Government and community services

Outlook

The government and community services sector’s output is expected to decrease over the short term as Commonwealth and Territory governments’ spending on the vaccine rollout and other COVID-19 measures decreases. Over the medium term, the sector’s output will be moderated by the Territory Government’s commitment to return the budget to surplus but will increase in line with population growth.

In 2020-21, the government and community services sector accounted for 26.4% of the Territory’s GSP, significantly larger than the national contribution of 17.8%. The sector is the largest employer in the Territory, accounting for 43.7% of residential employment in 2020-21, comprising 16.9% in public administration and safety, 17.3% in health care and social assistance, and 9.5% in education and training.

Expenditure in the government and community services sector has been strong since 2019 as the Territory Government implemented a range of expansionary fiscal policies to offset deteriorating economic conditions associated with the completion of construction of the Ichthys LNG project. Growth in the sector is expected to continue in 2021-22 due to the Territory Government’s COVID-19 response and vaccination program, however it is expected to reduce over the short term as spending on these measures lessens.

While the Territory Government has committed to return the budget to surplus, targeted program funding and infrastructure investment will continue in areas of strategic need and in line with population growth, which will support output in the government and community services sector over the outlook period. Key program funding and investments include:

  • $102.2 million to upgrade the Royal Darwin Hospital and the Alice Springs Hospital
  • $52.3 million to upgrade Territory schools and other educational facilities
  • $24.2 million to upgrade police complexes across the Territory
  • $24.2 million in additional funding to support the Aboriginal Justice Agreement and Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Action Plan including grants to assist with primary and secondary prevention, provide Aboriginal-led specialist sexual assault response, establish alternatives to custody in Alice Springs and Groote Eylandt, and establish community courts.

As part of the 2022-23 Budget, the Commonwealth also announced funding and co-contributions to support program delivery in the Territory including:

  • a 2-year extension to the Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment until 2023-24 with an additional $173.2 million to fund programs to improve outcomes for remote Aboriginal people in the areas of health, schooling, community safety and justice, tackling alcohol abuse, child, youth, family and community wellbeing, housing, municipal and essential services, and remote engagement and coordination
  • $30.6 million from the Commonwealth and $13.3 million from the Territory over 2021-22 to 2025‑26 towards the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement.

In addition, the Territory Government will also continue to improve the quality and quantity of economic and community infrastructure, through its long‑term urban and regional infrastructure programs including:

  • the $200 million Darwin City Deal, a 10-year (2018–2028) agreement with the Commonwealth and the city of Darwin
    • construction has commenced on the Darwin Education and Community Precinct, and is expected to be completed by 2024
    • ongoing work towards the Civic and State Square Redevelopment to cool the city and increase space for outdoor events and festivals, with a tender for the construction of the State Square Art Gallery to be released in 2022
    • planning for future development of a Larrakia Cultural Centre at Stokes Hill
  • the $84.7 million, 10-year (2019–2029) Barkly Regional Deal to stimulate economic growth to reduce overcrowding and improve child safety through economic and social development, and culture and place-making projects, including:
    • construction has commenced on the Barkly Business Hub, and the Barkly Mining and Energy Service Hub, to support regional business creation and growth
    • the construction tender for the youth justice facility has been awarded, with off-site construction underway, and the youth recreation centre in Tennant Creek is expected to be completed by mid 2022
    • the installation of a new weather radar to provide real‑time weather information and improve road and air travel safety is due to be completed by mid 2023
    • further investment to construct a boarding facility for secondary school children in Tennant Creek, safe places and accommodation for crisis youth support, a visitor park to increase housing supply and reduce overcrowding, and investment in aged care services, community sports and childcare places
    • 7 grants totalling about $1.3 million under the Local Community Projects Fund, ongoing funding for community mediation and a feasibility study for an arts centre in Elliott
  • $23 million for Alice Springs with $15 million allocated for the central business district (CBD) revitalisation and $5 million directed to the Breaking the Cycle of Crime plan, including:
    • lighting upgrades and additional CCTV cameras within the CBD
    • cooling and landscaping initiatives, with trees planted and shade structures placed strategically around the CBD to provide cooler pathways for pedestrians
    • construction of the River Activation Space, including providing shade structures with a view of the Lhere Mparntwe (Todd River), seating, drinking water, water misters, lighting, USB charging points and free wi-fi during the day
    • development of the Kwatja (water) play space and car park masterplan.

For the latest data on the Territory’s government and community services sector, refer to the Territory Economy website.