Estimating Northern Territory Government program expenditure for Aboriginal people: problems and implications

Author/editor: Smith, D
Year published: 1992
Issue no.: 30


There are currently no administrative mechanisms whereby data relating to State expenditure on programs for Aboriginal people are disaggregated. This paper attempts to assess the existing level of State Government expenditure on both mainstream and specific programs for Aboriginal people. The Northern Territory (NT) is taken as a case study, using the NT Government's own reported expenditure breakdowns for the financial year 1990-91.

NT Government-identified expenditure on Aboriginal people in the functional areas of education, health, social security and welfare, housing, community amenities, recreation, transport and communications, industry development, employment, law and order, and assistance to other levels of government are examined. Government expenditure is disaggregated according to program type: including Aboriginal specific, mainstream with an Aboriginal element, and mainstream with particular relevance to Aboriginal people. The paper highlights a number of methodological problems concerning the various bases on which NT expenditure estimates have been made.

The process of making State Government expenditure more transparent in the area of Aboriginal affairs is extremely difficult. In particular, there are many gaps in data reflecting the absence of procedures and identifiers that facilitate the measurement of budgetary expenditure. Nevertheless, the NT data represents a preliminary step, offering considerable benefits both to government and to Aboriginal people and their representative organisations. The analysis of NT data also has implications for a number of broader policy issues which are considered in the conclusion, including the co-ordinating role of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, positive versus negative funding, substitution versus supplementation funding, and mainstreaming.

ISBN: 0 7315 1481 5

ISSN:1036 1774

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