“Seeing the majority of grants going to non-Indigenous organisations, including government departments, had led him to believe Scullion and the department did not have “any clear policy or framework” when making the decisions.
“My understand in talking with the senior staff within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was there was going to be a large focus on funding of Aboriginal community controlled organisations, or on seeking genuine partnerships with Aboriginal communities where non-Indigenous NGOs would be funded,”
“If one of the focuses of this government is getting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people employed and staying within the workforce then one would have thought we’d have seen a larger outcome of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations funded under this strategy. That’s clearly not the case.”
Matthew Cooke, Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
The inclusion of government departments and sporting organisations among recipients of federal Indigenous funds has sparked concern and anger among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sector workers.
It comes as a swath of legal organisations and non-government organisations publicly plead with the prime minister to reverse multimillion dollar cuts to Indigenous legal services.
Published list of all successful organisations includes various state departments of education, health and ageing and sport and recreation
DOWNLOAD THE FULL LIST HERE 2014 IAS Funding List
On Tuesday afternoon a list of all 964 organisations which had been granted funding under the controversial Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) was published on the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website, but it did not include a breakdown of individual programs or amounts offered.
The IAS consolidates more than 150 Indigenous affairs programs and policies into five broad areas, and is the result of more than half a billion dollars in cuts in the 2014 budget.
The federal minister for Indigenous affairs, Nigel Scullion, said more information on the IAS grants would be released once negotiations between the department and recipients had been finalised.
The list of recipients included several state government departments, the Northern Territory, universities, churches and a number of sporting organisations, including Australian Rugby Union, the Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys NRL clubs, Swimming Australia and Athletics Australia.
The success of corporate entities in receiving federal funding for Indigenous-focused programs while some Indigenous-specific frontline services were rejected has sparked a backlash in the sector.
Aboriginal advocate Tauto Sansbury told National Indigenous Radio the strategy was not about Indigenous people or their advancement.
“When the salary is going to many non-Aboriginal organisations … there’s got to be a time when they step aside and say: we would like to work more closely with you and put the funding together and make a stronger organisation to achieve all the outcomes that we’ve been trying to achieve since day one,” he said.
Dameyon Bonson, founder of Black Rainbow, a fledgling advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) Indigenous youth, said the IAS results were “confusing.”
“The IAS only really seems to be advancing mainstream departments and organisations,” Bonson told Guardian Australia.
“When you look at some of these entities that have been funded, working with Aboriginal people is already part of their remit.”
At least one organisation – the Barkly regional council – has successfully negotiated a 12-month continuation of funding which was initially rejected.
A spokeswoman for Scullion told Guardian Australia the money for the council’s sport and recreation program was sourced from “unallocated funds within the [IAS]” and did not impact on any other service.
On 13 March 2015, the minister approved spending of $20.5m for a range of youth services across the Northern Territory, in addition to the $860m announced through the funding round the week earlier,” she said.
“The structure of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy allows the Australian government to address service delivery gaps that are identified and we will continue to methodically work through any gaps which are identified, in consultation with providers and communities.”
The Barkly council was among a number of long-standing organisations whose grant applications were rejected, among them the peak body for Indigenous legal services, which has said it will be now be forced to close in June.
The national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services (Natsils) has been cut by both the IAS and the Department of the Attorney General.
An open letter signed by 26 organisations including Amnesty International, the Australian Bar Association and Reconciliation Australia, on Wednesday pleaded with the prime minister, Tony Abbott, to reverse $43m in cuts to legal services, including $13m to Indigenous legal services.
The letter expressed concern over the cuts’ effect on “the delivery of frontline legal services to society’s most vulnerable members, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, women and children.”
“We note that these organisations have already made difficult decisions to withdraw, or reduce, key services due to the proposed funding cuts and accompanying uncertainty,” read the letter.
“We are further concerned that these cuts come at a time when there are crisis levels of Aboriginal and Torres Islander peoples’ imprisonment, high rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system and growing rates of family violence.”
The North Australian Aboriginal justice agency (Naaja) earlier this month told a Senate inquiry budget cuts of about $1.6m would cost 10 to 15 jobs.
From the end of this month Naaja would cease all criminal legal services in Darwin and Katherine for Aboriginal adults, other than those currently in custody and, as well as cut back on civil services, it was further reported on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, Scullion hit back at criticisms of the list by Greens senator Rachel Siewert.
Siewert had described the list as “completely opaque” and accused the government of failing to admit which organisations did not receive funding.
Senate inquiry to target contentious Indigenous funding strategy
Senate committee to investigate an Indigenous advancement strategy funding process described as confusing, fractured and systemically racist
“Contrary to Senator Siewert’s claims, the grant funding round has been conducted appropriately, in keeping with the commonwealth grant rules and guidelines and funding outcomes will provide the best possible services to First Australians,” said Scullion on Wednesday.
“I decided it was appropriate to release the full list of successful organisations given that members and senators from all parties had received a list of successful organisations based on their electorate, including state-wide electorates for senators.”
Scullion said all information would be available within 14 days after negotiations with the grant recipients had been finalised.