The trial and terrors of the Indigenous Advancement Scheme

Wednesday, 17 June 2015
Mick Gooda

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates are invited to join Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda for an open discussion about the pros and cons of the recently introduced Indigenous Advancement Scheme (IAS) for funding of organisations and programs across the Indigenous sector.

Introduced in July last year, the IAS replaced 150 individual programmes and activities with five flexible funding streams that broadly target jobs, education, wellbeing and cultural strength, and remote communities. The first round of applications resulted in more than 5,000 requests for more than $14 billion worth of funding, apparently stretching the resources and capacities of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to the limit. Following a number of delays, 964 organisations were eventually selected to deliver 1,297 projects worth over $860 million.

Few people appear happy with the implementation of the IAS to date. Concerns include that the application process was unnecessarily complicated and time consuming, that it focused too narrowly on ‘real jobs’, and that delays in announcing successful grants caused great uncertainty for many organisations, their employees and their clients. There has also been criticism from some quarters that not enough of the successful applicants were Aboriginal organisations. The level of public and political concern has been so great that a Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee was established in March to investigate the ‘service quality, efficiency and sustainability’ of the IAS tendering processes. Among the issues that this committee will report on are the evidence base and analysis underlying program design, how decisions about funding were made, and the impact of the scheme on advocacy and policy services across the sector.