Prime Minister and Cabinet: Investing in Regional Growth—2016-17

Responsibility for Indigenous outcomes sits across all portfolios. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is responsible for broad policy directions, and some specific funding programmes, aimed at ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are able to take up the full range of opportunities our nation has to offer. This includes measures to encourage workforce participation, economic development, educational success and safety at home—the foundations of successful communities.

Two thirds of Indigenous Australians, live outside the major cities with over 20 per cent living in remote and very remote locations.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's regional network is located in the communities they serve and has ensured practical change on the ground though implementing and supporting the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

Introduced on 1 July 2014 the Indigenous Advancement Strategy replaced more than 150 individual programmes and activities with five flexible, broad-based programmes.

New Initiatives

Community Development Programme

In remote Australia many people are moving onto welfare at a young age and staying there for extended periods.

The Australian Government has provided $25.9 million to better tailor the mutual obligation framework to the needs of remote Australians and to increase incentives to work in remote Australia.

The Community Development Programme is making steady progress to reduce welfare dependency in remote communities through enabling people to participate in meaningful activities that prepare them for work and make their communities better places to live. However, stronger incentives are needed to encourage people to be active in their communities and to take up available work.

On 2 December 2015, the Australian Government introduced legislation into the Senate that if passed will mean changes to remote welfare and compliance arrangements. A new Remote Income Support Payment will replace activity tested payments, including supplements and allowances, for eligible job seekers in Community Development Programme regions. Payments will be administered weekly by local Community Development Programme providers, enabling more immediate application of financial penalties for job seekers who do not attend their mutual obligation activities.

To encourage job seekers to work, the amount an individual can earn before their income support starts reducing under the income test will be increased to the equivalent of the minimum wage.

A Community Investment Fund will be established to reinvest non-compliance penalties in economic and community development initiatives in remote communities.

Arrangements will be phased in from 1 July 2016, initially in up to four of the 60 Community Development Programme regions.

Northern Australia White Paper (Land Reforms)

The Australian Government has commenced a range of reforms as outlined in the Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia and report of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Investigation into Indigenous land administration and use. These initiatives will support Indigenous Australians to use their rights in land and waters for economic development as part of the mainstream economy. Particular projects include supporting land reform pilots which illustrate the benefits of innovative land use, funding for native title corporations to engage effectively with proponents of development and reforms to support streamlined approval processes for Indigenous land use.

Indigenous Student Success in Higher Education

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are enrolling in universities in greater numbers than ever before. The Australian Government and universities have worked together to develop new arrangements to capitalise on these improvements to ensure students are not only enrolling, but also progressing and completing university awards in greater numbers. This will lead to more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people taking up professional careers.

The Australian Government will consolidate funding of $253.1 million over four years from 2016-17 within a capped special appropriation under the Higher Education Support Act 2003.

The new measure will commence from the 2017 academic year, consolidating the existing Commonwealth Scholarships Programme, Indigenous Support Programme and tutorial assistance under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy. Universities will be able to design support that best meets the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students but funding will be geared to extend the current focus on access along with enhanced retention and completion outcomes. The new model features a loading that recognises the additional support students from remote and regional locations require.

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Current Initiatives

The Prime Minister and Cabinet's Regional Network

The Prime Minister and Cabinet's Regional Network encompasses 12 regions across Australia that have similarities in culture, language, mobility and economy. The Prime Minister and Cabinet's Regional Network is responsible for providing expertise and information about the local circumstances of communities, stakeholders, services, issues and sensitivities. Each region is led by a senior officer (Regional Manager), who is accountable for achieving outcomes in their region.

In the coming year, the Prime Minister and Cabinet's Regional Network will focus on strengthening engagement with Indigenous families, communities and leaders across urban, regional and remote Australia to understand their needs and aspirations and affect practical change on the ground in the Government's key priority areas. The Prime Minister and Cabinet's Regional Network will work to design and implement tailored and culturally appropriate local solutions in partnership with Australian Government agencies, State and Territory governments, local governments, Indigenous communities, service providers and other stakeholders.

Indigenous Advancement Strategy

The Indigenous Advancement Strategy began on 1 July 2014 and replaced more than 150 individual programmes and activities with five flexible, broad-based programmes:

  • Jobs, Land and Economy;
  • Children and Schooling;
  • Safety and Wellbeing;
  • Culture and Capability; and
  • Remote Australia Strategies.

Through these five broad programmes, the Indigenous Advancement Strategy supports a wide range of activities, including many activities designed by Indigenous communities and organisations to achieve local aspirations.

Jobs, Land and Economy

Getting more adults into employment, fostering Indigenous business and assisting Indigenous people to benefit socially and economically from the use of their land are essential to delivering the Australian Government's commitment to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians. Since commencement of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy on 1 July 2014, over 25,000 job placements have been supported by the employment initiatives under its Jobs, Land and Economy programme.

The Australian Government is leading by example by committing to a three per cent employment target across the Australian Public Service by 2018, which will increase the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees to 9,270. For the first time, the Government has set agency-level targets for Indigenous representation to help drive accountability, taking into account agencies' current representation and regional presence.

Partnering with some of Australia's largest employers, the Employment Parity Initiative (EPI) aims to increase the number of large Australian companies with a workforce reflective of the size of the Indigenous population. The EPI aims to get 20,000 more Indigenous job seekers into jobs by 2020. To date, ten companies have entered into EPI agreements committing to an additional 6,815 jobs for Indigenous Australians.

The Australian Government's Indigenous Procurement Policy began on 1 July 2015 and provides opportunities for Indigenous businesses to win an increasing share of the Australian government's contracts. This is helping stimulate Indigenous entrepreneurship and business development, and providing Indigenous Australians with more opportunities to participate in the economy.

Under the policy, three per cent of Australian Government contracts must be awarded to Indigenous businesses by 2020. This means that by 2019-2020 at least 1,500 new domestic contracts will be awarded to Indigenous businesses across the Australian Government.

In the first six months of the policy, over 750 contracts were awarded to more than 250 Indigenous businesses valued in total at over $91 million. This is almost 15 times above the value of Australian Government procurement with Indigenous businesses in previous years.

The Australian Government has committed more than $70 million to support around 5,000 Indigenous Australians into guaranteed jobs through Vocational Training and Employment Centres model. Already Vocational Training and Employment Centres have supported just over 3,900 job placements for Indigenous Australians, many of them in regional and remote regions.

The Australian Government will continue to support the recognition of traditional ownership and Indigenous interests in land through native title processes and Australian Government land rights legislation, including in regional areas across Australia. It will continue to support negotiation of further 99-year township leases in the Northern Territory to support home ownership and economic development opportunities for Indigenous people and their communities. The Australian Government currently supports Indigenous rangers to deliver environmental outcomes and address Indigenous disadvantage by providing jobs to Indigenous people. At 30 March 2016, the Australian Government was providing funding for the training and employment of 775 Indigenous rangers, mostly in remote and regional areas.

Indigenous Protected Areas now make up more than 65 million hectares, or approximately 44.4 per cent of the National Reserve System, Australia's network of protected areas.

Children and Schooling

The Children and Schooling programme supports activities which nurture and educate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, youth and adults. The programme has a strong focus on increased school attendance and improved educational outcomes which lead to employment. Through this programme the Government is aiming to contribute to:

  • having 95 per cent of all Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025;
  • halving the gap for Indigenous students in reading, writing and numeracy by 2018;
  • attaining 90 per cent school attendance for Indigenous children by 2018;
  • halving the gap for Indigenous people aged 20-24 years old in Year 12 attainment or equivalent attainment rates by 2020;
  • assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to attend high performing schools, including both day and full boarding support;
  • mentoring support to improve rates of school attendance, Year 12 attainment and transition to further education;
  • assisting tertiary students who are required to travel away from their permanent home for short periods to undertake approved course-related activities; and
  • sporting academies across Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales.

Remote School Attendance Strategy

The Remote School Attendance Strategy aims to increase school attendance in remote areas by providing targeted assistance to remote families, schools and communities in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. The Remote School Attendance Strategy commenced in January 2014 and in 2016 is expected to operate in 77 schools across 74 communities. $80.0 million in funding has been allocated for 2016-2018.

Over 2014 and 2015 the Remote School Attendance Strategy achieved some promising results, with the best gains in school attendance in Queensland and Northern Territory schools. The Remote School Attendance Strategy continues to be a significant employer of local Indigenous people with over 400 employed.

Safety and Wellbeing

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that Indigenous Australians grow up in a healthy and safe home and community, including in regional and remote areas. Under the Safety and Wellbeing programme, the Australia Government is providing approximately $250 million funding in 2015-16 for a range of targeted, evidence-based activities to help increase Indigenous community safety and wellbeing. This includes activities that:

  • reduce alcohol and other drugs misuse through treatment, rehabilitation and education;
  • prevent crime and reduce offending and re-offending through diversion and prevention activities and prisoner rehabilitation services that help prisoners to successfully integrate back into their communities;
  • support victims of family and domestic violence through family safety activities, Indigenous women's legal services and family violence prevention legal services;
  • improve policing through additional support for policing in remote Indigenous communities;
  • prevent community violence by promoting connection to family, culture, community and land, including through sport and recreation activities;
  • reduce the impacts of grief and trauma through social and emotional wellbeing support services for members of the Stolen Generations and other Indigenous people experiencing trauma;
  • promote safe and functional physical environments in remote areas through community and night patrols; and
  • reduce petrol sniffing in regional and remote areas of Australia by supporting local community action and replacing regular fuel with low aromatic unleaded fuel, with over 150 sites currently supplying low aromatic unleaded fuel.

Culture and Capability

Activities funded under the Culture and Capability programme support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to maintain their culture, and participate equally in the economic and social life of Australia. Strengthening Indigenous culture and capability underpins the Australian Government's engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in working together to understand and develop tailored responses to meet the aspirations and priorities of communities. Activities supported include:

  • community led healing initiatives;
  • reconciliation activities, including the use of Reconciliation Action Plans;
  • leadership and governance training;
  • interpreter services; and
  • Indigenous broadcasting services.

Remote Australia Strategies

Funding of approximately $160 million over three years to 2018-19 has been provided to address the disproportionate disadvantage of Indigenous Australians in remote Australia. This funding supports community-led initiatives that are delivered through Indigenous organisations, and support Indigenous employment outcomes.

The Army Aboriginal Community Assistance programme is a joint venture between the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian Army to improve primary and environmental health and living conditions in remote Indigenous communities. Up to $6 million dollars is provided through the programme to deliver one project in a community each calendar year, providing infrastructure, health services and vocational training. The Army Aboriginal Community Assistance programme will be delivered in Laura (Queensland) in 2016 and Toomelah (New South Wales) in 2017.

National Partnership Agreements

National Partnership Agreement on Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment

As announced in the 2015-16 Budget, the Australian Government is continuing its significant investment into services and outcomes for remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. The Government has redirected $988.2 million over eight years to establish a new National Partnership on Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment.

A New Remote Indigenous Housing Strategy

The Australian Government is providing funding to partner States through to 2017-18 for a new Remote Housing Strategy to replace the existing National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing. The Remote Housing Strategy will continue to build on the investment under the National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing, to facilitate new housing, housing-related infrastructure and refurbishments, as well as, for the first time, provide incentives to States for progress against agreed outcomes which establish more sustainable housing systems in remote Indigenous communities.

Portfolio Bodies

Indigenous Business Australia

The Australian Government continues to support Indigenous home ownership, businesses and investments through Indigenous Business Australia, a corporate Australian Government entity within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. Indigenous Business Australia provides new and existing Indigenous business owners access to expert advice and business finance. Indigenous Business Australia also provides housing finance that enables Indigenous Australians to buy their first homes, and investment advice and products that allow groups to build wealth and maximise economic outcomes from their land and other assets.

In 2016-17, Indigenous Business Australia expects to provide:

  • approximately 530 new concessional home loans to eligible low and middle income Indigenous families to assist buying their first home;
  • approximately 50 business loans to assist eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to start up, acquire, or grow a successful small-to-medium sized business; and
  • investment assistance to 85 Indigenous organisations.

Indigenous Land Corporation

The Indigenous Land Corporation is a Corporate Australian Government entity within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. It assists Indigenous Australians to acquire land, and manage Indigenous-held land, "so as to provide economic, environmental, social or cultural benefits for Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders". The Indigenous Land Corporation has a national focus, engaging extensively with Indigenous land holders in regional Australia through:

  • managing a cattle herd of up to 100,000 head across 13 properties in northern Australia, in partnership with Traditional Owners (through Indigenous Land Corporation subsidiary National Indigenous Pastoral Enterprises Pty Ltd);
  • running complex multi-property land management projects and pastoral services across regions that provide advice, training, mentoring and other assistance to Indigenous land holders;
  • continuing innovation in payment for ecosystem services including the generation of carbon credits from controlled savanna burning on Indigenous-held land; and
  • providing land management assistance to projects on Indigenous-held land to protect country, bring land back into production and build capacity to sustainably manage land and develop land-based enterprises; and operating training-to-employment programmes for Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal Hostels Limited

Aboriginal Hostels Limited is a Commonwealth company within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio that facilitates safe, culturally appropriate and affordable accommodation for Indigenous Australians who must live away from home to access services and economic opportunities.

As at 29 February 2016, Aboriginal Hostels Limited operates 47 accommodation facilities Australia wide, predominately in regional and remote locations. Aboriginal Hostels Limited provides 1,850 beds for residents per night across the country, with 81 per cent of these beds located in regional and remote areas (551 beds per night in regional areas, 943 beds per night in remote areas and 356 beds per night in capital areas).

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