PM's controversial flagship Indigenous program overlooked in budget

Tony Abbott says constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australian's will unify the country.

The Government's controversial Indigenous Advancement Strategy, which featured heavily in Tony Abbott's first Budget when it was revealed, was only given a minor funding addition this year.

Budget documents showed the Government will spend $4.8 million in 2018, well after the next election, on ensuring a "consistent rate of indexation" for IAS funding. Nearly $7 million will also be redirected over the next three years for remote internet training under the Strategy.

"The funding will provide essential infrastructure such as computers, printers and internet access points to improve internet literacy and educational outcomes ... in around 75 remote communities," according to Budget papers.

The 2015 Budget is much tamer than the first effort of the Abbott Government, which cut over $500 million from the Indigenous Affairs portfolio last year. The unveiling of the IAS last year caused an upheaval in funding for Indigenous groups, which are still feeling the effects of the confusing rollout of the Strategy.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which took control if the Indigenous Affairs Department in 2013, didn't announce any significant Budget investments for the sector this year.

No surprises

There were no unexpected funding announcements in the 2015 Budget.

Earlier this year, the Attorney-General announced the Government would reverse massive cuts to community and Indigenous legal services. The Government said it would reinstate $11.5 million towards the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program.

The Government also revealed weeks ago it would commit $5.4 million to support elite private schools to take on Indigenous students.

In a welcome move, the Government announced last month it would provide $5 million in funding for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra for 2015-16.

According to Budget papers, the Government will extend funding over the next four years for the Native Title Respondents Scheme. The $5.8 million will provide "assistance for the legal outposts of respondents to native title claims, and assist industry representative bodies with Native Title Officer Costs", the Budget papers showed.


Federal Govt to spend nearly $1bn on maintaining investment in NT Indigenous communities

The Government revealed it will continue to spend nearly $1 billion on health, schooling and community safety in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.

It will establish a new National Partnership Agreement to replace the current Stronger Futures policy in the NT.

"The Government will redirect funding of $988.2 million over eight years to establish a new National Partnership Agreement on Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment," it said in its Budget paper.

Essentially, the money is not from new funding but a reallocation of current Stronger Futures funding between the Commonwealth and the NT. It will aim to tackle the "unacceptable levels of disadvantage still experienced by too many Aboriginal people" in the Territory.

A Budget paper breakdown shows how most of the money will be spent in there NT over the next four years:

  • $247.6 million on community safety
  • $183.5 million on schooling
  • $55.9 million on housing
  • $24.1 million on health

It will be complimented by a new Remote Indigenous Housing Strategy which the government is pouring $1.1 billion into over the next three years. It will fund the construction of around 1,000 new houses in "sustainable" remote Indigenous communities across Australia, according to Budget papers.

Focus on making states fund remote communities

The 2015 Budget confirmed the Federal Government's focus on handing funding responsibility for remote Aboriginal communities to the states and territories.

The Northern Territory will be given a one off payment next financial year of $154.8 million to take responsibility for its many remote Aboriginal communities.

Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania will each be given about $15 million this year to take over funding remote its Indigenous communities. The $90 million dollar Commonwealth payment to Western Australia, which saw the WA community closures movement begin, was also confirmed.

But, the Government will continue to provide essential municipal services to the troubled APY Lands in outback South Australia.

Welfare changes

The Government will spend millions of dollars on what it called a strengthening of the welfare system and getting more young people across Australia into work.

But, the Creating Parity report, the controversial review of Indigenous training and employment programs by mining magnate Andrew Forrest, received almost no attention in the 2015 Budget.

The Government will spend $2.7 million on trialling the Report's proposed Healthy Welfare card in up to three communities.

It will also spend nearly $150 million on extending income management for two years in selected disadvantaged communities across Australia.

No new funding for Congress

The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, the democratically elected body to represent Indigenous Australians, received no new funding in this Budget. All of its funding, about $15 million, was cut in last year's Budget. Congress wasn't the only organisation to find it had no new money.

The Clontarf Foundation, which got a healthy funding boost last year, will receive no funding in this year.  Indigenous teenage sexual health programs, which were given about $30 million last year, also got no new investment. The National Tobacco Campaign had about $3 million of its funding cut last year. It too didn't see any reinvestment this year.

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