Australian Government, 2008‑09 Budget

First Steps in Closing the Gap

The Government recognises that new ways of doing things are essential. In the past, governments have accepted slow or no progress in Indigenous affairs. These low expectations contributed to poor outcomes.

This Government is taking a more vigorous and rigorous approach, leveraging what works and improving what doesn't. We are directing our policies and programs at a set of measurable and time-specific goals.

We have set targets:

  • to close the life-expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians within a generation;
  • to halve the mortality gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and other children under age 5 within a decade;
  • to halve the gap in literacy and numeracy achievement between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and other students within a decade;
  • to halve the gap in employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within a decade;
  • to at least halve the gap in attainment at Year 12 schooling (or equivalent level) by 2020; and
  • to provide all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four year olds in remote communities with access to a quality preschool program within five years.

Chart 1: Closing the gap in life expectancy

Chart 1: Closing the gap in life expectancy

Achieving these ambitious targets will not be easy. It requires strong commitment and coordinated action within and across governments, robust mechanisms for advancing reforms, and an accountability framework that reports on progress. It is vital that the States and Territories are partners in this process.

In short, we want to achieve a situation where:

  • there are agreed objectives — we all know where we are going and the outcomes we want to achieve;
  • roles and responsibilities are clearly defined; and
  • there is transparency and accountability.

COAG has formally adopted these targets, and has identified a number of strategic platforms or 'building blocks' that need to be in place in order to comprehensively address the current state of disadvantage:

  • healthy homes;
  • safe communities;
  • health;
  • early childhood;
  • schooling;
  • economic participation; and
  • governance and leadership.

Government is using these seven strategic platforms to address the identified drivers of disadvantage, and address them in an integrated way. Strategies aimed at achieving improvements in just one area will not work in isolation — the building blocks must fit together through the integration of policy ideas and their implementation.

Today's Budget measures together with funds committed previously in Additional Estimates and other announcements represent significant down-payments on our commitment to 'close the gap', providing resources for key initiatives foreshadowed in our election platform or where needs have been urgent and obvious.

Building Blocks

Healthy homes

A healthy home is a fundamental precondition of a healthy population. Important contributors to the current unsatisfactory living conditions include inadequate water and sewerage systems, waste collection, electricity and poor housing infrastructure (design, stock and maintenance). Children need to live in accommodation with adequate infrastructure conducive to good hygiene and study and free of overcrowding.

Safe communities

Indigenous people (men, women and children) need to be safe from violence, abuse and neglect. Fulfilling this need involves improving family and community safety through law and justice responses (including accessible and effective policing and an accessible justice system), victim support (including safe houses and counselling), child protection and also preventative approaches. Addressing related factors such as alcohol and substance abuse will be critical to improving community safety, along with the improved health benefits to be obtained.


Achieving improved outcomes for children requires access to, and delivery of, effective primary and preventative health care. Community primary health services play an important role and also need to be responsive to and accountable for achieving government and community health priorities. Parental health is critical to supporting children and the heavy onset of chronic diseases in the 34-45 age range requires concerted effort in prevention, management and treatment. Parents also need the skills to promote healthy, structured lifestyles.

Early childhood

For an equal start in life Indigenous children need early learning, development and socialisation opportunities. Access to quality early childhood education and care services, including pre-school, child care and family support services such as parenting programs and supports, is critical. Appropriate facilities and physical infrastructure, a sustainable early childhood education and health workforce, learning frameworks and opportunities for parental engagement are also important and require attention. Action in the areas of maternal, antenatal and early childhood health is relevant to addressing the child mortality gap and to early childhood development.


Human capital development through education is key to future opportunity. Responsive schooling requires attention to infrastructure, workforce, including teacher and school leader supply and quality, curriculum, student literacy and numeracy achievement and opportunities for parental engagement and school/community partnerships. Transition pathways into schooling and into work, post school education and training are also important. Life-long learning is important and attention is also needed regarding adult literacy and numeracy skills.

Economic participation

Individuals and communities should have the opportunity to benefit from the mainstream economy — real jobs, business opportunities, economic independence and wealth creation. Economic participation needs to extend to disadvantaged job seekers and those outside of the labour market. Access to land and native title assets, rights and interests can be leveraged to secure real and practical benefits for Indigenous people. Other financial assets, capacity building, employment and training programs, incentive structures and social and physical infrastructure, including communications and transport, are needed to foster economic participation and community engagement. Through this participation, parents and other adults can become effective role models for their families and community. The design and delivery of welfare (both transfer payments and services) needs to promote active engagement, enhanced capability and positive social norms. Ensuring that communities have support to address factors that are a barrier to engagement such as problem gambling is critical.

Governance and leadership

Strong leadership is needed to champion and demonstrate ownership of reform. Effective governance arrangements in communities and organisations as well as strong engagement by governments at all levels are essential to long term sustainable outcomes. Indigenous people need to be engaged in the development of reforms that will impact on them. Improved access to capacity building in governance and leadership is needed in order for Indigenous people to play a greater role in exercising their rights and responsibilities as citizens.

Healthy Homes

Housing and homelessness across the Australian community is a priority policy area for this Government. Most Indigenous people live in urban and regional areas and face significant housing challenges. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to have low incomes or be in single parent or multi-dependant families, making it difficult to pay market rents and meet financial institutions' criteria for loans.

Only one quarter of Indigenous adults live in homes owned or being purchased by a member of the household, compared to more than three quarters of non-Indigenous adults.

These issues are compounded by the current highly competitive rental market and more general housing affordability issues.

The current COAG reform processes are exploring the important links between Indigenous housing and broader housing policies, and will consider the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in urban and regional areas.

However, the poorest housing and greatest housing need is undoubtedly in remote communities. Here, overcrowded and sub-standard housing is the norm. Isolation and climate make houses difficult and expensive to build. They wear out quickly.

Families cannot function in overcrowded and poorly maintained housing. Children will not do well at school if there is no quiet space for study and they cannot sleep at night.

In the Northern Territory, the Little Children are Sacred report highlighted the link between 'overcrowding and massive exposure to substance abuse and household violence — not to mention sexual abuse and other violence directed against children'.

The Australian Government has already made major funding commitments to Indigenous housing. Over the next four years we will be investing $1.6 billion in remote Indigenous housing, with reformed delivery arrangements.

The revised arrangements will start as new housing bilateral agreements are concluded with State and Territory Governments. These arrangements must deliver effective provision and management of public or community housing which ensures tenants are held to public tenancy requirements.

The Government's housing reform agenda is most advanced in the Northern Territory. We are pursuing a strategic alliance approach under which three design, construction and training consortiums will undertake the work in partnership with the Australian and Northern Territory Governments.

The alliance will provide:

  • community involvement in how the work is delivered;
  • greater transparency of the costs and risk in remote work;
  • innovation in design and the development of better delivery models; and
  • employment and training of local Aboriginal people.

The Government is also currently reforming community housing management and maintenance in a partnership with the Northern Territory Government. In 64 communities, the Territory Government will manage the housing stock according to its Remote Public Housing Management Framework.

After a transition period, the new arrangements will provide:

  • waiting lists based on need;
  • effective maintenance and upkeep procedures; and
  • support services to ensure that tenants understand their rights and responsibilities and can meet their obligations, including paying rent and maintaining their home.

Similar reforms will be introduced in other jurisdictions.

Land-tenure reform

A pre-condition of better housing is secure long-term tenure of the underlying land. Without this security, ownership of assets is uncertain, responsibilities for management and maintenance confused, and incentives for private investment absent.

We are insisting on appropriate security to underpin housing investment in remote Australia. We are accountable to all Australian taxpayers to make sure the money we spend achieves the best housing outcomes. And we are accountable to the residents of remote communities to makes sure houses are properly managed and maintained.

Appropriate security means a lease or other arrangement which ensures clarity of ownership and responsibility for assets.

Landmark housing project for Northern Territory communities

A landmark joint housing program between the Australian and Northern Territory Governments was announced on 12 April 2008. It will deliver vital construction, refurbishment and infrastructure developments, as well as jobs for local people, in 73 Indigenous communities and some urban areas.

The Australian Government's contribution of $547 million over four years is part of a larger commitment of $813 million to Indigenous housing and infrastructure services in the Northern Territory to 2011. The Territory Government is contributing a further $100 million.

The program will deliver:

  • around 750 new houses
  • more than 230 new houses to replace houses to be demolished
  • more than 2500 housing upgrades
  • essential infrastructure to support new houses
  • improvements to living conditions in town camps.

Major works will proceed in 16 high-need communities with refurbishments in an additional 57 communities.

As part of the contractual arrangements, successful tenderers will be required to meet targets for local Indigenous employment. Local people will get jobs and training in their own communities, leading to future employment opportunities in construction, repairs and maintenance.

Tenure reform will also underpin the extension of home-ownership opportunities to people living on Indigenous land in remote Australia. Leases will facilitate private sector investment to expand the housing asset base and to encourage private home ownership.

In the Northern Territory, where land tenure is a matter for the Australian Government, we are working with the Northern Territory Government, land councils and Aboriginal communities to ensure we have the necessary pre-conditions for substantial investments.

In the Northern Territory, our approach to tenure is neither prescriptive nor coercive. Communities and traditional owners may wish to pursue a range of options — from the 99-year township leases now provided for under the former Government's legislation to more limited 'block leases' with shorter lease terms.

We are working with the States on developing the right conditions for secure tenure over housing where they have the legislative responsibility. Options for leasing are currently being considered in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. We have approached the New South Wales Government about taking steps to allow home ownership on Aboriginal land in that State.

We need new flexible approaches, recognising that there is no universal solution.

In urban and regional Australia the Government's long-running Home Ownership Program, providing low-cost home loans adapted to Indigenous circumstances, continues to be one of the most successful Indigenous initiatives. Now administered by Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), the program has helped more than 13,000 Indigenous families to buy their homes since its establishment in 1975. Beginning last financial year, IBA also offers a special package for Indigenous people living in remote Australia through the Home Ownership on Indigenous Land Program. Take up of this program is expected to accelerate as the issues that have inhibited private ownership on communally owned land are resolved.

Home ownership has not been possible for most residents of remote Indigenous Australia. However, it must be among the choices available to all Australians.

Safe Communities

Community safety is a critically important building block to a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Many communities, however, have been left to their own devices without proper policing or enforcement of the law. Chaotic and violent communities will never have the future they deserve.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Northern Territory Police shows that Indigenous Australians are far more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to be the subject of violence, including murder and assault. Indigenous children are many more times likely than non-Indigenous children to be under care and protection orders or in out-of-home care (Table 2).

The COAG Working Group on Indigenous Reform is currently developing a sustainable reform proposal that will contribute to the safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Future Australian Government expenditure in this area will be guided by the work done through COAG. In addition, the Standing Group of Attorneys-General is developing a National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework which will provide a genuinely national approach to responding to community safety issues.

As part of an Australian Federal Policing Plan, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) will be working to recruit more Indigenous trainees, developing educational programs on policing in Indigenous communities, and boosting the profile and work of AFP officers in Indigenous communities through community activities. The AFP will also convene a national forum to coordinate the recruitment of Indigenous Australians into Federal and State police agencies.

Table 2: Substantiated child abuse notifications: number and rates per 1000 children aged 0-16 years by Indigenous status and State and Territory, 2006‑07

  Number of children Rate per 1,000 children
  Indigenous Other Total Indigenous Other Total
New South Wales 3,276 10,414 13,690 53.5 7.1 9
Victoria(a) 697 5,891 6,588 56.6 5.3 5.9
Queensland(b) 1,203 6,138 7,341 20.3 6.9 7.7
Western Australia 438 716 1,154 15 1.6 2.4
South Australia 439 1,314 1,753 39 4.1 5.3
Tasmania(c)(d) 31 768 799 4 7.5 7.2
Australian Capital Territory 75 483 558 41.3 6.9 7.8
Northern Territory 395 145 540 16.8 4.2 9.3
Australia 6,554 25,869 32,423 31.8 5.8 7
  1. Due to new service and data reporting arrangements, the Victorian child protection data for 2006—07 may not be fully comparable with previous years' data.
  2. 2006—07 data for Queensland are interim and will be revised in 2008.
  3. Data relating to substantiations in Tasmania for 2005‑06 should be interpreted carefully due to the high proportion of investigations not finalised by 31 August 2006
  4. The high number of children in substantiation with an unknown Indigenous status in Tasmania makes the counts for both Indigenous children and other children unreliable.

Protecting children on the APY Lands

On 6 May 2008 the Australian Government committed more than $19 million to protect children from abuse in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in northern South Australia.

This partnership with the State Government is in response to the findings of the Mullighan Inquiry into child sexual abuse on the APY Lands, tabled in the South Australian Parliament on 6 May.

Commissioner Mullighan found evidence that since 2000 at least 141 children in the APY Lands had been sexually abused, some under the age of ten. Young girls were reported as accepting that abuse was inevitable and resistance futile.

The Australian Government is providing $15 million for a third police station and accommodation for 13 extra police officers and child protection workers. This is on top of an existing commitment to provide $7.5 million over two years to construct police stations and associated accommodation at the communities of Amata and Ernabella.

The Australian Government is also providing;

  • $2.8 million for a successful residential program for secondary students;
  • Up to $1.3 million under the Personal Helpers and Mentors Program to assist people suffering mental illness; and
  • $768,000 under the Family Violence Partnership Program for a joint initiative with the State Government to set up a safe house in Coober Pedy to help women and children at risk of violence.

There will also be a crackdown on the movement of illegal alcohol and drugs and the distribution of pornography.

The Australian Government will work with the South Australian Government to urgently progress the $25 million committed to new and upgraded housing in the APY Lands.

A taskforce has been set up to consider further measures, and discussions have begun between the two governments on the introduction of welfare reform in the APY Lands.

The findings of the Mullighan Inquiry have been referred to the Australian Crime Commission.


The Australian Government is committed to improving the access of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to comprehensive primary health care services. The aim is to provide coordinated clinical care, population health and health promotion activities to facilitate illness prevention, early intervention and effective disease management.

Evidence from Australia and overseas shows that improved access to comprehensive primary health care can make a real and sustainable difference to overall health in the longer term.

This strategy is firmly based on the principle of working in partnership with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health sector.

The Government has committed $19 million over three years in strengthening the Indigenous health workforce, to encourage more Indigenous people to take up careers as health professionals. We know that a strong Indigenous health workforce will be critical to improving Indigenous health services in the long term.

In February, the Government provided a $21.5 million boost over five years to improve remote area health services in the Northern Territory:

  • $10 million to upgrade and expand health-care facilities;
  • $5.4 million to establish satellite renal dialysis facilities; and
  • $6.1 million to provide the intensive and sustained counselling and support needed to help victims of sexual abuse and their families.

These are in addition to extra funds provided in February and in this Budget to follow up the child health checks conducted as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (see 'Northern Territory Emergency Response' below).

Addressing alcohol and substance abuse will make communities safer and healthier.

In February, the Government allocated $49.3 million over four years as part of its COAG commitment to support substance and alcohol rehabilitation and treatment services across Australia, particularly in remote areas. This commitment builds on COAG's investment of $49.3 million over four years announced in July 2006 to address drug and alcohol use in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The Rudd Government is committed to addressing the drivers of chronic disease in the Indigenous population. Over the next four years the Rudd Government will invest $14.5 million in tackling high rates of smoking in Indigenous communities. Tobacco smoking is the number one risk factor for chronic conditions and diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer, which are the cause of so many premature deaths in Indigenous communities.

The Australian Government is determined to close the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation. Much needs to be done, but we are taking the first steps.

Early Childhood

The early years of a child's life determine their future health and wellbeing. The health of a child starts before birth.

For the critical years from conception to age eight, we are focusing on three areas:

  • child and maternal health services;
  • early development and parent and family support; and
  • literacy and numeracy in the early years.

Currently, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children do not get an equal start in life.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies are three times more likely to die in their first year than other Australian children. They are more likely to suffer from poor maternal nutrition and be of low birth weight, contributing to chronic disease later on. An Indigenous baby born today can expect to live an average 17 years less than a non‑Indigenous baby.

Maternal and child health and development are critical to improving Indigenous life‑expectancy.

In February the Government committed $101.5 million over five years to 2010‑11 for New Directions: An equal start in life for Indigenous children — child and maternal health services. This builds on the 2007‑08 Budget measure Health@Home Plus and provides for more comprehensive child and maternal health services and wider access to home‑visiting programs.

This strategy, to address early childhood development including maternal and child health, provides health care and access to early learning support for Indigenous mothers, babies and children. It also funds a control program for acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. In 2005‑06, hospitalisations for rheumatic heart disease were eight and 13 times higher for Indigenous males and females respectively than for non-Indigenous Australians. Matched funding is being sought from State and Territory Governments.

An additional $10 million over three years to 2010‑11 is provided in the Budget for an Indigenous mothers' accommodation fund, to support women who need to leave their communities temporarily to have their babies.

Across the Australian community, the Government is making early childhood education a key plank of our Education Revolution. We have committed to providing universal access to early learning programs, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in remote areas. All four years olds including Indigenous children living in remote communities will have access to 15 hours of affordable, quality early learning programs a week, for a minimum of 40 weeks a year delivered by a qualified teacher. This initiative will be rolled out progressively until fully implemented in 2013.

Considerable evidence points to the benefits of early learning programs for disadvantaged children, including laying the foundation for later literacy and numeracy achievement.


Literacy and numeracy are critical to a better life for individuals. Economic self‑reliance in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities depends on a sound foundation of education and training.

The 2006 National Report on Schooling in Australia indicates that reading, writing and numeracy outcomes for Indigenous students continue to be substantially lower than for non-Indigenous students. Retention rates to Year 12 are also much lower than for other students (Chart 2).

Many Indigenous children are fundamentally disengaged from education. In remote Australia, there has been chronic under-investment in educational infrastructure on the assumption that many children simply do not go to school.

In February we provided $98.8 million over five years from 2007‑08 for 200 extra teachers for remote community schools in the Northern Territory. These teachers will assist in the education of around 2000 young people of compulsory school age who are currently not enrolled in school in communities involved in the Northern Territory Emergency Response. This funding is part of our commitment to build a skilled and professional workforce to cope with the challenges of remote Indigenous education. Strong and informed school leadership and quality teaching are essential to improving Indigenous education outcomes.

The Australian Government is also looking to the States and Territories to ensure that resources in their jurisdictions are allocated to areas of high need.

In this Budget, the COAG goal of halving the gap in literacy and numeracy achievement within a decade is supported by $56.4 million in national funding over four years. This measure provides an Indigenous focus within the Government's National Action Plan on Literacy and Numeracy.

The funds will provide extra help for schools, enabling them to expand intensive literacy and numeracy approaches (such as the National Accelerated Literacy Program) that have been successful with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

The measure will also provide professional support for teachers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to develop Individual Learning Plans. Many education providers already support Individual Learning Plans for Indigenous students to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each student and set out the areas to be targeted for improvement. The new funding will expand this good practice nationally.

Parents will be able to see these plans and, with teachers, become part of their children's learning development. Schools and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families will work together to reinforce the value of education.

This initiative is consistent with the proposal from the 2020 Summit for education providers to implement individual education compacts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with their families.

In the Northern Territory, funding of $28.9 million over four years will build three Indigenous student accommodation facilities: two 40-bed facilities and one 72-bed facility. The Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) has committed a further $15 million to this measure. The facilities will accommodate students from years 8 to 12 and help to give Aboriginal young people from remote areas access to a secondary education. This measure will contribute to COAG's goal of halving the gap in Years 12 or equivalent attainment by 2020, offering new opportunities for many young Territorians.

The Australian Government will look to maximise the educational and employment outcomes of these students by developing strategic links between the colleges and major sources of employment in each region. The boarding colleges will also be developed to provide appropriate pastoral care and support to students and their families, many of whom may not have lived away from home before.

In March 2008 the Government announced funding for a 120-bed secondary student hostel in Weipa, Queensland, under the existing $38.8 million Indigenous Boarding Hostels Partnership Program.

In the longer term the students and their families will benefit from the improved education and employment outcomes that these opportunities will provide, which will in turn have an impact on health and general wellbeing.

Chart 2: Closing the Gap in literacy and numeracy

(Non-Indigenous In the longer term the students and their families will benefit from the improved education and employment outcomes that these opportunities will provide, which will in turn have an impact on health and general wellbeing. Indigenous In the longer term the students and their families will benefit from the improved education and employment outcomes that these opportunities will provide, which will in turn have an impact on health and general wellbeing.)

Yr 3 % achieving reading benchmark


Yr 3 % achieving writing benchmark


Yr 3 % achieving numeracy benchmark

Yr 3 % achieving numeracy benchmark



Yr 5 % achieving reading benchmark


Yr 5 % achieving writing benchmark


Yr 5 % achieving numeracy benchmark

Yr 5 % achieving numeracy benchmark



Yr 7 % achieving reading benchmark


Yr 7 % achieving writing benchmark


Yr 7 % achieving numeracy benchmark

Yr 7 % achieving numeracy benchmark



Economic participation

Participation in the Australian economy and intergenerational wealth transfer are critical to reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage.

In the election context, we made a commitment to an overarching Indigenous Economic Development Strategy (IEDS).

One of the central aims of the strategy will be to increase employment for Indigenous Australians, particularly young people, providing meaningful work with career progression.

The IEDS will harness new and existing infrastructure, Indigenous financial assets, land reform, the native title system, education and training, health and employment services and business development programs, together with networks across government and the private sector. It will include the development of stronger partnerships with industry aimed at getting more jobs for Indigenous people.

The strategy will also address issues such as appropriate monitoring of and support for Indigenous organisations receiving royalties and native title payments, corporate governance and leadership of Indigenous organisations, and financial literacy within Indigenous communities.

Current structures and programs supporting Indigenous economic development are being reviewed to assess progress to date, identify strategic directions and strengthen linkages. The Government will also be considering a number of interesting ideas around Indigenous economic development put forward at the Australia 2020 Summit on 19-20 April 2008.

The implications of the IEDS will be considered in the context of the Single Indigenous Budget for 2009‑10.

In this Budget the Business Ready Program for Indigenous Tourism (BRPIT) will receive $1.8 million next financial year to promote Indigenous tourism to the international market.

BRPIT supports 24 start-up and established tourism businesses across Australia, giving individuals and communities a path to economic independence as well as a means of preserving and celebrating their culture. The 24 businesses will receive continued mentoring and other support to enhance their sustainability.

Hostels to provide accommodation for up to 100 young people will be built in four West Australian communities (Halls Creek, Derby, Fitzroy Crossing and Broome) to give young Indigenous Australians better access to skills training related to employment. This is a joint project with the Western Australian Government, announced in April 2008. The Australian Government will contribute $10 million to fund construction, with the State Government taking responsibility for project management.

The Government has also provided $10 million over five years between 2007 and 2011 for the establishment of a Remote Enterprise Centre in Alice Springs. The centre will support new and existing remote businesses, including Indigenous businesses, by connecting them to other companies for mentoring and private investment and partnerships. It will provide access to technical experts, scientific advice and the latest technology, as well as help to identify new markets and provide advice on legal and regulatory issues.

In February, the Government provided additional funding of $7.6 million over four years to 2010‑11 for the National Arts and Crafts Industry Support Program. This will expand the program's assistance to Aboriginal art centres and other organisations which support and develop the Indigenous visual arts and crafts sector.

A further $5.5 million of funding was committed by the Government in February to support the Yamatji Marlpa Narna Baba Maaja Aboriginal Corporation, the native title representative body for the Yamatji and Pilbara regions, to assist in the Pilbara Connection Project. This funding will help facilitate negotiations on current and future mining activity in the Pilbara.

Two portfolio agencies contribute to the Government's economic development objectives.

Indigenous Business Australia provides loans, grants and other support for small Indigenous businesses, and makes larger strategic investments with joint-venture partners on behalf of Indigenous Australians.

The ILC National Indigenous Land Strategy 2007-12 focuses on economic-development outcomes from the ILC's land acquisition and management functions. ILC projects prioritise the provision of training, sustainable employment, capacity building and business incubation, as well as the forging of partnerships across government, Indigenous communities and organisations and the private and non-government sectors. These partnerships attract the financial and human resources to allow the development of long-term sustainable projects, particularly in key industries such as pastoralism and tourism.

The activities of these agencies are being reviewed in the context of the upcoming Indigenous Economic Development Strategy.

The Budget is providing $2.6 million in 2008‑09 to continue the Australian Public Service Indigenous Employment Strategy. The strategy, overseen by the Australian Public Service Commission, provides service-wide initiatives to increase Indigenous recruitment and extend career-development opportunities to Indigenous people. It is part of our commitment not just to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, but also to ensure that Indigenous expertise and perspectives make a significant contribution to policy-making processes across government.

CDEP reform

A key element of the Government's economic development agenda is reform of the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP), a long-standing program providing work experience for unemployed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on community development activities.

We want the program to focus on work readiness skills in communities, getting more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into regular jobs where opportunities exist, extending local business opportunities and providing meaningful activities in poor labour markets.

We are currently consulting with CDEP providers, all levels of government and a diverse range of other stakeholders on these reforms.

Welfare reform

The Government is committed to a welfare-reform agenda which acknowledges that passive welfare in Indigenous Australia has not contributed to individual or family wellbeing. It is cited as one of the underlying causes of substance abuse, family violence and community dysfunction.

Welfare reform is a central measure in the Northern Territory Emergency Response, through the implementation of income management across prescribed areas.

Under the Northern Territory Emergency Response, 41 communities and associated outstations as well as town camps in and around Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, Adelaide River and Jabiru are now subject to income management.

Income management ensures that welfare payments are spent in the interests of children. It provides better financial security for many mothers, grandmothers and other community members to feed and raise their children.

Early indications from the Northern Territory are that a significant proportion of managed funds are being spent on food and some community stores are reporting increased turnover in fruit and vegetables.

The Budget provides funds to continue the roll out of income management in the Northern Territory and strengthen Centrelink's engagement with communities.

In December 2007 we announced funding to support a trial of welfare reform in four communities on Cape York. An important community-generated initiative, this trial also involves a landmark partnership between the Australian and Queensland Governments.

The Queensland Government has established a Family Responsibilities Commission to engage with families on their community obligations, including as welfare recipients. The State is also matching the Australian Government's $48.8 million commitment to the trial, ensuring that communities will also benefit from improved services and outcomes in health, housing, education, policing, justice and child safety.

The Australian Government will introduce measures to enable participants in CDEP to come under the jurisdiction of the Family Responsibilities Commission and associated income management arrangements, as part of the Cape York welfare reform trial.

At a local level, the services provided by both governments will be coordinated through a new single local agreement which identifies the responsibilities and commitments of all parties.

This work being progressed by the Australian and Queensland Governments and the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership to tackle the problems caused by drug and alcohol abuse and welfare dependency in four trial Cape York communities is an excellent example of collaboration across government and with the non-government sector.

In February this year, another joint initiative was announced, this time with the Western Australian Government, to introduce income management trials in selected communities in that State.

In his inquiry into the deaths of 22 Kimberley Aboriginal men and women, coroner Alastair Hope recommended that in cases of child neglect, compulsory income management should be made available to officers from the state department responsible for child protection.

In the trial to begin next financial year in the main towns of the Kimberley and the Cannington area of Perth, income management will be tied to the welfare of children of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous welfare recipients.

The trial will give child protection authorities the power to recommend to Centrelink that income-support and family payments are quarantined to be used for the benefit of children. It will be the first activation of income management powers in child protection cases under the National Child Protection Framework.

The Australian Government will fund money-management support services providing financial education training and financial crisis support to people affected by income management. The Western Australian Government will also be providing support services to help implement the trials.

Environmental measures

Four environmental measures in the Budget will strengthen the nexus between Indigenous economic development and Indigenous people's relationship with the land, building on unique Indigenous knowledge and assets. All are part of the $2.25 billion Caring for Our Country initiative.

The Budget triples Australian Government funding for Indigenous Protected Areas, investing more than $50 million over the next five years. The Indigenous Protected Areas Program assists Indigenous land owners to develop, declare and manage protected areas on their land and develop cooperative management arrangements with government agencies.

The 24 existing Indigenous Protected Areas cover more than 20 million hectares of land, and make an important contribution to Australia's network of parks and reserves, the National Reserve System. The Caring for Our Country initiative will help to expand this area significantly.

A $10 million element of Caring for Our Country will support Indigenous land managers to engage with emerging emissions markets through awareness raising, local capacity building and on-ground technical support. The funding will assist research into the scientific and market potential of carbon trading, help to build partnerships between the private sector and Indigenous communities and promote sales to growing national and international markets.

Another Budget measure, Working on Country, provides $90.0 million to enable the employment of up to 300 additional Indigenous rangers to protect and manage the environment. The rangers will provide valuable environmental services in areas such as weed and feral animal eradication, fire management, fencing, restoration of vegetation and protection of endangered species.

The rangers will receive training including through a nationally accredited land‑management qualification, supported by Indigenous knowledge.

Australian Government funding for sea country Indigenous partnerships will be boosted by $10.0 million over the next five years through the $200 million Reef Rescue Plan. An element of this plan, Land and Sea Country Indigenous Partnerships, aims to build the capacity of traditional owner groups in sea country management. The new funds will be used to:

  • expand the existing Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreement program across the Great Barrier Reef catchment; and
  • strengthen communications between local communities, managers and reef stakeholders and build a better understanding of traditional owner issues in management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

These measures build on our 2007 election commitments on Indigenous economic development.

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