The federal budget has allocated $250 million towards safety, security, and economic opportunity in Central Australia.
The funding, announced by Treasurer Jim Chalmers, includes provisions for increased police presence, security infrastructure, and programs to address alcohol-related harm.
Despite a modest budget with a $4.2 billion surplus for 2022-23, significant funding has been earmarked for the Northern Territory, aimed at improving hospitals, national parks, and the police force.
Under the 'Better, Safer Future for Central Australia' fund, the government revealed a $155.9 million investment over five years, starting from 2023-24.
This will be divided among different sectors, including $40.4 million to enhance school attendance and education, $10 million for justice initiatives to reduce crime, and $49.2 million for early intervention and community safety projects. Additionally, about $300,000 will be allocated to improve internet connectivity in Alice Springs town camps.
The remaining $94.1 million from the $250 million fund will be held in the contingency reserve for future planned initiatives.
This builds on the initial $48.8 million package announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in January.
Part of the funding will be used to recruit over 50 new law and order personnel, including an extra 30 police officers in NT's south, 21 police auxiliary liquor inspectors, around 10 liquor inspector and compliance officers, and 10 new security guards in Alice Springs.
The funding breakdown also includes $2 million for new CCTV and lighting in Alice Springs, $5.6 million for emergency accommodation, and $2 million for domestic violence services through the Tangentyere Council.
In addition to the Better, Safer Future program, millions will be spent on reducing alcohol-related harm across the NT.
From the government's $2.2 billion package to support community services in Australia, the NT will receive $6.1 million this year to work with the Territory's government to address alcohol-related harm.
A Treasury spokesman confirmed that this funding would be used in collaboration with the territory's government and peak Indigenous bodies to develop community alcohol management plans.
Economist Gigi Foster criticised the government's approach, arguing that providing cash handouts was "insulting to Australians" and failed to address the root causes of the cost-of-living crisis.
She urged the government to focus on solving structural issues in the Australian economy instead of simply offering financial relief.