Funding announcements flow for ‘Stronger Futures’ in Aboriginal communities

The spectre of outstations and homelands in the Northern Territory forsaken by governments has receded, at least for another decade.

A $221 million “investment” to provide them with basic essential and municipal services over 10 years was announced this week by Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, joined by Lingiari MHR Warren Snowdon and NT Senator Trish Crossin.

About 9,000 Aboriginal people currently live in more than 500 small dispersed communities in very remote parts of the Northern Territory, according to their media release.

Although the total funding sounds large, in reality it is basically more of the same, as the Australian Government has been providing the NT Government with $20 million each year since 2007 for this purpose.

They are boosting their contribution over the decade by $6m and the NT Government is kicking in $15m.

Today the NT Aboriginal Peak Organisations, while welcoming the longer-term funding commitment, called on the NT Government to increase its contribution. They also called for greater transparency regarding allocation and outcomes of the funding than has been the case over the last five years.

The money, according to Minister Macklin’s release, is also being stretched to support improvements “in the areas of health, job creation and a reliable energy supply”. These include:

• More than $2.5 million for the Urapuntja Health Service Aboriginal Corporation in the Utopia Homelands to deliver primary health care services.

• More than $1.7 million for the Mount Theo Outstation program, which provides substance abuse rehabilitation and support services to young people through the care of Warlpiri mentors and elders.

• More than $3.7 million for the Laynhapuy Homelands Association to support primary, mental, maternal and dental health care services.

• More than $19 million to employ 50 Working on Country ranger positions in the NT, in addition to the 280 existing ranger positions.

Some outstations and homelands in the Northern Territory will also benefit from a $40 million investment by the Australian Government for the Remote Indigenous Energy Program, providing 50 smaller remote Aboriginal communities across Australia, including some in the Northern Territory, with reliable 24-hour power. This builds on the success of the Bushlight program, says the release, which has helped install and maintain more than 90 renewable energy systems in about 80 Northern Territory outstations.

In another announcement, $619 million was allocated to remote policing, community night patrols and legal assistance services.

This will enable the NT Government to continue employing 60 full-time NT police officers in 18 remote communities, and build an additional four permanent remote area police complexes in communities.

It will also support the continued operations of the Substance Abuse Intelligence Desks (SAID) and Dog Operations Unit “which have played a key part in disrupting commercial drug distribution networks from other states into Northern Territory Aboriginal communities”, according to the release.

The figures climbed today, with new announcements in Alice Springs, at the Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Prevention Unit and the Kwatja Etatha – Living Waters Playgroup.

There will be $719 million over 10 years for better primary health care and improved access to dental and allied health services for Aboriginal Territorians.

The money will go to both Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and the NT Government, between them employing more than 250 full-time staff delivering medical, nursing and allied health services in 80 primary health care clinics.

More than 2000 hearing checks and follow up services will be funded, including for children in remote communities, as well as a community education program to educate families about their children’s ear and hearing health.

More than 12,000 children will also have access to preventive oral health services through outreach services, to improve oral health practices, and reduce dental problems.

There will be additional support to help address mental health issues among Aboriginal people, including four new community mental health services in the NT between 2012 and 2014. These will consist of two new Personal Helpers and Mentors Services and two new Family Mental Health Support Services.

Another $443 million over 10 years will continue to fund playgroups, home and parenting support services, youth workers and safe houses to communities for the next decade.

It will also allow for a major expansion of the number of Communities for Children sites in the NT, offering a range of services to help parents provide a safe, happy and healthy environment for their children.

Over the next six years these sites will increase from four to 19, with a focus on remote locations. – Kieran Finnane

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6 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Bob Durnan
    Posted April 6, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    OK JB, let’s do it. (Re Janet Brown, Posted April 3, 2012 at 7:59 am):
    Nobody that I am aware of denies that many people from Central Australian bush communities, and many other parts of Australia, would shift to Alice Springs if they could afford accommodation here. In some cases, they would like to move just about anywhere to get away from the places where they feel themselves to be stuck without options.
    But this applies also to many people growing up in small rural communities throughout the rest of Australia, and throughout much of the world. There are many such people overcrowding other peoples’ rented houses in Alice Springs, and this does produce many crises. Past and present governments are indeed culpable for failing to heed all the signs that this was happening and was bound to go on happening, and that people have a right to seek a better or more interesting or safer life by shifting their place of residence if they so choose.
    Governments have been neglecting this clear reality in Central Australia ever since the town was founded, but more especially and unforgivably in the last 30 or so years. For the most part, they have deliberately and consistently put political expediency ahead of good planning, often against the clear advice of their professionally qualified planners and advisers.
    I know this because I knew town planners and other public servants who were disgusted when the NT CLP government caved in to segregationist pressures in 1979 and truncated their own transitional housing program after a short but very strident and offensive campaign by the Citizens for Civilised Living (which was headed by long term residents such as the former magistrate Scrubby Hall and lawyer Ted Skuse). Far from being a segregationist, I organised campaigns to oppose segregationists in Alice Springs then and on several occasions since. These includes anti-segregationist campaigns such as the one in the early nineties to enable town camp residents who wished to do so to get assistance to shift off the camps and into suburban settings; a campaign in 2006 to support the Topsy Smith Renal Patients Hostel to expand and remain on Eastside (near where I live); campaigns over many years to support NT Health Dept, Carpentaria Services and other NGOs to locate Aboriginal clients in suburban Alice Springs (in a number of instances very close to where I owned property at the time); and ongoing efforts to persuade governments to invest big in affordable and integrated accommodation in Alice Springs so as to enable people from bush communities and workers from throughout Australia who wish to take up employment opportunities in Alice Springs or other parts of Central Australia to be able to do so.
    This would all be news to Janet, because she and her husband continually abjure facts, fail to do their homework, and blithely proceed to make radically wrong conclusions based on incorrect information and simplistic analysis.
    I haven’t noticed Janet or many of her Action for Alice sympathizers putting their hands up to help pursue these and other true anti-segregationist efforts over the years.
    Maybe Janet could be gracious enough now to offer an apology to me.

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  2. Ian Sharp
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Janet continues to amuse, but no longer amaze. Perhaps if she had more empathy she would have a clearer grasp of the meaning of segregation.

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  3. Russell Guy
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Bob, Janet is talking straight ‘Assimilation’ policy. As you know, it was introduced by the young Paul Hasluck back in the late 1940s, and ended in Self-determination from which Reconciliation has sprung. The first two failed for obvious reasons and the jury’s still out on the latter.
    I would, however, be interested in the source of Janet’s claim that “in excess of 1500 people from communities” are currently causing the crisis in housing. It’s the first time I’ve seen this figure and if a reference exists, let’s have it so that we can all be better informed.
    Janet wants “housing and other support” for urban drifters from communities who may be either part-time or desirous of full-time residency. Maybe she could get a breakdown on this and by researching the matter further, continue to present statistics, which she once condemned. It’s encouraging to see her coming to grips with evidenced-based policy making.
    However, her statement that she wants to see an end to Town Camps is made without any qualitative data from these residents. Do they want to necessarily forgo the more eco-friendly ambience than that of suburbia? I doubt it’s that simple. Overcrowding has long been recognised as a problem and in my experience, it follows into suburbia, often for cultural reasons, and of course, made worse by seven day access to alcohol.
    Janet may wish an end to what she calls “race,” but there are cultural differences which do not want and can not be assimilated as if it’s a one way street – from black to white. I wouldn’t blame them for not wanting to get too cozy with some of the dominant social settings in white Australia.
    Asking the Commonwealth to re-gazette Crown Land for more Town Camp style housing seems a better idea, but Janet screams (in caps) that this is “segregation”. It would however, possibly, alleviate overcrowding, although it may also encourage the drift to town. No value judgement being made here, Janet. Simply, throwing up ideas for solutions to problems.
    The most distressing part of Janet’s argument is that she can’t agree to solve the screaming statistics on excessive alcohol consumption, exacerbated by those good citizens who ply their take-away trade seven days a week in “our” town, “burning taxpayer money” in non-recoverable health, policing, welfare, child services, etc, etc. costs.
    Despite, the screaming evidence from around the world, Janet’s team continue on the law and order approach while holding out their hand for more government contracts to feed the addiction to alcohol. And I’m not being racist.

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  4. Janet Brown
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 7:59 am

    We have at this time excess of 1500 people from the communities in Alice. Why? Because they want to live in Alice. We are in crisis. We need accommodation urgently in Alice. So, Bob, what are you saying? That you don’t want them in Alice Springs – you support back to country? That’s right, you know what they want. Or is it they are not wanted in your back yard? The same racist comments that support segregation at all levels. So, yes, Bob, I want housing and other support in Alice. In Alice springs everyone is welcome. What I don’t want is segregated areas like town camps. No more race based policies. No more race based government spending. NO MORE SEGREGATION. All of what you spoke of is already in communities – basic needs are addressed. What is not addressed is people leaving communities to make Alice home.

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  5. Bob Durnan
    Posted April 2, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Re Janet Brown, Posted April 2, 2012 at 8:21 am:
    Anybody care to attempt a translation? Is she saying that the Commonwealth and NT Governments shouldn’t be maintaining any basic essential services, policing, health services, rehabilitation, drug control and some level of land care to small communities in remote areas?
    It seems that she wants some form of urban socialism, with government subsidies and preferred tenders for town-based private businesses, but no basic government services for people living in the bush.

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  6. Janet Brown
    Posted April 2, 2012 at 8:21 am

    How much tax payers monies going to be wasted again to fix nothing. The Feds can give land to the NT government and pay for head works. In all major towns outside of Darwin. Not city support and not race based. Spend the cash closing town camps and bring them into suburbia. The Feds need to put an end to their segregation policies and procedures. Stop the rot. Take a stand – the money they are burning is tax payer money. Our voice needs to be heard. And when building in Alice only Alice trades. All builders get equal share of work load. We don’t need imports like Carey. Money to support each town. Wow, what a Territory. What a great place to be and live. But that will be a pipedream if our new council and Territory members in Alice don’t fight for it. Don’t be scared to ask for your share. It is your right. Not individually. But as a community. You don’t ask you don’t get.

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