Prime Minister and Cabinet: Regional Australia—A Stronger Economy Delivering Stronger Regions 2018–19

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, and public service stewardship.

While responsibility for Indigenous outcomes resides 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. Sixty three per cent of Indigenous Australians live outside the major cities and more than 18 per cent live in remote and very remote locations.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Regional Network works closely with local service providers and communities to design and deliver services for Indigenous Australians across metropolitan, regional and remote locations. It is the primary delivery and engagement arm for Indigenous Affairs under the Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

New Initiatives

Reforms to the Community Development Programme

The Australian Government will be reforming the current Community Development Programme to drive employment in remote Australia, improve the skills and employability of job seekers, and increase their participation in the community. Up to 6,000 wage subsidies will be provided to support jobs over four years in remote Australia to ensure more remote job seekers are lifted off welfare and into a job. The reforms have been designed to:

  • drive active participation by job seekers, and encourage personal responsibility through improvements to mutual obligation requirements and a reduction in required hours of participation
  • improve the skills and employability of job seekers, making them job-ready
  • grow the size and capacity of the remote labour market and support the development of more local businesses in remote Australia, backing the Government’s agenda to drive demand for, and support the supply of, remote job seekers
  • deliver a simpler, more streamlined system, with fewer job seeker interactions with the national welfare system.

Current Initiatives

Indigenous Advancement Strategy

The Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) 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
  • remote Australia strategies.

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

As part of the 2017-18 Budget, the Australian Government established an additional program focused on Research and Evaluation. The current work stream focuses on strengthening the evaluation of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

Jobs, Land and Economy

Supporting people to find and stay in work, fostering Indigenous business and assisting Indigenous people to benefit socially and economically from the use of their land are essential elements of the Australian Government’s commitment to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians. Since the IAS began on 1 July 2014, more than 52,000 job placements have been supported as part of the Jobs, Land and Economy program.

In partnership with some of Australia’s largest employers, the Employment Parity Initiative aims to increase the number of large Australian companies with a workforce that reflects the size of the Indigenous population. By 2020, the initiative is aiming to secure an additional 20,000 more Indigenous people into jobs. To date, 12 companies have entered into Employment Parity Initiative agreements, with a total commitment of 7,465 jobs new jobs for Indigenous Australians.

To stimulate Indigenous entrepreneurship and business development, and providing Indigenous Australians with more opportunities to participate in the economy, the Australian Government introduced the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP). Introduced on 1 July 2015, it provides opportunities for Indigenous businesses to win a greater share of Australian Government contracts.

Since the launch of the IPP, Indigenous businesses have won contracts to deliver over $1.0 billion in works for the Commonwealth Government. For the first time, an Indigenous business has won a significant management contract for Defence, managing the delivery of the $213.0 million Garden Island redevelopment project. In the first two years of the IPP, 807 contracts valued at $91.0 million were awarded to Indigenous businesses domiciled in remote Australia.

Further, since 1 July 2016 under the IPP 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 larger Australian Government contracts.  In 2016-17, 34 contracts with 21 businesses, worth more than $1.6 billion were subject to the IPP requirements.

The Australian Government’s Community Development Programme 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 identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The Programme is designed to recognise the social and labour market conditions found in remote Australia.

The Community Development Programme is making steady progress to reduce welfare dependency in remote communities by enabling people to participate in meaningful activities that prepare them for work and improve communities to live in. From 1 July 2015 to 28 February 2018, the Community Development Programme has supported 16,900 job seekers into 22,800 jobs. During the same period, 7,887 jobs were filled continuously for at least six months.

The Australian Government has committed up to $113.8 million to support more than 7,500 Indigenous Australians into guaranteed jobs through Vocational Training and Employment Centres. Nearly 7200 Indigenous Australians have already been placed in jobs— many of them in regional and remote regions.

Between 1 July 2014 and 28 February 2018, the Australian Government committed more than $192.0 million to Tailored Assistance Employment Grants to connect working age Indigenous Australians (and graduating secondary students) into nearly 15,000 real and sustainable jobs. A further $46.3 million has been committed for employers to support more than 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students undertaking 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 to improve Indigenous land systems so Indigenous landowners can 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 support is available and that 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 2018-19, funding of approximately $89.0 million is available for 14 Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers to help native title claimants and holders. The Australian Government is also providing ongoing funding of approximately $5.0 million a year to build the capacity of native title land holding corporations across Australia. This will help ensure native title holders can realise the benefits of native title rights and interests.

The Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia includes initial 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, $17.0 million for township leasing and land administration to support the Northern Territory over three years and funding of $7.1 million for Prescribed Bodies Corporate capacity building and land tenure reform is available in 2018-19. 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. The leases simplify land use and access to subleases across communities. After the success of the Gunyangara community entity township lease and Mutitjulu township sublease, negotiations will continue for township leases in other interested communities including Jabiru, Pirlangimpi and Yarralin.

The Australian Government addresses Indigenous disadvantage and supports Indigenous communities to improve the environment by providing jobs to Indigenous people through the Indigenous rangers and the Indigenous Protected Areas programs. As at February 2018, funding is provided for more than 2,900 full time, part time and casual positions, across 118 Indigenous ranger groups and 75 Indigenous Protected Areas, mostly in remote and regional areas. There are now more than 65 million hectares of Indigenous Protected Areas representing more than 44 per cent of the National Reserve System.

From 1 July 2018, both of these initiatives will be funded under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy: Jobs, Land and Economy Program. Funding has been transferred for existing Indigenous Protected Areas from the Natural Heritage Trust to the Indigenous Advancement Strategy to align the program with others, including Indigenous rangers. This will streamline program management arrangements and reduce the administrative burden on organisations that currently administer both Indigenous Protected Area and Indigenous ranger projects.

Indigenous Entrepreneurs Package

Before the 2016 election, the Australian Government committed to provide $115.0 million in targeted support for Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses. Implementation of the Indigenous Entrepreneurs Package is well underway, through:

  • The continuing investment of $90.0 million over three years in the Indigenous Entrepreneurs Fund to establish and grow Indigenous businesses by facilitating  access to commercial finance and providing one‑off grants for business plant and equipment primarily in remote and regional Australia.
  • The implementation of the Indigenous Business Sector Strategy (IBSS). The IBSS is a ten-year policy initiative that aims to improve access to business support, access to capital and access to information and networks. The strategy was launched by the Prime Minister on 12 February 2018 and focuses on fostering Indigenous entrepreneurship in regional and remote Australia. Starting from July 2018, one of the first actions under the Strategy will be to double the footprint of micro-finance in regional and remote Australia which will increase access to the support needed to foster self-employment.
  • Re-focusing Indigenous Business Australia’s (IBA) Business Development and Assistance Programme to support early stage and high risk Indigenous entrepreneurs.

Under the re-focused Business Development and Assistance Programme, IBA will continue to deliver at least 30 per cent of its business support program in regional and remote Australia.

Children and Schooling

The Children and Schooling program supports activities to 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 aims to:

  • have 95 per cent of all Indigenous four‑year‑olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025
  • halve the gap for Indigenous students in reading, writing and numeracy by 2018
  • attain 90 per cent school attendance for Indigenous children by 2018
  • halve the gap for Indigenous people aged 20‑24 years old in Year 12 attainment or equivalent attainment rates by 2020
  • assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to attend high performing schools, including both day and full boarding support
  • provide mentoring support to improve rates of school attendance, Year 12 attainment and transition to further education
  • assist tertiary students who are required to travel away from home for short periods to undertake approved course‑related activities
  • Contribute to 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 with the objective of increasing school attendance in remote areas. This is achieved through 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 locations with a combined enrolment of approximately 14,500 students. $128.1 million in funding has been allocated from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2018.

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

Indigenous Student Success Program

In 2018, under the Indigenous Student Success Program, universities can access $68.5 million to offer scholarships, tutorial assistance and other support to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people attend and successfully progress through university to graduation. The program features a loading that recognises the additional support students from remote and regional locations require.

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 $264.6 million in 2017‑18 and $245.3 million in 2018-19 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
  • 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. Around 175 sites currently supply low aromatic 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.

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 provide 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
  • celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture including National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) activities.

Empowered Communities

Empowered Communities (EC) is a regionally focused initiative of Indigenous leaders that fosters Indigenous-led responsibility and involves local communities in decisions that affect them. Integral to this approach is the sharing of data and Commonwealth funding information with EC regions. Leaders then use this data to test it with the community and develop regional development plans. EC leaders have worked with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to develop a joint decision-making framework to guide decisions about discretionary investment in EC regions.

In 2016, funding of $14.4 million over three years was provided from the Indigenous Advancement Strategy for backbone organisations in seven of the eight EC regions:

  • Cape York
  • New South Wales Central Coast
  • Inner Sydney
  • Goulburn-Murray
  • East Kimberley
  • West Kimberley
  • Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands.

It is envisaged the framework can expand beyond eight sites as communities seek to apply a regional governance approach and meet criteria set by EC leaders.

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 $7.0 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 $12.0 million over three years from 2018-2021 will ensure remote Indigenous communities continue to have better access to telecommunications.  The Australian Government is providing internet access, training and/or essential infrastructure. A remote telecommunications project provides phone services across Australia in nearly 550 locations in remote Indigenous communities.

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.  

Funding is provided annually, as legislated under subsection 64(1) of the Land Rights Act, from the Aboriginals Benefit Account to the four Northern Territory land councils to fulfil functions specified under s23 of the Land Rights Act. Functions of the individual land councils are varied and may include activities that support the progression and protection of land rights, preservation of culture and heritage, land use and economic development.

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
  • supporting land, sea and waters management and use.

ABA is also funding a one-off $40.0 million infrastructure project which will improve living conditions and outcomes for residents of homelands in the Northern Territory. Land Councils will assist homelands residents to identify need and develop proposals. The Department will engage Indigenous organisations to deliver works by June 2020.

Enhanced Evidence and Evaluation in Indigenous Affairs

As part of the 2017-18 Budget the Government has allocated $52.9 million over four years to implement a whole-of-government research and evaluation strategy for policies and programs affecting Indigenous Australians.

The strategy includes three components:

  • $40.0 million over four years from 2017-18 to strengthen evaluation of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS)
  • $10.0 million over three years from 2017-18 to establish an Indigenous Research Fund that will add to the Indigenous policy evidence base
  • $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.

An in-depth, independent review process known as Grant Activity Reviews will be funded with $2.5 million per year from the Indigenous Advancement Strategy strengthening evaluation appropriation. The reviews will provide richer insights on the contribution Indigenous Advancement Strategy grant funding is making in communities. The Grant Activity Reviews will focus on four key areas: benefits being achieved through individual grants; identifying strengths and opportunities to improve grant activity and service delivery; better understanding the grant recipient’s business drivers; and improving the design of grants and grant management practices.

These components will help strengthen Indigenous research and evaluation to build an evidence base which will inform funding decisions and deliver better outcomes for First Australians.

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

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Regional Network is made up of 12 regions across Australia that cover metropolitan, regional, remote and very remote locations. The Regional Network is responsible for providing expertise and information about local communities, stakeholders, services, issues and sensitivities. Each region is led by a senior officer (Regional Manager), who is accountable for outcomes in their region.

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

Office for Women, National Women’s Alliances—National Rural Women’s Coalition (NRWC)

In 2018-19 and 2019-20, the Office for Women will provide funding of $281,000 each financial year to the NRWC as part of the National Women’s Alliance grants under the Women’s Leadership and Development Strategy program. The grant will enable NRWC to engage with rural, regional and remote women and women’s organisations to ensure that their issues and a diversity of voices are represented in Australian Government decision-making and policy outcomes.

The NRWC provides leadership programs, forums, meetings, conferences, round-tables and webinars as well as other digital communication platforms to communicate with women throughout Australia. Technology enables the NRWC to deliver programs to enhance the skills of rural, regional and remote women.

Aboriginal Hostels Limited

Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) 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 15 March 2018, AHL operates 47 accommodation facilities Australia wide, predominately in regional and remote locations. AHL provides 1,791 beds for residents across the country. Eighty-one per cent of these beds are located in regional and remote areas (534 beds per night in regional areas, 912 beds per night in remote areas and 345 beds per night in capital areas).

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

The Australian Government has committed additional, ongoing funding of $10.0 million per annum from 1 July 2016 (indexed for inflation) for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) to preserve Australia’s Indigenous culture and heritage much of which is held by, or on behalf of, regional communities. The national Indigenous collection is vital to research across a range of important areas for regional Australia, including native title, traditional ownership, land and water management, tourism, mining, agriculture, environment and higher education. The funding enables AIATSIS to continue working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the collection and preservation of critical cultural knowledge, and promote an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, traditions, languages and stories.

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. IBA 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.

IBA facilitates home ownership by Indigenous Australians 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.

IBA provides extra assistance to Indigenous Australians living in remote communities through a specifically targeted initiative, the Remote Indigenous Home Loan program. Over 1,700 locations are eligible for assistance that are deemed remote and very remote based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA), in addition to 28 locations which are nominated communities under the Australian Government’s Remote Indigenous Housing Strategy.

In 2018‑19, IBA expects to provide:

  • approximately 650 new concessional home loans to eligible low and middle income Indigenous families to help buy their first home of which 80 per cent are expected to be in regional areas and 60 Remote Indigenous Home Loans
  • 150 business loans, and other forms of capital and business support, to assist eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to start or grow a successful business
  • investment assistance to approximately 100 Indigenous co-investors and organisations
  • 80 per cent of this activity will occur in regional areas.

Indigenous Land Corporation

The Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) is a Commonwealth entity within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. The ILC strategically invests in Indigenous held land and waters to foster prosperity and empowerment among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The ILC aims to create economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits by assisting in the acquisition and management of land (and waters) of the Indigenous Estate. This includes economic independence (in particular, jobs for Indigenous people); social benefit through stronger families; cultural identity and connection to country; and environmental sustainability.

The ILC has Regional Indigenous Land Strategies in place across four bioregions: Northern Australia; Desert; South West Australian and South-East Australia.

In 2018-19, the ILC will partner with Indigenous land-holders in these regions to implement more than 100 discrete projects by providing investment, advice, training, mentoring and other assistance to land based projects that drive Indigenous wealth creation and employment, asset development and the protection and management of environmental and cultural values. Key sectors of the economy that present opportunities for Indigenous Australians or where Indigenous land-holders may have a competitive advantage include: Agribusiness, Urban Investment, Niche Indigenous products, Tourism, Renewables, Water-based activities.

Torres Strait Regional Authority

The Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) is the peak Commonwealth representative body for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the Torres Strait Region. The role of the TSRA is to work to close the gap for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the Torres Strait region, and empower Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the region to determine their own affairs based on the Ailan Kastom (island custom) of the Torres Strait. The TSRA does this by formulating, implementing and monitoring programs for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the Torres Strait.

The TSRA also performs separate functions under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) as the Native Title Representative Body for the Torres Strait region.

Priority areas for the TSRA include economic development; fisheries; culture, art and heritage; native title; environmental management; governance and leadership; healthy communities; and safe communities.

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