Thursday, 12 November 2020
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021; Consideration in Detail
Today I want to acknowledge the great work being done by this government to support our First Australians and to touch on some of the fantastic Indigenous initiatives being delivered in my electorate of O'Connor. My vast electorate extends from the Noongar lands in the south to the Wongi lands of the Nullarbor-Goldfields region and the Nangadadjara lands on the edge of the Central Desert. As you will recognise, their needs are as varied as their postcodes. Most recently, Minister, you visited the beautiful coastal town of Esperance to announce nearly a million dollars of funding certainty for the Tjaltjraak Rangers. I have long been a supporter of the Tjaltjraak Rangers' job-readiness training programs, their environmental restoration and cultural survey work and their successful efforts in reconnecting disenfranchised youth to their country. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of engaging with many other O'Connor Indigenous rangers, with each group performing highly specialised tasks particular to the needs of their local environment and communities. The Ngadju Rangers showed me their monitoring of malleefowl behaviour and predation via camera traps in the Great Western Woodlands, and the Tjuntjuntjara Spinifex Rangers described controlling feral plants and animals and maintaining water sources in the desert.
Beyond the significant government investment in Indigenous rangers, I'm pleased to see a further expansion of the Indigenous Protected Areas program. Early in October, Minister, you announced that an additional seven million hectares of land, an area larger than Tasmania, would be placed in the care of traditional custodians for biodiversity and conservation, through the dedication of two new IPAs in Western Australia. The newly announced Ngadju IPA covers almost 4.4 million hectares near Norseman, in my electorate, and includes one-quarter of the Great Western Woodlands. Regarded as the largest remaining area of intact Mediterranean-climate woodland on earth, it is home to 21 vertebrate species and 166 plant species listed as threatened or priority species. Through an additional $15 million commitment, announced in 2017, there are ongoing consultations with traditional custodians on the dedication of other IPAs, including Spinifex Pilki in O'Connor.
While I've spoken of government investment in conservation, Indigenous job-readiness and cultural enrichment outcomes, I'd like to mention some of the broader investments of this government in the 2020-21 budget: the continued commitment to the $5.4 billion in Indigenous advancement strategies to support programs that reduce the rates of Indigenous incarceration, youth suicide and family and domestic violence and improve health, safety, wellbeing, education, employment and other economic opportunities; the continued commitment of $4 billion in Indigenous health funding over the coming four years; $46.5 million over four years to support the National Agreement on Closing the Gap; $39.8 million over four years for the Clontarf Foundation, which is active through my electorate, improving the self-esteem, confidence, leadership skills and engagement of young Indigenous students; and $40.1 million over three years from 2021-22 to extend services to provide specialist early intervention to support at-risk children and families with complex needs.
Additionally, Minister, this government's Indigenous Procurement Policy program continues to grow towards the goal of three per cent of all Commonwealth contracts being awarded to Indigenous businesses by 2028. Indigenous Australians will also benefit from increases to mainstream services, including more funding for mental health and suicide prevention initiatives; expedited handling of family law matters; more support for victims of domestic and family violence; increased numbers of apprenticeships and trainees; and a package of measures to support regional Australia in recovering from the impacts of COVID-19.
Lastly, but by no means least, Indigenous Business Australia will receive an additional investment of $150 million over three years to expand the Indigenous Home Ownership Program and provide new construction home loans to Indigenous Australians, including in regional and remote Australia. These new construction loans will support over 1,000 jobs and stimulate an extra $300 million in economic activity by unlocking financing for a significant pipeline of shovel-ready new homes. This investment will support Commonwealth COVID-19 economic stimulus efforts, demonstrate commitment towards closing the gap and increase movement through the housing continuum to home ownership. Repayments from loans made with the initial equity injection will be reinvested in the Indigenous Home Ownership Program through new loans to Indigenous Australians. The measure has a positive impact on the government's underlying cash balance of $12.7 million over four years from interest receipts on loan repayments. Could the minister please provide further information on the response to this announcement and, in particular, the take-up in Western Australia?