The Turnbull government has blamed an "administrative error" for making it appear as if $3.8 million in funding was taken from the Indigenous Advancement Strategy grant fund and given to the National Australia Day Council.
The blunder comes as debate heats up over changing the date of Australia Day from January 26 — the day the First Fleet arrived in Australia — to one more sensitive to Indigenous Australians.
The Indigenous Advancement Strategy fund was allocated $4.9 billion over four years in the 2015-2016 budget to support a range of programs aimed at improving life for Indigenous Australians across the areas of employment, education, health and culture.
Grants awarded are listed on a website hosted by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and recently it appeared that $3.8 million in funding had been allocated to the National Australia Day Council.
The National Australia Day Council is supported by funding from the same department, and is responsible for coordinating Australia Day events around the country.
Indigenous Australians have long called for Australia Day to be moved from its current date. And recently two councils in Melbourne voted to move their citizenship ceremonies from January 26 to another day more respectful to Indigenous Australians.
In response the federal government stripped both councils of their right to hold citizenship ceremonies, and even went so far as to write a legislative instrument to prevent the ceremonies being held by those two councils in any capacity.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull also called out Yarra City Council in parliament, labelling the decision to change the date as "utterly out of step with Australian values".
When BuzzFeed News asked the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet why the National Australia Day Council was being given $3.8 million from the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, the department quickly removed the grant from the website and said it was listed in error.
"The listing of the National Australia Day Council (NADC) funding as an Indigenous Advancement Strategy grant was an administrative error," the spokesperson said.
"The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet provides administrative funds to the NADC to support its activities. This funding is unrelated to the Indigenous Affairs Group within the department."
Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Josh Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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