Rethinking the fundamentals of social policy towards Indigenous Australians: block grants, mainstreaming and the multiplicity of agencies and programs

Author/editor: Sanders, WG
Year published: 1993
Issue no.: 46


Social policy towards Indigenous Australians was fundamentally rethought in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The result is the current involvement in this policy area of large numbers of government agencies and programs across the range of functional responsibilities and at both State and Commonwealth levels of Australian government. The involvement of such a multiplicity of agencies and programs has recently been much criticised, most notably in the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The alternative suggested by such critics is 'block grants' to Aboriginal community organisations from a single funding source. This idea is characterised as a suggestion for another fundamental rethinking of social policy towards Indigenous Australians.

This paper cautions against the uncritical acceptance of this latter reformist idea and proposes that when the Royal Commission's Report is read more broadly, its ambivalence towards its own reformist suggestion becomes clear. It also notes the Commonwealth Government's ambivalence to this idea in its response.

The paper goes on to provide a more positive perspective on the large numbers of agencies and programs currently involved in implementing social policy towards Indigenous Australians under the sub-headings of manoeuvrability, visibility, amount and diversity of Aboriginal circumstances. Finally, it argues that there is potential for reform in social policy towards Indigenous Australians, but that this is primarily at the level of programs, rather than agencies. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission's program structure, in particular, is discussed and lines of potential reform briefly identified.

ISBN: 0 7315 1720 2

ISSN:1036 1774

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