Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has had a heated exchange with protesters in Alice Springs who are angry over cuts to the Indigenous Advancement Strategy grants.
More than 50 people assembled out the front of the Alice Springs Convention Centre, where Senator Scullion was addressing a conference.
Speakers from local Aboriginal organisations told the rally that the local economy would suffer and criticised the Department of Indigenous Affairs for a lack of contact with them over funding cuts.
There is plenty of money already allocated. It is just unnecessarily locked up. I believe the Abbot government wants to unlock it and was disappointed by the Ernst Young Report of early last year which did not support the amalgamation of ILC and IBA which could have released massive funds for immediate use.
$1.968 billion held by the ILC
The ILC (2013) has net assets of $1.968 billion and a further 45 million input each year.
The IBA (2013) has $1.093 billion net assets and $140 million input. They operate in multiple overlapping areas.
The Land fund was negotiated post Mabo, but pre-Wik, when all parties thought the Wik people would lose and native title would only be possible over just 35% of the mainland.
After the “masses” of Land Funding was agreed to Wik was handed down and: Instantly the acreage open to claims rose from 35 per cent to 78 per cent of Australia in some States 80 per cent.
So after Wik the area of Australia subject to native title claims was far more than double the area to that which those who negotiated the billion dollar Land Fund believed it would be.
The success of Native Title Land Rights over such large areas is the reason why in 2013 the Indigenous Land Corporation had total expenses of $118 million but only expended 9.7 million of that on land grants! The balance being on management and wages, Leaving untouched its $1.968 billion.
The ATSI Act allows the ILC to “make payments to Indigenous Business Australia to assist Indigenous Business Australia to carry out its functions”. But according to the Ernst Young Report to the federal government stakeholders (within IBA or PM&C) were not aware if this provision had been exercised, it presents a valuable opportunity for IBA and the ILC to resource projects and initiatives within an effectively controlled governance environment.
The Land Fund is: Vaster than it ever needed to be, No longer used much for land purchase with only about 10% of ILC annual expenditure being on land purchase. No longer needs to be locked up at all and could be put to much better use right now such as for some of the Forest Review recommendations. Education, housing, medical centres and so on.
Ernst Young suggested an analysis of the benefits of a relaxation of existing assumptions and constraints (including the operation of the “Land Account”) which may yield greater benefits in driving Indigenous economic outcomes over a medium to long term.
And that Synergies may be realised through full integration of IBA and the ILC from consolidation and reformulation of board, offices, compliance costs, capital avoidance, procurement, processes and systems.
Even the most comprehensive and “latest report” of Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage 2014. Released 20th November cannot and does not answer these questions
They cannot be answered: • How much money was spent on Indigenous people in Australia ... How much did a specific department spend? ...• How effective is a service? ... • How much money was spent on Closing the Gap? ... • How much expenditure was related to provision as opposed to administration of Indigenous services? ... • How much benefit did Indigenous Australian get from the expenditure ...
We see massive duplication of services : Board development and review, Ethical standards, Related entity transactions, Remuneration, Internal management committees, executive committee, workplace health and safety committee, workplace consultative committee, scholarships committee, strategic economic development initiatives committee, valuation committee, portfolio review committee, senior executive staff remuneration committee, remuneration committee, Compliance assurance, Ethical behaviour and fraud control, Audit, Parliamentary and ministerial oversight, Freedom of information, Complaints handling, Judicial decisions and reviews by external bodies, Developments and significant events, Changes to disability reporting, Environmental performance, Capability development, Employee relations and so on.
The latest report says that without high quality data, it is impossible to understand where we are headed in terms of overcoming Indigenous disadvantage.
Just 3 per cent of the Australian population (approximately 670 000 people) are estimated as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin.
Because of incomplete and unreliable data any reported improvements have to be taken with salt. There was virtually no change in the proportions of students achieving national minimum standards for reading, writing and numeracy from 2008 to 2013. Relatively high rates of family and community violence were unchanged between 2002 and 2008, and there was little change in alcohol and substance use and harm over time. Relatively high rates of disability and chronic disease have not changed. • Outcomes have worsened in some areas. The proportion of adults reporting high/very high levels of psychological distress increased from 27 per cent in 2004-05 to 30 per cent in 2012-13, and hospitalisations for intentional self-harm increased by 48 per cent over this period. The adult imprisonment rate increased 57 per cent between 2000 and 2013. Juvenile detention rates increased sharply between 2000-01 and 2007-08, and fluctuated since at around 24 times the rate for non-Indigenous youth.
The use of the Land Fund to purchase land is a diminished need.The Aboriginal 3 per cent of the Australian population owns or controls 16 per cent of land in Australia. Native title has been determined to exist in 21 per cent of Australia (up from 5 per cent in 2004) and registered Indigenous Land Use Agreements cover 24 per cent of Australia.
The Forest Review of 3rd August 2014 seems to offer the best chance for change since Howard’s intervention plan. It actually identifies targets. It talks about quality teachers need to be given incentive to work in disadvantaged and remote schools, meeting job seekers at the level of their capability and raising their skills to that expected by an employer. No tolerance of incompetence or illegal behaviour and home ownership on their land.
Money and resources are needed.
With 21% of Land already under Aboriginal control the funds can be released to do good work now.