Sarah Hudson’s report ‘Mapping the Indigenous program and funding maze’ for the Centre for Independent Studies exposes almost $6 billion dollars a year have been spent on more than 1000 Indigenous-specific programs across the country – over 90% of which haven’t been evaluated for effectiveness.
NITV Staff Writer

The Point
23 Aug 2016 - 6:21 PM  UPDATED 23 Aug 2016 - 6:21 PM


Sara Hudson has published extensively on Indigenous policy and issues for the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS). Her research focuses on Indigenous economic development, health and criminal justice.  Since joining the CIS in 2008, she has published over 60 opinion editorials in newspapers across Australia and numerous appearances on radio and television.


NITV: Your latest report says that billions have been wasted on Indigenous programs, what were your main findings?

SH: There are 1,082 indigenous programs run across federal, state and territory governments, as well as through Indigenous and Non-Indigenous NGO’s, but only 8% of those have been valued. Lots of money has been spent, but the problem is that we don’t know where it went and how much money was actually spent overall. We do know where some has been spent, but there is a lack of evidence in terms of the amount spent on indigenous programs.

NITV: Why do you believe there was such a large amount of money wasted? Was there one key thing that caused this?

SH: Lots of money has been spent on ‘Closing the Gap’, but we are not seeing a big change in the gap. It’s not true to say that there haven’t been changes, there have been. We’ve seen infant mortality rates decline and the amount of indigenous students finishing high school and moving into tertiary education increase, but overall the gaps are not closing.  A lot of the programs that are being created are not meeting the needs of Indigenous people. In many instances, the programs are not undertaking any consultation with the people they are targeting. The programs that are being funded aren’t necessarily needed. We are also seeing service duplication. The duplication is unnecessary.

NITV: Where could the money have been better spent?

SH: Often decisions (regarding programs) are coming from centralised government and told to the communities. What needs to happen is that communities (need to) have more say where money is needed and where the programs should go. Evidence says that successful programs come from Indigenous people and suggestions from community.

NITV: What can we be more accountable for the money that is slated for indigenous programs in the future?

SH: I think there needs to be more transparency. I often call it ‘the funding maze’, because it’s hard to track the funding. The Indigenous Advisory Council funding for instance has lots of spread sheets for the government that tracks the funding of programs.

The federal government is quite good at tracking funding of programs, but the states and territories are less so. Indigenous NGO’s aren’t too bad, as they collaborate with communities. It’s the Non-Indigenous that can be really hard to find. It’s almost impossible to know how much money gets spent. These NGO’s don’t have to say how much of their money is (being spent). They aren’t really reporting it.

More research reports by Sara Hudson:

Enabling Prosperity: Success Factors for Indigenous Economic Development  (Westpac)

Evaluation of the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Early Childhood Development (Australian Government)

Descriptive Analysis of the Strong Fathers Strong Families Programme (Australian Government)