The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, said today more time would be taken to assess funding applications received under the Government’s $4.8 billion Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS).
The Minister said there had been an overwhelming response to the first grant funding round and his Department had requested more time to ensure the assessment process produced the best long-term results for Indigenous Australians and the seamless delivery of services, particularly those provided by smaller Indigenous organisations.
“More than 5000 applications for separate projects have been received. It is fair to say they are of varying quality – and more work is needed to match services with needs. Of particular concern is that a number of current providers of services with contracts that cease at the end of December 2014 may not have applied,” Minister Scullion said.
“Of the almost 2300 individual applications lodged, more than half were either late or had some compliance issues including, at times, insufficient detail for immediate assessment. Many of these are from smaller Indigenous organisations. This does not reflect their ability to deliver effective services on the ground, but highlights they may not have the resources or administrative structures to support the lodgement of effective funding applications.
“More than 500 current service providers whose funding is due to expire at the end of December 2014 have lodged applications for further funding and there are about 75 service providers that my Department has identified may have not applied for funding through the grant round.”
The Minister said that an overriding imperative must be on ensuring that vital services continue to be provided. Getting the best assessments is essential to a good outcome which takes account of our smaller Indigenous service providers that are very good at delivery on the ground.
“In May the Government announced an ambitious reform agenda for Indigenous affairs, one that was focussed on the Government’s priorities of getting children to school, adults into work and ensuring communities are safe,” the Minister said.
“The IAS is an ambitious exercise – but is the right thing to do and I am focussed on getting this right the first time, which means taking the necessary time needed to do it properly.”
Minister Scullion said it was critical to ensure that vital frontline services continued.
“For organisations that have ongoing service delivery contracts expiring on 31 December 2014, I have agreed to a six month funding extension which will allow them to continue to provide vital services to the community.
“Importantly, this also means these organisations will have some certainty over funding going into 2015 and ensure they are able to retain staff and operations.
“To ensure certainty for the 2015 school year, funding for a small number of existing providers of school-based scholarships, cadetships and traineeships will be extended to 30 December 2015. This will enable individual students to take up or continue education opportunities in the 2015 school year.
“To rush the assessment process through would do an injustice to Indigenous Australians. We must learn from past mistakes where programmes and policies failed because their implementation was rushed. History shows this situation does not achieve the best results for Indigenous Australians and also wastes billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money.
“I will not allow a rushed implementation, as we saw regularly under Labor, such as in the introduction of the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme which caused a serious disruption of services and disengagement with employment services in remote communities.
“We need to get this right.”
Minister Scullion said the assessment period extension would have no impact on organisations which are currently funded until June 2015.
“I believe we have a once in a generation opportunity to change the way government, services providers and communities can work together to make a long-term difference to lives of Indigenous families and children,” Minister Scullion said.
Minister Scullion stressed there would be no loss of the current momentum to finalise the round. Outcomes from the round will be known by early March 2015 to provide ample time for negotiation of funding agreements and staffing arrangements before new funding commences on 1 July 2015.
“My department has written to all applicants to advise them of this decision and organisations can call 1800 079 098 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if they have any questions.”
Download media release:
2014-11-24 IAS Final.pdf