Aboriginal leaders criticise $39m budget funding to non-Indigenous program for boys

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Indigenous groups and Labor have criticised the Coalition for allocating more than $39m of extra funding to a non-Indigenous sport-based initiative for boys, but failing to adequately fund Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to meet the new Closing the Gap targets in its budget.



a close up of a flag: Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

The government has set aside only $46.5m over four years to support capacity-building in Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to meet targets set out in the new Closing the Gap agreement.

But a decision to allocate $39.8m of extra funding to a non-Indigenous sports-based initiative for boys has drawn the ire of Labor.

The Clontarf Foundation has been awarded the sum over four years from 2020 to expand and extend its program, “which supports the education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men”, according to last night’s budget papers.



a close up of a flag: Labor’s Tanya Plibersek has criticised the Morrison government for not providing funding for Indigenous girls after the Clontarf Foundation received $39.8m for boys.


© Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP
Labor’s Tanya Plibersek has criticised the Morrison government for not providing funding for Indigenous girls after the Clontarf Foundation received $39.8m for boys.

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Labor’s education spokesperson, Tanya Plibersek, criticised the Coalition for not including funding for Indigenous girls.

“Why do Indigenous girls miss out? There are many groups doing terrific work with Indigenous girls that would love extra funding so they can help extra people. I’ve seen this work firsthand and it’s changing lives – more girls finishing year 12, and more going on to Tafe and university,” Plibersek said.

“Given the trillion dollars of debt, I think Australians would have expected the Liberals to do much more to support Indigenous kids – both boys and girls.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education pointed to lower retention rates for Indigenous boys in years 10 to 12 than Indigenous girls, saying that “additional support from the Australian government for the Clontarf Foundation will help to enhance the school education experience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys and young men, which will contribute positively to engagement and retention to the end of year 12.”

The Clontarf Foundation, launched in 2000, operates 119 academies nationally, using a mix of state and federal government funds, philanthropic donations and powerful corporate partnerships – including Fortescue Metals Group, Wesfarmers, Glencore, AMP, and the Ramsay Foundation.

Clontarf plans camps, excursions and other activities with a focus on wellbeing, life skills and sport. In order to remain in the program, students must stay at school and “embrace the objectives of the foundation”, according to its website.

But questions have arisen over the years about its effectiveness.

A 2016 New South Wales Department of Education evaluation of Clontarf’s performance in the state found the program was having a “modest” impact.

The study found that it had a “positive attendance effect for