Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Closing the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage

Joint Media Release with:

  • Peter Garrett MP
    Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth

    Mark Dreyfus MP

    Warren Snowdon MP
    Minister for Indigenous Health

The Gillard Government is continuing its unprecedented investment to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage with more than $1.6 billion in funding for improved health, education, essential services, welfare reform, recognition and advocacy and Indigenous languages and art.

The 2013-14 Budget strengthens the Government’s work to further improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians and to increase internet access in remote Indigenous communities. The Budget includes $783.5 million for new National Partnership Agreements that deliver a sustained effort to close the gap in these areas.

This Budget builds on major Government reforms including the $3.4 billion Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory package, the $1.5 billion Remote Jobs and Communities Program and the $5.5 billion National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing.

Investments include:

Renewed National Partnership Agreements to help Close the Gap

The Australian Government will work with Indigenous stakeholders and State and Territory Governments to continue our joint efforts to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

The Government will renegotiate agreements with states and territories to further improve Indigenous health and access to the internet in remote Indigenous communities:

  • Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes – the Government is investing $777 million over three years to 30 June 2016 to ensure Indigenous Australians continue to benefit from improved health services. The Government is also working closely with Indigenous Australians and their representatives to develop the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan. This plan will help to strengthen our efforts to close the gap in life expectancy and child mortality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
  • Remote Indigenous Public Internet Access Training and Maintenance – the Government is investing $6.5 million over three years to 30 June 2016 to continue to support Indigenous communities to participate in the digital economy and access government services online. The agreement supports the ongoing operation and maintenance of public internet facilities delivered under the original agreement and provides training to Indigenous people in the use of online technology.

The Australian Government expects states and territories to also continue their investment in National Partnership Agreements to help close the gap.

National Plan for School Improvement

The Australian Government will establish the new National Plan for School Improvement that will ensure every Australian child is able to get a world-class education, regardless of where they live, the school they attend, or their family background.

This will help to close the gap in education outcomes by providing additional funding and support for Indigenous students.

The new Schooling Resource Standard will deliver an additional $9.8 billion over six years for Australian schools, including directing specific additional funding to help Indigenous students achieve improved outcomes. This loading will provide between 20 and 120 per cent extra funding per Indigenous student, depending on the number of Indigenous students at the school. The new standard will also provide further support for students in low socio-economic areas and in regional and remote locations.

Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance)

The Government is also investing $659 million to extend funding under the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act. The funding will be maintained for programs and projects such as the Parental and Community Engagement Program and the Sporting Chance Program, which increase the engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in education.

More support for Indigenous students to complete secondary school

The Australian Government is investing a further $22 million in programs that help young Indigenous people finish their secondary education and go onto university studies.

The Government will provide an additional $10 million to the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) in 2012-13. The scholarships offered by the AIEF are helping young Indigenous people across the country to attend boarding schools. This new support brings the Government’s overall investment in the AIEF to $32 million since 2008, benefitting more than 2,300 Indigenous students.

The Government will also invest $12 million over the next four years in the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program. This funding will support 204 new scholarships for Indigenous students in years seven, eight and 11. Since 2006, the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program has assisted more than 1,500 Indigenous secondary and tertiary students with their education.

Supporting young people to get an education, skills and a job

The Australian Government will commit $127.5 million to extend key programs that help young Australians, including young Indigenous Australians, get a qualification, transition towards further study or training and gain employment.

  • Youth Connections program – $76.8 million: this program specialises in re-engaging young people in education or training by offering flexible youth support services such as individualised case management. Around 20 per cent of young people who participate in Youth Connections are Indigenous.
  • School Business Community Partnership Brokers – $46.9 million: Partnership Brokers enable schools and their communities to work together to support young people to complete school and make a successful transition to further education, training and employment. Twenty per cent of partnerships have an Indigenous focus.
  • National Career Development initiatives – $3.7 million: these initiatives, such as the myfuture career website and the Job Guide, help young Indigenous Australians manage their careers and enable them to participate more effectively in the workforce.

Cape York Welfare Reform

The Government will provide $24.5 million to continue the Cape York Welfare Reform measures in the communities of Coen, Mossman Gorge, Aurukun and Hope Vale for two calendar years to December 2015. This funding will build on the significant gains already made in restoring local Indigenous leadership and rebuilding social norms, school attendance, community safety, the care and protection of children and continue the work of the Family Responsibilities Commission. This investment includes new measures to further improve school enrolment and attendance and to provide better support for disengaged youth in the region.

The Government will continue to work closely with its partners the Family Responsibilities Commission, the Cape York Institute, the communities of Cape York and the Queensland Government on this next phase of reforms.

Community Legal Centres and Legal Assistance

The Government will provide an additional $12 million over the next two years for additional support for specialised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services. These services help some of Australia’s most disadvantaged people, assisting them when they come into contact with the juvenile and criminal justice system and helping women escape domestic violence.

In addition, $10.3 million over four years will go towards hiring additional lawyers, support staff and experts in Community Legal Centres around the country. This will include local Centres whose work includes a focus on the needs of Indigenous clients.

Municipal and Essential Services for Remote Communities

The Australian Government is providing $44.1 million in 2013-14 to continue to support the delivery of municipal and essential services for Indigenous people in about 340 remote communities.

This funding injection will supplement investments by state and local governments in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria to deliver basic services to remote communities, including power, water and sewerage services, garbage collection and disposal and road maintenance.

While the provision of municipal services is generally the responsibility of state and local governments, the Australian Government is making this additional investment in remote communities to ensure Indigenous families do not miss out.

Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program

The Gillard Government will invest $10 million over two years to continue the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program. The program provides funding for aviation safety upgrade works at remote airstrips across Australia, including in remote Indigenous communities. Safe, operational airstrips in remote communities are essential to ensure people in remote communities have access to health and emergency services, essential supplies and regional centres.

Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program

The Northern Territory communities of Wutunugurra and Canteen Creek will receive a $6 million boost from the Australian Government as part of the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program.

With the assistance of Australian Army personnel, the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program will deliver infrastructure such as housing, water, sewerage, health programs and training to local people in Wutunugurra and Canteen Creek, as well as providing vocational training for residents.

Tackling Trachoma

Funding of $16.5 million over four years will improve eye health for around 20,000 Indigenous Australians. The aim is to eliminate trachoma – an infectious eye disease that can lead to blindness – in affected communities.

At-risk communities will be regularly screened and treated, and facial cleanliness promoted. There will also be detection, referral and surgical intervention services for people with trichiasis (blinding trachoma).

Mosquito Control

We are investing $3.9 million over four years to continue funding mosquito control activities including a mosquito control program to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever in the Torres Strait and to the mainland. Funding will also support communication and coordination between Australia and Papua New Guinea to reduce communicable disease risk in the Torres Strait.

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples

The Gillard Government will provide $15 million over three years from 2014-15 to continue funding to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. This investment ensures Indigenous people will continue to have a strong national voice that promotes their views to governments and the community on issues and policies that affect them. This funding follows $29.2 million previously provided by the Government to establish the Congress, which includes funding for 2013-14.

Aboriginal Hostels Limited

We will provide Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) $6.2 million over two years to undertake capital upgrades to nine of its hostels in the Northern Territory and Queensland. AHL provides safe, comfortable, affordable and culturally sensitive temporary accommodation in more than 50 locations across Australia. AHL hostels enable Indigenous people to access a range of services such as education, healthcare, legal advice, training and employment.

Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

The Gillard Government is committed to recognising Indigenous people in Australia’s Constitution and wants meaningful reform that reflects the hopes and aspirations of Indigenous people and unites the nation.

$1.3 million over two years will be provided to support the work of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to establish a parliamentary and community consensus on referendum proposals.

This funding builds on our previous $10 million investment to Reconciliation Australia to promote public awareness and community support for Indigenous constitutional recognition.

Reconciliation Australia

We will provide $14.4 million over four years to support Reconciliation Australia’s work to promote reconciliation and build stronger relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Reconciliation Australia helps businesses and organisations develop Reconciliation Action Plans which include practical steps to create employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians. So far, more than 350 organisations have developed a Reconciliation Action Plan, resulting in nearly 20,000 jobs for Indigenous Australians, more than $15 million for educational scholarships for Indigenous students and about $58 million in transactions with Indigenous businesses.

Creative Australia – Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support Program

We will invest $11.3 million over four years to continue supporting Indigenous art centres and professional development for artists. This includes funding to develop a nationally-accredited training package to enhance the knowledge, flexibility and skills base of people working in the Indigenous visual arts industry. More than 6,500 Indigenous artists are involved in art centres across the country, providing vital cultural hubs in Indigenous communities and allowing all Australians to experience and enjoy Australia’s world-renowned Indigenous art.

Creative Australia – Indigenous Languages Support Program

The Gillard Government will provide $14 million over four years to extend the Indigenous Languages Support Program to support the maintenance, revival and development of traditional languages. This funding will help Indigenous communities work with schools, libraries and cultural organisations to ensure the continued and long-term use of traditional languages. This investment responds to the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Inquiry into language learning in Indigenous communities, ‘Our Land Our Languages’.

Creative Australia – National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) Dance College

The Gillard Government will provide an extra $1.7 million over four years for arts training organisations as a part of Creative Australia to secure the future of our Indigenous national arts training organisations, including the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association Dance College.

The college provides Indigenous youth with the opportunity to undertake traditional and contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance training.

The Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children

We will provide $1.3 million over two years to continue our support of the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children. The study is tracking the long-term development of more than 1300 Indigenous children in 11 communities, with the cooperation of their parents and teachers. The project provides policy makers with a strong evidence base to improve the design and delivery of services for Indigenous children in their early years.

Community Development Financial Institutions

The Gillard Government is providing $3 million to extend the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) pilot for a further year to June 2014. The pilot assists disadvantaged Australians with access to safe and affordable credit. The pilot specifically focused on assisting Indigenous people, assisting more than 600 Indigenous Australians to date.

This year, there is a choice – between the Gillard Government supporting initiatives to close the gap, or Tony Abbott’s strategy of cutting to the bone.

This budget keeps our economy strong, makes the smart investments for our future and ensures every Australian gets a fair go.