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Almost $2 billion for First Nations programs and initiatives in Federal Budget

The Federal Budget includes almost $2 billion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, housing, education, employment and the Voice to Parliament.

The Albanese government handed down its second budget on Tuesday night, with major funding commitments worth $1.9 billion for First Nations people, which Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said would make a "practical difference".

A $250 million package has been set aside to tackle the ongoing issues in Central Australia.

Ms Burney, who spent much of her recent weekend in Alice Springs meeting a host of community organisations, service providers and First Nations representation from across the region, said the budget provided the mechanisms to deliver the next stage of the federal government's $250 million landmark Better, Safer Future for Central Australia plan, in partnership with the NT government, to improve community safety, tackle alcohol-related harm, and provide more opportunities for young people across central Australia.

"Better outcomes for children and young people will be a core focus of this investment," Ms Burney said.

The Minister noted that central Australian communities, working closely with the Office of the Central Australia Regional Controller, have made it clear they want to be more involved in decision making that affects them.

The next stage of the Better, Safer Future for Central Australia plan includes:

- $50m for community and regional infrastructure projects.

- $40.4m over two years (from 2023-24) to schools in central Australia to improve school attendance and education outcomes, with measures to prioritise community engagement and locally-driven responses in partnership with local community organisations.

- $23.5m to support the health of First Nations children, young people and their families in Alice Springs and surrounding communities, including $18.4m to the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress to expand existing services, meet current demand and increase the availability of early detection and intervention services for neurodevelopmental conditions, including foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

- $10m to enhance digital connectivity and narrowing the digital divide for First Nations Australians, focusing on solutions to improve mobile phone coverage and internet connections in central Australia.

- $10m for justice reinvestment initiatives in central Australia that will allow First Nations communities to identify the best ways to prevent and reduce contact with the criminal justice system, and empowers those communities to make decisions about the policies, programs and decisions that affect their lives.

- $9.2m to strengthen community safety in central Australia and support increased engagement and diversion of 'at-risk' First Nations youth. Funding will target youth services to build job readiness, improve access to mental health, drug and alcohol diversion, address drivers of gender-based violence and enhance cultural and community connections.

- $3.9m over four years to develop a Youth Services Action Plan for central Australia and support the provision of cultural camps for young people at risk to keep them engaged, connected to their culture and communities and to prevent emerging issues from escalating. The Australian government will also support a series of on-country and youth diversion activities for children aged 8-12 years deemed at risk by law enforcement, child protection agencies, service providers or schools.

- $1.2m for up to five new Junior Ranger sites in central Australia, which focus on the intergenerational transmission of First Nations knowledge and customary practice.

- $7.5m to drive coordination and ensure successful delivery of the Better, Safer Future for Central Australia commitments, including the establishment of an Aboriginal Leadership Group.

The government has allocated $364.6 million for the referendum to enshrine an Indigenous Voice in the constitution, including funding for the electoral commission, civics education and mental health support.

The Australian Electoral Commission will get a large chunk of the funding which includes $10.6 million for an official Yes and No pamphlet to be delivered to all Australian households later this year.

There will be a $10.5 million funding increase for mental health services for First Nations people during the referendum.

"We are continuing to deliver on our commitment to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full," Minister Burney and Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians Malarndirri McCarthy said in a joint statement.

The Budget includes $20.8 million over two years to arrest the decline of Aboriginal Hostels Limited, a critical provider of culturally safe accommodation enabling First Nations people to access vital services, particularly people who need to travel to regional and urban areas to access these services. Funding will enable AHL to increase spending on meals, improve security and undertake urgent repairs, maintenance and capital works.

There is also a $111.7 million investment in a new one-year partnership with the Northern Territory Government to accelerate the building of new remote housing, targeted at addressing the worst over-crowding.

With smoking and vaping being a persistent health problem in Indigenous communities, a $141.2 million prevention program will be rolled out.

Cancer services targeted at First Nations people will get a $238.5 million boost.

A dedicated action plan to improve Indigenous women's safety and tackle family violence will receive $194 million over five years.

Regional and remote Indigenous community water infrastructure will get a $150 million upgrade over four years.

Education will receive a $60 million injection with an extension of support for boarding students and more culturally appropriate distance learning.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the budget was giving financial support for Australians in need, though welfare reform advocates were critical of the government's decision to raise Jobseeker, Youth Allowance and Austudy by only $20 per week.

"We're also investing in new programs to tackle entrenched disadvantage," Mr Chalmers said.

"Putting our trust in the knowledge and passion of locals to break the chains of intergenerational poverty.

"I see it in my own community: library programs unlocking the world of learning, sporting clubs building pride, community groups mentoring young people into apprenticeships. Breakthroughs and progress, driven by locals and leaders."

The Treasurer said $14.6 billion will be spent to alleviate the cost of living for voters, including deductions of up to $500 from power bills for five million families.

"Real relief, right off your power bill, right when you need it," he said.

One billion dollars will be spent funding low-cost loans for families to install double-glazing and solar panels to cut household energy expenses.


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