Indigenous affairs

Budget Review October 2022–23 Index

Sally McNicol

This article considers Indigenous-specific measures across portfolios in the Budget October 2022–23, and other measures relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Measures covered include health, housing and infrastructure, land and waters, economic development and education, and safety. These categories are consistent with the new Closing the Gap Priority Reforms and Targets, and past Budget review articles. Unless otherwise stated, all page references are to Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: October 2022–23.

Separate Budget review articles discuss the First Nations Justice measure and measures responding to the Uluru Statement from the Heart.


The October 2022–23 Budget largely meets the Australian Labor Party’s (ALP) election commitments to First Nations peoples, albeit with some minor adjustments to timeframes, and some with additional funding. Key budget measures include:

  • next steps to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart
  • justice reinvestment and targeted support for legal services
  • building the health workforce and infrastructure
  • repairs to remote housing and homelands infrastructure
  • a diverse range of land and heritage activities.

There are also measures relating to First Nations women, international engagement (discussed in the Uluru Statement Budget review article), and jobs and economic opportunities, as well as abolishing the Cashless Debit Card. Indigenous-specific budget measures not discussed in the Budget review articles are listed in Table 1.

The Government has reiterated its commitment to working under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap (the National Agreement). Some small budget measures relate to commitments under this agreement. These include establishing a Housing Policy Partnership, a commitment under Priority Reform 1 of the National Agreement, and first steps towards a First Nations digital inclusion strategy. Future Budgets will almost certainly need to provide much larger funding commitments against needs identified from these processes.

Of the $560.0 million over 4 years Support for Community Sector Organisations measure, the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) receives $47.5 million per year (p. 84). This funding, which community groups can apply for ‘on merit’, seeks to mitigate rising costs such as inflation and wage pressures.

Expenditure trend

The Budget shows a continuing increase in funding provided under Indigenous-specific Commonwealth programs. This trend was noted in the March Budget review 2022–23 article ‘Indigenous Affairs: leadership, land, economic development and education’ and has further increased under the new Government.

Figure 1       Indigenous Australians-related budget sub-functions

Note: nec = not elsewhere classified

Source: Prepared by the Parliamentary Library from Budget Strategy and Outlook: Budget Paper no. 1, various years. Figures are nominal (non-inflation adjusted) dollars reflecting actual spending in that year except for those from 2022–23 onwards, which are projections from Budget strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1: October 2022–23.

The actual increase in funding is greater than shown, as the Indigenous Australians-related budget sub-functions do not include the $300 million allocated for Indigenous housing (Indigenous housing expenditure is included in the ‘housing and community amenities’ budget function). The reasons for the 2021–22 budget year’s underspend (approximately $177 million) are unclear.

Taking into account the $300 million allocated for Indigenous housing and the $177 million underspend in 2021–22, the October 2022–23 Budget provides $1.1 billion more than the March 2022–23 Budget for Indigenous Australians-related matters, averaging $4.2 billion per year over the forward estimates.


The Budget meets the ALP’s election commitments for health through the $314.8 million Strengthening First Nations Health measure (p. 140). This includes:

  • $54.3 million over 5 years from for up to 500 First Nations Certificate III and IV traineeships in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care, under the First Nations Health Workers Traineeship Program, led by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) (Health portfolio budget stakeholder pack, pp. 20–21).
  • $164.3 million over 4 years for health infrastructure. This exceeds the $75 million election commitment and appears to include additional locations (see the ALP’s election commitment to First Nations peoples, p. 9 and Health portfolio budget stakeholder pack, p. 23).
  • $22.5 million over 3 years for a Birthing on Country Centre of Excellence on the NSW south coast.
    • In response to this announcement, the CEO of Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives stated ‘It is our hope that this service will lead the way in the establishment of many suitably tailored birthing on country services, wherever needed, in the future’.
  • $45 million over 4 years for up to 30 four-chair dialysis units, and $1.9 million in 2022–23 for 2 dialysis treatment buses in far-west NSW.
  • $14.2 million over 3 years to increase funding to NACCHO to provide treatment, detection and prevention support for rheumatic heart disease (Health portfolio budget stakeholder pack, p. 22).

On 5 October 2022, the Government announced a 2-year extension of the National Partnership on Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment. The $14.8 million health component portion (Federal financial relations: budget paper no. 3: October 2022–23, p. 32) matches funding committed in the March 2022–23 Budget.

Housing and infrastructure

Election commitments for remote housing and homelands are addressed through 2 budget measures:

  • Restoring Funding for Homelands (p. 173) provides $100 million over 2 years for Northern Territory homelands. This deviates from the election commitment in that $25 million will be provided in 2022–23 and the balance in 2023–24 (the total amount is the same).
  • The Safer and More Affordable Housing measure provides $200 million ‘within the first 5 years’ for ‘the repair, maintenance and improvements of housing in remote Indigenous communities’ (p. 191).

Additionally, $9.2 million over 3 years has been committed for the Closing the Gap Housing Policy Partnership (p. 178). Coupled with the recently accepted Housing Sector Strengthening Plan (a commitment under Closing the Gap Priority Reform 2), this should provide a more holistic approach to meeting the housing needs of Indigenous people.

Financial details regarding a new Northern Territory remote housing agreement (an election commitment) were not mentioned in the Budget. The current agreement is due to expire in mid-2023.

Infrastructure measures include:

  • the Support for Energy Security and Reliability measure (p. 77), which allocates $5.5 million over 3 years ‘to codesign and commence implementation of a First Nations Clean Energy Strategy’
  • the First Nations Community Microgrids Program measure (p. 61), which provides $83.8 million over 4 years ‘to develop and deploy microgrid technology across First Nations communities’.

As part of the Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia measure (p. 158), $2.5 million over 5 years is provided ‘to establish a First Nations Digital Advisory Group to lead consultation with First Nations people on the design and delivery of digital inclusion initiatives.’

Land and waters

During the 2022 election campaign, the ALP committed to double the number of Indigenous rangers ‘by the end of the decade’ and to ‘boost funding’ by $10 million per year (ongoing) for the management of Indigenous Protected Areas (p. 18). The costings in Labor’s plan for a better future include the rangers as part of this $10 million per year (p. 12). This commitment appears to be met through the Next Phase of Natural Heritage Trust Funding measure (p. 68): $66.5 million over 5 years from 2023–24 is allocated to expand the Indigenous Protected Areas program. This exceeds $10 million per year and may cover the cost of Indigenous ranger expansion. However, the commitments beyond the forward estimates, the lack of explicit mention of Indigenous rangers, and the fact that some funding is being taken from the National Heritage Trust special account makes it difficult to be certain.

Election commitments are also addressed by:

  • the Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan – implementation measure (p. 74; Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEW) fact sheet ‘Building a better future for the environment’, p. 3), which provides an unspecified amount of the $100 million of Great Barrier Reef funding dedicated to projects delivered by Traditional Owners and Indigenous rangers
  • the Investing in Australia’s Indigenous Culture and World Heritage measure (p. 64), which provides $14.7 million over 4 years for local communities and First Nations people ‘to assess and identify heritage protection priorities’ (note: this measure includes non-Indigenous cultural heritage)
  • the $40.0 million Aboriginal Water Entitlements Program returning to DCCEW under the Water for Australia Plan budget measure (p. 79). These funds had been transferred to the NIAA in December 2021.

A significant concern for the effective management of lands and waters by First Nations peoples is government’s capacity to provide support: the Indigenous land-management grass roots alliance, Country Needs People, recently observed that:

… we need government to be collaborators and supporters, not just contract managers.

Since approximately 2014 the federal environment departmental staff dedicated full time to supporting Indigenous Rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas has been cut by around 95%. That has to be rebuilt if the government is going to meet its agenda of doubling Indigenous Rangers over the next decade, and meeting the 30 by 2030 targets for protecting land and sea.

Other relevant measures include:

  • The Carbon Farming Outreach Program (p. 57) allocates $20.3 million over 4 years ‘to empower Australian farmers and land managers, including First Nations peoples, to participate in carbon markets and integrate low emission technologies and practices.’
  • The Engaging with First Nations Peoples on Climate Change measure (p. 60) allocates $15.9 million over 4 years to establish the Torres Strait Climate Change Centre of Excellence. This follows the September 2022 UN Human Rights Committee decision that ‘Australia’s failure to protect Torres Strait Islanders against the impacts of climate change violated their right to practice their culture.’

Education and economic development

  • Agency resourcing: budget paper no. 4: October 2022–23 notes the Government’s commitment to a 5% Indigenous employment target in the public sector:

    The Government is committed to increasing First Nations employment in the APS to 5 per cent by 2030. The APS, through the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy 2020–25, aims for greater First Nations workforce representation and retention at all classification levels and in all business areas. Through the Strategy, we have focused on improving outcomes in 3 key areas: cultural integrity, career pathways and career development and advancement.’; Affirmative Measure Recruitment Hub was launched in July 2022 ‘to assist agencies in recruiting First Nations talent. ( p. 6)

Other budget measures include:

  • The National Study on Adult Foundation Skills measure (p. 100) will reallocate existing resources to fund a study ensuring ‘on-going representation of First Nations peoples in foundation skills studies’.
  • The Strengthening Australia’s Higher Education Sector (p. 95) measure provides funding for 20,000 additional Commonwealth supported places at universities and other higher education providers. These places are specifically for ‘students under-represented in higher education, including First Nations peoples … for courses in areas of skills shortage’.
  • The Teaching First Nations Languages Schools measure (p. 97) provides $14.1 million over 4 years for First Nations educators in 60 primary schools. Teaching First Nations languages is a complex policy area, with links to education, the retention and revival of culture, and community involvement. Educators will need sustained support from both their school and local community for this program to thrive. A good practice model is developing in NSW, underpinned by the state’s Aboriginal Languages Act 2017 (NSW), a revamp of their Aboriginal languages syllabus, and the recently launched Aboriginal Languages Trust Strategic Plan 2022–2027.

Budget measures to abolish the Cashless Debit Card and create a new ‘enhanced income management’ are discussed in the ‘Social Welfare’ Budget review article. While not Indigenous-specific, this was an election commitment under Labor's commitment to First Nations peoples.

First Nations Women


Election commitments relating to First Nations women’s safety are addressed through:

  • the Women’s Safety – 500 community workers measure ($169.4 million over 4 years and $55.4 million per year ongoing) will support 500 additional frontline service and community workers relating to family, domestic and sexual violence, with half of these jobs allocated to rural, regional and remote areas. These positions will ‘support the LGBTIQA+ community, women with disability, culturally and linguistically diverse women and children, and First Nations people’ (p. 187; Department of Social Services Women’s Safety fact sheet).
  • As part of the First Nations Justice measure (p. 49) $3 million over 3 years is allocated for the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum.

Additionally, the National plan to end violence against women and children 2022–2032, launched on 17 October 2022, includes a commitment to develop a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan and a First Nations National Plan (pp. 19–20). These will be led by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council on family, domestic and sexual violence.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar, will convene a First Nations Women and Girls National Leadership Summit in 2023. This summit aims to ‘empower women’s leadership at the local level and provide a national platform for healing intergenerational trauma and action to eradicate racism and ending family violence’ (Women’s budget statement October 2022–23, p. 18). No additional funding appears to have been provided within the Budget for this.

Table 1 Indigenous-specific budget measures not discussed in Budget review articles


Sport4All – First Nations Program – expansion (p. 139)

•        $10.3 million over 4 years


First Nations – community projects (p. 170)

•        $1.0 million over 2 years for new ablution blocks for Mabunji Aboriginal Resource Corporation

•        $0.8 million in 2022–23 contribution towards short stay accommodation in Laverton, WA

Scotdesco – water security feasibility study (p. 174)

•        $0.5 million over 2 years

Culture and language

Supporting the Arts (p. 166)

•        includes $5 million in 2022–23 ‘to upgrade training and accommodation facilities at the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association Dance College’

Funding for Six Rivers Aboriginal Corporation (Tasmania) (p. 171)

•        $0.6 million over 3 years to enable ‘Tiagarra’ (a museum and cultural centre) to reopen and undertake cultural engagement activities

First Nations – community projects (p. 170)

•        $0.5 million for a Walpiri cultural project in Yuendumu, NT


Mental Health Supports for Flood-affected Communities in New South Wales (p. 131)

•        includes $4.5 million in 2022–23 targeted to First Nations peoples

Other measures

15th Anniversary of the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples (p. 169)

•        $1.5 million in 2022–23

Eileen Cummings v Commonwealth of Australia – settlement (p. 170)

•        $50.5 million in 2022–23 to provide compensation to ‘deceased estates of members of the Stolen Generations and kinship group members, and live kinship group members’ per settlement of Eileen Cummings v Commonwealth of Australia

Youpla Group Funeral Benefits Program – establishment (p. 194)

•        $7.2 million over 2 years ‘to establish the Youpla Group Funeral Benefits Program to help the families of people affected by the collapse of Youpla Group’

Source: Australian Government, Budget Measures: Budget Paper no. 2: October 2022–23, page references as indicated.


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