Salutations! When I first raised the Port Augusta Social Vision and …

Comment on The elusive ‘Port Augusta model’ by John Reid.

When I first raised the Port Augusta Social Vision and Action Plan as the cornerstone of my campaign for election to the Alice Springs Town Council, it was done to highlight the inclusive approach that was needed in Alice Springs to deal with the complex and confronting social issues afflicting this town. The underlying philosophy of such an approach is something that needs to be incorporated into the psyche (thought processes) and everyday activities of people who currently operate within the frontline service contexts, as well as policy makers, and others, such as business owners.
While the Port Augusta Social Vision and Action Plan maybe an aspirational model to be used as a reference point for the ASTC in their quest to reform the social and economic problematics of the region, let’s not devalue what we currently have; which is the Alice Springs Community Action Plan, and the Alice Springs Transformation Plan. Let us first give both of these inclusive and collaborative approaches, contrived of by the 3 tiers of government, and many other relevant stakeholders, some oxygen, just let them breathe for a while. Then maybe think about evaluating their performances, rather than spending big money on evaluating the policies and practices of some other municipal jurisdiction.
Therefore, what I suggest is that the ASTC first needs to consider is developing and adopting the philosophy and practice of social inclusion, which then needs to be integrated into, and across every aspect of the Councils other policies, operations and every day activities. As it is the foundation of the principles of social capital, economic and social wellbeing; I thereby maintain it worthy of further research and analysis by those elected leaders of the ASTC. If you show leadership on this issue, it will be a very positive step in the right direction and can become the catalyst for further community discussion and debate, all aimed at further educating all of us of its worthy virtues. Maybe a public forum is needed to talk about social inclusion and how it can be used positively to deal with the problematic social and economic realities of the town. Also when people start embracing this discourse of inclusion we can begin to develop a cooperative and systematic approach to rationalising the number of agencies that operate across the spectrum of welfare, and social services that operate in the area; a peak body such as the ASTC can again take leadership on this matter, because the left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing, for the sake of the recipients of these services.
Anyway, that’s my lot. Remember “if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”.

Recent Comments by John Reid

Council asked to consider spectre of transport accident involving radioactive waste
Apart from the legal, environmental and scientific arguments against transport of nuclear waste across the traditional lands of Arrernte and Waramungu people, with the inevitable prospects of accidents and spillage occurring (which we the public do not hear about as it is often rapidly covered up and held under the cover of some secret protocols of mining companies and government alike); as a traditional owner and Director of the Native Title Corporation from where most of the uranium comes from Roxby Downs – Olympic Dam, the traditional country of my mob the Kokatha; I worry about the impact on the wellbeing of Arrernte and Waramungu people should something catastrophic happens – like a road / rail side accident where the poison could leak into the ground and cause untold damage – spiritually and environmentally.
Mining on our country has caused much pain and suffering to my family and clan group, but money talks, and now people are forced into making a value judgement on whether to fight to protect country from further exploitation, like so many of our mob are by opposing the expansion of phase 2 of the Olympic Dam project, and legally challenging the Australian Government’s decision to identify and use Muckatty as a possible site for a nuclear waste dump without real genuine culturally respectful consultation.
Lets be realistic when we talk about consultation between Aboriginal groups and government – what is really implied is, “we came, we listened – now we will go away and do what we want on your country anyways”.
In my experience that has always been the way government (particularly the Commonwealth government) has consulted with my mob – the same goes for mining companies.
Economic development is the driver of most decisions of government, mostly at the cost and to the detriment of Aboriginal people and those others in the community who want to protect the environment against further damage and destruction.
I believe it is time for the town to unite – both Aboriginal and non Aboriginal interests to work together, to forge a strong alliance to lobby all levels of government to get them to rescind, recant and reject their decision to move the poison from the traditional homelands of one Aboriginal nation (Kokatha), where it was dug up (processed and used in some industry), to transport it across the country of other traditional owner groups (Arrernte – and others), to be dumped in the spiritual lands of the Waramungu people.
Don’t they understand the emotional, psychological and spiritual trauma they are causing to us and the negative impact this has on our Wellbeing, or is it that they do, but they just don’t care so long as it isn’t dumped in their own backyard.
Let’s all work together as a community to actively oppose this problematic process imposed on us by government.
Remember, united we stand, divided we fall, and if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.
Yours in solidarity, JR.

Council gets the drum on community harmony, Port Augusta style
I don’t want to go into too much analysis of the reported outcomes of Mr Wilson’s consultancy report; suffice to say that there are a few points that need clarification. Having been born and bred in Port Augusta, and as an Aboriginal person who has strong cultural ties to the region, and whose family still lives there, I feel it necessary to value add to those comments already made in this report, more particularly about some oversights I have identified.
Firstly Bungala Aboriginal Corporation which is responsible for CDEP, does not have a very low profile. In fact because of its very high profile it was awarded contracts to deliver CDEP to not only Coober Pedy, Oodnadatta and in Aboriginal communities across the Northern Flinders Ranges,but also in 2007 it began delivering CDEP to people living in communities on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. As of the 28th February 2011, there were 356 CDEP participants employed through this program from the APY region alone. Obvioulsy the CDEP is administered from Port Augusta with on site managers co-ordinating this service from those remote locations.
This activity makes Port Augusta the point of reference for people employed in this program for a number of reasons – some of it is cultural, some of it is extended family connections, some of it is access to services offered by the township. Nonetheless, what needs to be considered is, even though Davenport community has a population of 200, the nearby Blaxter camp (euphmistically called by locals), located between Davenport and the old Bungala Estate, has accommodation facilities to service the large number of visitors to the town from remote parts of the state during peak periods throughout the year due to some of those previously above mentioned factors. These visitors come from many different cultural backgrounds, some from the west, the north, south and east. Not all seek to be accommodated in Blaxter but many do because of the cost factor, large family groups etc. This puts an enormous strain on those other programs such as the Pika Wiya Health Service, Aboriginal Hostels Limited, Bungala Corporation (a company that does not only offer CDEP but other support/assistance programs as well) and other Aboriginal organisations of the area when large numbers come into town in such concentrated waves of migration, for long or short periods of time.
The collaborative, participatory approach taken by the Port Augusta Town Council in conjunction with the Social Policy Co-ordinating Committee (made up of NGOs and government agencies and Aboriginal groups) have managed to accommodate difference by using a socially inclusive approach to problem solving those previously identified complex social and economic issues that have afflicted the town.
This coalition of the willing seems to get that grog (abuse and relative anti-social behaviour) is but a symptom of a bigger and more complex sickness infecting the populations of this municipal jurisdiction, and consequently they have taken a socially inclusive approach to dealing with these issues. Dry zones have only moved the problem from one location to another, therefore looking at the big picture is the way to go.
So what can we here in the Alice learn from this process? Well rather than reverting back to the big stick method – the flogging the dog approach through law and order punitive actions, which has lived its used by date – let’s try something different.
In summary, I have lived here in Alice Springs for 25 years, I am a part of the Aboriginal community, but I was born and raised in Port Augusta and return there often for work and leisure purposes. I can therefore comment from an informed position, that through the eyes of an Aborignal person who is involved in a couple of migration studies through work, that the context of the Port and the Alice when it comes to the demographics are not that different. Numbers and statistics mean very little when it comes to social and economic disadvantage – living it means everything.
Give the Alice Springs Transformation Plan some room to breath and it will deliver positive results, of that I am sure.
Remember the real essence of a socially inclusive approach, such as the one being used in Port Augusta, is to overcome poverty and disadvantage by incorporating the voices of those very marginalised in the community in the decisions that impact their lives. I have heard some other divisive definitions of this paradigm by others who seek to propagate their own political agenda through the misery of others, but the premise on which they rationalise their argument is wrong.
“United we stand,divided we fall.”
PS: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”

Liz, Brendan and the new town council’s balance of power
Thanks for those positive words of support. In reference to the comments made by Steve, you did openly state in a public forum that you supported social inclusion and law and order; all this was said in the one breath.
Now that you are an officially elected Councillor, who openly praised the virtues of a socially inclusive agenda, which needs to be rolled out within the governance framework of the Local Government Act over the next four years – I look forward with interest to see how you aim to combine the two ideologies into a strategic and operational action plan to deal with some of those vexed social problems you so elegantly articulated in your campaign that is afflicting the community of Alice Springs. I dare say, that the rest of the township will also be looking for your leadership qualities to shine through in this area.
Good luck!

Liz, Brendan and the new town council’s balance of power
First let me begin by congratulating Liz Martin and Brendan Heenan along with Damien Ryan in being re-elected as councillors and mayor of the town, as well as the election of the other six councillors of the 12th Alice Springs Town Council (ASTC), who will hopefully work in a more conciliatory and collaborative way to get the job done over the next four years for the benefit of the whole community.
Nonetheless, in retrospect, it is interesting to note that when the campaign for Mayoral and Councillor positions first began some four weeks ago, only one person launched his run for office on a “social inclusion” policy; me. However, in the final days of the electioneering process, some of the other candidates had incorporated the ideology of a social inclusiveness into their own political agenda; which in anyone’s language was a significant paradigm shift from the usual rhetoric they were espousing through the media – all of this commentary is out there in the public domain for others to critically reflect and analyse.
When first encouraged to nominate as a candidate for a councillor position on the ASTC, my main priority was to get the public to look at a different approach to dealing with some of the complex social and economic issues confronting this community; problems that arose due to a number of external factors beyond the control of our municipal council. As a researcher currently involved in two mobility studies through Flinders University, I am only too aware of the change in demographics of the town, due in part to decisions of other tiers of government – all of which has conspired to put pressure and stress on the town’s existing programs and operations.
While others who were campaigning chose to run on law and order issues, which in the main remained outside of the governance framework of the Local Government Act, I could see their point of view, which is why I decided that social inclusion could become the panacea for dealing with law and order concerns, such as anti social behaviour, and other manifestations of criminality within the community. I understood that the “lock-em up and throw away the key” approach could not work (even the acting Superintendent of the NT Police agreed with this analysis), and that another way of working through these problems must be used-social inclusion was that way.
What is social inclusion?
A direct quote from the Australian Governments website states: “The Australian Government’s vision of a socially inclusive society is one in which all Australians feel valued and have the opportunity to participate fully in the life of our society.”
Achieving this vision means that all Australians will have the resources, opportunities and capability to:
• Learn by participating in education and training;
• Work by participating in employment, in voluntary work and in family and caring;
• Engage by connecting with people and using their local community’s resources; and
• Have a voice so that they can influence decisions that affect them.
The sentiments of the Commonwealth Government’s social inclusion agenda is the embodiment of the slogan I used to underpin my election campaign, which reads as follows: “Invest in people and the town gets rich. A policy that values everyone in the community will give us rewards that money can’t buy.” This philosophy is the essence of what social inclusivity means at the grass roots, at the community level, where it is relevant to everyday people on the streets.
Social inclusion, social capital, social and economic wellbeing
Social inclusion is primarily focused on enhancing the social capital of the community, by investing in individuals – those people in society who feel marginalised and without a voice; such as the homeless, long term unemployed, the disabled or many who suffer from mental health issues. Social capital sometimes means relating to others to build trust, by developing a sense of reciprocity in looking after common interest of the community. Social capital impacts the social and economic wellbeing of a community. For example, the World Bank no less, states there is strong evidence to indicate a causal relationship between a society’s (community) social wellbeing and economic wellbeing. Social wellbeing is about participation and connections and relationships which give people a sense of belonging, which can become the momentum for groups and individuals to work together to build sustainable economies. (Optimum Consulting and Training; 2000).
In plain language, if the majority of people in the region feel valued, then they will contribute to the positive growth of their community’s social capital. The development of social capital equates to the growth and sustainability of economic capital.
This is backed up by a number of studies that show, when workers within a particular industry are happy, feel valued, and respected, then productivity increases greatly, which grows the economy of the company and the community. It is an idea that has been used successfully in other municipal jurisdictions such as Port Augusta, which were devastated by the closure of the ANR (railways) and downsizing of ETSA (Electricity Trust of SA) back in the early 1980s; but they recovered and profited through the use of a socially inclusive agenda, which was driven by the Town Council and the Social Policy Coordinating Committee, and other groups such as the Chamber of Commerce.
To discount the advice of the World Bank, who makes reference to the identified relationships between social capital / social wellbeing and economic capital / economic wellbeing, would be detrimental to the aspirations of municipal town councils such as Alice Springs, because to “grow up the town” socially and economically we need to incorporate the voices of those from the margins in the decisions making process of how to move this community forward harmoniously, yet productively.
So, to those newly elected Councillors who included social inclusion into their political agenda towards the end of the campaign, they must now be held accountable by the public. Most of these candidates ran on a law and order platform initially, in an attempt to win office – now they have to work out how to incorporate social inclusion into their law and order mantra. It can be done, and done effectively – one needs only to look towards the Port Augusta “Social Vision and Action Plan” to find ideas that can be customised for use within the community of Central Australia. Notwithstanding the existing programs such as the Alice Springs “Community Action Plan”, and “Transformation Plan”, both of which need to be given oxygen if as social inclusion programs, they are to realise their true potential. In fact if one analyses the current policies and programs of the ASTC, one could identify social inclusion strategies and activities already woven through the fabric of these processes.
Vision and work of new Councillors
Liz and Brendan, who I personally believe are more in tune with community aspirations and expectations, speak in a commonsense approach to dealing with very confronting issues for the new ASTC to deal with over the next four years. I know that they are already using social inclusion strategies within the operational scope of their own professional agenda to help some of the young people of the region learn and internalise attributes that will make them functional and contributing members to the community of Central Australia. Programs and processes that aim to engage the youth in the decision making process, which is well resourced and grounded helps develop the social capital of that group as well as the community; therefore a very worthwhile endeavour for others to consider.
As I mentioned previously, social inclusion is a fundamental principle of the NT Local Government Act, and as a consequence I believe it is incumbent on those people who have been elected onto the 12th ASTC to promote this policy and practice at every opportunity. I therefore in closing recommend that the council sponsors a public forum to engage the community in an education and awareness process that explains what this policy means and how it can be used to change the thinking and behaviours of citizens of this town to work more collaboratively for better outcomes for all of us; not just some of us. I would be willing to assist in anyway if requested.
“You have to stand for something, or you will fall for anything.”
John Reid
References: Optimum Consulting and Training; 2000 “Port Augusta: Shaping the future”, volume 1: A Social Vision and Action Plan for Port Augusta.

Port Augusta’s Mayor: When softly-softly diplomacy isn’t enough to get a town out of the morass
How many times did I raise the Port Augusta model during my election campaign for Councillor-which in the main fell on deaf ears. Why reinvent the wheel when we can extract some of the finer elements / principles of the Port Augusta social vision and action plan, to customise for use within our own context to produce positive outcomes to dealing with some of the complex and diverse social and eonomic issues of this town called Alice Springs.
I called for the Alice Springs Town Council (ASTC) to adopt a social inclusion policy into its governance system, and core operations, but in fact if people actually analyse the current policies and programs of Council, underpinning most of these processes are the principles of social inclusion. So the question begs, why not give it the legal momentum by constructing a policy of social inclusion which will then guide how the ASTC conducts business within its own framework, but will also guide how it interfaces with other levels of government, service agencies, contractors and the good citizens themselves.
It is also interesting to note that although I was the only candidate that ran on this platform from the beginning of the election campaign (and most supporters told me I was mad for doing so) in the final days of electioneering many other mayoral and Councillor candidates also embraced this inclusive and potentially transforming paradigm.
Anyways “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”.

ED – It was Mr Reid’s campaign that sparked our interest to do this story.

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