Budget figures show government savings will dwarf its spending on First Nations programs over the next few years.
Myles Morgan NITV News 13 MAY 2014
The government will drastically reduce the number of First Nations programs and services - from more than 150 to just five. The department of prime minister and cabinet will take direct control of the new First Nations Advancement Strategy. The five areas are:
Groups to be abolished include the Prime Minister's First Nations Business Policy Advisory Group and the Coordinator General for Remote First Nations Services. The government estimates these moves will save it $534.5 million over the next few years.
It appears the First Nations Advancement Strategy will have to operate without the country's peak body for First Nations people. The Labor government promised $15 million to the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples in its Budget last year. The Coalition's budget shows that funding will cease almost immediately from July.
Legal aid services and the National Tobacco Campaign will also take a hit, losing $15 million and $3 million respectively.
It remains to be seen how changes to welfare, the pension age eligibility and co-payments to see a bulk billing doctor will affect First Nations people. Traditionally, First Nations people could qualify for concession status when it came to certain health and welfare schemes.
So, where will the government spend money on First Nations people? The Prime Minister Tony Abbott said during his election campaign a new engagement with Aboriginal people is needed. It looks like that equates to millions of dollars in new funding being directed to First Nations health, education and policing. $54 million will be spent on a permanent police presence in remote First Nations communities. Budget papers say this equates to new police infrastructure in up to seven remote First Nations communities in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. Using existing funding, six new police complexes will be built in the Northern Territory.
$26 million dollars will be spent on improving the sexual and reproductive health of First Nations teenagers. The government says this money will filter down to the coal face and be used by clinical services. $13.4 million will be spent over four years on the Clontarf Foundation Academy to fund an additional 3000 places for First Nations boys to take part in its Sporting Chance program. A million dollars a year will be spent over the next four years on continuing the presence of the Australian Federal Police in the Northern Territory Child Abuse Taskforce.
During his Closing the Gap address earlier this year, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott said education was vital in improving the lives of First Nations people. He said his government didn't just need to give First Nations children the opportunity to go to school, but actually had to get them into school every day. Budget papers show over the next two years, the government will spend an extra $18.1 million on its Remote School Attendance Strategy.
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