Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

$1.3 billion towards closing the gap

The Australian Government has committed $1.3 billion to continue driving its national reform agenda to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

This is in addition to the Australian Government’s $3.6 billion investment through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Partnerships. With contributions from the States and Territories, Australian governments have committed $4.6 billion over the next ten years to closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage.

The Budget measures support the Australian Government’s closing the gap agenda of:

  • Making a sustained investment and undertaking fundamental reforms to improve delivery of government services;
  • Resetting our relationship with Indigenous people through engagement and partnerships;
  • Restoring personal responsibility at the individual level and expanding economic opportunities for Indigenous communities to reduce disadvantage and intergenerational poverty; and
  • Acting and intervening when the circumstances demand.

The 2009-10 Budget will deliver:

Jobs and economic participation

  • $50.1 million in additional funding to boost the resources of Native Title Representative Bodies, which represent native title claimants and holders, and support further initiatives to improve claims resolution rates.
  • $3.0 million for a Business Action Agenda to actively engage the private sector, including Indigenous business leaders, to progress Indigenous economic development.
  • $29.0 million for the fourth stage of the Torres Strait Major Infrastructure Program, a program which has been jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland Governments since 1998. This will provide vital local infrastructure projects like water and waste removal to improve living standards, at the same time creating business opportunities for local contractors.
  • $9.9 million in increased support for Indigenous art centres and arts support organisations, and to establish an Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct to build ethical business practices across the sector. Indigenous visual arts businesses are often the sole means of generating income in communities, especially in remote Australia.
  • $10.0 million over four years to improve school engagement for Indigenous students through an expansion of the Sporting Chance Program.
  • $6.0 million to continue the Australian Public Service (APS) Indigenous Employment Strategy for a further three years to increase the employment and retention of Indigenous Australians in the APS. This strategy supports the Australian Government’s commitment under the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation to increase APS employment from 2.1 per cent to 2.6 per cent or more, reflecting Indigenous representation within the broader population.
  • $202.4 million to reform the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program and the Indigenous Employment Program to assist more Indigenous job seekers to prepare for and take up work.

      As part of these reforms, savings of $326.7 million over five years from the CDEP program reforms will be redirected to fund the following employment and training initiatives for Indigenous job seekers:

      • $53.6 million over four years for a new Indigenous remote workforce strategy comprising 400 government services traineeships and 60 land and sea management positions;
      • $203.1 million over three years to ensure the sustainability of more than 1,600 jobs already created in the Northern Territory;
      • $60.2 million over four years for a new national network of 87 Indigenous Community Support Service providers across 139 communities to link Indigenous people with community services relating to health, housing, childcare and drug and alcohol misuse;
      • $190.6 million over five years for the reformed and expanded Indigenous Employment Program; and
      • $21.6 million over four years for the Workplace English Language Literacy program to support the reforms to the Indigenous Employment Program.

      These reforms complement reforms to the universal employment services (Job Services Australia) which will provide Indigenous job seekers with more tailored assistance as well as training and work experience. In addition, the reforms to CDEP will be supported through the Indigenous Economic Participation National Partnership Agreement, which will see the creation of around 2,000 jobs for the delivery of government services that were previously supported by CDEP.

    Addressing disadvantage in remote Australia

    • $807.4 million to continue our commitment to closing the gap in the Northern Territory (NT) and support the safety of women and children, including $156.6 million for remote policing and substance abuse initiatives, training for new NT police, five permanent police stations and the continued operation of 10 existing stations.
    • $58.3 million to increase access to eye and ear health services, particularly in remote and rural areas.
    • $11.0 million to improve access to dental health services in priority areas.
    • $9.0 million to establish a Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services who will work across all agencies to drive improved service delivery and cut through administrative barriers to deliver practical results for Indigenous Australians.
    • $5.5 million in continued funding for the National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Task Force to continue its investigations into the nature and extent of violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities.
    • $3.8 million to improve pathology services supporting the effective management of diabetes among Indigenous people.
    • $3.7 million in additional funding as part of the $30 million Indigenous Communications Program to provide community phones, and in partnership with the states and territories, public internet access facilities and computer training for remote Indigenous communities.
    • $1.5 million for a national Closing the Gap Clearinghouse to collect and disseminate vital evidence on best practice and success factors to identify what is working best.

    Resetting the relationship with Indigenous Australians

    The Government will also provide additional funding to help reset the relationship with Indigenous people:

    • $26.6 million for an Indigenous Healing Foundation to deliver practical assistance to help Indigenous Australians, particularly members of the Stolen Generations, overcome the impact of trauma and grief.
    • $13.8 million for Link-Up services to help members of the Stolen Generations find and reunite with their families and communities.
    • $13.0 million for the Indigenous Electoral Education Program to improve electoral knowledge and encourage Indigenous people to participate in the electoral system.
    • $10.8 million to Reconciliation Australia for education and awareness programs to continue building positive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
    • a commitment of $34.6 million to enable a range of strategies which will strengthen engagement in the Northern Territory (included as part of the closing the gap in the NT package of measures).

    Investments in closing the gap

    COAG has committed $4.6 billion to improve housing, health, employment and to drive fundamental reforms to Indigenous service delivery over the next ten years.

    Indigenous Remote Housing National Partnership

    The Australian Government will provide an additional $1.9 billion over ten years to address significant overcrowding, homelessness, poor housing and to lay foundations for major reforms to Indigenous housing in remote Australia. This brings total funding to $5.5 billion over ten years which will enable the delivery of up to 4200 new houses and 4800 major upgrades to existing houses in remote communities.

    Over 9000 Indigenous families will benefit from improved housing through:

    • improved tenancy management services to ensure rental houses are well maintained and proper rent collection;
    • requiring new and existing housing assets to be held under secure tenure, including long-term leases;
    • increased economic development opportunities offered by local training and employment for Indigenous people in construction and housing management;
    • ongoing maintenance and repairs programs; and
    • the provision of affordable accommodation options in regional centres to support employment, education, training opportunities and other support services in regional areas of high unemployment.

    The Indigenous Remote Housing National Partnership also clarifies the responsibilities of the Commonwealth, the States and the Northern Territory with the States and the NT taking the lead in housing delivery in remote Indigenous communities – providing standardised tenancy management and support consistent with public housing management.

    Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes National Partnership

    The Government will provide $805.5 million over four years to address the COAG agreed target of closing the life expectancy gap within a generation and halving the mortality gap for children under five within a decade. This measure delivers expanded primary health care and targeted prevention activities to reduce the burden of chronic disease.

    Over a four-year period, around half of the adult Indigenous population (around 133,000 people) will receive a health check with about 400,000 chronic disease services delivered. More than 54,000 Indigenous people with a chronic disease will be provided with a self-management program, while over 70,000 Indigenous people will receive financial assistance to improve access to Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines.

    Indigenous Early Childhood Development National Partnership

    At its 3 July 2008 meeting, COAG agreed to an integrated policy framework being used as a basis for investment and reform by all governments in Indigenous early childhood development. The first vehicle for implementing this policy framework is the Indigenous Early Childhood Development National Partnership Agreement. The National Partnership commenced on 1 January 2009 and commits $564 million of joint funding over six years until 2014. The Commonwealth and States and Territories are collaborating on the National Partnership, with jurisdictions taking the lead role in program implementation.

    The National Partnership consists of three elements:

    • establishing a minimum of 35 Children and Family Centres across Australia in areas of high Indigenous population and disadvantage;
    • increasing access for Indigenous young people to antenatal care, pre-pregnancy care, and teenage sexual and reproductive health programs; and
    • increasing access to, and the use of, maternal and child health services by Indigenous families.

    Indigenous Remote Service Delivery National Partnership

    The Australian Government will provide $187.7 million over six years to improve the delivery of services in priority remote Indigenous locations. The first tranche of remote Indigenous locations are comprised of 15 communities in the Northern Territory, four locations in the Cape York and Gulf regions in Queensland, three in Western Australia, two in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in South Australia and two remote locations in the Murdi Paaki region in western New South Wales.

    Benefits will include:

    • improved access to health, education, employment and other services in remote areas;
    • revitalising Indigenous organisations to give them the capacity to assist individuals and families to engage with all the opportunities associated with a better serviced region;
    • greater economic opportunities (business investment and home ownership) as a result of resolution of land tenure and land administration issues; and
    • over time, a reduction in the reliance on government transfer payments in remote communities.

    Indigenous Economic Participation National Partnership

    The Australian Government will provide $172.7 million over five years to assist up to 13,000 Indigenous Australians into employment. This will involve creating up to 2,000 jobs in areas of government service delivery that have previously relied on subsidies through CDEP. Public sector Indigenous employment and career development strategies will also be reviewed to increase Indigenous public sector employment to reflect the Indigenous working age population share by 2015, and governments will also strengthen current procurement policies to maximise Indigenous employment, skills development and business creation.

    More information on Budget measures is contained in the Fact Sheets available online at: FaHCSIA website