Claims that the Federal Government wants to close some communities in the NT are wrong and nothing more than deliberate scare-mongering, writes Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs (pictured).
Alison Anderson has proved her political clout in her electorate, increasing her vote despite her switch of party and the negative campaign against her. Now she is setting out to prove it as a Minister in two important portfolios – Indigenous Advancement and Regional Development. She has showed her style early, suggesting that Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin is in "La La Land" if she thinks she's "closing the gap", but what will be the substance? The long-awaited report by NT Coordinator-General of Remote Services, Olga Havnen, has finally been released. Ms Anderson is not committing her government to implementing its recommendations as formulated because, although it has attracted a lot of publicity, she says the report is "nothing new". She is also not sure if she will maintain the position of Coordinator-General, which she created as Labor Minister, and her comments suggest she is moving away from the Working Future policy and its associated Growth Towns, again her creations while she was with the Labor Government. KIERAN FINNANE speaks with Ms Anderson in the wake of the Havnen Report.
Pictured: Ms Anderson with Judy Brumby (right) and Esmeralda, both from Areyonga, during her election campaign.
The spectre of outstations and homelands in the Northern Territory forsaken by governments has receded, at least for another decade.
A $221 million "investment" to provide them with basic essential and municipal services over 10 years was announced this week by Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, joined by Lingiari MHR Warren Snowdon and NT Senator Trish Crossin.
Although the total funding sounds large, in reality it is basically more of the same, as the Australian Government has been providing the NT Government with $20 million each year since 2007 for this purpose.
They are boosting their contribution over the decade by $6m and the NT Government is kicking in $15m.
In another announcement, $619 million was allocated to remote policing, community night patrols and legal assistance services.
This will enable the NT Government to continue employing 60 full-time NT police officers in 18 remote communities, and build an additional four permanent remote area police complexes in communities.
The figures climbed today, with new announcements in Alice Springs. There will be $719 million over 10 years for better primary health care and improved access to dental and allied health services, and another $443 million over 10 years for playgroups, home and parenting support services, youth workers and safe houses. – Kieran Finnane
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.
The human rights organisation Amnesty International has released what
it calls a research report, focussed on the changes in government
policy, particularly since the Intervention, that have affected the
Utopia homelands in the Northern Territory.
The report argues that through leasing and inadequate
funding governments are actually taking land away its traditional
Nowhere in the report is there an acknowledgement that leasing only
applies to a tiny fraction of Aboriginal lands, that is the land on
which government is building and maintaining infrastructure.
A "group of Aboriginal elders" is quoted as saying in part:
"Through harsh changes we have had removed from us all control over our
communities and our lives. Our lands have been compulsorily taken from
us. We have been left with nothing." There is no explanation nor
qualification of this dramatic claim.
The only named contributor to the report is senior Aboriginal woman
and activist Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, of Jedda acting fame, who provides
the Foreword for the paper which lambasts the new shire system without
mentioning that she is the president of her shire.
And the report advances mixed evidence of the benefit of living on
homelands, including that they are a "central" component of the Northern
Territory's $775.78m tourism industry, with no scrutiny of the
realities, including welfare dependency. KIERAN FINNANE reports. Photo at top: Jeffrey
Pepperill Kemarr and family at Camel Camp on the Utopia homelands,
about 30 kms from Arlparra. Source: Amnesty International, Lucas Jordan. Above: Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, with daughter Ngarla and granddaughter Ruby, in 2006. From the Alice News archive.