Bread & circuses in Darwin, crumbs in the bush: do the numbers


How ‘worthy’ is Hendo’s Big Nite In?
Today, August 16, Territory Labor committed $10 million over four years to support local developments and initiatives in the Territory Growth Towns. It was billed by Chief Minister Paul Henderson (pictured on the ‘Team Henderson’ website with Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton, in sunglasses) as a commitment to “build a better future for all Territorians, no matter where they live”.
But it’s worth doing the math to make sense of just how much of a “better future” the Chief Minister envisages for those Territorians who don’t live in Darwin and do live in the so-called Growth Towns. These are all mainly Aboriginal communities, mainly well off the Stuart Highway. There are 21 of them: Ali Curung, Angurugu, Borroloola, Daguragu/Kalkarindji, Elliott, Gali’winku, Gunbalanya, Lajamanu, Maningrida, Milingimbi, Ngukurr, Ntaria (archive photo below), Numbulwar, Papunya, Ramingining, Umbakumba, Wadeye, Wurrumiyanga (Ngui) where Mr Henderson made his announcement, Yirrkala and Yuendumu.
So, $10m divided by four years comes to $2.5m per year. Divide this by 21 and you get $119,048 per Growth Town.
This would be available “to deliver priority projects identified with our community reference groups in each town”, said Mr Henderson.
“For example, here in Wurrumiyanga this grant can be used towards worthy projects where there may be no other immediate source of funds.”
What would be considered a worthy project? Would it extend to “the very best entertainment, making the most of our great Territory lifestyle”? That’s apparently a worthy commitment to make in Darwin, where on August 12, Mr Henderson committed $500,000 annually “towards Hendo’s Big Nite In if the Henderson government is re-elected”.
“The event will cater for up to 6000 people in the 2013 Wet Season,” said Mr Henderson, “and feature a host of local and interstate bands as well as the international headline act, market stalls and other entertainment.
“Territorians will have a major role to play in selecting which International headline act performs at the launch of Hendo’s Big Nite In and we’ve set up a Facebook Page to receive suggestions.”
So, let’s do the population count for the Growth Towns, using 2006 figures from the Territory Government’s Working Future site:
Ali Curung – 440
Angurugu – 1045
Borroloola – 2,362
Daguragu/Kalkarindji – 1,011
Elliott – 488
Gali’winku – 2,290
Gunbalanya – 1,258
Lajamanu – 845
Maningrida – 2,781
Milingimbi – 1,141
Ngukurr – 1,137
Ntaria – 999
Numbulwar – 783
Papunya – 340
Ramingining – 828
Umbakumba – 459
Wadeye – 2,222
Wurrumiyanga (Ngui) – 1,543
Yirrkala – 990
Yuendumu – 794
Total population: 23,756. In many of these towns close to half the residents are under 20 years of age.
So in Darwin Hendo is promising $500,000 to benefit 6000 people a year – that’s $83.33 per head for “world class music acts” so that “our kids to have the same opportunities as others”. This is in addition to, as his announcement emphasised, the funding of the Territory’s biggest annual music festival, Bass in the Grass; building Hidden Valley into one of the best motorsport tracks in Australia attracting more than 110,000 spectators through the gate each year to first-class sporting events; introducing the V8 Supercars Race & Rock Concerts featuring world class acts such as INXS, Simple Plan, Jimmy Barnes, Grinspoon, Sneaky Sound System and Short Stack; and investing a record $1 million worth of annual funding to support the 2012 Darwin Festival.
In the Growth Towns he’s promising $2.5m a year to benefit 23,756 people – that $105.23 per head for “worthy projects”.


  1. Kieran – Just back from my son’s wedding in Ireland and this cheered me up. This story is what the media should be writing. The scandalous expenditure imbalance between Darwin and the rest of the NT needs to be constantly emphasised. Especially because of the fact that a lot of the money spent on Darwin is “earned” through Aboriginal disadvantage enhancing our share of the GST revenue distribution.
    As they say in West Africa … “more grease to your elbow”!


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