Budget Review October 2022–23 Index
- The Budget provides $99.0 million in new funding for Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Justice initiatives over the next four years.
- Most of this new funding ($81.5 million) is for justice reinvestment
initiatives and an independent unit to coordinate these initiatives.
- The remainder is additional funding for Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) to provide culturally appropriate legal
advice on coronial processes ($13.5 million) and funding for Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander legal service peak bodies ($4.0 million).
measures: budget paper no. 2 (p. 49) provides $99.0 million of new funding
over four years for programs related to the interaction of First Nations people
with the justice system and the underlying causes of incarceration. This package
is an implementation of Labor’s pre-election commitments regarding justice for First
Nations People and rights and safety for First Nations women (Labor’s
Commitment to First Nations Peoples, pp. 10, 12).
The Budget provides $0.3 less than the $99.3 million
committed in Labor’s
Plan for a Better Future: Better Budget, Better Economy pre‑election
commitment, and also has a different distribution of funding per year, but
concerns the same initiatives. The Budget also provides $3.0 million in funding
for the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum (discussed
below) which was included in Labor's
Commitment to First Nations Peoples (p. 12) but not in Labor's
Plan for a Better Future costings.
Table 1 First Nations Justice
| $ million
|Labor Election Commitment
|October 2022 Budget
Sources: Labor’s Plan for a Better Future,
13 and Budget paper no. 2, 49.
The reason for the $0.3 million discrepancy between the
election commitment and the Budget is not clear.
The election policy also committed to ‘consolidated
real-time reporting of all deaths in custody at a national level’, but did not
specifically commit funding for this initiative (Labor’s
Commitment to First Nations Peoples, p. 10). The Budget commits to
‘explore options for consolidated national real-time reporting’, with the ‘costs
to be met from within the existing resourcing of the Australian Institute of
paper no. 2, p. 49), which might imply measures in a future budget to
implement the policy.
Justice Reinvestment Initiatives
The majority of this new funding is $81.5 million for
justice reinvestment initiatives. $69 million will go towards funding up to 30 such
initiatives (with $20 million per year ongoing), with the remaining $12.5 million
establishing an independent unit to coordinate these initiatives (with $3.1
million per year ongoing) through to 2025–26 (Budget
paper no. 2, p. 49).
Justice Reinvestment initiatives are place-based,
data-driven, locally designed initiatives to reduce Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander rates of incarceration, crime and recidivism by addressing the
underlying causes of crime and incarceration. The Productivity Commission’s previous
studies of Indigenous-directed expenditure have shown that ‘Public order
and safety’, (the police, justice and carceral systems), is one of the largest
categories of government expenditure on Indigenous people. Justice
Reinvestment aims to reduce this expenditure by ‘reinvesting’ the money
into preventative measures. Establishing a national justice reinvestment body and
justice reinvestment trials were Recommendations 4-1 and 4-2 of the 2017
Australian Law Reform Commission Report Pathways to
Justice – An Inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Peoples (pp. 125–148). This commitment is $2.5 million
more than the $79.0 million pre-election commitment. The pre-election
commitment stated that this funding would be matched by the states and territories
Commitment to First Nations Peoples, p. 10), although the Budget does
not indicate whether this has occurred.
Additional ATSILS Funding
The Budget provides $13.5 million for ATSILS over three
financial years (Budget
paper no. 2, p. 49). This funding is provided to ATSILS to provide
‘culturally appropriate and timely legal assistance before, during and after
This is in addition to the funding provided to ATSILS under
Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP). Under NLAP, ATSILS will receive
$268.8 million in base funding between 2022–23 and 2024–25. ATSILS also receive
additional NLAP funding for ‘coronial inquiries and expensive and complex cases’
financial relations: budget paper no. 3, p. 87) This element of NLAP
was introduced in the Mid-Year
Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2021-22 (MYFEO 2021–22, pp. 47, 49, 51 and
53), and is maintained in this Budget ($2.6 million in 2022–23, $2.7 million in
2023–24 and 2024-25, Federal
financial relations: budget paper no. 3, p. 87).
NLAP is a 5-year funding agreement that commenced on 1 July
2020, originally covering both Commonwealth funding for ATSILS and other legal
assistance sector bodies. ATSILS baseline funding under NLAP increases by an
average of approximately 1.4% per year, well below current inflation (National Legal
Assistance Partnership, p. 13).
Total nominal funding for ATSILS under NLAP and the
additional funding for this Budget has increased from $85.3 million in 2020–21
to $93.5 million in 2022–23, and is projected to increase to $99.1 million in
2024–25. However, when the impact of inflation (as measured by growth in the
Consumer Price Index (CPI)) is considered, overall funding has declined, and is
projected to decrease further through to 2024–25.
Figure 1 ATSILS Funding inflation adjusted
Sources: p. 92, Federal
financial relations: budget paper no. 3, p. 87, Budget
paper no. 2, p. 49, Federal
financial relations: budget paper no. 3: 2022–23 (March), Federal
financial relations: budget paper no. 3: 2021–22, 86.
Treasury currently projects that inflation (as measured by
CPI growth) will gradually fall from 6.1% in 2021–22 to 2.5% by 2024–25 (Budget
strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1, p. 6), with real funding for
ATSILS consequently projected to continue to fall as provided by the three
ATSILS funding programs in this Budget (Baseline NLAP Funding, NLAP Coronial
inquiry funding, First Nations Justice package funding).
The Budget includes $560.0 million over the forward
estimates to supplement Community Sector Organisations ‘at need of funding
supplementation due to additional staff wages pressures and higher inflation
outcomes’ – effectively, to displace the impact of inflation on
Commonwealth funding to Community Sector Organisations. Of this $550 million
package $47.5 million per annum is allocated to the National Indigenous
Australians Agency (NIAA), and $8.1 million per annum is allocated to the
Attorney-General’s Department (Budget
paper no. 2, p. 84).
It is unclear how this funding will be allocated across the community
sector organisations; if ATSILS will receive funding, and, if so, whether
ATSILS will receive funding from the NIAA or Attorney-General’s Department funds.
National Family Violence Prevention
Legal Services Forum
The Budget provides $3.0 million for the National Family
Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum (NFVPLSF) (Budget
paper no. 2, p. 49). Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLSs)
are specialised services that provide culturally appropriate legal and other
services to First Nations persons experiencing domestic violence, predominantly
First Nations women and their children.
Unlike ATSILS and other domestic violence legal services (such
as domestic violence units and non‑Indigenous-specific specialist family
violence legal services), FVPLSs are not funded by the NLAP, but, instead, are
predominantly funded directly by grants from the NIAA as one element of the
Safety and Wellbeing Program of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (see Family
Violence Prevention Legal Services: National Evaluation Report, p. 8). This
Program receives $1,649.6 million in funding for all its elements over the
forward estimates (Portfolio
budget statements 2022–23 (October): budget related paper no. 1.13: Prime
Minister and Cabinet Portfolio, pp. 210, 214).
National Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) funding
The Budget provides an additional $1.0 million over three
years in funding to NATSILS, the peak body of ATSILS (Budget
paper no. 2, p. 49). NATSILS currently receives $1.73 million between
2020 and 2025, a per annum funding of approximately $345,000. NATSILS called
for additional funding of $1.053 million per annum for five years in its
response to the March 2022–23 Budget (NATSILS
analysis of the March 2022-23 Budget, p. 2).
Why does funding cease in 2025–26?
Three elements of the First Nations Justice package
(NATSILS, NFVPLSF & additional ATS ILS funding) only provide funding over
the next three financial years rather than for the duration of the forward
estimates or on an ongoing basis.
While not stated in the budget papers, this may be due to the
anticipated commencement of a new legal assistance partnership agreement from
2025–26 to replace the current NLAP, which expires at the end of 2024–25. This may
foreshadow that ongoing funding to peak bodies (NATSILS and NFVPLSF) might be
provided for in a new agreement. NLAP currently does not fund these bodies
directly, and FVPLSs are currently funded by the NIAA rather than by NLAP.
Due to rounding, some totals may not correspond with the sum of the
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