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2024 Federal Budget: Indigenous economic empowerment gets $774m focus

The Federal Government's new $774 million economic empowerment program was the backbone of funding for First Nations people in Tuesday night's Federal Budget.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers' third Budget also commited $4 billion to build 270 new houses over the next 10 years to address the Northern Territory's housing crisis, while energy projects that engaged First Nations communities were also promised support.

He said Labor's previously announced Remote Jobs and Economic Development Program would start later this year, and was designed to strenthen economic opportunities and community development for Indigenous people.

Delivered in partnership with First Nations people, the $774m initiative replaces the Community Development Program, and will help build skills and experience, and deliver vital community services, while creating 3,000 remote jobs for workers.

The 10-year commitment to improve housing in the Top End included $120m for housing upgrades, and essential infrastructure improvements to NT homelands over the next three years.

To combat the appalling rate of suicide amongst First Nations people, the government would spend $12.8m on suicide prevention services, including the Indigenous Youth Connection Culture program, which operates across 12 vulnerable communities.

Other Indigenous Budget funding includes:

- $10m to maintain investments to the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) for targeted and culturally-appropriate mental health support services.

$11.1m over five years to expand coverage of the Closing the Gap Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) Co-payment Program to all PBS medicines, with plans to broaden access to affordable PBS medicines for First Nations people living with, or at risk of, chronic disease.

- $94.9m over two years to support management of communicable disease control in First Nations communities.

NACCHO would also receive $12.5 million over four years to facilitate community-led distribution of menstrual products in regional and remote First Nations communities, where products are expensive and hard for First Nations women and girls to access.

For Indigenous education services, $74.8m over four years would develop a new National First Nations Education Policy, extend several education programs, and provide partnership funding to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Corporation and SNAICC, the National Voice for our Children organisation.

Other EDUCATION programs include

- $32.8m over the 2025 school calendar year for the Clontarf Foundation to continue to school engagement programs for First Nations boys and young men.

- $2.4m over three years to implement the First Nations Teacher Strategy to increase the number of First Nations teachers in schools.

- $76.2m on over five years to establish a new First Nations Prison to Employment Program.

Other JUSTICE funding programs include:

- $10.7m to the Justice Policy Partnership, which will focus on reducing the rates of adult and youth incarceration and improving justice outcomes on the ground.

- $15.4m for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and an additional $8.6 million to Family Violence Prevention Legal Services to provide an urgent funding injection for legal assistance services, as part of the Attorney-General's $44.1 million funding boost to the legal assistance sector.

- $4.6m in one year to ensure service continuity for the Custody Notification Service, while future design of the service is considered in collaboration with First Nations stakeholders.

The government hopes to deliver better outcome for First Nations families, via $5.9m over two years to establish the National Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People.

- $11.7m over two years to extend the First Nations Family Dispute Resolution Pilot.

The government would also work with local communities in Central Australia and the NT government to deliver a $250m landmark plan for A Better, Safer Future for Central Australia.

This would include investment of $18m for a capital works fund to build new and improve existing boarding facilities in the region for Indigenous students from remote NT communities.

From the outset, the Albanese Government's third Federal Budget promised "a tax cut for every taxpayer" while emphasising "more" spending on every major sector - aimed at reducing the cost of living pressures felt across the country, which have slowed the Australian economy.

The Treasurer also forecast rates of unemployement to fall, while jobs would grow across the country.

More to come.

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