Investing In Alice

Prime Minister

In the heart of the outback, Alice Springs is known for its culture, striking landscape and its local characters who make it such an interesting place to live and visit.

But I know lately it has been a very difficult time for the town.

During my visit last week I heard firsthand about the challenges.

Meeting with the mayor and council, the chamber of commerce, social workers, educators and students, as well as businesses and bumping into locals on the street – the message was the same.

People told me it had been tough, but they were all determined to keep working towards a better future. That they had hope and were seeing signs of progress.

I heard their frustrations that recent news headlines had deterred visitors, especially given tourism is vital to the local economy. It was heartening to hear that the curfew has been an effective circuit breaker and an important opportunity to reset.

We’re committed to continuing to work alongside the Northern Territory Government to tackle crime, which is why we are providing $14.2 million in additional funding to deliver policing and other community safety support in Alice Springs.

And while that will support the ongoing community safety efforts, we’re also making substantial investments in turning the dial on the complex and long term challenges Central Australians face.

Our Government has committed $250 million through our Better, Safer Future for Central Australia plan to improve the lives of children, families and young people.

During my visit to the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress I saw just how this investment in Alice Springs is starting to deliver.

For 50 years the Congress has been delivering health care to Aboriginal communities across Central Australia and showing how we can practically close the gap on Aboriginal health disadvantage.

We want to see the Congress’s good work continue and grow, that’s why as part of our $250 million plan we made a $19 million commitment to Congress so it can expand its existing Children and Youth Assessment and Treatment Services.

The construction of the new health hub will mean more support for families as well as expanded programs in disability and aged care.

Meanwhile the construction itself is delivering jobs for locals and opportunities for young people to learn new skills.

Seeing young adults at Centralian Senior School building a recycled motorbike out of tyres, learning bush mechanics and the skills they need for a good start in life was fantastic.

Hearing from the young people, as well as the teachers and Principal Joanne Alford, was fantastic.

Speaking with a teacher I said it must be a rewarding, but tough job. They told me “It is a tough job, but it’s got less tough thanks to the funding.”

That’s what my Government is all about – making life easier for hardworking Australians wherever we can. About making sure no one is held back, but no one is left behind either.

The Centralian Senior School is just one of the 46 schools across Central Australia that has benefited as part of the Better, Safer Future for Central Australia package.

It’s used new funding to support its most disengaged students with its Flexi-Engage program.

It’s early days but the results have seen an increase in attendance of 37 per cent for students participating in Flexi-Engage.

Meanwhile, at Braitling Primary School down the road, 40 kids achieved 100 per cent attendance in Term 1. One class had 96 per cent attendance for six weeks straight.

It’s very early days, but it is positive to see this investment making a difference. Early indicators show enrolments and attendance are up and more Indigenous Australians are being employed to support students.

More students attending school can only be a good thing.

This highlights that if we properly fund our schools and work with local communities on how to invest that money we can get better results.

We know there is more to do. Your local member Marion Scrymgour will continue to be a great advocate for your community in our government. And I am looking forward to my next visit to see those green shoots of progress continue to grow.

This opinion piece was first published in the The Centralian Today on Thursday, 9 May 2024.

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