Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

$4 Billion to help close the gap for indigenous Australians

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Kevin Rudd MP, Prime Minister

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has agreed to an additional $4 billion to improve housing, health, employment and to drive fundamental reforms to Indigenous service delivery over the next ten years.

This is a major step forward in the national effort to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The Australian Government is providing $3.07 billion in new funding over ten years ($1.96 billion over five years) to the States and Territories to drive fundamental reforms to Indigenous affairs.

Taking into account the October COAG decision to allocate $564 million to Indigenous early childhood initiatives, COAG has committed $4.6 billion this year to Indigenous-related initiatives to close the gap.

Indigenous Remote Housing

The Australian Government is providing $1.94 billion in new funding over ten years ($834.6 million over five years) to the States and Territories to lay the foundations for major reforms to Indigenous housing in remote Australia.

The National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing will mean up to 4200 new houses and 4800 major upgrades to existing houses in remote communities.

Over 9,000 Indigenous families will benefit from improved housing over the next ten years.

Funded by the Australian Government, the remote Indigenous housing reform package will be delivered in partnership with State and Territory Governments and will include:

  • improved tenancy management services to ensure rental houses are well maintained,
  • rent is collected and support services are in place;
  • a requirement that new and existing housing assets be held under secure tenure, including long-term leases;
  • economic development opportunities through increased local training and employment opportunities for Indigenous people in construction and housing management;
  • an ongoing maintenance and repairs program; and
  • access to affordable accommodation options in regional centres to support employment, education, training opportunities and access to support services in regional areas of high unemployment.

The state of Indigenous housing across remote Australia is the most visible and enduring evidence of the failure of Governments, over decades, to address Indigenous disadvantage. In some Indigenous communities, fifteen to twenty people live in a single house.

The Australian Government is determined to address the appalling living conditions in remote Indigenous communities.

Decent housing is essential for protecting children, improving health, education and employment and re-building positive community norms.

Work on the program will start in early 2009.

COAG has also agreed to provide $400 million over 2 years for social housing and $800 million over four years in new homelessness initiatives – a total package of $1.2 billion in additional funding.

This funding will help address the housing needs of our most disadvantaged citizens, including Indigenous people in urban and regional Australia.

Indigenous Health

COAG has agreed to invest $1.6 billion over four years in Indigenous health to tackle chronic disease in Indigenous communities.

The funding, including an $805 million Australian Government commitment, will deliver more health professionals to Indigenous communities, expand health services, and help tackle chronic diseases.

Chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer account for about two thirds of premature deaths among Indigenous Australians.

Around $470 million will be provided to chronic disease management, $171 million to increase the capacity of frontline primary care workforce and $161 million to tackle the key risks for chronic disease, including smoking.

States and Territories will contribute an additional $772 million to tackle smoking, expand allied health and other State Government-funded services provided to Indigenous people, and improve care provided to Indigenous people in public hospitals.

Jobs and Indigenous Economic Participation

The Australian Government will invest $172.7 million over five years and the States and Territories $56.2 million to help up to 13,000 Indigenous Australians find and keep a job.

Around 2000 jobs in Government service delivery, previously subsidised by the Community Development Employment Program, will be fully funded.

This additional funding will help meet our target of halving the employment gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade.

Remote Service Delivery

The Australian Government and the States and Territories will invest $291 million over six years to better coordinate early childhood, health, housing and welfare services in remote communities.

This funding, including a $154 million commitment from the Australian Government, will enable Governments to put in place-coordinated service delivery in 26 key communities across remote Australia.

Together these COAG initiatives will kick start the reform agenda needed to reach our long term targets for closing the gap in life expectancy, health, education and employment.

We will continue to build on this reform agenda through a dedicated Closing the Gap COAG meeting in 2009.