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Funding scrapped for outback SA corrections centre

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A $2.3 million funding agreement between the Federal Government and native titleholders to reduce reoffending in South Australia’s far north has been abandoned.

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The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) confirmed to InDaily that the funding agreement signed with Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal Corporation (AMYAC)  to build a “community transition and learning centre” near Coober Pedy was “mutually terminated” in November.  

The State Government contributed a separate $350,000 towards the centre, which was to provide an “immersive cultural and learning experience to reduce re-offending” on Mount Clarence Station, 37-kilometres northwest of Coober Pedy on Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara land.

The facility was to provide Aboriginal prisoners around Coober Pedy and the APY Lands with cultural support and assistance finding employment when they were released from jail, to help prevent further crime.

Announcing the project in state parliament in May last year, Correctional Services Minister Corey Wingard said he was “proud” that the State Government had contributed money to address “the needs of Indigenous offenders as they return to their communities on community-based orders”.

 “The centre will deliver a place based on response to the geographic exclusion and disadvantage Indigenous offenders face,” he said.

“We know there is disadvantage across the correctional system, and the challenges faced by Indigenous offenders are not always that different from the challenges facing all offenders, including lack of suitable accommodation, drug and alcohol issues and employment pathways.

“The Marshall government is committed to rehabilitation programs that reduce recidivism where possible and break down the cycle of imprisonment.”

The centre was listed as one of the Department for Correctional Service’s projects in the State Government’s 2019-20 Aboriginal Affairs Action Plan.

However, the Department now claims the centre is “at risk” and “not on track” for completion after the funding agreement between the NIAA and AMYAC ended.  

InDaily posed a series of questions to the NIAA asking why the funding agreement with AMYAC native titleholders ended.

A spokesperson said the funding agreement was terminated under a “deed of mutual termination project agreement” in November last year.

The spokesperson did not say what prompted the termination, but InDaily understands a funding dispute between NIAA and AMYAC representatives broke down negotiations. 

A Department spokesperson told InDaily the State Government was now “investigating other opportunities” to build the centre elsewhere.

The spokesperson said it would be “inappropriate” for the Department to comment on the funding agreement between the NIAA and AMYAC as the State Government was not party to the funding negotiations.

“Despite the termination of the funding agreement between the National Indigenous Australians Agency and Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara nominees, the department remains committed to investigating future options for the CTLC in partnership with the NIAA,” the spokesperson said.

“These investigations are ongoing.”

Wingard told InDaily that “there is currently nowhere for the State Government funding to be allocated” after the funding agreement ended.

“Once a new option has been identified, that funding will again become available,” he said.

The NIAA said a “suitable location” for the centre was dependent on discussions with the State Government.

“The NIAA is working with the SA Government to explore regional or remote locations,” the spokesperson said.

“A launch date for the centre has not been identified.”

InDaily contacted AMY Nominee’s general manager and the AMYAC Trust for comment.

Around one-quarter of South Australia’s offender population is Indigenous, despite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people representing just two per cent of the state’s total population.

South Australian Indigenous offenders also face a higher rate of reoffending than non-Indigenous offenders at around 75 per cent.

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