Once a year a small remote town north-west of Alice Springs is the place to meet the top crop of young men in the nation's desert centre. But their glory is brief: when the Yuendumu Sports weekend is over they go back to the depressing idleness to which Australia consigns them, languishing on the dole or being under-employed. The photo above shows the team from Cockatoo Creek 50 kms north-east of Yuendumu. According to captain Elijah Jones, only one player has a job – in aged care. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
With family at Three Mile outstation, Papunya: Alison Anderson in the pink top; to her left Sylvana Marks, to her right Makisha Anderson, nieces. Makisha's mother Linda in the striped top; Alison's mother Beverley, front ; Linda's eldest daughter Natasha in green.
It's an election campaign like no-one else's: parties, policies and platforms seem to matter little compared to the ties that bind.
People from across the vast electorate of Namatjira (formerly MacDonnell) were expected to converge on Papunya for the annual Sports Weekend. I made a date two weeks ago to travel out there with the community's most famous daughter and sitting Legislative Assembly Member, Alison Anderson.
The day of travel arrives and plans change. We'll overnight first in Hermannsburg where she must attend a funeral the next morning. My swag and stores are added to the load – her Toyota has become a rolling campaign office – and we set out. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
The new rule prohibiting shire employees from standing for election to the shire council will have a big impact in MacDonnell Shire, with at least five of the 12 councillors opting to stay in their jobs and not run again in the March poll.
In the Rodinga Ward – covering the communities of Amoonguna, Santa Teresa, Titjikala and Finke – this is the case for all four councillors.
The rule seems like a 'no brainer' if you think about conflict of interest issues, but as ever, conditions in remote communities put a different slant on things.
Councillor Joe Rawson lives at Titjikala. He works as an essential services officer (ESO), and will not run again. The rule will "put a big hole in the Rodinga Ward", he said. Does he think other candidates will come forward in the ward?
"It comes down to employment – 99% of employment comes through MacDonnell Shire. To try to get others to nominate who are not on the MacDonnell Shire payroll is very hard ... if they don't have motor vehicles, the shire won't supply motor vehicles. You have to maintain your own vehicle to get to and from the meetings.
"We get an allowance – sitting fees, travel allowance every time we travel , but ... if you do a diff, you might get $700 to come to a meeting but it'll end up costing $1400 to fix the diff." KIERAN FINNANE reports.
Pictured, from top: Councillors Joe Rawson and Roxanne Kenny – he will not stand again but she will.
"Standing on our own two feet, that's the beauty of it all."
Thomas Warren (pictured) is crewing for Arrernte Workforce Solutions, once a CDEP provider but now an independent Aboriginal enterprise, working mostly on grounds maintenance contracts and competing in the marketplace at commercial rates.
When their CDEP funding was taken away, Arrernte Workforce was not ready for independent commercial trade. It probably would have fallen over, if its present manager, Damien Armstrong, hadn't picked up the pieces. It's been a struggle over two years, to completely restructure and get to the point where they are now, with good secure trade and consistent employment of Indigenous people "without being any burden whatsoever on government funding".
Today Arrernte Workforce employs a full-time bookkeeper and a permanent crew of six men, working on different contracts in teams of two or three, five days a week or more. As well there are two casuals on call and a "stack of resumes" on Mr Armstrong's desk, from "motivated individuals who would like to come on board".
"At the end of the day we are Indigenous people who want to work, we're not being forced to work out of fear of our dole being cut off," he says. "I'm a businessman, I'm into making money and employing people. As we become a more successful business, we'll be able to give back to the community – because I reckon we're here to stay." KIERAN FINNANE reports.