Less than half of the successful applicants for the first round of the new federal Indigenous Affairs funding scheme were Aboriginal organisations.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet confirmed the figure in its submission to a Senate inquiry investigating the funding process, estimating that “45 per cent of all recommended applicants are Indigenous organisations”.
The submission said $860 million in funding had been allocated so far for 964 organisations to deliver 1,297 projects.
When the Coalition came to power it replaced the existing scheme for the multi-billion-dollar grants process with the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS).
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has overseen the changes, arguing they are needed to address a number of Closing the Gap targets that are lagging behind, including life expectancy, education and employment.
I secured Senate support for an inquiry into the fractured rollout of the IAS and submissions and requests to give evidence have been rolling in thick and fast.
Greens Indigenous Affairs spokeswoman Rachel Siewert, “If it hadn’t had been for the fact that there’s a Senate inquiry into this, I do then question how soon we would’ve got this information if at all”.
The department condensed about 150 programmes and activities into five categories and announced plans to reassess existing projects.
In its submission, the department explained the objectives of the new IAS process as “achieving the Government’s priorities of getting adults into jobs, getting children into school, and making communities safer”.
Existing recipients and new applicants were asked to put forward proposals for consideration.
The first round of applications totalled more than $14 billion, competing for a pool of about $2 billion.
Unsuccessful applicants have been contacted by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The process has sparked concerns that some organisations did not reapply for funding because of the complexity of the application process.
There have also been complaints that larger non-Indigenous organisations would be unfairly advantaged because they would have extra resources to put together applications.
Successful non-Indigenous applicants included universities, sports groups, government departments, churches and mainstream employers.
The Senate inquiry has received 59 submissions so far and is scheduled to provide its report in June.
Greens Indigenous Affairs spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said the Government’s selection process for the funding was “outrageous” and illustrated why the Senate inquiry was needed.
“I secured Senate support for an inquiry into the fractured rollout of the IAS and submissions and requests to give evidence have been rolling in thick and fast,” she said.
She said a number of submissions had highlighted the “chaotic” nature of the application process.
“Many organisations are still confused about how much funding they will receive, what for and for how long, and to add insult to injury most of the groups to receive the funding are not Aboriginal,” she said.
“This whole process has been a complete joke, it needs to be sorted and fast.”
If it hadn’t had been for the fact that there’s a Senate inquiry into this, I do then question how soon we would’ve got this information if at all.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said she was not suggesting the successful non-Indigenous applicants did not have an interest in Indigenous advancement.
“The organisations that’ve got funding for programs are doing something on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues,” she said.
“But the point here is that we were supposed to move to Aboriginal community-controlled and Aboriginal-controlled programs.”
She said information about the successful applicants was hard to come by.
“If it hadn’t had been for the fact that there’s a Senate inquiry into this, I do then question how soon we would’ve got this information if at all,” she said.
“They’re still not providing all the information that other organisations want to see, and I want to see, and we’ll be continuing to pursue that.”
Senator Siewert said while she was in the Kimberley region recently, she heard many complaints about the process with many organisations confused about the extent of their funding, or why they had missed out.
She said she heard the IAS regularly described as “chaotic”.
The Indigenous Affairs Minister’s office has been contacted for comment, but Senator Scullion has previously said “funding outcomes would provide the best possible services to First Australians”.