• The WA Govt will introduce a number of initiative to help decrease the state's Indigenous incarceration rates. (AAP)
The WA budget also focuses on Aboriginal health, mental health services, Ranger programs, protecting Murujuga, tackling domestic violence and suicide prevention.
By
Rangi Hirini

10 May 2019 - 6:19 AM  UPDATED 10 May 2019 - 10:02 AM

The McGowan government delivered its third budget yesterday, fulfilling its pledge to return the state to surplus after inheriting a debt from the former Barnett government. 

Yamatji man and State Treasurer, Ben Wyatt, tabled the budget and declared the Labor government had produced the lowest increase in household bills in 13 years.

“We recognise that households have had to share some of the burden of fixing the previous Liberal National Government’s financial mistakes, but the positive results can now be felt,” he said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the WA Government announced their ‘Our Priority’ strategy, which they called their ‘statement of intent’. On that list is the goal of reducing the state’s Indigenous prison population by 23 per cent in the next 10 years.

In the budget, the WA Government had made Indigenous incarceration one of their key focuses.

Currently, West Australian Indigenous people are imprisoned 60 per cent above the national average.

Over the next four years the government will be introducing new initiatives focused on reducing the over-representation they include:

  • $7.8 million to introduce the trail program to divert eligible offenders to culturally appropriate programs in the community as an alternative of fines
  • $6.6 million to assist people to meet bail conditions through the introduction of a bail support program
  •  $5.7 million to provide additional legal representation for prisoners on remand and introduce bail support programs for the metro area. 
  • Recurrent expenditure will increase by $17.6 million for legal aid service to handle the growing demands.

An increase in sentencing flexibility, increasing appropriate access to parole, where safe to do so, and expanding the use of electronic monitoring is also being looked at.

The state is currently awaiting the amendments to the fines enforcement legislation and the introduction of the Custody Notification Service, which will see an instant decrease in incarcerations. 

“This Budget builds on the McGowan Government’s commitment to reset the relationship between the State Government and Aboriginal people to one of a genuine partnership,” Minister Wyatt said. 

Indigenous incarceration wasn’t the only issue addressed in this year’s budget, the WA government has pledged to funding towards Aboriginal health, the environment, preservation of heritage, and suicide prevention.

ABORIGINAL HEALTH 

The McGowan Government announced $1.6 million towards creating a culturally appropriate accommodation for Aboriginal patients and their carers while down in Perth.

In March, Aboriginal controlled health service Derrbal Yerrigan relinquished control of the only long-term culturally appropriate accommodation option in Perth.

Both mental health and general health are areas the government has invested in across the state.  The Kimberley and Pilbara will see a range of different Alcohol and Drug support programs being funded.

  •  $9.2 million is going towards comprehensive alcohol and other drug youth service with residential rehabilitation low medical withdrawal beds and day programs in the Kimberley
  •   $1.3 million for construction of a renal unit at the Newman Health Service, which will house four renal dialysis chairs and supporting infrastructure
  • $1 million for Kimberley Mobile Dialysis Unit
  • $20.1 million North West Drug and Alcohol Support Program to reduce alcohol and other drugs harm in the Kimberley, Pilbara and Mid West
  • $914’000 for alcohol and other drug training for Aboriginal workers through the Strong Spirit Strong Mind program

The WA government will be also be investing $8.1 million for suicide prevention programs and a total of $224.8 million to address methamphetamine issues, both funding is for all West Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

JUSTICE AND COMMUNITY SAFETY

Not only is the West Australian government investing in reducing the incarceration rate of its Indigenous people but the government has also fixing its past mistakes

In July last year, a riot broke out at Greenough Regional Prison in Geraldton, 414 kilometres north of Perth. Ten prisoners escaped and more than $2 million worth of damage was done to the co-ed prison. This budget Premier McGowan has invested $12.3 million into securing a new female compound and enhancing security at the facility. 

Broome will also have a new prison, $1.4 million has been invested into the construction of a new facility, possibly on the outskirts of town.

“Closing the current Broome prison and the Government's commitment to build a new prison out of town offers huge opportunities for the Broome community and the Yawuru native title holders,” Minister Wyatt said in a statement. 

“A new use for the land the prison now occupies in a pivotal part of Broome has potential to enrich the town's built heritage and economy.” 

For Indigenous West Australians money has been invested in prevention programs and tackling the issue of domestic violence across the state. 

  • $6.5 million for Aboriginal Community Connectors (Community Patrols) program to improve community safety, and reduce community consequences of alcohol and other drug-related ‘at risk’ behaviour.
  • $11.3 million to support and expand the delivery of PCYC across the state, that includes:
                             -$2 million to establish a PCYC centre in Kununurra
                            -
    Redevelopment of the Broome  PCYC Centre as the West Kimberley Youth and Resilience Hub
                            - $1.1 million to upgrade the Carnarvon centre
  • $900’000 to deliver the Kimberley Juvenile Justice Strategy to develop and implement initiatives to improve remand and sentencing options, and to divert youth
  • $1.1 million of continued funding for the Kimberley Family Violence Service

 The government is also funding $11.7 million to establish new Family and Domestic Violence One Stop Hubs in the Perth suburb of Mirrabooka and the regional town of Kalgoorlie, for all West Australians. 

There will also be a trial to electronically monitoring high-risk domestic violence offenders.

ENVIRONMENT

Also a part of the WA Government’s ‘Our Priority’ strategy they announced the ‘Plan Our Parks’ initiative. The government plans to create five million hectares of new national and marine parks and reserves across Western Australia. 

More than $22 million extra has been invested to support the Plans for Our Parks Initiative.

  • $5.2 million for the Ningaloo Coast for joint management with Aboriginal rangers
  • $1.4 million to establish of Helena and Aurora Range National Park including the employment of three Aboriginal rangers
  • $5 million approved to meet the needs of future Indigenous Land Use Agreements associated with the delivery of Our Parks.

Other Environment Funding include continuing funding the Aboriginal Rangers Programs establishment of a new Fitzroy River National Park will be created and managed by the government and Traditional Owners, an additional $1.4 million will be spent on a management plan to ensure the health of the river.

Last year the WA government announced plans to World Heritage List Murujuga or Burrup Peninsular as it’s also known. Murujuga is the home to the world’s largest collection of rock art and is significant to the Aboriginal people in the nearby town of Karratha.  For this budget, more than $2 million has been invested into Murujuga.

  • $1.33 million has been committed to progress planning for the Murujuga Living Knowledge Centre and Tourism Precinct
  • $649’000 invested for the implementation of Murujuga Rock Art Strategy to deliver a scientifically rigorous approach to monitoring, managing and protecting the unique rock art.

TOURISM

Tourism has generated $10.4 billion for the WA economy and has been a major focus for the state government. The Tourism Minister has been flying in a number of international public figures since the state opened their new stadium in January 2018. 

Aboriginal tourism is a key focus for the government and this budget the state has promised $90’000 for the West Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council and will continue to fund that over the next four years.

Other spending in the sector includes:

  • $2.5 million towards Gwoonwardu Mia, the Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre in Carnarvon
  •  Murujuga Living Knowledge Centre and Tourism Precinct Planning
  • $500’000 planning for the future use of Koombana Bay site

Tourists and visitors will also be hit with an admission fee to National Parks of up to 31 per cent.

Minister Wyatt says he did not take into consideration who would win the Federal Election before handing down his budget, some of the announcements in the budget had already been announced and/or were already in effect.

WA’s debt is forecasted to rise next financial year as billions are spent on infrastructure, particularly roads and rail, but steadily decline afterwards.

Premier McGowan said WA was the only state in the nation paying down debt, which was saving hundreds of millions of dollars in interest payments.