Why Budgets Matter: First Nation Issues, Arts Funding, and Workers

Not many people get stoked about each year’s federal budget, however, federal budgets can be captivating. A good one can spell prosperity, and a bad one can spell doom. Each multimillion dollar figure tells a story, for better or worse or both. 

This is most certainly the case for how this year’s Federal Budget engages with First Nations issues. It’s also the case for what it has in store for workers, the arts, and businesses.

Don’t believe me? Then let’s go through the deets now.

The Budget and First Nations Peoples

Closing the Gap

As it stands, there isn’t a gap between First Nations peoples and white people. There’s a ravenous canyon. But, in a bit of good news, the 2023 federal budget might help change that. This is because they’ve invested our tax dollars into their Closing the Gap programme.

Over the next five years, Labor has dedicated $1.9 billion to improve the lives and economic opportunities of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This Closing the Gap funding breaks down in the following manner:

Cost Scheme
$150.5 million Improving educational programmes and protecting traditional knowledge.
$193.5 million Improving economic participation.
$410.4 million Improving the government’s housing and infrastructure projects.
$561.6 million Improving government-based health programmes.

The First Nations Voice Referendum

In late 2023, the general public will cast their votes. As a group, they’ll declare if they want a First Nations Voice to Parliament to become a reality. A Voice to Parliament will be a group of First Nations peoples that advise the Federal Government on First Nations issues.

On the authority of the Federal Budget, $364.6 million will be spent on the Voice referendum. Additionally, a contingency reserve of $160 million is already in place for this project.

A fraction of this $364.6 million will be spent in the following manner:

Cost Scheme
$10 million Creating ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ information pamphlets that will be mailed to every household.
$10.5 million Boosting mental health support for First Nations peoples during our referendum period.
$20 million Boosting support for the government’s proposed Regional Voices programme. 

The Central Australia Plan

According to the Federal Government, it has created a $250 million rescue package for both Alice Springs and Central Australia. It has been given the name, The Central Australia Plan.

So, what will this package do? Whelp, it will help First Nations peoples who are struggling with alcohol addiction. In July of 2022, the Northern Territory’s alcohol ban closed, but there were no programs in place to help these folks respond to this change.

As per the budget, this investment is focusing on:

  • Creating jobs in the region.
  • Establishing better services in this region.
  • Preventing people from getting Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
  • Helping people with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
  • Giving money to some families who need it.
  • Creating on-country learning opportunities to improve school attendance.

Some of this cash will be spent in the following manner:

Cost Scheme
$23 million  Improving the area’s health services.
$40 million Creating and improving educational projects.
$50 million Creating and improving infrastructure projects.

The First Nation Budget Pushback

Now, before we move on, it’s worth noting that this section of the budget has been somewhat divisive. For instance, the Independent Senator for Victoria, Lidia Thorpe, took a few swings at its core.

“I am pleased to see significant investment into Central Australian communities, and I’ll be looking closely at how this money is actually spent,” said Thorpe. “But it leaves me wondering how they will explain the absolute lack of funding to other First Nations communities around the nation.”

The Djab Wurrung Gunnai Gunditjmara woman continued, “The budget includes no new funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, who last month desperately requested $250 million to maintain their services and are now left to decide which critical services they will cut. Their voice was ignored.”

The Budget and Australian Workers

In Australia, our aged care workers are criminally underpaid. They do super long hours, are understaffed, and support people in their final hours. 

However, the Federal Government is rectifying this situation. From July 1 of this year, Australia’s aged care workers will receive a 15% pay rise. Some nurses will get an extra $145.54 every week, while others will score an extra $196.08 every week.

I am proud our Budget provides $11.3 billion to fund a 15% increase in award wages, for more than 250,000 aged care workers,” said our Treasurer, Jim Chalmers. 

This pay rise will help retain, reward and recruit the hard‑working people who care for our loved ones as they grow old. And the message from our Government to the aged care workers of Australia is simple: You deserve every cent.

The Budget and the Arts

Meanwhile, the Federal Government is giving a whack of artistic institutions a multimillion-dollar glow-up. And by a glow-up, I mean, money to make some urgent repairs. This is because many of our galleries are a tad decrepit, having been chronically underfunded for the past decade. 

The following institutions will receive a slice of $535.3 million:

  • The Australian National Maritime Museum
  • The Bundanon Trust
  • Old Parliament House
  • The National Archives of Australia
  • The National Film and Sound Archive
  • The National Gallery of Australia
  • The National Library of Australia
  • The National Museum of Australia 
  • The National Portrait Gallery of Australia.

“This gets our institutions back to where they should be,” said our Arts Minister, Tony Burke. “Where the Government delivers strong core funding, and philanthropists take them to the next level.”

“This funding means people will be able to go to places like the National Gallery of Australia and enjoy the exhibits.”

The Budget and Australian Businesses

Cyber Security 

During 2022 and 2023, there have been a tonne of cyber attacks. This is why our gov is investing $23.4 million into protecting our small businesses from them. They’re creating a programme called Cyber Wardens, which will help some orgs beef up their cyber security game.

“A cybercrime attack on a small business can cause significant financial and reputational damage, putting at risk the viability of the business and the jobs it provides in the community,” said the government in a statement. “This measure will help mitigate and reduce the harms associated with cyber-attacks on small businesses”

“The small business Cyber Wardens program will be delivered by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia.”

Small Business Energy Incentive

If you’re a small business owner struggling with some cruel and unusual electricity bills, then you’re in luck. Well, a fragment of luck. It’s not like the gov is going to buy you a football field worth of wind turbines, although there’s an idea. 

Instead, your business might be eligible for a slice of a $310 million tax relief programme. What’s more, 3.8 million businesses will receive some help in electrifying their heating and cooling systems. When purchasing such an upgrade, the government’s offering deductions of an impressive 20%.

Related: How the Federal Budget Is Supporting Women

Related: Our Federal Budget vs. Health — Everything to Know

Read all of The Latch’s Federal Budget 2023 coverage here.

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