Prime Minister attacks wellbeing in remote Australia


p2220-Sid-AndersonLETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – Tony Abbott’s motherhood statement of being the “Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs” has proved to be worth nothing more than another broken promise.
Tony Abbott’s foray into Indigenous Affairs proposes that MacDonnell Regional Council should expand its Youth Development services from 9 to 12 remote Indigenous communities for only 8% of its current budget.
If Tony Abbott’s says he wants to help Aboriginal people why has he just cut 51 Indigenous jobs from our communities?”
Following the Abbott government’s election 18 months ago, Mr Abbott immediately drafted the Indigenous Affairs portfolio into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and under his control.
Since then frontline organisations have been kept guessing during a bungled process of delays and uncertainty throughout the sector, while his department concocted the new Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) funding and application process.
Today those frontline services are finding out that the IAS amounts to nothing more than a bureaucratically laden process masking another typically mean and tricky agenda.
MacDonnell Regional Council’s successful Community Services program delivers frontline services across its 13 remote Indigenous communities in Central Australia, assisting some of the country’s most disadvantaged citizens to gain employment, prepare their children for school and keep their communities safe.
Despite this, the highly acclaimed Council recently learned that the Prime Minister’s dream for Aboriginal disadvantage is to significantly add to it, rather than apply his partisan statements about Closing the Gap. The Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs cares more about Phil the Greek than he does for Aboriginal people.
In reality the government does not put its money where its mouth is. As a key to achieving its Closing the Gap targets, it offers five main pillars, the key three pillars being: getting adults to work, getting children to school and making communities safe.
Pillar 1: MacDonnell Regional Council knows the reality of creating meaningful Indigenous employment. The most prolific Indigenous employer on each of its 13 remote communities, over the years MacDonnell Regional Council has averaged 80% Indigenous employment across all its services.
After years of investing in work-readiness among its residents, this latest government initiative severely threatens the livelihood and directly attacks the wellbeing of Australia’s most disadvantaged – taking 51 community people out of paid employment and putting them back on the dole.
Pillar 2: Federally funded Early Childhood programs are currently delivered by MacDonnell Regional Council in hree remote communities. Mr Abbott now expects MacDonnell Regional Council to expand their Early Childhood program to include four communities but will only back-it-in for 85% of the projected costs – thus reducing the employment opportunities for remote Indigenous people in those communities by eight positions.
Pillar 3: Community Night Patrol services provided by MacDonnell Regional Council have a current Indigenous employment rate of 95%. While the Council looked to expand its community safety initiatives and create more Indigenous identified employment on communities, the Abbott government has slashed 23% from the projected budget and eigh jobs from MacDonnell Regional Council for the expanded service.
MacDonnell Regional Council has been notified that through the IAS it will receive less than 66% of its previous budget to deliver expanded frontline services in additional remote communities. Once again the government is asking the most disadvantaged Australians to do the heavy lifting for the big end of town.
I call on Tony Abbott to halt this toxic process and start engaging with Aboriginal people if he is serious about being the “Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs”.
Sid Anderson
MacDonnell Regional Council President


  1. I suspect the MacDonnell shire lost considerable credibility on its indigenous employment goals when they reportedly spent over $100,000 establishing an Indian call centre.
    Another thought is, perhaps there would have been more money in the kitty for Early Childhood programs if the CEO who oversaw the Indian call centre did not reportedly receive such ridiculously large increases in remuneration.
    Sid Anderson, who was it that negotiated these incredulous salary packages?
    As a side note: For those unaware and for your interest, Sid Anderson is the brother of NT MP Alison Anderson.

  2. I wish to challenge an underlying assumption that runs through this letter by Sid Anderson. This is that government both Federal (Canberra) and Territory (Darwin) is responsible for the budget of the MacDonnell Regional Council (MRC).
    The financial statement of the Alice Springs Town Council (ASTC) for 2014 show that revenue from a small ratepayer base amounted to just short of 70% of the total income of council.
    This comprised rates, statutory and user charges and fees. By comparison, MacDonnell Regional Council (MRC) raised 13% of its funding from ratepayers and a whopping 74% from grants subsidies and contributions (whatever that means).
    I acknowledge it is difficult to compare like with like, but I do see that while ASTC projected a loss for the financial year of about $2.5m, MRC reports a projected surplus of over $1.5m. The relative incomes of the two bodies are remarkably similar: ASTC $35.2m and MRC of $32.9m. I have also heard of simply outrageous salaries paid to the executives at both (southern) Regional Councils.
    I bet that the ASTC executive would like to see some of that “action”. Perhaps another reader can update and correct if necessary the current situation? Perhaps Sid may himself respond? ASTC (all) employee expenses are 36% of income and MRC consumes 57% on salaries. No relative number of employees are provided.
    Just possibly the indigenous jobs that are being lost may not represent real jobs from real revenue.
    (Pillar 1). The Early Childhood programs it seems are funded entirely from Canberra. Do the users of the service subsidise the program at all, even minimally?
    (Pillar 2) The Night Patrol services appear to be funded partly, or wholly (again) from Canberra. Perhaps some information on the proportion from MRC toward the activity might be useful before criticism can be apportioned. Perhaps too it needs to be established if the Night Patrol meets its KPIs. (Pillar 3)
    So please MacDonnell Regional Council and your counterparts in the “new” local government shires, can I suggest that you look beyond the cash-cow in Canberra and Darwin for your funding? It seems that Canberra feels the same way.

  3. All councils and most agencies in NT are pretending to help the Aboriginals and lining their pockets.
    Mates employing mates, on big dollar salaries.
    The director of HR in Barkly is getting 150k plus accommodation in a council not bigger than a road house. Still the staff turnover is 100% with an average stay of five months.
    There are about seven different agencies in a small place like Tennant with not more than 1500 (real) people.
    Collectively the CEOs alone are worth $2m of Federal / state money sponsored by taxpayers living in the cities.
    Money received in grants for one project is spent on employing “mates” in some other area. After the money is chewed up the situation on the ground is back to square one.
    The solution is simple: Stop giving money to these councils / agencies, sack all high paid “rocket scientists” and directly provide contractors hired by the Federal Government to run basic services. No decision should be allowed to be made in the remote areas.

  4. And what is missing from this is the control that land councils have over the shires. The CEOs from the shires are on more money than the CEO of Alice Springs Town Council. All staff are on larger salaries also compared to ASTC. Yep, a lot of money to pay salaries.

  5. Mr Abbot and Ms Bishop are more worried about two criminals than the outback communities.
    Tony Abbott thinks remote Aboriginal communities Are “lifestyle choices” so the taxpayers should not help.
    But Julie Bishop made the offer to cover the cost of the Australian duo’s imprisonment in a letter to her Indonesian counterpart. Does she means herself? Or the taxpayers?
    Sorry for the Bali duo, but it was their choice to break the laws of a foreign country. They knew the risk and they took it.

  6. One comment and one question:
    For all of those who are saying they need more, more more: Where do they think the money comes from?
    If you are employed on government subsidy, grant, funded organisation you do not actually pay any tax.
    Question – did anyone actually listen to Abbott’s interview before they ran off shouting racist, cultural training and the like?

  7. I reckon Roy got it mostly right, some organisations are just milking it but there are some out there doing some great stuff.

  8. Noting the “2013-14-MRC-Annual-Report” indicated in “Actions 2013/14” the need to “Finalise all required leases over Shire buildings in order to invest in improvements” with a “Key Performance Indicator” being “Land tenure secured for Shire buildings”.
    Have these leases been obtained ?
    Perhaps as MacDonnell Regional Council President, Sid Anderson, can list which of various “Council Service Delivery Centres” operated by MacDonnell Regional Council obtained leases from their relevant Commonwealth ALR(NT) Land Trust landowners ?
    Perhaps he can indicate which relevant Commonwealth ALR(NT) Land Trusts are now paying their rates as set out in the 2013-14-MSC-Rates-and-Charges-Declaration?
    Perhaps he can re-assure other rate-payers that any of the relevant Commonwealth ALR(NT) Land Trusts NOT paying their rates as set out in the “2013-14-MSC-Rates-and-Charges-Declaration” are subjected to same actions being taken to recover their rates ?
    Elsewhere mainstream lenders and funding authorities view rates as a regular commitment just like loan repayments.

  9. I think these people need to come to Alice Springs and knock on the Aboriginal council’s door and ask what it is doing for you and not giving large salaries to themselves.

  10. The rally screaming out NO. My question would be to Sid and others what success have you achieved in all these years and millions of dollars.
    Has any royalty monies been spent on housing in communities, job creation and education.
    My research came up with many failed projects funded by government.
    My research has come up with no houses built on communities with royalty monies. Schools built and kids don’t go. Many people of the communities do not have English as a second language.
    Stations were purchased and have never been worked for income for community groups. Those who receive royalties are not means tested for welfare payments.
    My research has come up with one basic outcome all that money from governments to increase the poverty levels, the dependency on welfare and ruin lives.
    A number of really questionable programs in communities. A large amount of money spent sending community service workers out to communities to teach mothers how to play and interact with their babies and children.
    Teach basics of healthy living how to shower and keep clean how to clean a house. I will say it. Paternal racism at its most expensive. All the talk we have programs that are working. Let us all know what has worked. What has been successful.
    After all these years how many people can speak English. After all movies, TV radio and everything else in this place we call Australia is in English. I heard say that community members around Yulara cannot work at the Aboriginal owned resort due to not being about to speak English and not having social skills or education.
    How much money has been spent on education in that community. How much has the community spent on building homes for the community. So many questions.

  11. For once, loathe to say it, but I actually agree with some of what Janet Brown said.
    The INCREDIBLE amount of money that the CLC receives from ABA funding, royalties and let’s not forget the rents from the shops in Yeperenye and Alice Plaza that goes into their investment arm, Centrecorp does NOT go back to creating housing, economic development or jobs on communities. They wipe their hands of this, even though in the Act, they have economic development as part of their brief. Instead, they have chosen to remain a lawyer-driven advocacy body, that is now so CONSERVATIVE it’s like the characters in Animal Farm. Four legs good, two legs better.
    Someone should ask the CLC about the ADMIN fees they take out of royalty money, too. How Four Corners or some other investigative program hasn’t turned their sights on the fat, white lawyer driven organisation is beyond me.
    The land council has the money. Stop feeding legal actions rooted in now conservative 1970s socialism, stop acting as as self-interested lobby group, and help the people you’re supposed to be there for.

  12. You took the words right out of my mouth Sasha! But nobody knows what nobody knows, unless people who do know talk it up!
    Put it out there! It’s not a betrayal of things Aboriginal to criticize the neglect of Land Councils!
    Nothing will change, people will live their lives in desperation, dying on the streets in poverty while these fat bureaucracies tie up wealth that was rightfully theirs.
    It is wealth that could have been used to create a decent life! As it is, this wealth is tied up in Land Councils for no other reason than feeding parasitic bureaucrats.
    More tragically, those same bureaucrats make damn sure nothing threatens the Golden Goose: Any move to distribute wealth or ownership, moves towards the rights of the individual, are swiftly headed off, hence the Evil Empires stance on leasing, and individual ownership in communities. The true tragedy, the reason why nothing changes? Land Council propaganda plays well to the ignorant, to the paternalist on the Eastern Coast who in well meaning gestures support the Land Councils simply because they don’t know any better.
    While locally many support them because they think they’re going to get something from it, which of course they are, just nobody thought to tell them what! That being a lifetime of dependency and squabbling over scraps while highly paid bureaucrats and lawyers live the good life at their expense!
    It’s time that the many well meaning persons that are in some ways engaged with the operations of Land Councils took a long hard look at what they haven’t achieved for Aboriginal people and set about making it right!
    In my view that would mean the inclusion of a “Sunset Clause” on the councils’ lifetime which in the meantime should set out to return all wealth to the hands of the individual.


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