Council millions for cradle to grave welfare schemes


p2361-central-desert-4By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Central Desert Regional Council, which has a budget roughly the same as the Town Council of Alice Springs whose population is more than six times greater, is developing a cradle to grave welfare scheme.
Under the banner of Family Wellbeing Strategy (FWS) the bush local government has nine local authorities, each running the following programs: Child care, school nutrition, aged care, community development, youth and recreation, and community safety (night patrol).
Outside providers supply 17 of these 54 programs, the council’s 400 staff do the remainder.
The glossy FWS policy document, which is long on jargon but does not contain a single dollar figure, and makes scant reference to self-help by community members, mentions activities in a string of areas.
One is care for children – school attendance, school breakfast and lunch five days a week, early childhood services, sport at least five days a week and positive parenting.
Under aged and disability care fall reducing stress, mental illness and mental illness first aid, permanent residential care “off community” (in Alice Springs) and daily welfare checks for vulnerable.
Law and order is broken up into safety, gambling, alcohol misuse, restorative justice, domestic violence and night patrol.
Headings for the economic front include safe work places, employment services, work readiness, tailored jobs, a three year social enterprise plan, economic participation and “evidence of community residents actively engaging in enterprise opportunities”.
p2361-central-desert-1The tasks are matched with Key Performance Indicators, many of which are vague and without specifics:
For example, one “action” is “support for early intervention initiatives including working with school children and youth development services to develop positive conflict resolution skills.”
That is matched with the Key Performance Indicator: “Conflict Resolution Services delivered into schools and youth services where appropriate.”
Other KPIs are “Policies, procedures and defined service models documented” and “Evidence that consumers and carers are actively involved in care planning” and “Early childhood services that reflect parent / carer expectations and child’s needs”.
Alice Springs has a population of 25,200 and the Town Council’s Budgeted Statement of Financial Performance 2015/16 states its total operating revenue as just under $31m. That is $1230 per head of population.
The Central Desert Regional Council website states its population as “approximately 4000” and its turnover as $32m per year.
Meanwhile a reader of the Alice Springs News Online has pointed out that President Adrian Dixon, currently facing domestic violence charges, has previously been convicted for driving under the influence, but was allowed to keep his position and allowed to keep his council car.
p2361-cathryn-huttonCouncil CEO Cathryn Hutton (at right), when asked to comment, provided this statement: “The Council dealt with the matter at the time.  It was determined that Adrian Dixon would require his vehicle to undertake his duties as the President.
“A nominated driver was formally signed up as a volunteer allowing that person to drive the President as and when required.  No payments of any kind were made by the Council in regards to this arrangement.
“We will not be entering into any further discussion of this matter.”
To the best recollection of this writer, the only other head of a local government in Central Australia to be convicted on drink-driving charges was Alice Springs George Smith in the late 1970s.
Meanwhile the News has credible information that elected members on the Central Desert Regional Council receive $2.50 per kilometer if they use their car travelling to council meetings. For councillors living in Lajamanu that amounts to about $5000 for a return trip. Our informant says it is not unusual for meetings having to be cancelled because of lack of a quorum.
We put all issues raised in this report to the council for comment in multiple communications, by phone and email, starting on October 19. When and if we receive a response we will publish it.
PHOTOS from the council’s FWS brochure.


  1. While parts of the Central Desert Region lack even the most basic of services the “cradle to the grave” Family Wellbeing Strategy, with nine local bureaucracies, is a disgrace.
    Take Nturiya (Station), a couple of hundred people sharing an environmentally degraded dustbowl with cattle.
    You wouldn’t see a kangaroo for 30 kms nor has any bush food survived the grazing onslaught.
    It has no store, no clinic, no school, basically nothing, people trudge up the long dirt road to Ti Tree to do their shopping.
    No new houses have been built for a decade; bush camps are everywhere, families in sheds common. The same in Pmara Jutunta (Six Mile) and to some extent Wilora again reliant on services out of Ti Tree.
    There is a clinic outpost at Wilora with a notice announcing when a nurse will be available there but the locals will tell you that is meaningless, they watch the clinic for the odd appearance and spread the word but most have given up on medical services altogether.
    Back in Ti Tree, which has become an enclave for short-term professionals, they complain that the locals are disinterested in their precious offerings so “what can they do?”
    Into Ti Tree come the endless rounds of specialists, both Federal Government Intervention and NT Government who of course do not communicate with each other.
    Horror stories about duplication and waste abound in the region, a specialist hearing team, some from interstate, that test one child in a week.
    Perhaps $50,000 for one hearing test in a region where profound hearing loss abounds.
    The region needs decentralisation of services, it needs basic on the ground fixes not nine self serving, bureaucracies.
    Spend a few million on stores, build clinics and staff them, connect with people of the region, directly in their living areas, and there will be fewer residents going to early graves and much less need for welfare.

  2. @ Peter (Posted October 22, 2016 at 7:09 am)
    Your comments about the Ti Tree area are not dissimilar to what I was told when campaigning there during the NT election campaign of October 1990.
    I was one of two CLP candidates, the other was Pastor Eric Panunka who resided at Pmara Jutunta at the time.
    What I learned, especially from the Health Clinic at Ti Tree, left me profoundly disturbed and I took notes with a view to passing this on to the NT Government after the elections.
    However, there was no debriefing after the elections were over, and indeed not the slightest interest from government about anything I had picked up during the course of the campaign.
    The objective of the Party was simply to retain office, which was achieved by winning the electorates of the major urban centres.
    There never was any real concern about what happens in rural and remote regional areas.


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