Chapter 2 Portfolio overview
This chapter provides an overview of the FaHCSIA portfolio, including the ministers responsible for the portfolio and its agencies, the structure of the portfolio and summary information on the roles and reporting arrangements of the portfolio bodies.
Ministers and portfolio responsibilities
Until 14 September 2010, the ministers and parliamentary secretaries responsible for the portfolio and its agencies were:
- The Hon. Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
- The Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women
- The Hon. Bill Shorten MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services and Parliamentary Secretary for Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction
- Senator the Hon. Ursula Stephens, Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector.
The current ministers and parliamentary secretaries, sworn in on 14 September 2010, are:
- The Hon. Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
- The Hon. Kate Ellis MP, Minister for Employment Participation and Child Care and Minister for the Status of Women
- Senator the Hon. Mark Arbib, Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Minister for Sport and Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness
- Senator the Hon. Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers
- The Hon. Julie Collins MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services.
The portfolio comprises FaHCSIA and 16 statutory and non-statutory bodies, each of which is described briefly below. Figure 2.1 shows the portfolio structure.
Portfolio agencies and statutory bodies
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
FaHCSIA is a key source of advice to the Australian Government on social policy and works in partnership with other Commonwealth and state and territory government agencies and non-government organisations to manage a diverse range of agreements, programs and services designed to support and improve the lives of Australians.
FaHCSIA has whole-of-government responsibilities in relation to Indigenous affairs and women.
The Department is subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act).
Aboriginal Hostels Limited
Aboriginal Hostels Limited is a company owned by the Australian Government and managed by an independent board of directors under the Corporations Act 2001 and the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (CAC Act). Aboriginal Hostels Limited provides safe, culturally appropriate and affordable accommodation for Indigenous Australians who must live away from home to access services and economic opportunity through a national network of hostels and houses. It employs more than 500 staff, 78 per cent of whom identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders. Aboriginal Hostels Limited is funded through an appropriation from the Australian Government, from revenues from contracting governments, and from client tariffs. Its services directly support the Closing the Gap agenda relating to health, education and employment.
Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency
The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency is a statutory authority that administers the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 and is subject to the FMA Act. The principal functions of the agency are to promote employment for women on the basis of merit, to promote equal opportunity, to eliminate discrimination and to foster workplace consultation between employers and employees on these issues. The agency contributes to the portfolio’s goals by working with business to develop work practices that improve women’s workforce participation in an environment free of discrimination.
In March 2011 a package of detailed reforms was announced to retain and improve the agency and the Act. The reforms will strengthen the Act’s and the agency’s focus on gender equality, highlighting pay equity and caring and unpaid responsibilities as key elements for achieving the improved outcomes for business and working women and men. The Act will be renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Act and the agency will be known as the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Reporting by business will be streamlined to focus on outcomes. The agency’s role in supporting and advising employers will be significantly enhanced.
Indigenous Business Australia
Indigenous Business Australia is a statutory authority established under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (ATSI Act) and is subject to the CAC Act. Its vision is for a nation in which Indigenous Australians are economically independent and an integral part of the economy.
Indigenous Business Australia contributes to the portfolio’s goals through Indigenous economic development. It manages programs that provide the means for Indigenous Australians to create wealth and accumulate assets, take up investment opportunities, own businesses and purchase homes.
Indigenous Land Corporation
The Indigenous Land Corporation is a statutory authority established under the ATSI Act and is subject to the CAC Act. It assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to acquire and manage land to provide economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits. The corporation contributes to the goals of the portfolio by assisting in the delivery of sustainable benefits through land acquisition and by providing land management assistance. Its policy is determined by a seven-member board of directors of which five, including the chairperson, must be Indigenous.
The National Indigenous Land Strategy 2007–2012 prioritises education, training and sustainable employment as key outcomes for the corporation’s land-based projects. The board has identified the tourism and pastoral sectors as providing strategic opportunities for increasing Indigenous training and employment outcomes in regional and remote areas.
Outback Stores Pty Ltd
Outback Stores Pty Ltd became an Australian Government company on 2 March 2010. It was originally established in 2007 as a subsidiary of Indigenous Business Australia and is subject to the Corporations Act and the CAC Act. Outback Stores Pty Ltd improves the health, employment and economic conditions of remote Indigenous communities by providing retail management services to community-owned stores. These services improve the quality, affordability and availability of food, a key component of the Australian Government’s food security policy. Outback Stores Pty Ltd contributes to the portfolio’s goals by helping Indigenous people to improve their standard of living and to achieve health goals.
Northern Territory Land Councils
The Northern Land Council, the Central Land Council, the Anindilyakwa Land Council and the Tiwi Land Council are the four Northern Territory land councils established under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (ALRA). The land councils are subject to the CAC Act. Each is an independent statutory body established to represent Aboriginal interests in a range of processes related to the ALRA.
Social Security Appeals Tribunal
The Social Security Appeals Tribunal was established by Ministerial Instruction in 1975 and then by the Social Security Act 1947 in 1988. Its existence was continued by the Social Security Act 1991 and then by the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999. It is subject to the FMA Act.
Eleven Acts confer jurisdiction on the tribunal to conduct reviews of decisions. It mostly reviews decisions made by officers of Centrelink or the Child Support Agency under the social security law, the family assistance law and the child support law.
The Tribunal is required to provide a mechanism of review that is fair, just, economical, informal and quick.
Torres Strait Regional Authority
The Torres Strait Regional Authority is a statutory authority established by the ATSI Act and is subject to CAC Act. It formulates, implements and monitors the effectiveness of programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait and advises the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on issues related to the Torres Strait.
The authority contributes to the goals of the portfolio by working to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait to determine their own affairs based on the ailan kastom (island custom) of the Torres Strait, which is a source of unity and strength.
Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council
The Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council is an independent statutory body established by the Aboriginal Land Grant (Jervis Bay Territory) Act 1986 and is subject to the CAC Act. The council holds title to land and provides services to the Aboriginal community of Jervis Bay.
Statutory office holders
Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Northern Territory
The Aboriginal Land Commissioner is an independent statutory office holder under the ALRA and is subject to the FMA Act. The principal function of the commissioner is to consider applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for claims to traditional land and to provide recommendations to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on the granting of land.
Website: No website is available.
Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services
The Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services is a statutory officer established under the Coordinator–General for Remote Indigenous Services Act 2009. The Office of the Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services supports the Coordinator General and is subject to the FMA Act. The central functions of the Coordinator General are to monitor, assess, advise on and drive the development and delivery of government services and facilities in each of the specified remote communities to a standard broadly comparable with that in non‑Indigenous communities of similar size, location and needs, and to monitor, assess, advise on and drive progress toward achieving Closing the Gap targets in those communities.
Executive Director of Township Leasing
The position of Executive Director of Township Leasing is established under the ALRA and came into effect on 1 July 2007. The Executive Director of Township Leasing is an independent statutory office holder who enters into leases, on behalf of the Australian Government, on Aboriginal-held land in the Northern Territory and administers subleases and other rights and interests derived from those leases.
Registrar of Indigenous Corporations
The Registrar of Indigenous Corporations is an independent statutory office holder who administers the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006. The Registrar of Indigenous Corporations regulates and provides support services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations.
Staff of the statutory office holders are part of FaHCSIA, for FMA Act and Public Service Act 1999 purposes.
Figure 2.1 Portfolio structure, 30 June 2011
Note: The outcomes and objectives for the Department can be found in Figure 3.1 in Chapter 3—Departmental overview.