NSW is investing $1.1 billion in Indigenous programs and services as its Treasury Department becomes the first state in Australia to honour a national Closing the Gap agreement to detail current spending.
But while areas such as housing, health and education top the list, crisis accommodation is requiring the second biggest amount of single spending in the government’s budget.
This year, overall spending on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services and programs is nearly 19% bigger than what the government spent last financial year, and the breakdown does not include the impact of non-Aboriginal specific funding.
Infrastructure made up the biggest sector in which money was spent, mostly due to $269 million in spending by the Aboriginal Housing Office.
Rick Macourt, NSW Treasury’s Strategic and Aboriginal Outcomes Director, said that while public housing was part of this spend, the money was also used to keep current housing up to standards and for helping First Nations people find a first home.
But with $151 million spent on crisis accommodation, Macourt said there was also a need for funding to shift towards fields focused on prevention.
“How we do that is something we will have to work out with our Coalition of Aboriginal People Organisations,” Macourt told The Mandarin.
Health, which received $109 million this year, is a major plank in the Closing the Gap agreement’s first socioeconomic target to increase the life expectancy of First Nations people.
But under half of the funding was delivered by the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector.
Macourt said the report showed only about 20% of government services were delivered by the community-controlled sector and showed “a greater need to re-prioritise” funding.
“COVID has certainly made things a lot more difficult but it has also really clarified where that need is,” he said.
“Working with some of our regional communities in particular to make sure that health services are delivered by and for Aboriginal communities is incredibly important.”
The Indigenous Expenditure Report is designed to ensure all Aboriginal partner organisations in the state are contributing to policy decisions with the same evidence base, Macourt said.
“NSW has gotten to the task early, but we are also following up our report with a comprehensive report, which would look to quantify the impact of non-targeted or non-Aboriginal specific programs as well.”
“I certainly think there’s a need for more of this information to be published and shared with our community as well, so we have that same evidence base when we are sitting around the decision-making tables.”