Australian Government, 2005–06 Budget


Indigenous Housing, Infrastructure and Essential Municipal Services

The Australian Government will continue to supplement state, territory and local government efforts to increase access to adequate, appropriate and sustainable rental housing, related infrastructure and essential municipal services for Indigenous people in regional, rural and remote Australia.

The Australian Government will provide $284.6 million in 2005-06 to deliver Indigenous housing, infrastructure and essential municipal services programmes through arrangements with state and territory governments and regional and local Indigenous community housing providers. A total of $93.3 million will also be provided for the Aboriginal Rental Housing Programme.

In delivering Indigenous housing, infrastructure and essential municipal services programmes the Australian Government will provide $102.8 million over four years from 2005-06 to continue the Healthy Indigenous Housing initiative and to further consolidate the Australian and state and territory governments’ targeting of community housing need in rural and remote communities. The initiative will expedite reforms of Indigenous community housing, and will continue a programme of involving Indigenous households and communities in assessing and repairing houses to build local community capacity. The initiative will also continue to deliver the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Programme in one remote community per year.

Telecommunications Action Plan for Remote Indigenous Communities

The Telecommunications Action Plan for Remote Indigenous Communities (TAPRIC) was established as part of the Australian Government's response to the Telecommunications Service Inquiry.

In keeping with the commitment announced by the Australian Government during the 2004 election, $3 million has been allocated in the 2005-06 Budget to continue initiatives under TAPRIC. These funds will be used to continue to support the costs of providing essential voice telephone services and internet services for Remote Indigenous Communities (RICs).

RICs need access to both the telephone and internet which are basic tools for business contact with customers and suppliers and when accessing government, financial and information services. To address the existing inadequacy of such services a Community Phones Programme and associated Internet strategies are to be implemented.

Initiatives will seek to overcome a number of complex logistical and social factors affecting the provision of basic telephone services in remote Indigenous communities.

The provision of Community Phones will address the need in RICs for access to affordable and accessible basic telephone services and improved take-up and use of telephone services.

In parallel with telephone services, the provision of sustainable publicly accessible Internet will be targeted.

Healthy for Life Programme

A new programme to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers, babies and children to reduce the impact of chronic diseases will receive $102.4 million over four years from 2005-06.

The Healthy for Life Programme is a new, systematic approach to providing a healthy start in life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. It is an important step in breaking the cycle of poor health into adulthood.

By improving access to early and regular ante-natal and child health care, the programme will result in improved birth weights and fewer health problems requiring doctor or hospital treatment for infants and young children. Increased screening and treatment for chronic diseases in adults will mean earlier identification and initiation of treatment to prevent progression of the disease and the medical complications associated with advanced diabetes.

The programme includes a workforce component designed to increase the number of Indigenous Australians trained as health professionals. This will help build the skills base in Indigenous communities to improve the performance of local health services and also to improve employment prospects for local people.

Primary Health Care Access Programme

The Primary Health Care Access Programme (PHCAP) aims to strengthen local health care systems to improve access to comprehensive primary health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to fund additional services based on priorities identified through regional and local area planning processes. The Australian Government will make available an additional $40 million over four years of new funding which will provide for the establishment of a number of new centres in priority areas.

Improved Primary Health Care

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ access to GPs and other primary health care services across Australia will be further improved through the allocation of an additional $40 million over the next four years.

This funding will enable the establishment of new primary health care clinics in communities where they are not currently available, and provide the primary health care professionals needed to staff them. The funding will also be used to strengthen established clinics to meet the health needs in communities where services are currently very limited. Strengthening health services will also provide the base to support other new targeted health initiatives such as the Healthy for Life programme being funded in this Budget.

Resources will be used to establish up to four new clinics and to provide additional opportunities for patients to access primary health care through existing clinics. The main focus of these additional resources will be in rural and remote areas and will immediately help to meet the current shortfall of health professionals in remote Indigenous services including Aboriginal health workers, nurses, doctors and counsellors.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people hearing services

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will get greater access to Australian Government Hearing Services through new funding of $10.1 million over the four years commencing from 2005-06.

The measure provides access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over, and to participants on the Community Development Employment Programme (CDEP) to the Australian Government Hearing Services Programme.

Hearing problems can be a major barrier to workforce participation. The CDEP accounted for one in four jobs held by Indigenous Australians in 2002. Addressing hearing problems by extending access to hearing services for CDEP participants will assist these individuals to more fully participate in the programme and to secure ongoing employment.

An estimated 10,000 additional Indigenous Australians suffering a hearing loss will benefit from Australian Government subsidised hearing services over the next four years.

The new measure will come into effect on 1 December 2005.

Combating petrol sniffing

The Australian Government has reaffirmed its commitment to promoting safer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, through the extension of its successful Comgas Scheme aimed at reducing petrol sniffing.

There are presently 37 communities that are assisted through the Comgas Scheme, which limits access to sources of sniffable fuel. An additional $9.6 million over four years has been allocated to reach a further 23 communities.

The additional funding will also allow the trialling of regional specific approaches to reduce petrol sniffing in two Council of Australian Governments trial sites. This will help inform future planning to combat petrol sniffing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Reduction in petrol sniffing will make a major contribution to whole-of-government efforts to reduce the impact of substance abuse and secure better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Engaging in direct partnerships with Indigenous communities has made programmes such as these possible.

Family and Community Networks Initiative

The Family and Community Networks Initiative aims to enhance the capacity of communities and services to work together effectively to address the needs of families and communities. The programme is focused on supporting Indigenous communities particularly those participating in the Council of Australian Governments’ Indigenous Community Coordination Pilots around Australia. Funding of $8.5 million was made available over four years from 2002-03.

Addressing Indigenous Needs – Shared Responsibility Agreements and community engagement

This measure will continue support for communities to engage with government through Shared Responsibility Agreements (SRAs) and Regional Partnership Agreements (RPAs). A total of $23.1 million will be provided in 2005-06.

The new whole-of-government arrangements for service delivery to Indigenous people are based on shared responsibility. This measure will provide resources for SRA development and fund priorities that do not fall neatly into individual government agencies’ responsibilities, while also supporting existing and new Communities in Crisis interventions and continuing assistance for Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland.

This measure will also provide resources to support Indigenous communities engaging with governments around the development of SRAs and RPAs. Communities may need support at the local level to identify their short and long-term priorities and what commitments they will make in return for government investment in their SRA. These funds can also assist with SRA implementation.

Family Violence Regional Activities Programme

With an allocation of $4.2 million in 2005-06 the Family Violence Regional Activities Programme (FVRAP) aims to provide practical and flexible support for grassroots projects that have been identified by Indigenous communities as a local priority to address family violence, sexual assault, child abuse and/or child protection. FVRAP also seeks to trial new/innovative approaches to reduce family violence in Indigenous communities.

Particular focus is given to projects that reflect the importance of protecting women and children, and breaking the cycle of violence. This includes initiatives to address causal issues, such as recognition/healing/grieving projects, or perpetrator programmes. FVRAP supports effective solutions that involve all elements of the community and where appropriate, traditional approaches to family relationships and/or traditional law, increasing skills, developing, supporting and/or maintaining community capacity and social capital building initiatives.

Family Violence Partnership Programme

The Family Violence Partnership Programme builds on the Australian Government’s commitment to tackle family violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities through the development of partnerships with state and territory governments. Funding of $37.3 million over four years was announced in May 2004 for this programme.

The initiative aims to achieve sustained measures that address family violence and improve individual and community safety for Indigenous people. Funded activities aim to effect change by treating causal factors of family violence rather than symptoms. The partnership approach enables Indigenous communities to be involved in, and share responsibility for, planning and implementation of local solutions.

Support for Indigenous students

Under new arrangements for Indigenous education and training for 2005-08, the Australian Government has increased its focus on Indigenous students in rural and remote areas.

The new arrangements include increased funding for in-class tuition for those Indigenous students who do not meet Year 3, 5 and 7 literacy and numeracy national benchmarks, with a weighting to remote participants. Funding is also provided for a tuition scheme targeted at Indigenous Year 10, 11 and 12 students, enabling 50 per cent of remote students and 10 per cent of non-remote students to access individual or small group assistance after school.

Ongoing and enhanced support is being provided for the ‘Scaffolding Literacy’ project, which utilises a structured approach to teaching and has proven to be especially effective in assisting students in remote areas. Funds are also being provided under a programme of support for school-parent partnerships to tackle entrenched problems, with at least 50 per cent of this amount targeted at remote schools.

The Australian Government is also providing an estimated $13 million over the period 2005-06 to 2008-09 to benefit isolated Indigenous students, by increasing the ABSTUDY basic School Fees Allowance for Indigenous students to $6,000 per annum from 1 January 2005.

Tutorial support for remote Indigenous students

An additional $8.7 million will be provided over four years for tutorial assistance and support for one year Indigenous students who leave their communities each year to attend school in provincial and metropolitan locations. From January 2006, some 680 students will be eligible to receive up to four hours of individual tutorial assistance per week, for up to 32 weeks.

Indigenous Youth Mobility Programme

The Indigenous Youth Mobility Programme is part of the Australian Government’s Indigenous Australians Opportunity and Responsibility election commitment. It provides $19 million over four years to assist 600 young Indigenous people, primarily from remote areas of Australia, to access pre-vocational training, trade and non-trade New Apprenticeships and tertiary training opportunities in occupations such as nursing, accountancy, business management and teaching.

Young Indigenous people, with the support of their families and communities, will elect to relocate to major centres to take up training and employment opportunities. The programme will provide mentoring and support to participants and encouragement to return to their communities so that on completion of their studies they can continue to contribute to these communities.

Safe and supported accommodation will be provided by Aboriginal Hostels Limited. Local educational institutions, employers, mentors and Aboriginal Hostel House Parents will operate as a team to ensure the social and physical wellbeing of the young people and to optimise academic results.

Additional funding for Indigenous higher education

The Australian Government is providing $3 million in additional funding over 2004 and 2005 to Charles Darwin University (CDU) and Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education for the enrichment of Indigenous higher education in the Northern Territory. This special funding is designed to encourage greater cooperation between CDU and Batchelor Institute to achieve Territory–wide benefits for Indigenous tertiary students.

Maintenance of Indigenous Language and Records Programme

The Australian Government will provide $8.5 million in 2005-06 for the Maintenance of Indigenous Languages Programme.

The Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records Programme supports the revival and maintenance of Indigenous languages as living systems of knowledge shared by communities and passed down from generation to generation. The programme supports a national network of 21 language centres, most of which are located in regional, rural or remote Australia. The programme also provides funding to community based language activities targeting endangered languages with less than twenty remaining speakers.

National Arts and Crafts Industry Support Strategy (NACISS) Programme

NACISS is an Australian Government programme which fosters the development of community-based visual arts and crafts activities in order to develop and maintain a successful Indigenous visual arts and crafts industry that is economically viable and culturally sustainable. The programme supports Indigenous art centres, many of which are located in remote and regional areas. In 2005-06, approximately $4.4 million will be allocated to NACISS.

Regional arts and culture support

The Australian Government will provide $6.7 million in 2005-06 for the Regional Arts and Culture Support Programme.

The Regional Arts and Culture Support Programme funds activities that maintain the depth and diversity of cultural practice within Indigenous communities. It promotes Indigenous cultures as dynamic and integral elements of Australian culture and identity and aims to foster, maintain and preserve regional and local Indigenous arts and cultures and support community participation in the process of cultural transmission.

Promoting and developing Indigenous art

New Australian Government funding initiatives will provide additional support for the promotion and development of Indigenous visual arts with the allocation of $4 million over four years from 2004-05 to 2007-08 for the upgrading of art centre facilities, and for training and marketing initiatives. Funds will also be released from the Northern Territory Aboriginal Benefit Account for a comprehensive Indigenous art development strategy, benefiting art centres and Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

Indigenous Employment Policy

The Indigenous Employment Policy (IEP) was implemented in July 1999 in recognition of the particular disadvantage of Indigenous Australians in the labour market and aims to generate more employment opportunities for Australia’s Indigenous peoples.

The major components of the IEP include the Structured Training and Employment Projects, the Corporate Leaders for Indigenous Employment Project, Wage Assistance, the National Cadetship Project, the Indigenous Small Business Fund and Indigenous Community Volunteers.

Aboriginal Employment Strategy

The Aboriginal Employment Strategy (AES) service based in Moree, Tamworth and Dubbo will continue and expand to more sites from July 2005. The AES will match Indigenous job seekers with job opportunities and provide support for both the employer and job seeker to promote long term employment outcomes. The AES will provide more choice and complementary employment services for Indigenous job seekers in all sites where it operates.

Emerging Indigenous Entrepreneurs Strategy

In regional areas where employment opportunities are limited a new strategy, worth $4.5 million over four years (2004-08), will encourage and empower potential Indigenous entrepreneurs toward self employment and small business opportunities. The Emerging Indigenous Entrepreneurs Strategy will link emerging Indigenous entrepreneurs with private sector intermediaries who have financial expertise and provide financial literacy training to community members seeking to start a business.

Indigenous communities and the mining industry join forces

The Australian Government is providing $2 million over four years to 2008-09 to foster and support effective partnerships between Indigenous communities and the mining industry. Now in its fourth year, the Working in Partnership programme is supporting effective partnerships between Indigenous communities and the mining/exploration sector in remote communities where there are very few alternative employment prospects.

Fringe Benefit Tax supplementation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations

The Australian Government has reaffirmed its commitment to assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to retain professional staff through the continuance of its FBT supplementation programme.

Funding of $59.7 million will be provided over four years to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations which provide health, housing, employment, educational and legal services to assist them with overcoming the disadvantages they face in attracting and retaining professional staff, especially to remote areas of Australia.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations were disadvantaged by additional costs resulting from the introduction of reforms to the FBT scheme in 2000. These reforms were designed to restrict the overuse of the FBT concessions available to public benevolent institutions.

The funding is a recommitment to the programme introduced by the Australian Government in April 2001. Over the past four years Indigenous organisations have been able to maintain staff in over 1,400 positions.

Continuing FBT supplementation will ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, especially those in rural and remote areas, are able to retain doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers and competent and experienced administration and management professionals.