Aims:
  • Describe the contemporary patterns of public finance reform in Indigenous Affairs and the fragmented and saturated institutional landscape that this has produced.
  • Juxtapose this against contemporary trends in Indigenous governance, including the decline in representative Indigenous organisations, the influx of NGOs and private corporations, and then the often overlooked importance of local government.
  • Examine the critical way that constructs of ‘accountability’ play out across Indigenous Affairs, and thereby address the likely constraints within government, in terms of financing guidelines and risk management protocols in government.
  • Explore the political capabilities that exist in Indigenous electorates, and how decentralised financing arrangements might be used to catalyse these capabilities so as to address perceived deficits in administrative or technical performance.
  • Draw out success stories and interesting case studies to inform improved practice in financing arrangements in Indigenous Australia on which to build broader reforms.
  • Compare the existing decentralised financing arrangements operating internationally (e.g., block funding, community-driven local funds, performance-based grants), and consider their possible adaptation to Australian Indigenous contexts.
  • Incorporate the role of monitoring and evaluation frameworks to adaptive practice.

Public Finance Management for Improved Indigenous Governance

The terms and conditions under which public finance is directed into the territories of local governance – community associations, elected local governments, organisations rooted in custom, local ethnic or other identities – can powerfully affect the orientation and capabilities people develop to govern themselves.  This issue paper explains how this occurs and suggests ways in which more positive arrangements might be instituted in Indigenous Australia.

Remote Aboriginal settlements are geographically, politically and economically peripheral to the rest of Australia, and at the extreme of complex, fragile and conflicted development contexts globally. Governments widely perceive an accountability problem with the capability of Aboriginal people to govern themselves. Current approaches to complex social development problems are largely dominated by service delivery contracts and a multiplicity of grants with strict reporting requirements and narrow deliverables. Grants tend to be small and short-term in nature in the interests of maximising bureaucratic control and ‘accountability’. 

Given such grants are generally designed to fund complex and long term social issues, there is an inevitable proliferation of such grants and corresponding administrative and reporting requirements in any one locality. The political accountability of local leaders to their constituents tends to be weakened in favour of an administrative accountability ‘upwards’ to higher authorities. New Public Management reforms have favoured a ‘contractualised’ form of administrative deconcentration, leading to an influx of public servants, NGOs and private contractors, and a decline in Indigenous organisations and local government. 

The end result in many settlements is a marked disengagement of Indigenous people from their own governance. Despite this, there is evidence of considerable political capabilities existing within local government electorates. The Australian government is looking to the international experience of public finance accountability arrangements that might be adapted to local governance arrangement; to act as a catalyst of political capabilities and to address deficits in administrative and technical performance

Funding: 
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Time status: 
Current
Contact: 
Professor Mark Moran, Chair for Development Effectiveness (mark.moran@uq.edu.au)
Aims:
  • Describe the contemporary patterns of public finance reform in Indigenous Affairs and the fragmented and saturated institutional landscape that this has produced.
  • Juxtapose this against contemporary trends in Indigenous governance, including the decline in representative Indigenous organisations, the influx of NGOs and private corporations, and then the often overlooked importance of local government.
  • Examine the critical way that constructs of ‘accountability’ play out across Indigenous Affairs, and thereby address the likely constraints within government, in terms of financing guidelines and risk management protocols in government.
  • Explore the political capabilities that exist in Indigenous electorates, and how decentralised financing arrangements might be used to catalyse these capabilities so as to address perceived deficits in administrative or technical performance.
  • Draw out success stories and interesting case studies to inform improved practice in financing arrangements in Indigenous Australia on which to build broader reforms.
  • Compare the existing decentralised financing arrangements operating internationally (e.g., block funding, community-driven local funds, performance-based grants), and consider their possible adaptation to Australian Indigenous contexts.
  • Incorporate the role of monitoring and evaluation frameworks to adaptive practice.
Program/Affiliation: 
Type: 
Systematic Reviews
Case study
Keywords: 
Policy analysis
Indigenous equity
Disadvantage
Number: 
ISSR020634