Many of Australia’s Indigenous communities do not have infrastructure plans, even for the provision of reasonable road access and water supply.
Adequate roads, public transport, communications, water supply, and electricity infrastructure in Indigenous communities is essential to ‘close the gap’ in Indigenous health and wellbeing. There is a need to consolidate best practice in order to provide a framework for regional delivery that engages with Indigenous people in remote communities through processes, training and management models that will deliver long term, ongoing and sustainable employment and business development options.
It is in the national interest to work with Indigenous communities to develop, fund, and implement community infrastructure plans. These plans should complement regional infrastructure plans that establish regional or jurisdictional priorities.
One of the nine key challenges identified by Infrastructure Australia to the delivery of national strategic and economic benefits with infrastructure reform and investment initiatives is:
- Supporting Indigenous communities: improving infrastructure in remote and regional Indigenous communities, and closing the gap in essential infrastructure and services between these and non-Indigenous communities.
Infrastructure Australia has established an Indigenous task group, a sub-committee of the Infrastructure Australia Council, to assist with this task. The objectives of the task group are to:
- support the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery, with particular focus on identification and resourcing of infrastructure deficiencies in remote indigenous communities;
- advocate the development of infrastructure plans with joint federal, state, territory, local government and first and third party support, which aim to ensure, over time, bringing standards of infrastructure to an acceptable standard in the larger indigenous communities comparable with those non-indigenous communities of similar size and location;
- ensure that such infrastructure plans are integrated with land use and service requirements and that infrastructure projects proposed in such plans are viable in remote communities and are developed using Infrastructure Australia’s seven step Reform and Investment Framework;
- develop funding arrangements for eligible projects that include contributions from federal, state, territory and local governments, the private sector and indigenous communities as appropriate;
- provide advice on effective governance arrangements for ongoing delivery operation (including indigenous participation) of critical infrastructure projects proposed in the Infrastructure Australia plan, and
- report to the Infrastructure Australia Council on a quarterly basis on progress, such reporting to include identifying the key tasks, timeframes and responsibilities.
Infrastructure Australia is developing a National Strategic Policy Framework and funding model for remote Indigenous infrastructure planning and development and the priorities are to:
- develop a framework for prioritisation of projects based on:
- town/regional planning;
- relevant information from processes such as the recent audit of municipal and essential services and delivery mechanism explored in the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation proposal, and
- Infrastructure Australia's seven step reform and investment process with further advice on relevant cost/benefit analysis.
- develop assessment criteria, a funding model and town/regional planning including infrastructure planning arrangements, and
- develop a broader reform framework supporting improved and normalised service delivery where feasible, and better overall targeting and coordination of government investment and planning processes to ensure sustainable partnership and governance.