W Snowdon (Minister for Indigenous Health) and T Crossin, Improving safety in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, media release, 28 March 2012, viewed 9 May 2012.  Many of these measures are included in the statement of J Macklin (Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Minister for Disability Reform), Continuing our Efforts to Close the Gap, Budget statement, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 8 May 2012. 

[3].       Budget Paper No. 2, op. cit., pp. 85-86. For more background see J Gardiner-Garden and K Magarey, Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill 2011, Bills digest, no. 103, 2011-12, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2012.

[4].       Australian Bureau of Statistics, Prisoners in Australia, ABS website, viewed 10 May 2012. As at 30 June 2011, the age standardised imprisonment rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners was 14 times higher than non‑Indigenous prisoners.

[5].       Australian Bureau of Statistics, Corrective Services, ABS website, viewed 10 May 2012, p. 6.

[6].       Australian Greens, Intervention funding could be stripped from existing programs: media release, 10 May 2012. [insert link to media release]

[7].       S Crean (Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, Minister for the Arts), Budget, Stronger Regions, Stronger Nation, Budget statement, Commonwealth of Australia, 8 May 2012.

[8].       Ibid, p. 45.

[9].       Ibid.

[10].     Ibid.p. 47.

[11].     Ibid, p. 48.

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