The Indigenous Advancement Strategy program design and delivery framework
This chapter covers the issues raised with the committee regarding the program
design and delivery framework of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS).
Streamlining Indigenous programs
Some witnesses saw potential benefits in streamlining 150 programs for
Indigenous Australians into the five IAS priority areas, as a way of making program
delivery more flexible, as well as reducing red tape for funding applications. For
example, Mr Mick Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social
Justice Commissioner, told the committee that when the program was announced,
he thought it had:
...the potential to offer great benefit and flexibility for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I believed that this approach
could provide more scope to develop on-the-ground responses to the issues that
confront our communities on a daily basis, and had the potential to move away
from a one-size-fits-all mentality that has for so long confounded our people.
I believed that if done properly, this restructure had the
potential to achieve the Australian government's stated aims of reducing red
tape and cutting wasteful spending on bureaucracy, which would in turn
translate to a greater share of funds being provided on the ground.
However, Mr Gooda reported that the 'high hopes' he had for the program
had 'not fully materialised' as:
...[t]he changes have meant deep cuts, uncertainty, stress and
anxiety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Similarly, Mr Les Malezer, Co-Chair, National Congress of Australia's
First Peoples (National Congress), told the committee that:
We certainly have no problem with the objectives of
streamlining or simplifying the process but, again as we have heard already, it
was being attempted too quickly, too dramatically and in a way in which our
people and communities have not yet been able to cope. We suspect that over the
next 12 months we will see further fallout from the problems that have occurred
Mr Gooda told the committee that 'if [Indigenous] people have confidence
in the outcome, we must also have confidence in the process'.
He further explained the importance of stakeholders having faith in the transition
to and implementation of the IAS competitive funding process:
...it was always understood that some organisations would be
de-funded through this process, because governments come in and set priorities,
which is the government's right, and some would miss out there. But my point to
government was that when that happens even the organisations that miss out have
to understand that they were treated fairly in the process.
Lack of consultation and engagement with Indigenous communities
One of the overarching themes of evidence to the committee was that
there had been a lack of consultation and engagement by government with
Indigenous communities in the program design and implementation of the IAS. For
example, Mr Gooda submitted:
Respectful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples regarding these significant changes was conspicuous by its
absence; there was little or no input from Indigenous peoples, their leaders or
their respective organisations into the design or the implementation of the
Moreover, Mr Gooda commented that there had been only limited
consultation with stakeholders about how existing programs for Indigenous
Australians were grouped into the five new IAS funding streams:
There was little or no consultation with those working on the
ground about which programs and activities were best kept together, or which
departments were best placed to administer them.
Mr Rod Little, Director, National Congress, also reported that they had not
been consulted at the beginning of the process and suggested there should have
been greater involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the
design and delivery of the IAS.
These concerns were also shared by smaller organisations and service
providers that made submissions to the inquiry. For example, Family Support
Newcastle submitted that they were unaware of any consultation process, beyond
a single information session about applying for funding:
To our knowledge, there was no consultation with service
providers at any stage about the nature of services or any other aspects of the
tendering processes. There was an information session about the funding (which
may have been called a consultation) but at no time were we invited to give
ideas about how the program should operate or how the tender process should be
Inala Wangarra also wrote that the IAS process failed to engage with
The Indigenous Advancement Strategy offered the rhetoric of
working with Indigenous communities but failed, from the onset, to engage
Indigenous communities and organizations operating at the coalface of service
delivery. There wasn't a consultation process that offered Indigenous people
the opportunity to participate in the development of the new reforms in
The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW highlighted
the need for more consultation in the design and implementation of Indigenous
[T]he development of innovative services requires careful
planning and consultation. There are many things to consider when planning
Aboriginal services, including community need, existing services, stakeholders
Some submitters to the inquiry commented that the transition to the IAS
process had been a 'top-down approach', which was an ineffective way of
This theme was drawn out by Mr Gooda, who told the committee:
My sense was that it was a bureaucratic process of officers
of the Department [of the Prime Minister and Cabinet] out there deciding what
was need[ed] by communities, when in fact that is the opposite of what you
should be doing. You should be engaging with the community to work out what the
community is saying.
Ms Liza Carroll, Associate Secretary, Indigenous Affairs, Department of
the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C or the Department), responded to
criticisms of the extent of government engagement and consultation with
Indigenous communities about the design and implementation of the IAS:
The IAS came into being through a budget related process.
Obviously those budget processes are more confidential. What we did in the lead-up
to that budget process was...look at all the reviews and things that had gone
before to get us to that place. Once the IAS was established we then
communicated about the IAS and the next steps. We are taking on board the fact
that people were asking for extra engagement and consultation in those early
stages, which is why, through the review process, we want to make sure that we
look at what engagement is needed before any future processes occur.
Ms Carroll also acknowledged that the Department now realises more
engagement should have been undertaken in the early stages of designing and
delivering the IAS:
...we probably had underestimated the amount of effort that we
are now realising was needed up-front. We recognised it needed some, but I do
not think we had recognised the depth of that early enough.
Ms Carroll added that PM&C had learned from this and were building
in more robust engagement processes to the ongoing implementation of the IAS:
...the key thing for us, I think, is that we did not engage
heavily enough at the beginning of the process. Post the budget decision and
announcement, we did not have a consistent enough engagement plan and mechanism
for engaging more broadly with service providers and the community more
generally, and a plan to then build that into thinking about how we get from
where we are to where we need to be. It was really about more not just
communication but also engagement up-front, which is why we are making sure we
have a much more consistent and thorough engagement process as we go forward.
The Department told the committee that PM&C has set up a branch that
will focus on not only the immediate reviews of the IAS but also will consider
how 'broader engagement, communication and consultation' with stakeholders
about the whole of PM&C's Indigenous program can be undertaken.
Program design and framework
The committee received evidence that the timeline for the design and
implementation of the IAS was too ambitious given the scale of the task and amount
of change already occurring in the area with the shift of policy and program
delivery to PM&C.
The transfer of all Indigenous programs to the IAS administered by
PM&C was announced by the government on 13 May 2014 as part of the 2014-15 Budget
This announcement stated that the IAS would be 'implemented gradually' over the
first quarter of the 2014-15 financial year.
Subsequently, the IAS Guidelines released in July 2014 indicate the IAS
was to be implemented from 1 July 2014 with a transition period of 12 months 'to
allow continuity of frontline services and time for communities and service
providers to adjust to the new arrangements'.
Mr Gooda drew attention to the scale of the changes to be achieved in the
Restructuring programs and funding processes, which will
affect around 1400 organisations with over 3000 funding contracts, is complex
and stressful. It is also time consuming and calls for a highly skilled and
culturally competent workforce that is cognisant of the magnitude of this task.
Mr Gooda added:
It will take time to build the administrative systems,
acclimatise staff in the new structure within PM&C, and for Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peoples, already cynical and fatigued by change, to have
confidence in the competence of those implementing these new arrangements.
In addition, as the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health
Organisation (NACCHO) explained in its submission, there were the
administrative reforms within government, being undertaken in parallel with the
[I]mplementation of the IAS to rationalise the 150 programs
into 5 streams was a decision of Government. The shift of responsibility for
Indigenous policies, programs and service delivery to PM&C from eight
government agencies from September 2013 was significant. In this time a total
of 19 months has expired. The Departments that previously had carriage for
particular components of Indigenous Affairs were the Attorney General's
Department, Department of Communications, Department of Education, Department
of Employment, Department of Environment, Department of Health, Department of
Industry, Department of Social Services and the Department of Human Services.
Furthermore no consultation was had with front line service providers about the
program design prior to shifting responsibilities or an assessment of the
likely or unlikely policy implications of the IAS.
Lack of an evidence base
Submissions to the committee observed that there did not appear to be a
clear evidence base for the program design of the IAS. For example, the
Literacy for Life Foundation stated:
We are not aware of there being a strong evidence base for
the actual model. The program logic, which connects the program areas to the
policy outcomes, is not at all clear, as we discovered when we tried to make
the work that we do fit into the particular program areas.
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency expressed serious concerns that
the program design of the IAS lacked an evidence-based approach:
There did not appear to be any evidence base directing the
changes to Commonwealth funding grants. Government policy including objectives
were unclear seemed to be driving the complete revamp of Commonwealth funding
to Aboriginal services. We seriously question the approach that was taken and
wonder what the objectives of the Government were. Certainly, the way the
changes happened and the overwhelming feeling in the Aboriginal community is
one of being under siege, uncertainty and insecurity.
These views were supported by NACCHO
The decision to streamline the 150 programs into 5 areas
without evidence or consultation about program design on such crucial programs
At the public hearing, Ms Carroll, PM&C stated:
A lot of work that had previously been done through ANAO and
the Department of Finance led to this policy initiative to streamline the
funding streams. The ANAO had a report, Capacity development for Indigenous
service delivery, which analysed [the Department of Families, Housing,
Community Services and Indigenous Affairs' (FaHCSIA)] funding for Indigenous
affairs. It found that since July 2007 a total of 820 organisations had
received funding from 84 different programs. On average each organisation had
4.5 funding agreements, and they were required to submit over 20,000
performance and financial acquittal reports, and that is the key driver for the
IAS program design
The committee received some evidence in support of the concept for
streamlining of 150 individual Indigenous programs into five broad programs. Reconciliation
Australia was of the view that the IAS structure 'could potentially improve the
effectiveness and efficiency of funding within Indigenous Affairs when properly
Mr Gooda explained that he supported the reform because, potentially, it
would create flexibility:
[W]hen you have 150 activities or programs there are 150
little boxes, and if you do not fit into one of those boxes you do not get
funded. When there are five there is lots of flexibility and it is a matter of
interpretation about how you address the core need of each of those programs.
But I still support that. I still think it creates a lot of flexibility.
Mr Gooda cautioned that it was important to 'lead people through the
process' and that it would take time for the new program structure, along with
the broader changes to administrative structures and staffing, to 'settle'.
However, the committee also received evidence that IAS' five broad
programs may not cover all the areas encompassed in the previous 150 programs.
For example, Mr Robert Dalton, Policy and Research Advisor, Northern Land
I understand there are possibly 150 Indigenous-specific
programs that have moved into five. In the context of the complexities of the
systems and processes that government use, I think it is almost impossible to
escape the conclusion that something would have fallen off the table. I am not
suggesting that that is a deliberate intention from the government, but the
amount of administrative work that would have had to go into that collapsing of
150 programs would suggest that it was inevitable that something would have
The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW stated that
the streamlining of programs had caused confusion as it was not clear how
existing programs were to fit into the 'very narrow scope of the options' in
the IAS funding streams:
Drug and alcohol and social and emotional wellbeing programs
were confused as to which section they fit and how their programs fit in to the
IAS given they had been moved from the Department of Health. The Safety and
Wellbeing program was very poorly described with no reference to the previously
funded programs, its relationship to health and health service delivery or to
existing policies and manuals/handbooks.
Mr Malezer, National Congress, gave a further example of programs
dealing with youth issues as not seeming to fit in the IAS programs:
Remember, it is a very broad and flexible program now, and it
has five priorities that the government has identified and so on. But one of
the things that we were noticing just recently is what has happened to the
attention to youth. There is this focus upon children and education, this focus
on jobs and this focus on various things, but what can we see in there in
relation to how our youth are going to be affected by this? Our youth are a
very serious problem, not only because they are the generation of tomorrow but
because we are facing high suicide rates, continuing incarceration, drug abuse
and other things like that.
NACCHO argued that IAS funding did not cover advocacy and policy services
as these services were not provided for in the five broad programs.
Literacy for Life also had these concerns:
...the five priority areas were framed up in a way that the
work we proposed to do, raising adult literacy levels on a population basis,
did not fit neatly inside. Yet, low levels of English language literacy within
the Aboriginal adult population are incontrovertibly a major underlying
determinant of problems in all the priority areas.
Ms Christina Davidson, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Northern
Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists spoke about the importance of culture and
the need to recognise that importance in Indigenous funding. She highlighted
the role of culture in driving success in a wide range of areas. She also argued
that funding for cultural activities did not seem to be recognised as integral to
the policy priorities of the government.
Mr Geoffrey Scott, Chief Executive Officer, National Congress, explained
that he had tried to raise with PM&C some of the concerns he had regarding
the program design, timing and streamlining:
When the program was first coming out, I was talking to Mr
Gooda and had a few chats with the officers in Prime Minister and Cabinet. We
were looking at some of the programs and citing the potential problems of the
competitive tendering, of the way the program was designed, that they were
trying to roll programs into five other programs and what the potential fallout
and timeframes would be—trying to cite the potential problems and damage that
was going to be caused. They were noted and ignored. Maybe at this point the
decision had already been taken and it was too late; I do not know.
Funding through a competitive
Evidence to the committee highlighted two concerns about the shift to a
competitive tender model:
that such a model disadvantaged Indigenous corporations; and
that the model used did not recognise the enhanced outcomes of
service delivery by Indigenous organisations.
Disadvantage to Indigenous
The committee heard the view that the move to a competitive funding
arrangement positioned small, Indigenous community-controlled organisations
against well-resourced and experienced applicants, including large not for
profit associations and the university sector.
It was argued that this shift to a competitive funding process was a
significant change that many Indigenous organisations were ill-equipped to deal
with. Mr Gooda advised:
Many organisations had neither the capacity nor the resources
to put together the kind of application required with the tender, and those
that did spent a significant amount of time and money to complete their
application. I am aware that many of our organisations hired consultants just
to complete their application process, many without successes.
Ms Lisa Briggs, Chief Executive Officer, NACCHO, agreed that the
transition to a competitive process was difficult as:
...it was coming from what was an untendered process to now an
open market tender process where [organisations and service providers] have to
compete for funds. Historically we had lobbied really hard not to have that particular
process or another process put in place because, historically, we had seen
reduction either in funding or diversion from Aboriginal organisations to
mainstream services. Hence we have had issues around reach and capability of
mainstream services as to whether they were able to do that. So a lot of the
angst comes from historical knowledge over the 45 years that our member
services have been around.
Ms Kirstie Parker, Co-Chair, National Congress, also had some
reservations about whether a competitive funding process was the best way of
funding services for Indigenous Australians:
[C]ompetitive tendering on the face of it should be an
acceptable process; however, the confidence that our members have around
acceptance of and value being placed on the expertise within our community
organisations is less than perhaps it could be if things had been different
historically over time. If the relationships that our organisations have within
our communities and the involvement of local people in those organisations need
to be appreciated and valued—as opposed to organisations that may not have
anything to do with a particular community or a particular group of people that
try to come in and impose a whole different set of values and a lack of
appreciation for community nuance, histories and cultures—it might be a
... of course organisations have to be functioning well and
there have to be expectations placed upon them. But in some cases we have had
organisations doing a terrific job and clearly meeting the demands of the
community and being supported by the community but being forced into a process
of competitive tendering.
PM&C acknowledged that the transition to the new arrangements has
been a significant shift for many organisations delivering services to Indigenous
communities. Ms Carroll, PM&C, explained the rationale for competitive
The competitive funding round is one element of the broader
IAS reform agenda. The IAS is designed to manage a more strategic investment in
Indigenous affairs. The IAS also seeks to improve the way government does
business, including simpler program management arrangements, less red tape and,
in particular, fewer performance and financial and acquittal reports. The new
arrangement seeks to provide more flexibility and a more consistent approach
across the different program areas while allowing for local-level decisions and
While some PM&C staff were made available to assist organisations
with their applications, Ms Carroll admitted:
...even we had underestimated the breadth and difficulty for a
number of organisations. Some of that is what contributed to the fact that we
were not able to...finish our assessment process at the end of last financial
year, because we had underestimated how difficult that transition would be for
However, Ms Carroll also reported that while difficult for
organisations, the process will provide clarity around what is being funded and
what outcomes are being achieved.
No recognition of enhanced outcomes
from Aboriginal led service delivery
Witnesses were concerned that the benefits of Aboriginal-led service
delivery were not recognised in the process. For example, Family and
Relationship Services Australia submitted that many applicants were dissatisfied
with the weighting given in the IAS assessment process to established programs
with connections to communities that were delivering good outcomes:
The lack of weighting, particularly with respect to
developing and maintaining working relationship[s] with Indigenous communities
and other relevant stakeholders disadvantaged organisations that had a
long-standing history of working with communities and other local providers.
The Central Land Council (CLC) spoke of their concerns in this area:
The CLC remains deeply concerned that the IAS program design
does not support Aboriginal people and their communities to determine funding
priorities, nor adequately ensure that funding is directed to Aboriginal
controlled service provision as a priority.
The CLC also highlighted the possible outcomes of this approach:
The CLC remains concerned about the consequences of the
increasing use of non-Aboriginal nongovernment organisations (NGOs) in
Aboriginal service provision, particularly in relation to the fragmentation of
service delivery, lack of coordination with Aboriginal organisations and
service providers, lack of genuine capacity development outcomes and indeed the
gradual erosion, undermining and loss of Aboriginal-controlled organisations.
Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory (APO NT) were
concerned that the competitive funding process may not take into account the
benefits to government of funding Indigenous organisations, including lifting
Indigenous employment rates, and fostering community self-reliance and
The Aboriginal controlled organisations delivering these
services are not only best suited for doing so, but provide the priority
outcomes that the Government is seeking in terms of sustainable Aboriginal
employment as well as experience and engagement in governance and management,
and the development of community self-reliance and responsibility. Government
investment would be better placed in supporting and funding the further
development of these organisations based on demonstrated outcomes and quality
assurance in governance, management and service delivery.
Ms Parker, National Congress, stressed the importance of supporting and
building capacity in Indigenous organisations, so they could continue to
deliver more effective and appropriate services for communities:
Given our peoples clear expression of a desire for our people
to be involved integrally in the services and the supports that are provided to
our community, it goes to supporting the capacity of organisations to deliver
those aspirations...No-one is going to deny that systems and processes cannot
always be adhered to the maximum extent possible; however, if community
organisations were supported to be able to build that capacity, that would provide
a much higher level of comfort for our communities going forward. It should not
be about penalising organisations that historically have been neglected in
terms of funding and support; it should be about turning the relationship
around and saying, 'What is it that you need to deliver to your communities and
how can we help you build the scaffolding and struts in to underpin it?'
NACCHO questioned a process which did not appear to take into account
the evidence of the success of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations:
The tendering process particularly the selection criteria
surrounding ability to demonstrate outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people is in question given the success that Aboriginal Community Controlled
Health Organisations have been able to produce through evidenced-based NACCHO
Report Cards on direct contribution towards Closing the Gap targets of 66%
reduction in Child Mortality rates and 33% increase in Life Expectancy rates.
The CLC was also concerned that there may be a number of successful
organisations with 'no expertise in delivering services to Aboriginal people'.
In response to these concerns, the minister reported that 46 per cent of
funded organisations were Indigenous and 55 per cent of IAS funding is
going to Indigenous organisations.
Prior to this announcement of the final figures, the minister provided
comparative figures indicating that under previous arrangements, as at
December 2014, fewer Aboriginal organisations were funded (around 30 per
cent). In addition, the minister acknowledged that 'non-Indigenous
organisations such as universities, schools, pre-schools and large mainstream
employers have always been an important part of the Indigenous service delivery
Lack of clarity regarding spatial
distribution of resources
The submission by Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation
(ANTaR) also commented on the lack of engagement in determining the services
required by a community and the limitations of competitive tendering in
performing this function:
ANTaR is concerned about the extent of the process used to
establish community need, particularly the extent to which Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people were engaged in establishing need, including any
unfilled services gaps or duplication.
While ANTaR notes that there is also a 'demand driven' and
'ad hoc' funding process alongside the IAS competitive tendering process, it is
nonetheless difficult to see how a competitive tendering process is able to
meet community need in a targeted and appropriate manner.
ANTaR noted that PM&C had prepared regional profiles without
appropriate consultation with local communities:
[Detailing] what services were provided for in each region,
including what their needs were, what was currently funded and where the gaps
were at the regional level.
ANTaR is concerned that there doesn't appear to have been a
structured approach to engaging with communities in each region on their
particular needs or whether they felt there were needs that are unmet.
PM&C explained to the committee how the spatial distribution of demand
was determined and resources distributed to reflect that demand:
In terms of the grant funding round, we did a service print
for each of our areas, and that was based on current service delivery, noting
that...it was difficult to get a complete picture of Indigenous-specific funding
across the country, across the myriad programs that existed before. We took as
much information as we could from the agencies that logged in to PM&C and
we did a service print for each of the regions. That was a core document that
we did in terms of the grant funding round...In terms of the funding round, we
had assessment panels that did each application. Concurrently, we had regional
assessment teams set up as well. Every application for a region was looked at
in the region in which it impacted as well. All of that information then went
to our governance forum, which made recommendations to the minister.
PM&C also spoke about the development of regional profiles to assist
with the assessment of applications:
...we also did profiles of each region in terms of demographics
and population and various indicators of disadvantage so that when people were
assessing the applications they knew not only the number of Indigenous people
living in that particular location and the proportion of the population but
also what were particular issues in those locations.
In addition, at the conclusion of the funding round PM&C indicated:
There was a process whereby once all the recommendations had
been made and we had an initial set of recommended projects, we cut that by
location and compared that sort of information to see whether some adjustments
were warranted across the country and between projects. Some further advice to
the minister came out of that final adjustment process.
The IAS Guidelines state that organisations receiving more than $500,000
of IAS funding in a particular year are required to incorporate under
The committee received evidence suggesting that this requirement would be time consuming
and expensive for some Indigenous organisations. For example, Ms Briggs, NACCHO,
told the committee:
That particular guideline...is not well accepted amongst [NACCHO
members] for a couple of reasons: (1) the cost changes in going from one act to
another, depending on the scale, size and capability within the organisation to
do that; and (2) you have to rely on going to a special AGM to ensure that your
members are going to pass that in the first place. So it is quite an onerous
process that you might not be able to achieve, depending on the grant. I think
what a few of our member services tried to do then to ensure that they would not
be put in such a situation was they would apply underneath the threshold of the
Mr Gooda reported that this requirement had made some representatives of
the Indigenous community feel that Indigenous organisations are being treated
differently to non-Indigenous organisations applying for IAS funding:
The first problem is that Aboriginal organisations are
treated differently. I think that the limit is $500,000 worth of funding. Once
you get to $500,000 worth of funding, if you are non-Indigenous organisation,
you have to incorporate with [the Australian Securities and Investment
Commission (ASIC)]. If you are an Aboriginal organisation, you have to
incorporate under the ORIC [Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations]
legislation. People just see that as limiting our choice. Why would you have it
if we are all going to be treated the same? I think there could be some
implications in the Racial Discrimination Act.
Ms Collins, Deputy Chairperson, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) and Chief Executive Officer, APO NT,
explained another difficulty with the requirement:
They need to realise that [the] IAS is not the only
organisation that funds them. For example, at [North Australian Aboriginal
Justice Agency (NAAJA)] we are registered under ASIC. In our funding agreement
with IAS it says, 'You must be registered under ORIC, or, if you are registered
under ASIC, you may be required to move across to ORIC'. We were asking, why?
We have great governance structures. We are low risk. So why is it essential
for people to move across to ORIC? They are forcing people to move across to
another organisation, which is a huge ask. You have to change your
constitution, you have to change your structures, you have to change a lot of
things—when these organisations are running effectively. I could understand it
if some organisations were not running at a good governance level. I understand
that. But what they have done here is really dictate who Aboriginal
organisations need to be registered under. 
Ms Collins highlighted that this IAS stipulation could lead to conflict
and inconsistency with the funding agreements some organisations have with
other departments, which may have different incorporation requirements.
Mr Rod Little, Director, National Congress, was concerned that the IAS
incorporation stipulation could increase the reporting burden on some
On top of [the IAS requirements], not only do you have ORIC's
annual reporting requirements but, if you are receiving funding from a state or
a territory, there is additional funding reporting that you are going to be
required to do. As I said, the organisations source funding to develop their
applications, but they also source funding to produce their reporting
requirements. ORIC is one of those that requires a lot of reporting.
The requirement to incorporate was clarified at the hearing by PM&C:
Effectively the requirement is that if an organisation is an
Aboriginal organisation that is currently incorporated under ASIC or ORIC then
it retains whatever kind of incorporation it has. If it is a non-Indigenous
organisation and it is not incorporated under ASIC it is required to
incorporate under ASIC. If it is an Indigenous organisation that is not
incorporated currently under ASIC or ORIC it is required to [incorporate as
required under the IAS] or it can apply for an exemption.
Ms Carroll, PM&C, commented that the Department was aware there was
some confusion on this issue following public statements made by the minister.
She added that the Department has taken steps to clarify this with the minister
and relevant organisations.
PM&C reported to the committee that, as at 26 June 2015, 54
organisations will be required to transfer their incorporation status. Nine of
these are non-Indigenous organisations that will be required to transfer to the
Corporations Act 2001; 35 are Indigenous organisations that would be
required to transfer from state and territory legislation to the Corporations
(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006.
Suitability of PM&C as a service delivery agency
Effectiveness of the regional
Evidence to the committee indicated that although the officers in the
PM&C regional office network were helpful, they too were constrained by the
lack of information from Canberra PM&C and conflicting information was
provided to applicants by the regional and national offices.
Literacy for Life spoke about the interaction they had with their
The Foundation was very satisfied with the way that the Dubbo
Office of PM&C dealt with us in the period prior to us making our submission,
and in the period since the results were announced. The staff have been very helpful
and very professional. It was nevertheless a problem that staff themselves had very
little information initially, and everybody was playing catch-up as the time for
submissions got closer.
Ms Seranie Gamble, Outreach Project Manager, Northern Territory Legal
Aid Commission, spoke of conflicting information provided to her by the
regional and national offices regarding submitting a demand-driven application.
PM&C regional offices appeared to have little influence in
decision-making. One example which illustrated this was provided by Mr Matt
Fawkner, Principal Legal Officer, Katherine Women's Information and Legal
Service. Mr Fawkner spoke about his proposal for a domestic violence duty
lawyer service. The proposal was supported by the local magistrate and police
superintendent, and Mr Fawkner had canvassed the idea at a meeting of a local
reference group, which included PM&C's Katherine representative:
[The Katherine PM&C representative] said, 'Come and see
me. I think you should put a demand driven application in. I will support it.
This is a great idea.' I had the support of the whole [local reference group]
meeting. So I put it in and I did not hear much. I contacted them every now and
then to find out how it is going. [The PM&C representative] went through it
at the local level and ticked it off: yes. When it came to Darwin, they ticked
it off. It went to Canberra, and it stalled. I did not know what was going on.
Mr Fawkner lodged the application for demand-driven funding in July 2015
and did not hear any response until December 2015, when he was informed that
the application was unsuccessful.
Mr Fawkner explained the reasons given for the application not being
The key elements are: it did not represent value for money;
although it recognised the potential need, it failed; and it did not align with
the Commonwealth's broader policy direction.
Mr Fawkner described a subsequent meeting with PM&C's Katherine
representative to discuss the unsuccessful application:
I said to him, 'What happened?' Words cannot explain his
dismay, frustration and disappointment at this response. He had one comment to
make during this application process, and this was early on. He said: 'There
are a couple of items in your budget that I just query. I was never given the
opportunity to explain them and they were not major.' He said nothing more than
that. That was the only comment he ever made about it...
Loss of specialist expertise
arising from transfer of programs from line agency to central agency
Along with the confusion the transfer of programs to PM&C has
caused, witnesses highlighted not only the loss of expertise but the
relationships built up with contact officers in line departments.
Mr David Jan, Manager of Policy Development and Corporate Services, Local
Government Association of the Northern Territory, told the committee of a
general perception that PM&C officers assessing the programs did not have
the requisite knowledge and experience.
Mr Robert Dalton, Policy and Research Adviser, Northern Land Council, spoke
about the decisions around land and sea rangers and argued that the loss of
expertise in the decision making has resulted in adverse outcomes :
The Northern Land Council, and other organisations involved
in the field of land management, such as the North Australian Indigenous Land
and Sea Management Alliance, more colloquially known as NAILSMA, have long
retained concerns that IAS funding decisions for technical and specialist-type
projects have been removed from the line agencies that actually feature
significant expertise in their area. The decision making process that handed
power to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet may, in fact, have led to
staff making decisions in areas that they may, at best, be inexperienced in
and, at worst, unqualified to be making decisions on.
Save the Children Australia highlighted that the confusion and concern
regarding the devolution of 150 programs was compounded by machinery of
government changes which meant that 'in many cases local departmental contacts
and key administrative arrangements had changed'. They argued that establishing
new organisational structures and decision making processes before a major
tender process would have been preferable.
When questioned about the transition to a service delivery agency and
the loss of expertise and relationships in line agencies, PM&C responded:
[I]s PM&C capable of walking and chewing gum at the same
time? Yes, I believe it is. We have done a lot of work to integrate the program
management and delivery functions of Indigenous Affairs into PM&C. Many
people at the most basic level of our corporate services have done placements
out on the ground to understand the nature of what it is like to be a
government business manager or an Indigenous engagement officer out in remote
Australia. Some people working in back function actually used to work in
Indigenous Affairs, so we have moved some people around. At the level of
policy, we are participating in deliberations of policymaking across
government. We have a standing item with the heads of department—the
secretaries have a standing item on Indigenous Affairs, so we have the
opportunity to interact with all the agencies. As far as skills go, we
inherited all the people working on Indigenous-specific work in all of the
departments. Those people maintain their links to those departments, and we
encourage that as part of our work.
PM&C addressed criticisms of its ability to take over particular
[O]n the criticism that Health—which is in the building next
door to where we work in Woden—is divorced, we have alcohol and other drugs and
related programs in PM&C, and we work very closely with Health. As a central
coordinating agency, we also have the power in PM&C to engage with [our] colleagues
in Health at that high policy level. There is no perfect way of building
government, but I would argue that it is good for PM&C to walk on the wild
side with those of us in Indigenous Affairs and get out on the ground and get
involved in service delivery. Colleagues in the department are doing that. It
is good for Indigenous Affairs that we have a seat at the centre of government
to engage in the policymaking process in a way that, in my experience,
Indigenous Affairs has not done preciously.
The downside of a big transition is just the change of the
big transition. Our skills out in the regions—many of the people are the same
people that would have been working for [the former Department of Families,
Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs] a few years ago. We have
also had the opportunity to bring new skills in. Is that process completed? No,
I do not think it is. In a sense, it should never be completed. If we challenge
ourselves about being the best we can be in this area, that process will never
be complete. Some stakeholders, I think, are unhappy because we have just upset
some of the relationships that they had with people in this transition.
Distribution of programs across portfolios
The transition to the IAS occurred against a backdrop of machinery of
government changes that centralised Indigenous programs under PM&C.
However, a few programs have remained in the Departments of Health and
Education, as well as the Attorney-General's Department, which will be
discussed in turn.
Department of Health
Some Indigenous programs remain with the Department of Health following
the transition to IAS. Ms Briggs, NACCHO, indicated that this means her
organisation is negotiating both the IAS and the Department of Health grants
process concurrently. Ms Briggs explained this will be a challenging process,
should programs remain split between portfolios:
The doubling up of trying to put forward better ways and
better mechanisms can be challenging. [It is difficult for health providers] to
separate social and emotional wellbeing [programs and] drug and alcohol
services [funded under one department] from clinical practice [funded by
another]. When we are delivering to the person that is walking in the door, it
is not done in a piecemeal way. For PM&C, trying to understand the model
can be difficult, if they do not know what that model looks like and how it all
comes together. I think that in itself, in terms of assessment, can be
challenging for the outcome.
Ms Briggs stressed the need for a single funding agreement, which would
encourage collaboration and learning between departments, and make service
provision more effective:
I would say though, if we had a single funding agreement,
that would give us the opportunity, as part of the Indigenous Australia health
program, for PM&C and the Department of Health to come together—and also to
learn some of the measures that our sector has done in terms of how you measure
quality outcome of a person. I think there is a lot of value that PM&C
could learn from Health, because we have been doing it for such a long time.
Ms Carroll, PM&C, summarised the rationale for the machinery of
government changes which left some programs with the Department of Health:
Obviously, the government had made a commitment that it was
going to bring the different elements together, and it was about the Indigenous
specific funding. So every department should have activities within broader
mainstream programs that still go to assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people, and some of that might be around particular activities, but
they will be part of a broader mainstream program. The key area that did not
come into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet was health, where
the vast majority of that funding stayed with the Department of Health. The
rationale for that was the links between health in particular and the mainstream
health system and the importance of maintaining those links. So the government
made a decision that, because of the embedded nature, it was not going to bring
the Indigenous health components across. Primarily, there is a little bit in
Attorney-General's, but, apart from that, most of what would be classified as
Indigenous specific funding came into the Department of the Prime Minister and
Cabinet. That was the framework and the rationale behind it.
Ms Caroline Edwards, First Assistant Secretary, PM&C,
highlighted the benefits of bringing some programs together into PM&C,
while leaving others with the Department of Health:
[T]hat is providing some great streamlining and
accessibility. We are much closer to the ground with [the Opal petrol sniffing
initiative] and youth diversion [programs]...in the same place. Yes, we accept
there are some instances where it is causing people to be inconvenienced and we
are working hard to try to reduce any red tape increase. But there are also
real benefits for having those particular elements of Health over with the rest
of our community safety agenda.
Ms Edwards also indicated that the department is working towards a
single funding agreement in consultation with the Department of Health.
Department of Education
The committee heard that the process for transferring programs from
departments to PM&C did not appear to be well coordinated. For example, Universities
Australia told the committee that most of its member organisations were caught
up in the transfer of programs from the Department of Education to PM&C, as
three Indigenous-specific programs were transferred to the IAS at a time when
the sector was considering how best to implement the recommendations from the
2012 review of higher education access and outcomes.
Universities Australia indicated that the transfer of these programs to
the IAS before the sector had responded to the 2012 review recommendations had:
...resulted in confusion and concern about the strategic
direction for the sector in playing its part in closing the gap.
In addition, there was concern expressed that tertiary funding programs
would be covered under the IAS priority area regarding 'children and
schooling', which is predominantly focused on schools and not higher education.
Professor Mark Rose, member, Universities Australia explained:
One of the problems, I think, is the fact that, in the
government's three strategies - kids into schools, adults into jobs and safe
communities - and then extrapolated to the five [IAS funding streams], higher education
was not there. We were invisible and mute in the whole process, and that
delivers a grave concern to us who have worked in this sector for a very long
time and whose sector is filled with our kids and our grandkids. So, it is not
just an artificial sort of view of this; this is our families' lives, at the
end of this. I cannot understand why higher education, which is a strategic
tool for closing the gap, was ignored. It confuses me.
When asking government about this, Professor Peter Buckskin, Chair,
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium,
indicated the reply was that it was a matter of machinery of government
Professor Buckskin confirmed that funding for the Indigenous Tutorial
Assistance Scheme (ITAS) is currently quarantined
but Mr Mark Warburton, Principal Analyst, Universities Australia indicated that
there is no clarity around what occurs next.
PM&C responded that universities were consulted before the IAS grant
application process opened, and that the sector was advised that aspects of
their funding were included in the IAS process. However, PM&C admitted they
could 'possibly have engaged a bit earlier'.
Ms Elizabeth Hefren-Webb, First Assistant Secretary, Schools, Information and
Evaluation Division, PM&C, commented that:
I think there had been general discussions with universities
and university peak bodies. But final confirmation about the inclusion of that
funding in the round was pretty much just before the opening of the round. So I
think that is a legitimate criticism and we have taken that on board.
The transfer of programs between the Attorney-General's Department to
PM&C appeared to be an area of particular confusion with conflicting
information being provided to organisations. For example, Ms Collins, NATSILS
and APO NT, told the committee:
[Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services] were
funded under the Attorney-General's Department. We were originally funded under
two buckets: one was for operational and one was for advocacy. Then, over the
last three-year contract, they combined the two buckets of money together, so
the advocacy and the operational bucket came under the one funding agreement.
Within the Northern Territory, we were then funded when they put the
intervention in place in the Territory, so we were funded under the Northern
Territory National Emergency Response, which they now call Stronger Futures.
Those funds were originally managed by the Attorney-General's Department. We
were then informed that the Stronger Futures funding was now being moved to
PM&C, and we had to apply for the funding through the IAS.
Ms Collins confirmed that NATSILS has now been advised their funding for
their operational budget and for programs they deliver will now come from
...for the Aboriginal legal services and also for NATSILS, the
peak body, that operational funding comes from the Attorney-General's
Department. What is funded under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy is for
other programs outside of the operational contract, such as Stronger Futures.
Ms Suzan Cox, Director, Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission, argued
for all Commonwealth legal service program funding and management to be with
one department (the Attorney-General's Department) and be administered on a
five year cycle to enable better planning and more effective service delivery.
Ms Christina Davidson, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Northern
Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists spoke about the confusion between the
Attorney-General's Department and PM&C regarding arts funding.
When asked about this confusion, particularly in relation to funding for
Aboriginal legal services, PM&C replied:
It is a complicated situation, but we are pretty much on the
same page about what the situation is. Aboriginal legal services, by and large,
are funded out of the Attorney-General's Department. Prior to the election
there was an announcement that there would be a cut to that program. That was
across the whole of those programs. Subsequently, after the election, a small
area of those legal services came to PM&C—the family violence prevention
legal services; a small program called the Indigenous women's program; and a
program called supplementary legal assistance, which was part of the Stronger
Futures arrangements, but not payments that went to the Northern Territory like
most national partnerships ones; ones that were always paid by the
Commonwealth. Those three bits came over to PM&C together with their share
of those cuts...[So] the
situation remains that the vast majority of funding to provide legal services
is through the Attorney-General's Department, including the funding to the peak
body, which is now being provided by Attorney-General's Department, and the
core funding. 
PM&C added that they were working with the Attorney-General's
Department to ensure that funding for smaller programs, including some
highlighted by Ms Collins, was maintained:
Generally speaking the family violence prevention legal
services would have been provided maintained funding. There have been some on
and offs, small amounts of expansions and change of providers, but pretty much
there is the same level of funding as previously. For the Indigenous women's
program, which was a very small program of about $1 million I think for the
whole country, and the supplementary legal assistance, which was in the
Territory only arising out of Stronger Futures, all of the providers who
previously had been receiving those moneys have been offered a 12-month
extension of that funding...They were all provided effectively the same as they
had last year...
PM&C acknowledged that there was concern about the short duration of
It is because we, like the committee and Ms Collins, are
looking at how that works, having moved those small amounts over to PM&C,
when the bulk of the funding is with the [Attorney-General's Department (AGD)].
We are talking to AGD about how, after the current year's funding, we can make
sure that is streamlined and put back together. That is our aim: to make it a
single source. So the one year's funding is to make sure there is no loss of
funding in the meantime while these discussions happen. I know it is
The following chapter will discuss the information provided to the
committee about the IAS process, including information about IAS given to
potential applicants by PM&C. It will also look at the department's ongoing
work to refine and review the IAS framework, improve the competitive grants
round processes, and work to consult more effectively with stakeholders,
including Indigenous communities and organisations.
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