OpinionGeneration One26 Feb 2019

Generation One seeks urgent Indigenous funding review

Australia’s Indigenous funding model: a shift in thinking required to Close the Gap

Photo Credit: Johnny Grieg.

Despite $33.4 billion of annual expenditure on Indigenous affairs across the nation, parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian has not been achieved in key areas of school attendance or long-term employment.

Generation One is calling on the Australian government to develop a new Indigenous funding model to address poor service performance and a detrimental lack of education and employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Given the below-par outcomes, the current funding model does not represent value for money.

The call comes in light of the latest Closing the Gap Report which showed, despite funding of $46.5 million to address remote school attendance, there had been no recorded improvement in Indigenous school attendance nationally since 2014.

In fact, the lowest rate of school attendance continues to be in remote communities at 62 per cent, a gap of 27 per cent with non-Indigenous students. More broadly, while 75 per cent of non-Indigenous Australian students attend over 90 per cent of their schooling, only 49 per cent of Indigenous students attend at that level.

Although there have been some gains in literacy and numeracy for Indigenous students over the life of Closing the Gap reports, we know student achievement is highly impacted by attendance. If we can seriously address attendance, research tells us we will see better student performance and higher levels of year 12 attainment as a result, further closing the gap.

The 2019 Closing the Gap report also showed little traction in improving Indigenous employment outcomes, with employment participation rates of 54 per cent recorded in major cities and 31 per cent in very remote communities.

Not only does the employment rate remain low but the report indicates Indigenous workers are over-represented in manual occupations likely to disappear due to ongoing automation. Education remains the key to creating long-term parity in employment through sustainable careers.

Generation One also believes the Community Development Program (CDP) requires urgent review. The employment and community development service is delivered in remote communities, with about 80 per cent of its participants Indigenous.

The latest ANAO report finds that with $1.6 billion in funding since its inception, the remote CDP costs five-times more to deliver a job outcome than the government’s mainstream JobActive program delivered across Australia. The Australian Institute estimates for every dollar spent on a CDP Participant’s Newstart payment, 70 cents is spent on administering the scheme. With only one person in five placed in a job and only one in 10 still in that job after 26 weeks, the program costs over $100,000 for each long-term job delivered.

Generation One supports a re-design of funding approaches to create innovative initiatives that increase participation in lifelong learning and sustainable employment for Indigenous Australians.

As a nation, we must work together to create a strong evidence base for what we implement, how we evaluate it and how it is implemented in effective partnership with Indigenous communities.

For too long we have seen funding roll over, with little accountability or evaluation, for programs that have failed to create parity for Indigenous Australians. We can and must do better.

Ann Mills
by Ann Mills
Having worked over a decade in a range of strategic and supportive roles in remote communities in the Kimberley, Ann is passionate about creating parity in partnership with Aboriginal people through place-based strategies, innovative solutions and key economic development. As a long-term CEO in the not for profit sector, Ann appreciates the need to consult, commission and convert opportunities that are transformative and produce positive results.
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