” Australia’s failure to meet Closing the Gap targets or to design policies that help improve the lives of Indigenous Australians means that governments need to pick up the slack.
We are spending more than we would like on reacting to disadvantage (for example, A$4.1 billion on “public order and safety”) compared to activities that reduce disadvantage (for example, only A$1.3 billion on tertiary education or A$411 million on early childhood education).
What we still don’t know (and can’t extrapolate from this report) is whether the money we are spending on Indigenous Australians is having any positive impact whatsoever. This report certainly doesn’t provide the data or the level of policy rigour to answer that much more important question.
More targeted information and higher-quality evaluations are urgently needed. Crucially, Indigenous peoples need to be involved at all stages to provide more meaningful answers.”
” An estimated $33.4 billion of Australian, State and Territory government expenditure was spent on services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in 2015-16, according to the 2017 Indigenous Expenditure Report.
Around 18 per cent of this expenditure was on targeted programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and the remainder was through non-targeted, or mainstream, services.”
Download the Report HERE and read Commission press release PART 2 below
Share of funding to Indigenous-run groups falls over past nine years
The proportion of funding that goes directly to Indigenous-run organisations has fallen over the past nine years, while funding to other organisations that is earmarked as Indigenous spending has increased by one third.
The social researcher Eva Cox said the decreased portion of targeted Indigenous funding was concerning. “We do know that Indigenous-specific services do tend to deliver on outcomes,” she told Guardian Australia.
Cox said the focus should not be on how much money was spent but on where and how it was spent, and which organisations received the funding.
Indigenous expenditure accounts for 6% of total expenditure, while Indigenous Australians make up 3.2% of the population. That was an understandable and necessary concentration of funding, Cox said, because it addressed an area of higher need.
“It’s obvious if we are going to deal with a population that is isolated and has entrenched levels of disadvantage then it’s going to cost us more,” she said. “And it should cost us more money but it should be well spent.”
She said the implication from successive government reports, including a damning Australian National Audit Office report on the federal government’s flagship Indigenous advancement strategy, was that money had not been well
“Continuing to spend the money does not necessarily mean that the services are well thought out, well-placed, or well-delivered,” she said.
Melbourne University researcher Elise Klein said targeted funding was necessary to address structural disadvantages faced by vulnerable groups.
“Just to direct funds towards Indigenous programs isn’t enough,” Klein said. “It again matters the kinds of programs that are being funded – just because they say they are doing good doesn’t mean they are. It also matters about who is delivering the programs as there has been a dramatic decrease (and in some cases cessation) of funding to Indigenous community organisations.
“For example only 46% of organisations funded under the Indigenous advancement strategy are Indigenous – receiving only 55% of the total funding.”
The Northern Territory had the highest rate of targeted Indigenous funding nationally, with $20,348 of the $65,929 spent per person directed toward Indigenous-specific services. The Territory also had the highest per person spending, because of higher levels of chronic need and the greater cost of delivering services to remote areas.
Of the bigger states, New South Wales and Queensland directed the lowest proportion of funding toward Indigenous-specific services, with 12% and 15% respectively.
However, both states had the highest overall Indigenous expenditure, with NSW spending $9bn, or $38,452 per person, while Queensland spent $8.5bn or $40,350 per person.
Part 2 Productivity Commission Press Release
Since 2008-09 (and after adjusting for inflation), targeted expenditure has remained relatively constant at around $6.0 billion, while expenditure on mainstream services has increased by almost one-third (from $20.9 billion to $27.4 billion).
Per head of total population, expenditure (targeted and mainstream) equated to $44 886 per Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian, around twice the rate for non- Indigenous Australians ($22 356) and similar to ratios previously reported back to 2008 -09.
Around two-thirds of the higher per person expenditure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is accounted for by greater intensity of service use (reflecting greater need and younger age profile), with the remaining one-third accounted for by the higher cost of providing services (such as in remote locations).
Peter Harris, Chairman of the Productivity Commission and Chair of the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision emphasised the importance of robust, public evaluations to understand the adequacy, effectiveness and efficiency of government spending, something which is outside the scope of this report.
‘Understanding which policies and programs deliver outcomes effectively is vital for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Australians, and all Australians. Without understanding what works and why, we cannot say if money is being well spent’ he said.
The full suite of information on this report, including the report, data tables and a ‘how to’ video for accessing the 2017 report data can be found at:
The report is produced by the Productivity Commission for the Steering Committee
Background Related Productivity report
The Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report measures the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
This comprehensive report card measures where things have improved (or not) against 52 indicators across a range of areas including governance, leadership and culture, early childhood, education, health, home and safe and supportive communities, and includes case studies on things that work to improve outcomes.
The report is produced in consultation with all Australian governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
The 2016 report was released on 17 November 2016
This report measures the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and was produced in consultation with governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Around 3 per cent of the Australian population are estimated as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin (based on 2011 Census data).
Outcomes have improved in a number of areas, including some COAG targets. For indicators with new data for this report:
- Mortality rates for children improved significantly between 1998 and 2014, particular for 0<1 year olds, whose mortality rates more than halved (from 14 to 6 deaths per 1000 live births).
- Education improvements included increases in the proportion of 20–24 year olds completing year 12 or above (from 2008 to 2014-15) and the proportion of 20–64 year olds with or working towards post-school qualifications (from 2002 to 2014-15).
- The proportion of adults whose main income was from employment increased from 32 per cent in 2002 to 43 per cent in 2014-15, with household income increasing over this period.
- The proportion of adults that recognised traditional lands increased from 70 per cent in 2002 to 74 per cent in 2014-15.
However, there has been little or no change for some indicators.
- Rates of family and community violence were unchanged between 2002 and 2014-15 (around 22 per cent), and risky long-term alcohol use in 2014-15 was similar to 2002 (though lower than 2008).
- The proportions of people learning and speaking Indigenous languages remains unchanged from 2008 to 2014-15.
Outcomes have worsened in some areas.
- The proportion of adults reporting high levels of psychological distress increased from 27 per cent in 2004-05 to 33 per cent in 2014-15, and hospitalisations for self-harm increased by 56 per cent over this period.
- The proportion of adults reporting substance misuse in the previous 12 months increased from 23 per cent in 2002 to 31 per cent in 2014-15.
- The adult imprisonment rate increased 77 per cent between 2000 and 2015, and whilst the juvenile detention rate has decreased it is still 24 times the rate for non-Indigenous youth.
Change over time cannot be assessed for all the indicators — some indicators have no trend data; some indicators report on service use and change over time might be due to changing access rather than changes in the underlying outcome; and some indicators have related measures that moved in different directions.
Finally, data alone cannot tell the complete story about the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, nor can it fully tell us why outcomes improve (or not) in different areas. To support the indicator reporting, case studies of ‘things that work’ are included in this report. However, the relatively small number of case studies included reflects a lack of rigorously evaluated programs in the Indigenous policy area.