Blue Flower

INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS SPENDING NOT DELIVERING RESULTS

Indigenous affairs spending worth $5.9bn a year is not delivering results because few of the funded schemes are properly evaluated, the assessment of what is needed is inadequate and some programs are poorly designed. A landmark survey, which for the first time takes account of non-government organisation spending as well as that of federal, territory and state governments in indigenous affairs programs, has found that less than 10% of a total 1082 programs had ever been evaluated. Of these 88 evaluations, few used methods that could provide evidence of the program's effectiveness, the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) found. It documents annual spending on indigenous-specific programs by the federal government of $3.28bn, state and territory governments of $2.35bn and the not-for-profit sector of $224m.

It is expected that this third figure will be massively increased once further research takes into account non-indigenous NGO spending in the indigenous sector. Factoring in not-for-profit institutions such as universities could add billions of dollars to the total. The report describes the figure of 1082 programs as "just the tip of the iceberg". The CIS study, by researcher Sara Hudson, has found instances such as an East Arnhem Land community with no notable history of suicides being required to undergo a suicide-awareness training program. Not only was the community not consulted about the need for the program, some of its young men had already been flown to a suicide-awareness program in another community at significant expense two years earlier.

In Western Australia, however, where there is desperate need for suicide prevention work, $107m earmarked for relevant programs in communities went unspent, the report finds. It documents massive duplication of services, with Roebourne in Western Australia having 67 local service providers and more than 400 state and federal funded programs for a population of 1150; Toomelah in NSW has more than 70 service providers for a population of only 300. Poor program design had meant that the federal government's Indigenous Home Ownership program's success rate of approving only 75 loans in a year equated to one loan for each person employed to run the program. Further, most of these loans were delivered to people who could have qualified for a mainstream loan.

"It's important to ask the communities what needs to be done, rather than just telling them what will happen," Ms Hudson said. "One simple way of addressing the issue is that evaluations should be funded as a part of the programs, to be performed alongside the implementation of the programs. That way you build evidence as you go. Some programs do this, but not enough. Without all of this we just can't know how money should be spent." The review notes that of 550,000 indigenous people in the 2011 census, 65% were in employment and living lives similar to other Australians; 22% were welfare-­dependent and living in urban and regional areas with other welfare dependent Australians; and just 13% were welfare-dependent and living on indigenous land where education and work opportunities were often limited.

This third group needed the greatest focus and yet most indigenous affairs policy tended to treat the entire indigenous polity as a homogenous group, the review found. "Funding must be allocated on the basis of need and not just of indigeneity," it notes. The report follows the Coalition government's drastic reordering of indigenous affairs funding two years ago, when about 150 separate programs were rationalised from a range of agencies into five streams delivered from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and $500m was cut from the indigenous affairs budget. That process was harshly criticised in a Senate committee report in March that found the government's new arrangements, known as the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

It was claimed the arrangements did not take indigenous needs into account, tending to award ad-hoc contracts to the detriment of the communities the programs were supposed to assist, and had not properly informed participants how the new arrangements worked. The CIS report makes clear that without proper assessment of outcomes, it is impossible to know which programs are effective, and it questions whether the federal government will be able to meet its budgeted expenditure of $4.9bn over four years, given that $3.85bn will have been spent in the first two years. While NSW has the highest Aboriginal population of any state or territory, and the highest number of grant recipients, the monetary value of these grants was lower than those for Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia combined.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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LABOR, GREENS AND INDEPENDENTS THREATEN TO COMBINE TO DEFEAT PLEBISCITE

Fresh from pledging to block the marriage plebiscite in the Senate, politicians who don't trust the people to consider the consequences of change have moved four same-sex marriage bills in the parliament. "It is very disappointing to see political elites denying the people a say while at the same time seeking to use even more of Parliament's time on this issue," Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton said. "The first day of the Parliament last week saw no less than four same-sex marriage bills moved. Are there not more important issues facing the nation?" Labor, the Greens and independents Andrew Wilke and Cathy McGowan have all signalled they will be moving bills to change the Marriage Act.

Mr Shelton said same-sex marriage had been considered at least 18 times by the Parliament. Several parliamentary inquiries since laws were amended in 2008 have found there is no discrimination against same-sex couples in Australian law. "This is such a big change with big consequences for free speech and children's education that all Australians should be allowed to have a say in a peoples' vote, as promised by the Coalition parties which won the election," Mr Shelton said. "It was disappointing to see Opposition Leader Bill Shorten speaking condescendingly to an Anglican priest who raised legitimate concerns about Mr Shorten's marginalisation of people who wish to preserve the definition of marriage.

"It really is time that silencing slurs like 'homophobe' and 'bigot' were dropped from the debate so there can be a free and respectful discussion of the issues." Mr Shelton said despite Mr Shorten's rhetoric regarding the plebiscite, he expected that Labor would eventually allow enabling legislation for a people's vote to pass the Senate. "Regardless of the political posturing and brinkmanship over the plebiscite, one thing is certain and that is the issue of redefining marriage will not go away," he said. "People are only just starting to realise the consequences of such a big change and they should not be denied the chance to discuss these in a respectful national plebiscite."

New polling shows the people might vote to preserve the definition of marriage. This is being used as a reason not to have a peoples' vote. Polling which questions public support for changing the definition of marriage in law is now being used as an argument to deny the people a say. Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton said that the Australian Labor Party was using polling which showed a lack of public support for changing the Marriage Act to undermine the plebiscite was extraordinary. Asked on morning television about the polling, the Prime Minister said it was 'anti-democratic' and 'destroyed the credibility of the argument against conducting a people's vote.'

"The Prime Minister is right to call this out," Mr Shelton said. "It is disappointing that those advocating such a big change don't trust the people to have their say." Mr Shelton said the Parliament has rejected changing the Marriage Act on at least 17 occasions, including by a margin of two-one back in 2012 and again as recently as last June when Opposition Leader Bill Shorten tried. "This is an issue that has been prosecuted by fatiguing members of Parliament over many years. It is only right that the issue now goes to the people to decide what is a very big change with big consequences." Mr Shelton said the Greens' argument that minority rights should not be subjected to a democratic vote was illogical and dangerous to democracy. It was also strange given the Green's support for a plebiscite just last August.

"A public policy change for a minority which has big consequences for the majority should be allowed to be discussed by those whose rights and freedoms will be affected by the change," Mr Shelton said. Consequences include denial of mothering and fathering to children, legal persecution through anti-discrimination law of those who dissent and compulsory programs like "Safe Schools" teaching children, among other things, that their gender is fluid. "There is no reason why Australians cannot have a respectful and mature debate about this far-reaching change. This opportunity should not be denied the Australian people."

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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MOBILE SHOWER VAN FOR HOMELESS HITS BRISBANE STREETS

The Brisbane duo famous for launching the world's first free mobile laundry for the homeless are trialling a shower van as their latest charitable venture. Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett were honoured as 2016 Young Australians of the Year for their efforts to help Brisbane's homeless, which have now spread nationwide. Known collectively as Orange Sky, they have turned on the shower tap for the first time, having built the van from scratch thanks to $100,000 from the Shine On Foundation. It means homeless people in Brisbane now have access to a free hot shower every day. The van is being rolled out alongside Orange Sky's free laundry van which moves around Brisbane.

"Twenty-two months ago we had a crazy idea to put two washing machines and two dryers in a van and wash and dry clothes for free," Mr Marchesi said. "So we then had an even crazier idea of putting two showers in the back of a van. We have water tanks on board, we have heating on board, we also collect our grey water." Mr Marchesi said while some charities offered showers at their drop-in centres, they were always "chockers". "We want to complement the amazing work they are doing with a portable service," he said. There was no stopping Dave 'Bushie' Brum from trialling the free shower. "It was awesome. It is so great to have a real shower," he said. Mr Brum, 60, has been living on the streets in Brisbane for more than 20 years. 

He calls himself the swagman and said it was not uncommon for him to go unwashed for more than a week. "I walk everywhere and I often feel dirty. I can smell myself," he said. Sometimes he even used a fire hose at a local real estate agency to wash himself down. He said he would not be doing that anymore. "They are awesome fellas to do this. It is like heaven being clean - it's amazing," Mr Brum said. The Brisbane-born duo now has 11 laundry vans working across Australia and hope to expand the shower concept if the trial proves successful. Orange Sky washes 7.2 tonnes of laundry each week with the help of more than 600 volunteers. "It costs us $6 to wash and dry someone's clothes and it will cost us the same to give someone a shower," Mr Marchesi said. 

He said the mobile shower van was challenging because they had to find a cheap way to keep the water hot. They discovered a way to use the thermal heat from the van's engine. The pair are about to take their laundry concept overseas, with a rollout planned for the US next year. "Our dream is really basic: to treat people how they want to be treated and to connect them in the community," Mr Marchesi said. "Everyone deserves the basic human right of having clean clothes and being clean themselves."

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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