This paper attempts to identify the sources of special funding in Aboriginal affairs in Western Australia and how these allocations are spent. First, an assessment is made of the funds allocated by each level of government, Commonwealth, State and local; second, the funds allocated to programs and services with a social intent are compared with those allocated with an economic intent; and third, funds directed to remote regions are compared with those going to urban regions of Western Australia.
Funding in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs in Western Australia is complicated by several factors. These include the nature of fiscal relations between the Commonwealth and the State; Commonwealth national policies operating alongside policies formulated by the State Government; services and programs provided by special Aboriginal government agencies as well as by mainstream agencies; special funding provided to overcome the 'disadvantaged' status of Aborigines; and some public funds going directly to Aboriginal organisations rather than to government bodies.
This analysis is constrained by the absence of current procedures that would facilitate the identification of expenditure by each level of government specifically on Aboriginal people. Comparisons between Commonwealth, State and local government funding are limited because there is no agreement on respective funding responsibilities. This paper concludes that whether data on funding are to be utilised to improve inter-governmental accountability or as an aid to allocating funds to specific policy areas, procedures should be put in place to clarify the responsibilities of each level of government and, following this, a comprehensive system needs to be established to allow an accurate measurement and identification of the resources expended on Aboriginal people.