Prime Minister and Cabinet: Regional Australia—Driving Our Economy 2017–18

The Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio provides high quality advice and support to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, portfolio Ministers and Assistant Ministers to achieve a coordinated and innovative approach to the development and implementation of Australian Government policies, including those that impact on regional and remote communities. The portfolio coordinates and develops policy across the Australian Government in economic, domestic and international issues, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, cities policy, including regional cities, and public service stewardship.

While responsibility for Indigenous outcomes sits across all portfolios, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is responsible for broad policy directions, and some specific funding programs, 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 through implementing and supporting the Indigenous Advancement Strategy. Introduced on 1 July 2014, the Indigenous Advancement Strategy replaced more than 150 individual programs and activities with five flexible, broad–based programs.

The Australian Government is committed to working with governments, business and the community to position our cities, regional and metropolitan, to reach their full potential. The Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio is leading delivery of the Government’s Smart Cities Plan, released in April 2016. This plan supports productive, accessible, liveable cities that attract talent, encourage innovation and create jobs and growth. The Smart Cities Plan represents a new framework for cities policy at the federal level—and it is a framework that will guide action across various portfolios, to deliver better outcomes for our cities, the people who live in them and all Australians. To deliver the Smart Cities Plan, the Australian Government has invited State, Territory and relevant local governments to partner on City Deals.

New Initiatives

Indigenous Entrepreneurs Package

Prior to the 2016 election, the Australian Government committed to provide $115.0 million from 2016–17 to establish an Indigenous Entrepreneurs Package of targeted support for Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses. This includes:

  • investing $90.0 million over three years in an Indigenous Entrepreneurs Fund to establish and grow Indigenous businesses by providing business advice and support to assist new and existing businesses to access commercial finance, as well as one–off grants for business infrastructure, primarily in remote and regional Australia;
  • developing an Indigenous Business Sector Strategy. The Indigenous Business Sector Strategy is expected to be finalised in early 2017–18; and
  • refocusing Indigenous Business Australia’s Business Development and Assistance Programme.

From 2017–18, $146.9 million over four years will be redirected from Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to facilitate the delivery of innovative and effective support for Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs (Business Support for Indigenous Entrepreneurs—Extension). This will include providing $27.5 million per year to IBA’s Business Development and Assistance Programme.

Current Initiatives

Enhanced Evidence and Evaluation in Indigenous Affairs

The Government will provide $52.9 million over four years from 2017–18 to implement a whole-of-government research and evaluation strategy for policies and programs affecting Indigenous Australians. This includes the establishment of an Indigenous Research Fund.

The strategy includes three components:

  • $40.0 million over four years from 2017–18 to strengthen evaluation of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy;
  • $10.0 million over three years from 2017–18 to establish an Indigenous Research Fund that will add to the Indigenous policy evidence base; and
  • ·      $2.9 million over four years from 2017–18 for the Productivity Commission to enhance its role in Indigenous policy evaluation and to expand the Commission to include an additional Commissioner with relevant experience in Indigenous policy.

Implementing the National Cities Agenda

On 29 April 2016, the Australian Government launched its Smart Cities Plan. The Smart Cities Plan will improve the productivity, liveability and accessibility of Australian cities, helping to build an agile, innovative and prosperous nation. City Deals will be the primary mechanism for delivery of the Smart Cities Plan. The Australian Government has invited State, Territory and relevant local governments to partner on City Deals. The first two signed City Deals are Townsville and Launceston.

Townsville City Deal

The Australian Government, Queensland Government and Townsville City Council agreed the Townsville City Deal on 9 December 2016. The City Deal is a long–term plan to secure the economic success of Townsville by bringing all relevant policy, program and funding levers together to achieve a shared vision for Townsville as an economic gateway to northern Australia, and a lifestyle-rich city for residents and visitors alike.

Key commitments under the Townsville City Deal include:

  • $150.0 million to support development of the Townville Eastern Access Rail Corridor, including $3.0 million toward development of the business case due for completion in 2017;
  • identifying innovative funding and financing opportunities in 2017, to help accelerate investment in the State Development Area and the expansion of the Port of Townsville;
  • creating the Townsville Development Corporation to deliver urban renewal and drive further investment across the city;
  • establishing a Townsville Industrial Development Board to drive investment and market engagement to attract freight and port–related industries;
  • establishing an intergovernmental water taskforce in 2017 to improve Townsville’s water security supply and usage;
  • developing a program of energy efficiency measures across Townsville; and
  • building the 25,000 seat North Queensland Stadium commencing in 2017, with completion due in time for the 2020 National Rugby League season.

Launceston City Deal

The Australian Government, the Tasmanian Government and the City of Launceston agreed the Launceston City Deal on 20 April 2017. The Launceston City Deal is a commitment between governments for a collective program of planning, reform and investment aimed at building on the region’s natural advantages to improve the lives of local residents. The City Deal objectives are:

  • jobs and skills growth;
  • business, industry and population growth;
  • a vibrant, liveable city;
  • innovation and industry engagement; and
  • a healthy Tamar Estuary.

Key commitments under the City Deal include:

  • $130.0 million to relocate the University of Tasmania’s Launceston campus (delivered through the Department of Education and Training);
  • $7.5 million to rejuvenate the Launceston central business district, through the City of Launceston’s City Heart project (delivered through the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development); and
  • $2.0 million for the delivery of a National Institute for Forest Products Innovation Hub (delivered through the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources).

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Regional Network

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Regional Network encompasses 12 regions across Australia that have similarities in culture, language, mobility and economy. The 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.

The Regional Network engages with Indigenous individuals, communities and leaders across Australia. It focuses on understanding the needs and aspirations of Indigenous people to affect practical change on the ground in the Australian Government’s key priority areas, including strengthening opportunities for economic participation. The 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 Student Success Program

The Indigenous Student Success Program commenced on 1 January 2017. Under the program, universities share in $67.5 million in 2017 to offer scholarships, tutorial assistance and other support helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to participate, successfully progress through university, and graduate. The funding for 2016–17 is $33.7 million and for 2017–18 it is $68.0 million. The program features a loading that recognises the additional support students from remote and regional locations require.

Indigenous Advancement Strategy

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

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

Through these five broad programs, 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 program.

The Australian Government is leading by example by committing to a three per cent employment target across the Australian Government by 2018. For the first time, the Australian Government has set agency–level targets for Indigenous representation to help drive accountability, taking into account agencies’ current representation and regional presence. In the 12 months to 30 June 2016, Indigenous employment in the Australian Government has increased from 2.2 per cent to 2.4 per cent.

Partnering with some of Australia’s largest employers, the Employment Parity Initiative aims to increase the number of large Australian companies with a workforce reflective of the size of the Indigenous population. The Employment Parity Initiative aims to get 20,000 more Indigenous job seekers into jobs by 2020. To date, 11 companies have entered into Employment Parity Initiative agreements committing to an additional 7,265 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.

In the first year of the Indigenous Procurement Policy, the Australian Government awarded around 1,500 contracts to almost 500 Indigenous businesses with a total value of $284.2 million, well exceeding the first year target of 0.5 per cent of Australian Government domestic contracts.

Given the success of the Indigenous Procurement Policy, the Australian Government brought forward the 2020 target of three per cent of contracts to Indigenous businesses to 2016–17, which is nearly three years ahead of schedule.

Further, from 1 July 2016 under the Indigenous Procurement Policy all businesses that win Australian Government contracts valued at or over $7.5 million, in eight industry sectors, must meet minimum Indigenous employment requirements or use Indigenous businesses in their supply chains. This will ensure Indigenous Australians gain skills and economic benefit from some of the larger pieces of work the Australian Government outsources.

The Australian Government’s Community Development Program aims to deliver better opportunities for remote job-seekers and to foster stronger economic and social outcomes in remote Australia.

The Community Development Programme supports around 34,000 job-seekers each day, 82 per cent of whom identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. The Programme is designed around the unique social and labour market conditions found in remote Australia, which feature fewer employment opportunities.

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. Between 1 July 2015 and 31 March 2017, the Community Development Programme has supported job seekers into 14,680 jobs. In the same period, the Programme supported job seekers to stay in 4,887 jobs for at least six months.

The Australian Government has committed up to $99.4 million to support around 7,500 Indigenous Australians into guaranteed jobs through the Vocational Training and Employment Centres model. Already, Vocational Training and Employment Centres have supported almost 5,800 job placements for Indigenous Australians, many of them in regional and remote regions.

In addition since 1 July 2014, the Australian Government has committed more than $140.0 million to Tailored Assistance Employment Grants to connect working age Indigenous Australians with real and sustainable jobs, as well as support Indigenous high school students’ transition successfully from education to sustainable employment. This has supported 10,083 job placements. A further $25.6 million has been committed to employers to support 729 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students undertake their first undergraduate degree.

The Council of Australian Governments’ Investigation into Indigenous Land Administration and Use and the Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia developed a comprehensive strategy for improving Indigenous land systems to support Indigenous landowners to use their land for economic development. The Australian Government and the States and Territories are implementing the recommendations of the Council of Australian Governments’ investigation. Indigenous Land Administration systems are transitioning from a focus on recognition and protection of rights to supporting Indigenous Australians’ choice to use those rights in the mainstream economy. There are a range of Australian Government initiatives underway to empower and support Indigenous land owners to embrace the new phase of land rights, ensure the right capacity support is available, and claims are resolved to allow the land rights and native title systems to fully transition.

The Australian Government funds a national network of Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers to assist native title groups across Australia. In 2017–18, funding of approximately $88.9 million is available for 14 Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers to assist native title claimants and holders. In addition, the Northern Territory Land Councils received funding of approximately $46.6 million in 2016–17 to perform their functions to represent and assist traditional owners under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.

The Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia includes funding of $48.0 million over four years from 2015 for a number of Indigenous specific measures. These include ongoing funding of $20.4 million for Prescribed Bodies Corporate to build capacity, $10.6 million for land tenure reform pilots that broaden land use and economic opportunity, and $17.0 million over three years for township leasing and land administration to support the Northern Territory. Funding available in 2017–18 across these initiatives is $13.8 million. In addition to these initiatives, the White Paper included Indigenous employment and supplier targets for major infrastructure projects.

Township leases are a proven model for achieving long term tradeable tenure and economic development on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory by simplifying land use and access to subleases across communities. Building on the Gunyangara community entity township lease and Mutitjulu township sublease, negotiations will continue for township leases in other interested communities in 2017–18, including Jabiru, Pirlangimpi and Yarralin.

The Australian Government currently supports Indigenous rangers to deliver environmental outcomes and address Indigenous disadvantage by providing jobs to Indigenous people. At February 2017, the Australian Government was providing funding for the training and employment of over 2,600 full time, part time and casual rangers, across 110 Indigenous ranger groups, mostly in remote and regional areas. These measures are funded under IAS Programme Stream 2.1 and the Natural Heritage Trust (through the Department of Environment and Energy).

The 75 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 program supports activities which nurture and educate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, youth and adults. The program has a strong focus on increased school attendance and improved educational outcomes which lead to employment. Through this program the Australian 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 to support improved rates of school attendance and Year 12 attainment.

Remote School Attendance Strategy

The Remote School Attendance Strategy is a flexible, place–based strategy which aims to increase school attendance in remote areas by providing 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 now operates across 78 schools with a combined enrolment of approximately 14,000 students. $81.3 million in funding has been allocated from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2018.

Since 2014 the Remote School Attendance Strategy achieved some promising results, with the greatest average improvements in participating schools in Queensland. The Remote School Attendance Strategy also provides employment for around 500 people, 94 per cent of whom are Indigenous.

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 program, the Australian Government is providing over $261.6 million in 2016–17 and $267.7 million in 2017–18 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 safety, 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 promoting the use of low aromatic fuel as an alternative to regular unleaded fuel with around 175 sites currently supplying low aromatic unleaded fuel.

Culture and Capability

Activities funded under the Culture and Capability program 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.

Funding of up to $63.3 million from 2017–18 to 2019–20 is available for more than 120 licensed Indigenous broadcasting and media services. These organisations achieve cultural outcomes by providing opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to access information and share their cultures and languages.

Other activities supported include:

  • community led healing initiatives;
  • establishing Empowered Communities regional backbone organisations;
  • raising awareness of the importance of Constitutional Recognition;
  • reconciliation activities, including the use of Reconciliation Action Plans;
  • leadership and governance training;
  • interpreter services; and
  • celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture including NAIDOC activities.

Remote Australia Strategies

Funding of approximately $160.0 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 program (AACAP) 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 $7 million from 2017–18 is provided through the program to deliver one project in a community each calendar year, providing infrastructure, health services and vocational training. The AACAP will be delivered in Toomelah (New South Wales) in 2017 and in Yalata (South Australia) in 2018.

Funding of $14.8 million over three years to 2017–18 is helping ensure remote Indigenous communities have better access to telecommunications like phone and internet services. Through the Remote Indigenous Internet Training activity, the Australian Government is providing internet access, training and/or essential infrastructure, while a remote telecommunications project provides phone services across Australia in remote Indigenous communities in nearly 550 locations.

Aboriginals Benefit Account

The Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA) is legislated under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Land Rights Act) to receive and distribute royalty equivalent monies generated from mining on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. The ABA is funded by the Australian Government from consolidated revenue.

ABA beneficial grants, as legislated under subsection 64(4) of the Land Rights Act, are distributed for the benefit of Aboriginal people living in the Northern Territory. Generally two funding rounds are held each year with a focus on:

  • supporting communities;
  • supporting enterprises;
  • supporting culture, language and leadership; and
  • supporting land, sea and waters management and use.

ABA is also funding two strategic infrastructure projects:

  • funding of $55.8 million has been provided to build or upgrade Indigenous–owned community stores across 18 communities in the Northern Territory, and establish appropriate store manager housing in ten of those communities. This project is due for completion by June 2017.
  • funding of $40.0 million over four years from 2013 has been approved to provide improved living conditions and outcomes for Aboriginal people living on homelands in the Northern Territory. Infrastructure and activities will be delivered by Indigenous organisations and engage Community Development Programme participants in their delivery. Delivery of the project will commence in 2017.

A New Remote Indigenous Housing Strategy

The Australian Government has allocated $776.4 million to partner States across 2016–18 under the Remote Housing Strategy, which has replaced the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing. The Remote Housing Strategy continues to build on the investment in remote Indigenous housing in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. The investment facilitates new housing, refurbishments and housing–related infrastructure. It also provides incentives to States against agreed outcomes to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, business engagement and improved opportunities for home ownership. Property and tenancy management reforms continue to develop 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 Commonwealth entity within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. Indigenous Business Australia provides new and existing Indigenous business owners access to expert advice, business finance and products that allow groups to build wealth and maximise economic outcomes from their land and other assets.

Indigenous Business Australia facilitates Indigenous Australians into home ownership by providing affordable housing loans to customers who would generally not qualify for housing finance elsewhere. This includes addressing barriers such as lower incomes and savings, credit impairment, and limited experience with loan repayments.

Indigenous Business Australia provides extra assistance to Indigenous Australians living in remote communities through a specifically targeted initiative, the Remote Indigenous Home Loan program. There are 33 locations eligible for assistance, 28 of which are nominated communities under the Australian Government’s Remote Indigenous Housing Strategy.

In 2017–18, Indigenous Business Australia expects to provide:

  • approximately 540 new concessional home loans to eligible low and middle income Indigenous families to assist buying their first home, including 40 Remote Indigenous Home Loans;
  • business loans, and other forms of capital and business support, to assist eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to start up, or grow a successful business; and
  • investment assistance to 90 Indigenous co-investors and organisations.

Indigenous Land Corporation

The Indigenous Land Corporation is a Commonwealth 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. In 2017–18, the Indigenous Land Corporation will work closely with Indigenous land holders in regional Australia to deliver against its mandate through:

  • developing strategic alliances which maximise opportunities for Indigenous enterprises, jobs and training on Indigenous–held land, particularly in emerging and niche markets;
  • contributing to policy leadership to realise the potential of the Indigenous estate to enable greater economic development;
  • partnering in the implementation of more than 100 discrete projects by providing investment, advice, training, mentoring and other assistance to land based enterprises that generate returns for Indigenous landholders. Around half of these projects will also assist in the management and preservation of cultural and environmental heritage values;
  • using tailored investment products to mobilise Indigenous Land Corporation funds to support Indigenous land based enterprises that are economically sustainable, can leverage investment and take advantage of markets such as agriculture, tourism, renewable energy, property development, and supply chain opportunities; and
  • working collaboratively with Indigenous land holders through flexible and supportive processes to ensure that properties granted to Indigenous Corporations are sustainable, productive and remain within the Indigenous estate to deliver intergenerational benefits to Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal Hostels Limited

Aboriginal Hostels Limited is a Commonwealth Corporate Entity 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 2 March 2017, Aboriginal Hostels Limited operates 47 accommodation facilities Australia wide, predominately in regional and remote locations. Aboriginal Hostels Limited provides 1,776 beds for residents per night across the country, with 70 per cent of these beds located in regional and remote areas (349 beds per night in regional areas, 899 beds per night in remote areas and 528 beds per night in capital areas).

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