Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

$1.2 billion for Closing the Gap for Indigenous Australians

The Australian Government is delivering $1.2 billion over five years, including 37 2008-09 Budget measures, towards closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The Government has a comprehensive plan to tackle Indigenous disadvantage, make communities safe for children and families and promote economic participation. This Budget delivers on commitments made during the election campaign.

Our commitments of $666.1 million in the Northern Territory (NT) are:

  • $3.4 million for early childhood development services to support learning and development opportunities for children:

    • five playgroups ($0.7 million);
    • 10 cr`eches ($2.3 million); and
    • early childhood programs ($0.4 million).
  • $154.2 million to expand educational opportunity:

    • $28.9 million to build three new Indigenous boarding facilities to improve access to secondary school facilities for remote Indigenous students;
    • $19.1 million to provide for professional development of teachers, additional classrooms and literacy and numeracy programs for Indigenous school children;
    • $7.4 million for the School Nutrition Program, which provides breakfast and lunch to school-aged children in the 67 community schools in Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) communities; and
    • $98.8 million to increase the number of teachers in the NT by 200 from 2007-08 to 2011-2012.
  • $78 million for community safety and policing

    • $9.8 million for 22 remote communities to receive support and assistance from a local Aboriginal family and community worker and/or a safe house. A mobile child-protection team based in Darwin will continue to support families in remote communities;
    • $9.5 million for alcohol diversionary activities for young people between 12 and 18 years offering a range of safe and healthy alternatives to drinking and other substance abuse;
    • $51.7 million to promote law and order, including night patrols in remote communities and the deployment of 66 additional Australian Federal Police;
    • $2.8 million for legal aid and interpreter services for Aboriginal people; and
    • $4.2 million for the National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Taskforce.
  • $168 million for employment and pre-employment services and Community Employment brokers in the NT to increase Indigenous access to skills development and jobs.
  • $75 million for welfare reform and the further implementation of income management in the Northern Territory. In 2008-09 income management will apply to around 20,000 Centrelink customers in the Northern Territory.
  • $113.3 million for health services to provide follow up health care, improved child and family health and expanded health service delivery in the NT.
  • $74.2 million for leadership and governance to support continuation of the NTER. This measure includes the employment of Government Business Managers and ongoing accommodation for government personnel in remote communities. Funds will also support the role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman in the NT, greater involvement of Indigenous communities in government policy development and service delivery at the local level. These funds will also be used to employ up to 20 Indigenous community members as community agents.

The Government is committed to ensuring the NTER serves the interests of children. An independent and transparent review will be undertaken at the 12 month mark to assess the effectiveness of all measures and inform future decision making.

Across Australia, we have committed $554 million:

  • $56.4 million for the delivery of literacy and numeracy programs for underachieving Indigenous students as well as Individual Learning Plans;
  • $122.7 million to improve child and maternal health services, tackle acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease among Indigenous children and achieve better outcomes for hospitals and community health;
  • $49.3 million for the expansion of Indigenous drug and alcohol services across the country;
  • $33.5 million to address drivers of Indigenous chronic disease such as tobacco and build a stronger Indigenous health workforce.
  • $10 million to establish an Indigenous Mothers’ Accommodation Fund, for women who have to travel from their communities to give birth;
  • $15.7 million for Bringing them Home counsellors and Link Up services;
  • $16.6 million for Indigenous early development and learning services and parenting support;
  • $160 million for the Land and Sea Country Indigenous Partnership, Indigenous protected areas, Indigenous emissions trading and including $90 million to create up to 300 jobs for Indigenous Australians to work as rangers in remote and regional Australia;
  • $41.6 million for the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial;
  • $29 million for additional infrastructure such as housing, hostels and police stations in communities in the APY Lands and the Kimberley;
  • $7.6 million for National Arts and Craft Industry Support Programme;
  • $5.5 million for additional funding for resourcing of native title claims; and
  • $6.1 million for continuing the Australian Public Services Indigenous Employment Strategy, developing an evidence base for Indigenous policy development and Indigenous tourism.

These measures are essential for working towards meeting the Government’s targets of closing the 17 year life expectancy gap within a generation and halving the mortality gap for children under five and the gap in literacy and numeracy achievement within a decade.

As well, we are working towards halving the gap in employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within a decade and halving the gap in Year 12 retention by 2020.

Promoting economic participation, reducing welfare dependency and developing partnerships based on mutual respect and responsibility are critical to tackling Indigenous disadvantage.

Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians requires more than just extra resources; it involves developing the right policy settings and effective solutions for achieving long-term change.

The Government has embarked upon a program of reform within and across governments to ensure the strategic and effective use of resources and to engage Indigenous people in developing solutions.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is a key vehicle for implementing reform. COAG has adopted the Commonwealth’s targets and established a Working Group on Indigenous Reform to develop a detailed work plan for meeting the targets.

We will also continue to work with the states and territories on a bilateral basis to develop tailored approaches to the issues confronting their Indigenous communities in places such as the Northern Territory, APY Lands (SA), Cape York (QLD) and the Kimberley (WA).