On 2 March 2015, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C or the department) operationalised its Regional Network (the Network). Unlike the previous state-based model, the Network consists of 12 geographic regions and two support branches. The Network was expected to ‘simplify reporting structures and enable decisions to be made closer to the people and communities that are impacted.
The Network is expected to play a central role in achieving the department’s purpose of ‘improving the lives of Indigenous Australians’, and is responsible for the delivery of Indigenous affairs policies and programs and engagement with Indigenous communities. The intent of the model was that intelligence gathered by the Network could be fed to policy areas located centrally in the Indigenous Affairs Group within PM&C to support continual improvements to policy and program design. The Network’s strategic activities are: stakeholder collaboration; policy advice and coordination; contract management and delivery; enhancing internal capability; event coordination; support and advice; and monitoring and implementation.
The Government has allocated $1.93 billion for Indigenous-specific programs in 2018–19, with an intended focus on the priority areas of school attendance, employment and community safety. This allocation includes $1.24 billion for the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS), which is distributed through grants administered by officers in the Network. In 2018–19, the Network’s budget is $68.77 million to support the delivery of Government’s Indigenous affairs priorities.
The objective of the audit was to assess whether the department effectively manages the Regional Network. To form a conclusion against the audit objective, the ANAO adopted the following high level criteria:
- Was the Regional Network designed to support the achievement of the Government’s policy objectives?
- Is the Regional Network operating as designed?
- Does the department effectively monitor and report on the performance of the Regional Network?