Our very own two speed economy

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Mining vs the rest isn’t the only two-speed economy scenario in Australia: the Northern Territory has its very own. Here it is Darwin vs the rest, and the numbers are striking.
So, for example, when Treasurer Delia Lawrie trumpets the “strong growth in the number of residential building approvals in the Territory” we need to ask: “Where, please?” The 2012-13 State of the Regions Report gives some of the answers: in 2012 the per capita value of Residential New Construction in Lingiari (pretty well the entire NT excluding Darwin) was $990. In Darwin it was $2464 – two and a half times as much.
It’s also instructive to look at problems from the perspective of the people at the bottom of the barrel: Lingiari has a great deal more of them than Darwin. For example, Lingiari has nearly double the nation’s average number of people aged 15 to 20 on disability support. For the 21 to 24 age group it’s two and a half times as many. For Darwin both age groups are about line ball with the national average.
Lingiari has nearly three and a half times (338%) as many long term unemployed when compared with the national average. Darwin has fewer (89%) than the national average.
Lingiari has more than three times the national average of non-students on Youth Allowance. Again, Darwin is about line ball with the nation. Lingiari less than a quarter (22%) of students on Youth Allowance when compared with the nation. This is one category where Darwin is also doing badly (34%) – although not as badly as Lingiari. What these two figures show is that we just can’t retain our bright young people once they finish Year 12.
The Alice News requested an interview, at the show, with Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton. He did not respond to the request.
Member for MacDonnell Alison Anderson (CL) did not hesitate to comment. Firstly, she says the nearly 5% long term unemployed figure, as bad as it is, is misleading because it counts part-time participants on CDEP as employed. And many young people on non-student Youth Allowance are on a futile treadmill of courses that lead nowhere.
“They have lots of white cards, diplomas, certificates,” she says. But few lead to a job: “The money comes from the Commonwealth without making sure of the outcomes.” Ms Anderson says courses should be supplied in consultation with such bodies as the Chamber of Commerce so that students and trainees learn skills for which there is a need.

Ms Anderson says there is a clear need and opportunity for farming and horticulture as was the case in the “mission days”. (Her grandfather, Ukinyi, was in charge of a small farm at Papunya.) She says not only would home-grown food be healthy and cheap for the remote communities, there would be scope for exporting produce to the cities, using low-cost backloading on south-bound transports that are usually empty. Ms Anderson says there’s plenty of land and idle labour. The Ali Curung watermelon plantation (pictured) is a good example that this industry is viable here.

“Bores were sunk in all our communities. We just need some manhours weeding. All the old people worked on farms. Why is it not happening now?”

 

Related article: A remote community where all adults work & kids go to school.

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3 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Leigh Childs
    Posted July 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Does anyone know how many local people work on the watermelon plantation at Ali Curung ? Isn’t it a community of roughly 200 ? Might be wrong.

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  2. Russell Guy
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Have you considered reforming Centrelink by asking for means testing of welfare, so that employment in agriculture and tourism is driven by need rather than convenience?
    The money saved from this and Carbon Tax hand-outs may restore the elusive productivity and help close the gap. This has all been posted before.

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  3. Posted July 10, 2012 at 7:29 am

    As a “whole-of-community”, we need to capture every opportunity to provide employment for all who are able. Growing, harvesting and marketing food in remote communities as well as in urban areas (e.g. community garden projects) provides such opportunities.
    Time to get off the dependency “gravy train” and skill workers for employment. Too many people have evolved a “learned helplessness” which leads to the paralyzing of communities and a reliance on government welfare. Too many elements of paternalism and systemic corruption through governments and organisations all assist to keep many people generationally disempowered.
    Partnerships forged through industry and education platforms are vital to positive processes evolving. Throwing “buckets of money” at programs is no guarantee of effective outcomes. It needs to be strategically invested. Time to stop the systemic rorting of programs and initiatives with some people at the “top of the food chains” on fat salaries while delivering minimal outcomes and achievements.
    Enlivening the community spirit in all of the areas within our region will help to produce the desired outcomes.

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