Prime Minister and Cabinet
The Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio provides high quality advice and support to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, portfolio Ministers and Assistant Ministers. It takes a coordinated and innovative approach to the development and implementation of Australian Government policies, including those that impact on regional and remote communities. The portfolio coordinates and develops policy across the Australian Government in economic, domestic and international issues, Indigenous affairs, issues pertaining to women including economic security, safety and leadership and public service stewardship.
As at 31 December 2018, the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) portfolio employed 3,908 staff under the Public Service Act. Of this total, 2,874 staff (73.5 per cent) are employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 220 staff (5.6 per cent) in other capital cities and 814 staff (20.9 per cent) in regional areas. Several portfolio agencies employ staff under other legislation and have a distribution of staff in regional Australia. The portfolio’s footprint includes office locations such as Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Top End and Tiwi Islands, Alice Springs, Thursday Island, Townsville, Ceduna, Kalgoorlie and Kununurra.
(PM&C) is responsible for setting Indigenous Affairs policy direction across the Australian Government as well as some specific funding programs. It includes programs aimed at ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are able to take up the full range of opportunities our nation has to offer. This includes measures to encourage workforce participation, economic development, educational success and safety at home—the foundations of successful communities. 63 per cent of Indigenous Australians live outside the major cities and more than 18 per cent live in remote and very remote locations.
PM&C, through its regionally based staff, works closely with local service providers and communities to design and deliver services for Indigenous Australians across metropolitan, regional and remote locations. It is the primary delivery and engagement arm for Indigenous Affairs under the Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy.
The Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio is supporting regional Australia through new and existing initiatives, as outlined below.
Additional support for Indigenous Youth Education
In February 2019, the Prime Minister announced $200 million will be provided as part of the Indigenous Youth Education Package. The package includes a range of initiatives that will give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, including those from regional and remote areas, additional support and mentoring to complete their secondary studies. Funding will be provided to a range of organisations delivering scholarship, academic and mentoring activities.
North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency
In March 2019 the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency was established in the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio to provide strategic leadership and coordination of the Commonwealth’s recovery and reconstruction activities for the North Queensland livestock industry and communities in those areas affected by the North and Far North Queensland Monsoon Trough from 25 January—14 February 2019.
The Agency will design, develop, consult on and coordinate the delivery of the Commonwealth’s long-term plan for the recovery and reconstruction of these areas, while building and maintaining effective working relationship with stakeholders to inform recovery and reconstruction priorities.
The floods in north Queensland in early 2019 had a devastating impact on individuals, communities and regional businesses in north western Queensland. The impact has been catastrophic, with herd losses of 100 per cent on some properties across the region. The impact has been exacerbated by precursor years of drought.
The Australian Government is therefore providing further long-term assistance for the agricultural sector and associated communities to rebuild and reconstruct the north Queensland livestock industry, above the assistance provided through existing measures including the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.This also includes committing up to $1.7 billion to provide low interest loans to eligible financial institutions for up to three years to reduce their cost of borrowing and enable them to reduce the cost of interest on new and existing loans to eligible flood-affected primary producers (beef and cattle farmers) affected by floods.
Indigenous Advancement Strategy
The Indigenous Advancement Strategy was introduced on 1 July 2014 and supports a wide range of activities which seek to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people under the following six broad based programmes:
- jobs, land and economy;
- children and schooling;
- safety and wellbeing;
- culture and capability;
- remote Australia strategies; and
- evaluation and research.
Jobs, Land and Economy
Supporting people to find and stay in work, fostering Indigenous business and assisting Indigenous people to benefit socially and economically are essential elements of the Australian Government’s commitment to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.
Employment Parity Initiative
In partnership with some of Australia’s largest employers, the Employment Parity Initiative aims to increase the number of large Australian companies with a workforce that reflects the size of the Indigenous population.
As at 31 January 2019, there are 13 Employment Parity Initiative agreements providers, with a total commitment of 8,095 jobs new jobs for Indigenous Australians.
Indigenous Procurement Policy
To stimulate Indigenous entrepreneurship and business development, and provide Indigenous Australians with more opportunities to participate in the economy, the Australian Government introduced the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) on 1 July 2015.
The IPP has provided greater opportunities for Indigenous businesses to win a greater share of Australian Government contracts. Since the inception of the IPP, over 1,450 Indigenous businesses have been awarded contracts to deliver over $1.8 billion in works for the Australian Government as of January 2019. In regional and remote Australia, the IPP is supporting Indigenous businesses to deliver more contracts—in the first three year years of the IPP, 4,917 contracts valued at $507.6 million were delivered by Indigenous businesses located in regional or remote Australia.
In February 2019, the Prime Minister announced changes that would build on this early success and expand the reach of the IPP, including:
- from 1 July 2019 there will be a three per cent value target introduced, beginning at one per cent and phased in across 8 years; and
- from 1 July 2020, contract categories for Mandatory Minimum Requirements for Indigenous participation will be expanded to include additional service categories.
The new measures are designed to ensure that demand for the goods and services offered by Indigenous businesses continues to grow. The value target will ensure that there is a strong incentive to award higher value contracts to Indigenous businesses.
To support expected increases in demand, the Australian Government is working with Indigenous businesses to ensure adequate support services are in place to enable them to take advantage of these opportunities. (See the “Indigenous Entrepreneurs Package” section for more information.)
Community Development Program
The Australian Government’s Community Development Program aims to deliver better opportunities for remote jobseekers and to foster stronger economic and social outcomes in remote Australia.
The Community Development Program supports around 30,000 job-seekers each day; of whom around 80 per cent identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The Program is designed around the unique social and labor market conditions in remote Australia and is an essential part of the Australian Government’s agenda for increasing employment and breaking the cycle of welfare dependency.
The Community Development Program is making steady progress to reduce welfare dependency in remote communities by enabling people to participate in meaningful activities that prepare them for work and improve community living standards. From 1 July 2015 to 31 December 2018, the Community Development Program supported over 20,661 job seekers into work, with 10,054 jobs filled continuously for at least six months.
Reforms to increase the effectiveness of the Community Development Program are currently underway. These reforms aim to drive employment in remote Australia, improve the skills and employability of job seekers, and increase their participation in the community, including up to 6,000 wage subsidies to support remote jobs over four years. The reforms have been designed to:
- drive active participation by job seekers, and encourage personal responsibility through improvements to mutual obligation requirements and a reduction in required hours of participation;
- improve the skills and employability of job seekers to increase job-readiness;
- grow the size and capacity of the remote labour market and support the development of more local businesses in remote Australia to drive demand for, and support the supply of, remote job seekers; and
- deliver a simpler, more streamlined system, with fewer job seeker interactions with the national welfare system.
These reforms will be implemented in phases, with the first phase aiming to increase Community Development Program participants’ attendance and reduce penalties to remote job seekers.
Tailored Assistance Employment
Since the Indigenous Advancement Strategy was established, the Australian Government has committed more than $238.0 million to connect working age Indigenous Australians (and graduating secondary students) into over 20, 000 real jobs through the Tailored Assistance Employment Grants and the Indigenous Employment Program. This includes $50.3 million for employers to support more than 2,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students undertaking their first undergraduate degree into guaranteed jobs.
The Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) Investigation into Indigenous Land Administration and Use and the Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia developed a comprehensive strategy to improve land systems so owners could use their land for economic development. The Australian Government and the states and territories are implementing the COAG recommendations. Indigenous Land Administration systems are transitioning from a focus on recognition and protection of rights to supporting Indigenous Australians’ choice to use those rights in the mainstream economy. There are a range of Australian Government initiatives underway to empower and support Indigenous land owners to embrace the new phase of land rights, ensure support is available and that claims are resolved to allow the land rights and native title systems to fully transition.
The Australian Government funds a national network of Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers to assist native title groups across Australia. In 2019-20, funding of approximately $92.0 million is available for 14 Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers to help native title claimants and holders. The Australian Government is also providing $6.2 million in 2019-20 under the Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia to build the capacity of native title land holding corporations across Australia. This will help ensure native title holders can realise the benefits of native title rights and interests.
Township leases are a proven model for achieving long term tradeable tenure and economic development on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory (NT). The leases simplify land use and access to subleases across communities. After the success of the Gunyangara community entity township lease and Mutitjulu township sublease, negotiations will continue for township leases in other interested communities.
Indigenous Rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas
The Australian Government addresses Indigenous disadvantage and supports Indigenous communities to improve the environment by providing jobs for Indigenous people through the Indigenous rangers and the Indigenous Protected Areas programs. As at February 2019, funding is provided for more than 2,900 full time, part time and casual positions, across 123 Indigenous ranger groups and 75 Indigenous Protected Areas, mostly in remote and regional areas. There are now more than 67 million hectares of Indigenous Protected Areas representing more than 44 per cent of the National Reserve System.
Indigenous Entrepreneurs Package
In 2016, the Australian Government committed $115.0 million over 3 years in targeted support for Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses. Implementation of the Indigenous Entrepreneurs Package is well underway, through:
- investment of $90.0 million in the Indigenous Entrepreneurs Fund to establish and grow Indigenous businesses by facilitating access to commercial finance and providing one‑off grants for business plant and equipment primarily in remote and regional Australia. To date more than 90 individual businesses have received grants totalling more than $32.0 million and over 500 businesses have received advice and support to access the required finance to start-up or grow;
- implementation of the Indigenous Business Sector Strategy (IBSS), which is a ten‑year policy initiative that aims to improve access to business support, capital, and information and networks. The strategy was launched by the Prime Minister on 12 February 2018 and focuses on fostering Indigenous entrepreneurship in regional and remote Australia. The roll out of new microenterprise and community economic development officers in regional and remote Australia commenced in 2018. The roll out will continue through 2019-20, to expand the overall footprint for microfinance services in regional and remote Australia from 18 locations to 40 locations; and
- re-focusing Indigenous Business Australia’s (IBA) Business Development and Assistance Programme to support early stage and high risk Indigenous entrepreneurs, including delivering at least 30 per cent of business support in regional and remote Australia. In addition, in 2018-19 IBA received a further investment of over $3.0 million to support start-up businesses in regional and remote NT locations to provide tailored business support and start up loan packages.
Children and Schooling
The Children and Schooling program supports activities to nurture and educate Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander children, youth and adults. The program has a strong focus on improved school readiness, increased school attendance, outside the school gate support and improved educational pathways and outcomes that lead to employment. Through this program the Australian Government aims to:
- increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children assessed as developmentally on track in all five domains of the Australian Early Development Census;
- improve the results for Indigenous students in reading, writing and numeracy by 2019;
- improve school attendance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children by 2019;
- increase Indigenous people aged 20-24 years old in Year 12 attainment or equivalent attainment by 2020;
- assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to attend high performing schools, including day and boarding schools with scholarships through organisations like the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation and the Smith Family;
- assist tertiary students who need to travel away from home for short periods to undertake approved course related activities; and
- invest in academies and mentoring initiatives, such as the Clontarf Foundation across Australia that supports student engagement, attendance, wellbeing and Year 12 attainment.
Remote School Attendance Strategy
The Remote School Attendance Strategy (RSAS) is a community-focused strategy which employs local people. It brings together families, schools, communities and services to design and deliver local solutions to improve school attendance and engagement.
RSAS started in January 2014 and now operates across 84 schools, with a combined enrolment of approximately 13,885 students. Around $78.4 million will be invested in RSAS from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2021.
From 2019, RSAS will strengthen its focus on engagement with communities and increasing local decision making. The strategy will build stronger links with state and territory governments and schools, broadening its focus from ‘getting kids to school’ to ‘keeping kids in school’. RSAS is a flexible strategy that can be tailored to each community’s needs. Local employment is a key aspect of RSAS, with local teams supporting families to take an active role in their children’s education.
Indigenous Student Success Program
In 2019, under the Indigenous Student Success Program, universities can access $69.8 million to offer scholarships, tutorial assistance and other support to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people attend and successfully progress through university to graduation. The program features a loading that recognises the additional support students from remote and regional locations require.
Safety and Wellbeing
The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that Indigenous Australians grow up in healthy and safe homes and communities, including those in regional and remote areas. Under the Safety and Wellbeing program, the Australian Government is providing $245.3 million in 2018‑19 and $242.2 million in 2019-20 for a range of targeted, evidence‑based activities to increase Indigenous community safety and wellbeing. This includes activities that:
- reduce alcohol and other drugs misuse through treatment, rehabilitation and education;
- improve wellbeing and resilience through activities that address the effects of trauma and disadvantage such as poor mental health, intentional self-harm and suicide;
- prevent crime and reduce re‑offending through diversion and prevention activities. This includes prisoner rehabilitation services that help former prisoners successfully reintegrate into their communities;
- address the drivers of family, domestic and sexual violence in Indigenous communities through trauma-informed therapeutic services for children, intensive family case management, addressing the behaviours of men who use violence and funding for Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS);
- improve safety, through additional support for policing in remote Indigenous communities;
- prevent community violence by promoting connection to family, culture, community and land, including through sport and recreation activities;
- reduce the impacts of grief and trauma through social and emotional wellbeing support services for members of the Stolen Generations and other Indigenous people experiencing trauma;
- promote safe and functional physical environments in remote areas through community and night patrols; and
- reduce petrol sniffing in regional and remote areas of Australia by supporting local community action and promoting the use of low aromatic fuel as an alternative to regular unleaded fuel. Around 175 sites currently supply low aromatic fuel.
Culture and Capability
Activities funded under the Culture and Capability program support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to maintain their culture, and participate equally in the economic and social life of Australia.
Around $63.0 million from 2017-18 to 2019-20 has been allocated to 44 Indigenous broadcasting and media organisations, supporting around 120 services nationally, to deliver activities that reflect community interests, keep communities informed and connected, and support cultural expression and maintenance, including by broadcasting in language.
Other activities supported through Culture and Capability Programme 2.4 include:
- working with Empowered Communities regional backbone organisations;
- reconciliation activities, including the use of Reconciliation Action Plans;
- leadership and governance training;
- interpreter services; and
- celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture including National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) activities.
Empowered Communities (EC) is a regionally focussed initiative of Indigenous leaders that fosters Indigenous-led responsibility and involves local communities in decisions that affect them. Integral to this approach is the sharing of government data and Commonwealth funding information with EC regions. Leaders then use this data combined with community lived experience, to develop regional development plans. EC leaders have worked with PM&C to implement a joint decision-making approach to guide decisions about discretionary investment in EC regions.
In 2016, funding of $14.4 million over three years was provided from the Indigenous Advancement Strategy for backbone organisations in seven of the eight EC regions including:
- Cape York;
- New South Wales Central Coast;
- Inner Sydney;
- East Kimberley;
- West Kimberley; and
- Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands.
In 2018 a new EC region—Ngarrindjeri in South Australia—was endorsed by EC leaders and Government, with $1.8 million committed over three years to support the backbone organisation. It is envisaged the framework will expand beyond existing regions as communities seek to apply a regional governance approach and meet criteria set by EC leaders.
Remote Australia Strategies
Under Remote Australia Strategies, funding is provided to address the disproportionate disadvantage of Indigenous Australians in remote Australia. This funding supports community‑led initiatives that are delivered through Indigenous organisations and support Indigenous employment outcomes.
The Army Aboriginal Community Assistance program (AACAP) is a joint venture between the PM&C and the Australian Defence Force to improve primary and environmental health and living conditions in remote Indigenous communities. Up to $7.0 million is provided through the program to deliver one project in a community each calendar year, providing infrastructure, health services and vocational training. The AACAP will be delivered in Jigalong (Western Australia) in 2019.
Funding of $12.0 million over three years from 2018-2021 will ensure remote Indigenous communities continue to have better access to telecommunications. The Australian Government is providing internet access, training and/or essential infrastructure. A remote telecommunications project provides phone services across Australia in nearly 550 locations in remote Indigenous communities.
Remote Housing in Western Australia (WA) and South Australia (SA)
In 2018-19, the Australian Government made a final funding contribution to the WA Government of $121.0 million and to the SA Government of $37.5 million for remote housing in each state. Following this final Australian Government payment, the WA and SA Government will accept full responsibility and accountability for the funding and delivery of remote housing in each state into the future. Funding will be used to support the delivery of new houses, housing refurbishments, housing-related infrastructure and to provide incentives to establish more sustainable housing systems in remote Indigenous communities.
The Australian Government will continue to work collaboratively with the WA Government on approaches to developing sustainable communities and improving outcomes for regional and remote Aboriginal Western Australians.
Borroloola Housing Project
To reduce the impact of poor quality housing, overcrowding and homelessness on school attendance, the Australian Government has committed up to $15.0 million in 2018-19 to the Borroloola Housing Project. The project will deliver a mix of short and long-term housing in the town camps of Borroloola. PM&C is working with the Australian Army to deliver the project within a short timeframe, to alleviate the need.
Aboriginals Benefit Account
The Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA) is legislated under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Land Rights Act) to receive and distribute royalty equivalent monies generated from mining on Aboriginal land in the NT. The ABA is funded by the Australian Government from consolidated revenue.
Funding is provided annually, as legislated under subsection 64(1) of the Land Rights Act, from the Aboriginals Benefit Account to the four NT land councils to fulfil functions specified under s23 of the Land Rights Act. Functions of the individual land councils are varied and may include activities that support the progression and protection of land rights, preservation of culture and heritage, land use and economic development.
ABA beneficial grants, as legislated under subsection 64(4) of the Land Rights Act, are distributed for the benefit of Aboriginal people living in the NT. Generally two funding rounds are held each year with a focus on:
- supporting communities;
- supporting enterprises;
- supporting culture, language and leadership; and
- supporting land, sea and waters management and use.
The ABA has committed funding of $40.0 million to improve living conditions and outcomes for residents of homelands in the NT. Land Councils have worked with homelands residents to identify need and are currently developing proposals. The Department will engage Indigenous organisations to deliver works by June 2020.
Enhanced Evidence and Evaluation in Indigenous Affairs
As part of the 2017-18 Budget the Government allocated $52.9 million over four years to implement a whole-of-government research and evaluation strategy for policies and programs affecting Indigenous Australians.
The strategy includes the following three components:
- $10.0 million a year to strengthen evaluation of the IAS;
- $10.0 million to establish an Indigenous Research Fund to broaden the Indigenous policy evidence base. To progress this important work, Australian Institute of Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) is establishing the Indigenous Research Exchange; and
- $2.9 million to the Productivity Commission to enhance its role in Indigenous policy evaluation and to expand the Commission to include an additional Commissioner with relevant expertise in Indigenous policy.
An in-depth, independent review process known as Grant Activity Reviews is funded with $2.5 million per year from the IAS to provide richer insights on the contribution IAS grant funding is making in communities. The Grant Activity Reviews focus on four key areas: benefits being achieved through individual grants; identifying strengths and opportunities to improve grant activity and service delivery; better understanding the grant recipient’s business drivers; and improving the design of grants and grant management practices.
These components will help strengthen Indigenous research and evaluation to build an evidence base which will inform funding decisions and deliver better outcomes for First Australians.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Regional Network
PM&C’s Regional Network is made up of 12 regions across Australia that cover metropolitan, regional, remote and very remote locations. The Regional Network is responsible for providing expertise and information about local communities, stakeholders, services, issues and sensitivities. Each region is led by a senior officer (Regional Manager), who is accountable for outcomes in their region.
The Regional Network engages with Indigenous people, communities and leaders across Australia. It focuses on understanding the needs and aspirations of Indigenous people to achieve practical change in the Australian Government’s key priority areas, including strengthening opportunities for economic participation. The Regional Network designs and implements tailored and culturally appropriate local solutions in partnership with Australian Government agencies, state and territory governments, local governments, Indigenous communities, service providers and other stakeholders.
Aboriginal Hostels Limited
Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) is a Commonwealth company within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio that facilitates safe, culturally appropriate and affordable accommodation for people who must live away from home to access services and economic opportunities.
As at 31 January 2019, AHL operates 46 accommodation facilities providing 1,802 beds Australia wide, predominately in regional and remote locations. 96 per cent of these beds are located in regional and remote areas (733 beds per night in regional areas, 992 beds per night in remote areas and 77 beds per night in capital areas).
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
The Australian Government provides funding of $20.4 million to AIATSIS to preserve Australia’s Indigenous culture and heritage much of which is held by, or on behalf of, regional communities. The national Indigenous collection is vital to research across a range of important areas for regional Australia, including native title, traditional ownership, land and water management, tourism, mining, agriculture, environment and higher education. The funding enables AIATSIS to continue working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the collection and preservation of critical cultural knowledge, and promote an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, traditions, languages and stories.
Indigenous Business Australia
The Australian Government continues to support Indigenous home ownership, businesses and investments through IBA, a corporate Commonwealth entity within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. IBA provides new and existing Indigenous business owners access to expert advice, business finance and products that allow groups to build wealth and maximise economic outcomes from their land and other assets.
IBA facilitates home ownership for Indigenous Australians by providing affordable housing loans to customers who would generally not qualify for housing finance elsewhere. This includes addressing barriers such as lower incomes and savings, credit impairment, and limited experience with loan repayments.
IBA provides extra assistance to Indigenous Australians living in remote communities through a specifically targeted initiative, the Remote Indigenous Home Loan program. Over 1,700 locations are eligible for assistance that are deemed remote and very remote based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA), in addition to 28 locations which are nominated communities under the Australian Government’s Remote Indigenous Housing Strategy.
In the first quarter of 2018-19, IBA has provided:
- 53 new business loans and other forms of capital; and
- Business support to assist 140 eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to start or grow a successful business (with a target of 30 per cent of this support to occur in regional areas).
This demonstrated that IBA is placed to achieve the FY18-19 targets of supporting 80 new business loans and providing business support to 600 customers. It is expected that IBA will continue to deliver business capital and support in FY19-20, with a focus on regional remote service delivery.
Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation
The Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) is a Commonwealth entity within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. The ILSC assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to realise economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits that ownership and management of land and water can bring. This includes economic independence (in particular, employment for Indigenous people); the delivery of social benefits; cultural identity and connection; and environmental sustainability.
In 2019-20, the ILSC will table its inaugural Regional Indigenous Land and Sea Strategies for four bioregions: Northern Australia; Desert; South West Australia and South-East Australia. These strategies will set out regional approaches to implementing the ILSC’s functions in partnership with Indigenous Australians. The ILSC will support the implementation of more than 100 discrete projects through investment, advice, training, mentoring and other assistance.
Key sectors of the economy where Indigenous Australians may be able to secure a competitive advantage include: agribusiness, urban investment, niche Indigenous products and tourism. The ILSC will assist Indigenous Australians to realise these opportunities through the beneficial ownership and management of land and fresh and salt water and associated rights.
Torres Strait Regional Authority
The Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) is the peak Commonwealth representative body for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the Torres Strait Region. The role of the TSRA is to work to close the gap and empower Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the region to determine their own affairs based on the Ailan Kastom (island custom) of the Torres Strait. The TSRA does this by formulating, implementing and monitoring programs for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the Torres Strait.
The TSRA also performs separate functions under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) as the Native Title Representative Body for the Torres Strait region.
Priority areas for the TSRA include economic development; fisheries; culture, art and heritage; native title; environmental management; governance and leadership; healthy communities; and safe communities.
Coordinator-General for Drought
The Coordinator-General for Drought, Major General Stephen Day, supported by the Joint Agency Drought Taskforce, was appointed in August 2018 and tasked to:
- ensure meaningful support reaches farmers affected by drought through the coordination and rapid delivery of measures included in the Government’s drought response;
- remove any blockages in this process which hamper the Government’s efforts;
- seek to maintain economic activity in farming communities affected by drought;
- engage with drought affected communities, including through clear, effective and visible communication on available support aimed at maintaining confidence within communities;
- provide advice to the Australian Government on gaps and emerging risks and options to address them;
- provide advice to the Australian Government to inform the development of a long‑term drought resilience and preparedness strategy; and
- coordinate a comprehensive national drought response with affected state, territory and local governments, the private sector, and Non-Government Organisations.
The key achievements of the Coordinator-General, working with the Joint Agency Drought Taskforce and relevant Commonwealth, state and territory agencies, charities and private sector organisations, to date include:
- delivery of the National Drought Summit in October 2018;
- negotiating a new National Drought Agreement with States and Territories which was signed by the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers on 12 December 2018; and
- driving engagement with drought affected communities, improved coordination and communication of government support, and the development of new support initiatives.
Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Drought Preparedness and Response
On the 26 October 2018, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Honourable David Littleproud MP, was appointed as the Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Drought Preparedness and Response. He works with the Prime Minister and other Ministers to drive delivery of the Australian Government’s drought response.
Special Envoy for Drought Assistance and Recovery
On 26 August 2018 the Prime Minister announced the appointment of a Special Envoy for Drought Assistance and Recovery, the Honourable Barnaby Joyce MP. The Special Envoy’s role is to listen to affected communities to report a deeper picture of the human and economic impact of the drought, including positive examples of resilience. The Special Envoy for Drought provides advice to the Prime Minister about the impact of relief efforts, including the performance of Government service delivery and advice about proposals that might be emerging from the community.
Office for Women, National Women’s Alliances—National Rural Women’s Coalition
The Office for Women has committed to providing funding of $281,000 in both the 2018‑19 and 2019-20 years, to the National Rural Women’s Coalition (NRWC). This commitment has been part of the National Women’s Alliance grants under the Women’s Leadership and Development Strategy program. The grant will enable NRWC to engage with rural, regional and remote women and women’s organisations. It will ensure that their issues and a diversity of voices are represented in Australian Government decision-making and policy outcomes.
The NRWC provides leadership programs, forums, meetings, conferences, round-tables and webinars as well as other digital communication platforms. Technology enables the NRWC to deliver programs and enhance the skills of rural, regional and remote women.
Women’s Economic Security Statement
The Minister for Women delivered the Australian Government’s inaugural Women’s Economic Security Statement on 20 November 2018. Under the Statement, $119.2 million is committed from 2018-22 for a package of measures across several portfolios to support women’s workforce participation, earning potential and economic independence. While women’s labour force participation is lower than men’s overall, it is noteworthy that only 58 per cent of regional women are in the labour force which is around three per cent lower than women in urban locations (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018). Measures to address women’s economic security more broadly are likely to have a significant impact in regional Australia due to this disparity.
Within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio, funding has been committed to the following activities that will benefit women in regional and remote Australia:
- establishment of a Future Female Entrepreneurs program in partnership with the private sector, to engage around 55,000 girls and young women nationwide, particularly those in rural and regional communities;
- coordination of the national Reducing Barriers to Work Forum, which will seek better pathways to employment, workforce participation, flexibility and find ways to close the gender pay gap. The forum will also take into account the particular needs of regional and remote women and their employers;
- creation of a new grants program, Boosting Female Founders, to ensure women can access the finance they need to achieve their entrepreneurial goals;
- providing scholarships for women in economics and finance through the Women’s Leadership and Development Program; and
- investment in the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) systems, which is expected to enhance Australia’s gender equality data and reduce the cost of reporting for business.