Last year's budget came as a complete shock to many Indigenous Australians. For weeks leading up to the announcement, the government had signalled that too much money was being wasted on red-tape in Indigenous Affairs.
The scale of the cuts on budget night was massive, with $534 million taken out of the Indigenous Affairs portfolio in what the government called a "rationalisation."
It unveiled a new funding model for Indigenous organisations - the Indigenous Advancement Strategy - which was broken down into five areas:
- Jobs, land and the economy
- Children and schooling
- Safety and wellbeing
- Culture and capability
- Remote Australia strategies
Under the 2014 Federal Budget, the prime minister's Indigenous Business Policy Advisory Group and the Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services were slated to be abolished. More than $160 million of the cuts were to be taken from Indigenous health programs. The health savings were to be redirected to the Medical Research Future Fund.
Indigenous Australia’s peak representative organisation, the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, was told it would lose its $15 million funding from 1 July 2015.
Indigenous legal services had nearly all their funding axed just before last year's budget, and there was no new money in 2014. NATSILS said it would be forced to close offices and lay off staff.
But those cuts were reversed earlier this year by the government's top lawyer, George Brandis, after a huge backlash from every state and territory government, and much of the Indigenous community.
- More than 150 Indigenous services and programs were to be consolidated into just five - under the direct control of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
- The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples would get no more funding from July.
- The Torres Strait Regional Authority were to lose $3.5 million in funding by 2017-18.
- $54.1 million was to be spent on a permanent police presence in several remote Indigenous communities.
- $3.8 million would go towards the Australian Federal Police's continuing involvement in the Northern Territory Child Abuse Taskforce.
- $2.5 million was to train eight new community engagement police officers in the NT.
Sport and the arts
- The Clontarf Foundation would get $13.4 million over the next four years.
- $3.3 million to be given to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATIS) to digitise its collection. This has been raised to $5 million for this year’s budget.
- $18 million funding boost to the Remote Schools Attendance Strategy.
- A reduction in funding of about $2 million a year for the next four years for the Indigenous Languages Support Programme.
- $26 million to improving Indigenous teenage sexual and reproductive health.
- A $3 million funding cut to the National Tobacco Campaign.
- A co-payment of $7 to be introduced to see a bulk billing doctor. $5 to go to the Medical Research Future Fund.
- Job seekers under 30 would wait six months to get income assistance from the government. They must undertake approved government employment assistance programs.
- Some people under the Disability Support Pension will have their payments reviewed.
- Partially reduced funding of $15 million to legal aid commissions.
2015/2016 Budget Prediction
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said this budget will be “dull” and will focus on small business, employment and pensions.
For the Indigenous sector not much has been revealed. We know Tony Abbott has his priorities: Indigenous schooling, jobs and safe communities. So it is safe to say any new money will reflect those goals.
It is unlikely we will see the scale of cuts as we saw in the Indigenous Advancement Strategy because it was a one-off, centrepiece policy.