Veteran NT public servant and former chairman of the NT Grants Commission BOB BEADMAN explains the roots of the crisis, argues for a needs-based GST distribution in relation to Indigeneity and makes some sharp observations on NT Budget processes.
“Where do we go from here?” The theme of the just concluded Strehlow Conference may have sounded disarmingly open-ended but its difficulty was soon apparent. That two-letter word ‘we’ could not paper over the cracks between ‘them’ and ‘us’. The ‘us’ more often than not were whitefellas – people of professional expertise – talking about the blackfella ‘them’, until the tables turned. KIERAN FINNANE reports. Pictured: Alison Anderson MLA (left) and Professor Peter Sutton (right).
Race relations in The Centre – where we have come from, we are at now, where we are heading. That’s the focus of a conference in late September being organised by author John Strehlow and linguist David Moore. This is no policy digest, nor does it approach the subject as a set of problems. The program suggests that this can be an area of rich encounter and exchange, that it has been that at least in part from the outset and is at present in a phase of unprecedented change. Left: T.G.H. Strehlow with Arrernte informants including Moses Tjalkabota. Courtesy Strehlow Research Centre.
Veteran of Indigenous affairs in the Northern Territory, BOB BEADMAN, looks back on the issues arising in Indigenous policy over the last 50 years and questions its progress. "I remain slightly uncomfortable about talking about the lives of others," he writes, "but better me than yet another armchair expert from the eastern seaboard who has never spent serious time in the Northern Territory, let alone with Aboriginal people." This is the text version of his Eric Johnston lecture, presented at the Northern Territory Library on November 14 2013.
Where will the money come from to pay rent for shire assets on Aboriginal land?
The eight Northern Territory shires are acting in concert on the issue of lease payments for shire facilities on Aboriginal land. The Northern and Central Land Councils' position is that traditional owners are entitled to rent for leases over the various land parcels once the Australian Government's five-year town leases expire in August. The Australian and NT Governments have accepted this, with the NT Government determining that rents should be set at 5-10% of UCV (unimproved capital value).This will amount to a bill of around $3 million annually for the NT, potentially rising to $5 million once all leases are settled. The leases for public housing land are exempt, with 'peppercorn' rents charged "in recognition of the direct benefit for local people", according to Minister for Local Government, Malarndirri McCarthy.
The cash-strapped shires are appalled: already they are struggling to provide a basic level of service to their communities. Don't their services amount to a "direct benefit for local people"? And, with limited operational funding, rates revenue, and budgets patched together from grants and charges to agencies for delivering their programs, where will the money come from?
A meeting on January 24 was attended by representatives of the eight shires, a lawyer from the firm Minter Ellison to advise them, and representatives of the Australian and Territory Governments as well as the Local Government Association of the NT.
The eight shires agreed to five points of a joint approach. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
Pictured: Shire workers learning to undertake maintenance on work plant at the Ti Tree works depot. Photo courtesy Central Desert Shire.
The one-day visit last Saturday by Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, to the Utopia homelands generated the usual round of headlines: conditions are "devastating", comparable to those in the "Third World", policies amount to "ethnic cleansing" (this last from Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, Utopia resident and Barkly Shire President).
What the so-called "fact finding mission" did not do was shed any light on the challenges facing governments and Aboriginal people about the future of the homelands at Utopia and elsewhere. This was done incisively by the outgoing Northern Territory Coordinator General for Remote Services, Bob Beadman (at right), in May of this year. His few pages of analysis provide far more insight into the situation than all of Amnesty's rhetoric, either in Mr Shetty's pronouncements or Amnesty's report, The Land Holds Us, released in August.
Mr Beadman also recommends some immediate (catch-up) steps for governments to take. There's no sign of the Northern Territory Government doing so. Minister for Indigenous Development Malarndirri McCarthy declined to answer the questions put to her by the Alice Springs News. Amnesty also declined to be interviewed by the Alice
However, a spokesperson for Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin says her government "respects the rights of Indigenous Australians to live on their traditional lands and acknowledges the profound connection which many Aboriginal people have with their homelands" but "housing investment is currently focussed on larger Indigenous communities where more Indigenous people live and which are faced with poor housing and overcrowding".
And the spokesperson says Canberra has provided to the NT Government $80 million for provision of basic municipal and essential services to homelands in the Northern Territory over the past four years but "future funding from July next year will be discussed with the
Northern Territory Government." KIERAN FINNANE reports.
PHOTO ABOVE:Lenny Jones, 73, and Albert Bailey, 79, Chairperson of Urapuntja Health both from Soapy Bore, speak with Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty. Photo courtesy Amnesty International.