Friday, June 21, 2024

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HomeIssue 31Questionmark over funding for Desert Knowledge

Questionmark over funding for Desert Knowledge

Mr Huigen announced today that the NT Government is undertaking its first review of DKA since it began operating under the Desert Knowledge Australia Act in 2003.
He said: “This is a timely opportunity to actively demonstrate our practical achievements since we began 10 years ago as part of the Alice in 10 project.
“Because we are often ‘behind the scenes’ building partnerships to create outcomes our contribution is sometimes hard for people to see. This review is an opportunity to highlight our achievements.”
Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA) is in “in discussion” with the NT Government about its funding.
Both the chairman, Fred Chaney, a former Coalition Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, and CEO John Huigen are confirming this but will not comment further at this time.
DKA’s current funding from the NT Government is Treasurer Dave Tollner’s responsibility.
The organisation, operating from and managing a $35m precinct (above), accommodating also the Centre for Appropriate Technology and Batchelor Institute, was allocated $960,000 in the 2013-14 NT Budget.
After a visionary start in Central Australia 15 years ago as the champion for the arid inland, the concept has failed to ignite public support, or even produce an understanding of what it is actually doing.
DKA has an obvious pivotal role in race relations. Its take on “Intercultural Collective Impact” includes: “Sustainable social impact … shared vision and alignment across and within agencies … a learning environment wherein we can challenge our mental models and grow … high performing, self managing and cross-agency teams driving improved outcomes … identification and optimisation of tangible and intangible assets” and so on.
Yet when the Alice News approached DKA recently about applying these aspirations on the ground we drew a blank.
We raised questions about creating incomes from Aboriginal assets with DKA, believing it might be pivotally placed to broker joint agricultural, horticultural or tourism ventures with the owners of half the NT’s landmass. However, Mr Huigen (pictured) said they will not buy into the issue as Centrefarm is covering that field.
We put to Mr Huigen that decades of involvement of that Central Lands Council arm has shown few results. He provided a response which is a “private communication not for publishing”.
DKA makes much of its business network but will not disclose the amount it spends on it. The question begs whether Google wouldn’t provide the same facility at no cost to the taxpayer. Just try: “Plumber, Mt Isa.”
On other initiatives too, such as the leadership programs (no doubt rewarding to the participants),  the cost / benefit to the community is unclear.
Mr Huigen has offered to provide detailed information and the Alice Springs News Online will continue its long and detailed coverage of the issues (google our archive).


  1. Looks like the government over the past few years had no clue as to how to handle the indigenous population’s problems (which are myriad) and resorted to the “Fix all” of throwing money at them and hope they will solve themselves.

  2. What bothers me most about these type of feel good ventures is the duplication of expenditure, usually at public expense. We have CDU and the recent innovation of the PC-named “Desert Knowledge Centre” (whatever that is), the IAD (which, if nothing, has a great cafe), and the DKA. The engineering workshop at CAT (part of the DKA) is one of the best I have ever seen in a training institution, but on most visits I have never seen anyone using it.
    We need to consolidate our resources so that multiple providers share the same facilities thus cutting down on duplication and associated waste.

  3. This has been an utter disgrace. Taxpayer funded talk fest. What have they achieved apart from running a competition between CEOs of who gets their head in the paper the most.
    Close this money sink hole down and while your at it have your Federal counterparts look at CSIRO’s involvement here in Alice Springs (who share the DKA Building). What are they actually doing? Where are their results? What are we spending money on?
    It seems the previous NT and Federal Governments had embarked on taxpayer funded jobs for the sake of jobs for their support base without any care or consideration of the Taxpayer.
    Let’s get real about Government money and let’s use it to maintain and improve existing infrastructure and clean up this town because it has been dealt bad cards for far too long!

  4. @Electric Blue. i watched the slick promo you refer to and it tells us what the DKC aims to do not what it does or what has been achieved.
    But we have all been rash in applauding the funding review.
    CSIRO is part of the DKC and should be funded.
    However, it doesn’t need all those buildings and 76 acres of prime land.
    I suggest that Ninti One and its brothers be defunded, relocate the CSIRO, increase its funding and sell the land.

  5. Bush teacher you need to be a bit more studying as your knowledge about issues on every post suggests your still on the “little side” at primary school!

  6. People need also to consider the Desert People’s Centre that has been established to recognise the importance of the very people on whose land we live today. The significant contributions to the traditional healing practices, ceremonies and employment opportunities have not been mentioned above.

  7. Having been a participant in the desert leadership program, I think the things I appreciate most was the capacity DKA had to give emerging leaders in Alice Springs exposure to some of the best leadership, social innovation and corporate governance thinking in the country.
    These are the kinds of critical experiences that seem to be lacking in so many aspects of Central Australian decision making and journalism and are well worth supporting into the future.

  8. Aboriginal leadership training is part of the problem. Many educated Aborigines aspire to be leaders and they fully expect that they will achieve their goal. They believe that they deserve to be leaders.
    They don’t expect to work their way up the ladder and they don’t have to because of the vast support they can get from the likes of the DKA.
    Those who don’t become leaders find it very difficult to re adjust their expectations and most never do, they are always ‘leaders in waiting’.
    Meanwhile, very few aspire to or are willing to put in the hard work to take up other equally worthwhile fields of endeavour.
    We actually have a glut of Aboriginal leaders and aspirants and not much else.

  9. @bushteacher. It is quite ignorant to assume all Aboriginal people ‘don’t want to work and make their way up the ladder’ to be leaders.
    To me, it doesn’t sound you have any concept of what leadership or intercultural leadership is or even have any tolerance of the race at all to be honest.
    In saying this I do hope you are not directly or indirectly profiting from the ‘glut of Aboriginal leaders and aspirants’ as you call us.
    Please tell me what is wrong with having support from DKA and its partners for Indigenous and Non Indigenous young and old upcoming leaders in the town who are working hard in a variety of what you might consider ‘worthwhile fields of endeavours’ almost always without want of any recognition?
    What is wrong with enabling people with the skills and support they need to contribute to a better future in some of the jobs that are not pretty, behind the scenes jobs that no one else can do or wants?
    Obviously yes they are rewarding to the participants but require a lot of work and sacrifice by a lot of people involved. This is not always for personal gain, it is almost always in hope of being a further contributing member of our community.
    Instead of rallying against organisations working together for a better shared future why don’t we get behind them instead?
    No it’s not a mainstream institution with mainstream measurables, however where mainstream is failing us we are lucky to have access to some of the nation’s best technology, resources and facilities available through the shared resources of the precinct for the shared benefit of all who live here.

  10. I look forward to reading more as you explore the issue in greater depth. As a participant of the Leadership Program 2014 the benefits of DKA are obvious to me – hopefully with a more in depth article your readers will gain some understanding of the positive impact that DKA’s work has on regional Australia.
    It’s sad to see that you resort to ridiculing the business network. More than ever, the success of business relies on the human interaction, on the relationships, communities and societies we build through having meaningful conversations with each other. Google has an important place in our world, but is not and will never be the only answer to every question.
    In regards to the leadership program, how do you calculate the monetary value of empowering Alice Springs’ locals to step-up, take on roles they previously thought out of their reach, engage with their community and challenge the status quo?
    The benefits of DKA are obvious, if you look for them. If you constantly look for the negative in every situation, then that is what you will find.

  11. As a ‘newbie’ to town, I’m a bit dismayed at quality of journalism on display in this publication. Its this kind of ‘shock jock’, heavy handed rhetoric I’d expect in Hicksville Tennessee, circa 1963.
    Any goober who can lift their head up out of their bong long enough can see the merits in an organisation like Desert Knowledge Australia. Alice should be commended for the progressive outlook shown in programs like DKA’s Leadership Program and the number of other Collective Impact initiatives that are really making a difference.
    DKA has a nationwide presence and sets a standard that will be (and already is being) benchmarked – it is organisations like this that draw people to a place like Alice.
    Having had crossed paths with DKA in a previous life, I take my hat off to their professionalism and longstanding commitment. Perhaps the folk at DKA are too busy working their butts off instead of indulging in the constant self promotion that sadly, appeals to so many.

  12. @ Nina Woodknow: Wonderful jargon and rhetoric from a high horse. It fits well with the inconclusive and imprecise responses that we get from DKA. Our questions are looking for concrete answers on a cost / benefit analysis for the community – questions we’ve been putting to DKA for 10 years before your apparently recent arrival in this town. Feel free to google our six million word story archive to inform yourself.

  13. @ Louise Wellington. I said ‘many’ not ‘all’ Aboriginal people ‘don’t want to work and make their way up the ladder’ to be leaders.
    To Monica Quan please provide concrete examples where the leadership / networking activities have translated into business endeavours (not just on the government gravy train).
    And to Nina Woodknow yes the DKA probably is a shining beacon to people who don’t live here and don’t know any better and it may well ‘draw people to a place like Alice’ but what tangible benefits does it bring at what cost?


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