By JR on Monday, August 08, 2011
Just about everything has been tried with no results. The one remaining thing that would greatly improve the wellbeing of Aborigines on settlements is better policing of those settlements
THE circumstances of most indigenous Australians are hardly any better today than they were 40 years ago, despite governments having spent tens of billions of dollars, a scathing internal report to federal cabinet says.
The Strategic Review of Indigenous Expenditure, prepared by the federal Department of Finance, finds that despite efforts by successive Commonwealth, state and territory governments, progress against Aboriginal disadvantage has been "mixed at best". Outcomes have varied between "disappointing" and "appalling".
The federal government spends $3.5 billion a year on indigenous programs but the report finds this "major investment, maintained over many years, has yielded dismally poor returns". The report was submitted in February 2010 when Kevin Rudd was prime minister.
Its contents were publicised last night by Channel Seven after the network fought a long freedom-of-information battle.
The document offers no joy for either main party and contains criticism of the Northern Territory intervention, started by the Howard government, and the Closing the Gap strategy of Labor.
"The history of Commonwealth policy for indigenous Australians over the past 40 years is largely a story of good intentions, flawed policies, unrealistic assumptions, poor implementation, unintended consequences and dashed hopes," it says.
"Strong policy commitments and large investments of government funding have too often produced outcomes which have been disappointing at best and appalling at worst. Individual success stories notwithstanding, the circumstances and prospects on many indigenous Australians are little better in 2010, relative to other Australians, than those which faced their counterparts in 1970."
It says co-ordination between levels of government and agencies is poor, money is still being wasted and greater rigour is needed when assessing programs, especially the intervention, which Labor has continued.
The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the review was commissioned because the government wanted to improve the lives of indigenous Australians. "Before the significant reform and investment agenda put in place by the government, services and infrastructure for indigenous Australians had faced decades of under-investment and neglect."
The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, said governments of both persuasions had not applied the same rigour to indigenous programs as other areas but said it was worse under the current one.