Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

Budget backs a better future for Indigenous Australians

“The 2007-08 Budget will deliver practical health, education, employment and welfare reform measures as well as help tackle housing overcrowding in remote Indigenous communities to give Indigenous Australians greater opportunity to share in the nation’s prosperity,” Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, said today.

“The 2007-08 Indigenous Affairs Budget contains 26 initiatives involving $815.7 million in new and extended funding over five years focused on remote housing, early childhood, new education opportunities, health and economic independence. These measures have a net fiscal balance impact of $748.3 million. This will take total spending on Indigenous specific programmes to a record $3.5 billion in 2007-08 – 42 per cent more in real terms than Labor spent in its last year in office.

Overcrowded housing in Indigenous communities is a major contributor to social problems, poor health and low school attendance. Despite massive spending on the Community Housing and Infrastructure Programme (CHIP) by ATSIC, little progress was made. CHIP is inefficient and wasteful. It will be scrapped in July 2008 and replaced by the Australian Remote Indigenous Accommodation (ARIA) Programme with additional funding focused on land tenure reform, mainstream public housing, private home ownership and better value for money.

“Subject to state and local community cooperation in implementing the new Indigenous housing strategy, and clear evidence that it is working, the Howard Government will consider expanding funding for the programme.

“In other practical measures to offer Indigenous people pathways to a better future, the Australian Government is backing an initiative of the National Indigenous Council to provide new opportunities for high quality education by providing more boarding school places for young Indigenous Australians from regional and remote communities.

“More than 1600 young people living in remote areas will be able to study away from their home, with more boarding accommodation available in regional centres. The successful Indigenous Youth Mobility Programme will be expanded from 640 to 1500 places and the Indigenous Youth Leadership Programme will be expanded from 250 to 1000 places. One thousand more scholarships for higher education will be created and ABSTUDY entitlements enhanced to better support study away from home.

“Early childhood development is also a key priority in Indigenous Affairs. The Budget provides extra resources for home health visits for children aged 0-8 in remote areas, better access to child-care and playgroups, and funding for research on childhood health and development. Extra funding is provided to strengthen Indigenous primary health care services and for projects to address the misuse of alcohol and other drugs.

“The Budget provides measures to tackle passive welfare and will build on reforms commenced last year for the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) programme. More than 800 positions supporting government services through CDEP will be converted into paid employment at a cost of $97.2 million over four years.

“The Hopevale community in Cape York will be the site of the first stage of a significant welfare reform measure focused on housing, economic development, behavioural change and money management.”

Mr Brough said the Government also recognised the importance of Indigenous culture, with two measures to help preserve significant Indigenous cultural property and archival material.

“The Budget provides $10.2 million to digitally preserve the most at-risk, fragile and deteriorating materials held by the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and $4.7 million to fund repatriation of cultural property held in Australian museums,” Mr Brough said.

“This year’s Indigenous Budget offers more choices and opportunities. It is about building the foundations for a better future for Indigenous Australians.”