Almost 600 non-Indigenous organisations, charities and corporations are being given hundreds of millions of Australian taxpayer dollars under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS), but the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) says IAS funding “is not being misused”.

Over $1.6 billion is currently being paid to 589 non-Indigenous entities under the Strategy — approximately 39 per cent of IAS funds – with many wealthy organisations taking on extra taxpayer dollars to deliver strategies with minimal results.

At least $91.7 million is currently going into the Employment Parity Initiative (EPI) under the Strategy, which funds Australia’s largest companies to increase their Indigenous employment to reflect the national Indigenous population — just three per cent.

Crown Resorts is one of several funding recipients and was paid $2.29 million by the NIAA to place 230 Indigenous employees and retain them for a minimum of six months under the Initiative.

Corporate partners of the EPI receive a payment when Indigenous employees reach the six-month mark.

Crown is currently facing two royal commissions in two separate states and have recently been linked to money laundering and organised crime.

A spokesperson for the NIAA told NIT that all providers funding under the IAS are “reviewed on a regular basis and organisational risk ratings adjusted as required”.

When asked whether the Agency was reconsidering its choice to fund an organisation with links to organised crime, the NIAA spokesperson said Crown’s contract is due to expire on June 30, 2021.

“Additionally, the NIAA is undertaking an independent evaluation of the EPI, in line with our IAS Evaluation framework. The results of this evaluation are expected mid-year and NIAA’s practice is to publish evaluations on its website within four months of finalisation,” the spokesperson said.

Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe has been openly critical of the NIAA’s funding choices, asking in Senate Estimates recently why non-Indigenous organisations raking in billions in revenue need taxpayer money to advance Indigenous Australians.

Senator Lidia Thorpe has questioned the NIAA about the Strategy’s funding recipients. Photo supplied.

“Why can’t they afford to do it themselves? Do they need Blak money to do Blak stuff? Why aren’t these companies who are getting billions of dollars and not paying corporate tax just doing it from the goodness of their hearts?” the Senator asked during the March hearing.

The NIAA did not respond to questions regarding whether it was appropriate that nearly 40 per cent of all current IAS funding is being paid to almost 600 non-Indigenous entities, but did say the Government selects organisations that represent the best bang for taxpayer buck.

“The Government preferences Indigenous organisations to deliver programs under the IAS, but non-Indigenous organisations remain eligible for funding where proposed activities meet an identified need in a given Indigenous community, those organisations demonstrate they can achieve outcomes, and they present the best value for money to the taxpayer,” the NIAA spokesperson said.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt referred NIT’s questions onto the NIAA.

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said one objective of the IAS “should be to boost the economic participation of Indigenous Australians”.

Ms Burney did not respond to questions regarding the appropriateness of 40 per cent of the Strategy’s funding going to non-Indigenous organisations but did say that “where possible grants should go to Indigenous-owned businesses”.

By Hannah Cross