Appendix I : Progress Reports on Improvements in Service to Indigenous Communities
New South Wales
Local Government Aboriginal Network The New South Wales Department of Local Government has in past years supported Aboriginal Network Conferences with the host council taking responsibility for organising and running the individual conference. The Department has, however, been gradually reducing its participation while maintaining a role in supporting each conference through publicity and by providing assistance and advice to the host councils. During July 2000 to June 2001 there were two conferences (one in Nowra in October 2000 and another in Moama in March 2001).
The Department of Local Government supports the principles of reconciliation through the Local Government Aboriginal Network conferences. These conferences provide an invaluable opportunity for networking, raising cultural awareness and sharing ideas. They also provide a forum for discussing local government related issues.
Aboriginal Mentoring Programme
This programme provides an opportunity for Aboriginal community members to gain a greater insight into local government and to encourage more people to run for office at local council elections.
An evaluation of the programme commenced in March 1999 and data collection was completed by December 1999. The purpose of the evaluation was to determine the effectiveness of the programme, identify factors affecting its effectiveness and improve its operation.
During the evaluation 16 (of 23 participating) councils held elections. Of the 27 Aboriginal participants in the mentoring programme 11 stood as council candidates and two were elected.
All New South Wales councils were provided with a report on findings from the evaluation, to encourage more councils to participate. The report is available on the Department of Local Government website.
Local government advisory committees
Establishing local government advisory committees in councils has provided a mechanism crucial to free and open communication between Aboriginal communities and local councils. The function of these committees is to improve communication, understanding and trust between Aboriginal people and local government. These committees, in many local government areas, have proved to be the key to resolving issues such as provision of water and sewerage services.
Currently, 45 councils (an increase of five in the past 12 months) have established advisory committees. This programme will continue to be supported through joint arrangements with the Local Government and Shires Associations of New South Wales.
Local government - agreements with Aboriginal communities
The Department of Local Government, in partnership with the Local Government Shires Associations of New South Wales, is working to develop local agreements between councils and Aboriginal communities about infrastructure needs and maintenance and provision of council services.
In 2000, agreement was reached to establish a single position of Aboriginal Policy Officer with the Associations, supported by funding from the Department of Local Government, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Premiers Department. One of the principal functions of this position will be to further develop agreements with Aboriginal communities and councils.
Under the Local Government Act all councils in New South Wales are required to develop a social-community plan. A social-community plan examines the needs of the local community including groups which may be disadvantaged in some way, and formulates strategies which council and/or other agencies could implement to address identified needs. The social plan identifies specific policies and action plans for seven mandatory target groups, which includes Aboriginal people. Through this process, councils may identify issues and services they should be addressing in relation to Aboriginal communities.
Councils are expected to report in their annual reports about activities designed to target Aboriginal people in accordance with identified needs. Detailed information on how councils service their Aboriginal communities through their social plans may be obtained direct from local councils.
Inter-agency coordinating committee
The Department is a major representative on an inter-agency coordinating committee, under the auspices of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in Victoria and the Municipal Association of Victoria. The committee has been reconstituted in 2001 to take an encouragement role regarding the relationship between local government and the Indigenous communities they serve.
One of the first tasks of the committee has been to develop a detailed survey instrument to identify the nature, scope and range of initiatives in the areas of service provision to, employment of and relationships between each of the 78 local governments and Indigenous communities. The survey is planned for completion and publication in 2001-02.
From the survey findings it is expected that best practice can be identified, as well as gaps in practice. The long-term goal is to engage the sector to build its capacity and its performance in the area of its nexus with Indigenous peoples.
Council of Australian Governments reconciliation framework
Victoria is represented on a national working party established in mid 2001 to develop a draft Action Plan for the Commonwealth Local Government Ministers' Conference, under the Council of Australian Governments' framework to further Aboriginal reconciliation. This work complements that already undertaken at the local level by a number of urban and rural councils in setting up their own reconciliation statements, local agreements and practical strategies.
In Queensland, the Department of Local Government and Planning, the State Library of Queensland, and the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Development have all made significant contributions to improving service provision to Indigenous communities.
Department of Local Government and Planning initiatives
Smaller Communities Assistance Programme
The Smaller Communities Assistance Programme has a budget of $150 million over 10 years. Its aim is to help local governing bodies provide a reliable water supply and sewerage services of an acceptable standard and cost to communities with populations fewer than 5,000 persons. Depending on need, grants of up to 100 per cent of the cost of infrastructure may be made available.
Although largely targeted at local governments, this programme can also be accessed by Aboriginal and Torres Islander councils that meet the guidelines. The guidelines have, in the past, been difficult for most Aboriginal and Torres Islander councils to meet due to a requirement to commit to ongoing operation, maintenance, and replacement. In recent rounds of allocations the following communities with significant Indigenous populations were successful in obtaining assistance:
|Aurukun Shire Council||$100,000|
|Burke Shire Council (Burketown)||$1,000,000|
|Torres Shire Council (Prince of Wales Island)||$240,000|
This Department is participating in an inter-departmental committee to identify ways to resolve the problem of funding and performing ongoing operation and maintenance in Torres Strait communities.
Rural Living Infrastructure Programme
Under the Rural Living Infrastructure Programme, $16 million is available to local governing bodies over four years for promoting:
- new or upgraded community infrastructure in rural communities;
- enhanced economic and tourism development opportunities; and
- greater incentives for people to live in rural towns.
Funding available through the programme is directed to local governing bodies with populations of fewer than 15,000. This requirement makes Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils eligible for assistance. In recent rounds of allocations the following Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils or communities with significant Indigenous populations were successful in obtaining assistance:
|Badu Island Council||$33,000|
|Bamaga Island Council||$150,000|
|Burke Shire Council (Burketown)||$65,000|
|Cherbourg Aboriginal Council||$41,935|
|Hammond Island Council||$7,934|
|Hopevale Aboriginal Council||$45,000|
|Mapoon Aboriginal Council||$60,000|
|Napranum Aboriginal Council||$65,000|
|New Mapoon Aboriginal Council||$47,000|
|Palm Island Aboriginal Council||$97,500|
|St Paul's Island Council||$100,000|
|Stephens Island Council||$90,000|
|Torres Shire Council (Greenhill)||$50,000|
|Yarrabah Aboriginal Council||$90,126|
Security Improvement Programme
Under the Security Improvement Programme, $2 million per annum is available to provide up to a 50 per cent subsidy to local governing bodies for expenditure on security measures, such as surveillance equipment, lighting, emergency telephones and modifications to public facilities, in existing places.
In recent allocations the follow Indigenous communities successfully obtained funds:
|Injinoo Aboriginal Council||$63,294|
|Yarrabah Aboriginal Council||$5,553|
State Library of Queensland initiatives
In 1999-2000, funding was allocated for establishing new libraries in the Indigenous communities of Cherbourg and Bamaga. The library at Kowanyama has been upgraded with a view to servicing Indigenous community needs. Further funding has been earmarked for development of libraries in other communities and a mobile library in the Northern Peninsula Area servicing five communities.
The State Library's Indigenous Libraries Unit was established in 1997 and is based in Cairns. The Unit continues to liaise with Indigenous communities regarding development of public library services. The operating subsidy scheme available to local governments has been extended to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils.
Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Development initiatives
The Department administers the Community Services (Aborigines) Act 1984 and the Community Services (Torres Strait) Act 1984, which provide for the system of local government for 32 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Queensland.
There are 15 Aboriginal councils and 17 Island councils established under the respective Acts. Each of these councils has the full powers of local government for the area for which they are established. These councils also undertake a range of additional functions including housing, community policing and various enterprises.
State Government Financial Aid Programme
Funding of $18.68 million is provided annually to Aboriginal and Island councils under the State Government Financial Aid Programme as a contribution to the cost of providing local government services and community policing.
Financial Accountability Improvement Programme
Funding of $1.3 million was provided in 2000-01 under the Financial Accountability Improvement Programme to improve the financial management capacity and accountability of Aboriginal and Island councils.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Infrastructure Programme
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Infrastructure Programme provides financial assistance for significant upgrading of environmental health infrastructure for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The majority of this funding has been utilised to improve basic water and waste disposal arrangements in the 32 communities established under the Community Services Acts. In 2000-01, $22 million was provided under this programme.
Council chambers capital works programme
Funding of $5.8 million was secured in the 1999-2000 State Budget for constructing new council chambers at the Bamaga Island community and the Aboriginal communities of Lockhart River, Mapoon and Woorabinda over 1999-2000 and 2000-01.
Department of Local Government
As in 1997 and 1999, for the May 2001 local government elections, electoral information (this year in the form of Candidates' Guides) was distributed to local governments and regional offices of the then Aboriginal Affairs Department (now Department of Indigenous Affairs) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. The aim was to encourage Aboriginal people to stand for council and to vote in local government elections (voting is not compulsory).
In June 2001, the Department commenced participation in the Local Government Ministers' Conference working party convened to develop an Aboriginal Reconciliation action plan.
Ministerial Coordinating Group on Aboriginal Issues
The Department of Local Government chairs the Ministerial Coordinating Group on Aboriginal Issues. Initiatives undertaken during 2000-01 included:
- Following a meeting between members of the Group and the Western Australian Local Government Grants Commission in May 2000, details of the Commission's visits to various local governments in the north west of the State during September 2000 were made available to members of the Group. This was so Aboriginal communities and representatives could be encouraged to participate in the public hearings conducted by the Commission in each local government district. In preparation for the visits, the Commission asked each local government to provide details of the services and facilities it provides in relation to Aboriginal communities in its district and also the respective budget allocations.
- The Group made a submission to the Commonwealth Grants Commission's review of the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995, with particular reference to the extent to which the methods of the State Local Government Grants Commission take account of the special circumstances of Indigenous communities.
- The Group commented on a draft policy for the planning of Aboriginal communities, developed jointly by the Ministry for Planning and the Aboriginal Affairs Department that was expected to be introduced as a Statement of Planning Policy by the Western Australian Planning Commission late in 2000. The policy was subsequently finalised and used as a basis for a service agreement between the Shire of Broome and Aboriginal communities (see also Aboriginal Community Strategic Investment Programme below).
- The Group considered a paper on paying for services in Aboriginal communities. The paper canvasses several options, including eventual full rating of Aboriginal communities where they have the capacity to pay. Consideration is to be given to how the paper will be progressed during 2001-02.
- A format for workshops across the State was considered and accepted by the Group. The aim of the workshops is to bring local government and Aboriginal people together to look at local issues and ways in which they might work on these jointly. It is anticipated that these will be progressed during 2001-02.
Aboriginal Community Strategic Investment Programme
As reported in the 1999-2000 National Report, the Aboriginal Community Strategic Investment Programme was developed in response to the Chief Executive Officers Working Party 1995 Report on Essential Services to Aboriginal Communities. The report recommended that the State Government implement a programme to upgrade and normalise essential services to large, permanently established remote communities and town reserves.
The State Government allocated $25 million over seven years for a series of projects in selected communities. Jigalong and Oombulgurri communities were selected as the initial demonstration projects and the programme was then extended to include Nambi Road Village, Leonora, Burringurrah and the Dampier Peninsula communities.
The programme aims to contribute to an improvement in health and living standards of Aboriginal communities through improved community management and administration; normalisation of power, water and sewerage services; and the increased involvement of local government in delivery of services.
Key developments in 2000-01 have included:
- the Aboriginal Community Strategic Investment Programme which now includes the Jigalong, Oombulgurri, Nambi Village, Bidyadanga, Djarindjin, One Arm Point, Lombadina, Beagle Bay, Kalumburu, Balgo, Yandeyarra and Burringurrah Aboriginal communities.
- The Shire of Broome signed service agreements with other relevant parties in relation to environmental health and building inspection services to remote Aboriginal communities as well as community layout planning in the Shire utilising the planning policy developed through the then Ministry for Planning. These service agreements were signed in August 2000 and a review was held in June 2001.
- The Shire of Broome has allocated a full-time health and building inspector to remote Aboriginal communities and the Shire will be maintaining some of the airstrips and roads in the region for communities (Bidyadanga, One Arm Point and Lombadina). The Shire also project-managed the building of roads at One Arm Point and Bidyadanga. Further, the Shire of Broome, Main Roads Western Australia and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission are funding the upgrade of the Cape Leveque Road and community access roads.
- The Wyndham-East Kimberley Shire will be project-managing ongoing maintenance road works at Oombulgurri. A similar agreement is proposed for Kalumburu. The Shire has undertaken a recreation planning study for Kalumburu and will be supporting a capital bid for funding.
- Discussions have been taking place with the Shire of Halls Creek about providing increased support for Balgo on a fee-for-service basis.
- The key agencies involved with the Aboriginal Community Strategic Investment Programme (the Department of Indigenous Affairs, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and the Department of Housing and Works, formerly the Ministry for Housing) have been closely assisting communities in their recruitment process and performance management of Chief Executive Officers. This has included a top-up of salary levels to assist in recruiting more qualified and experienced staff.
Code of practice for housing and environmental infrastructure development
In July 1999, the Environmental Health Needs Coordinating Committee sponsored a consultancy to develop a set of standards to improve the functionality and sustainability of environmental health infrastructure in Aboriginal communities. The need for such a consultancy followed a history of inappropriate design, poor standard of construction and a lack of maintenance leading to frequent failure of environmental health infrastructure in Aboriginal communities.
The resulting Code of Practice for Housing and Environmental Infrastructure Development in Aboriginal Communities in Western Australia was endorsed by the State Aboriginal Affairs Coordinating Committee, all Western Australian State departments and relevant Commonwealth agencies, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and the Department of Health and Aged Care. It is a condition of all funding agreements with these agencies that the Code of Practice standards are implemented and enforced. The Code was distributed to all government departments, local governments, major Aboriginal communities and throughout the building industry.
Capacity building in Aboriginal communities
During 1999-2000, the Aboriginal Affairs Department established a consultancy to consider capacity building in Aboriginal communities in Western Australia. The consultancy had as a backdrop the 1997 Aboriginal Communities Environmental Health Survey conducted on behalf of the Environmental Health Needs Consultative Committee and was regarded as a complementary exercise to the then Western Australian State Government Regional Development Policy which included strategies and initiatives to build the capacity of regional communities.
The consultancy drew from case studies of the Jigalong, Warburton and Balgo Aboriginal communities. The final report of the consultancy was tabled in June 2000. There was some further work undertaken in 2001 on planning for a capacity building pilot project with Balgo or the Wirrimanu community. This is expected to be progressed during 2001-02 and include the involvement of the relevant local government and the restructured Department of Local Government and Regional Development, resulting from machinery of government public sector reform in Western Australia.
The approach in South Australia continues to be characterised by collaboration between the three spheres of government. New strategic directions for improved local government outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities have been established with the release of the report entitled Local Councils Belong to Aboriginal People 2 in August 2000.
The report includes a strategy with a series of recommendations to be progressively implemented over three years to address issues relating to the nine programme areas of:
- coordination and integration;
- inter-governmental relations;
- participation in local government;
- community awareness;
- access to services and facilities;
- employment and economic development;
- local and regional planning;
- native title; and
The strategy has been adopted by the Local Government Association State Executive and provided to South Australia Government Ministers for noting, so as to facilitate a whole-of-government approach to implementing the series of recommendations over the three-year period. Several key aspects have received endorsement by the Minister for Local Government and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs as identified below. Progress has been made in some programme areas - the following provides an outline of that progress.
Coordination and integration
Inter-governmental local government- Aboriginal network
Established by the Minister for Local Government in May 2001, the Inter-Governmental Network is convened by the Office of Local Government. The network provides a structured framework to promote shared strategic directions and effective working relationships between the three spheres of government. It operates at officer level and comprises representation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Local Government Association of South Australia, Department of State Aboriginal Affairs, Office of Local Government, South Australia Local Government Grants Commission, and two nominees of the Local Government Association Aboriginal Policy Officer Network.
Local government association Aboriginal policy officers network
The report identified eight South Australian councils employing Aboriginal Policy Officers. They are the City of Adelaide, District Council of Ceduna, City of Marion, City of Onkaparinga, City of Playford, City of Port Adelaide Enfield, City of Salisbury, and the District Council of Yorke Peninsula. Established by the Local Government Association in September 2000, the Aboriginal policy officers network provides a consultation link for the officers and a direct link to the inter-governmental network.
Policy statement on reconciliation
The Local Government Association of South Australia, at its November 2000 annual general meeting, endorsed a new policy statement on Aboriginal reconciliation reaffirming local government's commitment (consistent with the statement on reconciliation adopted by the Australian Local Government Association and Local Government Association of Queensland).
Prescribed Aboriginal local governing authorities located outside Local Government Act areas - local governance
The Department of State Aboriginal Affairs, with the financial support of the Office of Local Government, is overseeing a project to develop corporate governance principles for the Nepabunna Community Council Inc. in respect to local government type services to residents within the council's local governing area. The Nepabunna Community Council is a prescribed Local Governing Authority for the purposes of the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995. The project aims to produce a framework of governance that suits the cultural circumstances of the council - one with which elected representatives can operate and can take out to and consult with their communities. The council has nominated two internal community facilitators to support the project. A feature of the project is that it is being progressed in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration between all parties involved - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Port Augusta, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission State Policy Office, the Local Government Association, South Australian Local Government Grants Commission, Nepabunna Community Council and State Office of Local Government.
Local Government Association membership
There are five prescribed Aboriginal Local Governing Authorities located in areas not covered by the South Australian Local Government Act. Two of the five are members of the Local Government Association - the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Inc. (1995) and the Nepabunna Community Council (April 2001). The other three have been invited to join.
Participation in local government
Representation - elections and voting
The report identified a direct relationship between timely provision of information before local government elections and the level of interest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people nominating as candidates and registering to vote. Funding has been secured from the Federal Government Local Government Incentive Programme and the Office of Local Government to develop culturally appropriate material. The material is to support councils in developing and instituting their promotional, marketing or educational initiatives about local government, and to foster interest in nominating for councils amongst the Aboriginal public within their local government area.
The project, being progressed under the State-Local Government Partnerships Programme, seeks to respond to the continuing lack of awareness of voting rights, nominees for local government and the apparent still low levels of voter turnout by Aboriginal people in local government elections. In South Australia there were eight Aboriginal candidates in 1995, a record 14 in 1997 (with one successful candidate) and two candidates in 2000. Currently there are no known South Australia councillors of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. The project also seeks to increase the awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and people about local government itself. The project, hosted by the Local Government Association of South Australia, is to have a Steering Group that includes a representative of the State Electoral Office.
A booklet, Examples of Working Together in South Australia, November 2000, profiles for the first time in South Australia in a consolidated document the many practical examples of interaction between councils and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people. The positive and encouraging examples illustrate achievements in working together towards reaching their shared goal of improving relationships. Funded by the Office of Local Government, the project was an important adjunct to the review and strategy project managed by the Local Government Association of South Australia.
Supporting the Australian Local Government Association's strategic involvement in issues of national significance
The Local Government Association of South Australia, in conjunction with the Australian Local Government Association and its partners (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, National Native Title Tribunal and Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department) participated in a meeting on 15 and 16 August 2000 between the District Councils of Yorke Peninsula, Barunga West, Copper Coast, Wakefield Regional Council and the Narungga Nations Native Title Management Committee. The meeting discussed development of a framework for an Indigenous Land Use Agreement for the region. The meeting was arranged as a joint partnership between the Local Government Association, Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement and the Australian Local Government Association. The councils have since received Commonwealth funding to facilitate negotiations.
The Local Government Association has invited facilitators to undertake a native title course to be conducted prior to encouraging them to seek a listing on the Commonwealth Native Title Practitioner's Panel. It is anticipated that demand for facilitators in this area will grow significantly in the coming months.
Department for Transport, Urban Planning and the Arts Reconciliation Group
The South Australian Office of Local Government is an agency located within the South Australian Department for Transport, Urban Planning and the Arts and is a member of the Department's Reconciliation Group. Established in September 2000, the Reconciliation Group holds monthly lunchtime forums and produces a staff newsletter. Forum topics have included:
- artwork of the Spinifex people;
- moving personal experiences of children removed from their families in Western Australia (video and facilitator);
- personal healing (sacred site within healing centre);
- visit to Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute;
- guest speaker from the Native Title Tribunal;
- guest speaker from the Local Government Association on reconciliation in local government,
- visit to the Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery (South Australia Museum); and
- employment initiatives.
The South Australian Office of Local Government is represented on a national working party, hosted by the Australian Local Government Association and the Federal Government represented by the Department of Transport and Regional Services. The working party was formed in response to the Council of Australian Governments request to all Ministerial Councils to prepare an action plan to advance reconciliation with Australia's Indigenous peoples. The working party is developing a framework for an Action Plan for consideration by the Local Government and Planning Ministers' Conference.
The Tasmanian Government has continued to work towards better outcomes for the Aboriginal community through improvements in service delivery, during 2000-01. As part of its broader commitment to reconciliation, Tasmania has been reviewing service delivery arrangements for Indigenous people. In doing this, the State has been mindful of both the November 2000 Council of Australian Governments agreement on Aboriginal reconciliation and the recommendations in the final report of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
There are three main aspects of the Government's approach that directly relate to improving service delivery at the community level and the role of Local Government in achieving such change. These are a whole-of-government policy framework to guide the future provision of services to Indigenous people; negotiated partnership agreements; and a partnership agreement with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
Framework for improving service delivery to Aboriginal communities
In consultation with other agencies, the Department of Premier and Cabinet has been developing a whole-of-government policy framework to guide the future provision of services to Indigenous Tasmanians. The framework has yet to be finalised, but is expected to include strategies on:
- coordination of service delivery at the individual and community levels;
- Aboriginal community involvement in programme planning and delivery;
- ensuring services are culturally appropriate; and
- data collection and performance monitoring.
The focus on holistic community-level delivery models emphasises the important role of local government in achieving better outcomes for Aboriginal people. The framework is expected to help local government, as well as State agencies, better respond to the needs of the Aboriginal community.
Local government partnership agreements
The Tasmanian Government is well advanced on a programme to negotiate partnership agreements with individual and regional groupings of councils across the State. As part of the negotiation of each agreement, the Government seeks to promote links between local government and Aboriginal community representatives. The aim is to identify key issues that affect Aboriginal people in the council area and develop strategies to address these. Broadly, the topics covered include:
- strategies to improve the level of participation of Aboriginal people in local government;
- promoting understanding of Indigenous issues in the wider community;
- sustaining the reconciliation process by encouraging public support and participation;
- taking joint action to reduce social disadvantage in the Aboriginal community; and
- measures to enhance economic development and employment opportunities for Aboriginal people.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission partnership agreement
As well, the Government has commenced negotiations with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission on a partnership agreement aimed at joint initiatives to reduce disadvantage in the Aboriginal community. The agreement is expected to focus on service delivery at the community level.
An example of cooperative action between local government and the Aboriginal community to promote reconciliation was the reconciliation walk on 23 July 2000. The Office of Aboriginal Affairs, in conjunction with the Hobart City Council, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and the State Reconciliation Committee, sponsored a reconciliation walk over the Tasman Bridge in Hobart, involving an estimated 25,000 people.
One of the problems faced in the remote communities of the Northern Territory is isolation and poor access to information. Councils also suffer from an 'image' problem, in that the bulk of the information circulating concentrates on problems and negative aspects of remote area local government.
The pressure to achieve effective delivery of services in rural and remote areas is increased by the continuing cost of failure to achieve necessary outcomes, and the failure of strategies that have achieved success in other places. The tyranny of distance coupled with small population centres provides challenges that must be continually re-addressed.
Best Practice Programme
The Northern Territory's Best Practice Programme, funded by an early grant from the Commonwealth Department of Transport and Regional Services, has been ongoing since 1997. The objective of the programme was to overcome difficulties associated with remoteness and to increase the awareness of practices in other communities which have led to improved local government service delivery.
A study into service delivery generally was undertaken and completed during the year by the Department of Local Government. The primary conclusion of the study was that a new and more productive partnership between the Northern Territory Government and local government councils was needed. It was proposed that the partnership be developed according to negotiated principles that would apply to specific partnerships agreements, or memoranda of understanding, that would, over time, be further negotiated.
The proposed partnership agreements would enunciate the roles and responsibilities of each party in the delivery of either a group of services or a specific service. Outcomes would be articulated and performance criteria clearly settled.
Australian Capital Territory
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in the Australian Capital Territory is relatively small - in actual terms and as a proportion of the total Territory and national populations.
About 3,500 Territory residents (about 1 per cent of the Territory population) identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. This is about 0.8 per cent of Australia's total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. It comprises people with both historical links with the region and people who have moved to the Territory from other areas, often to work or study. There are significant linkages with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the surrounding areas of New South Wales.
Interestingly, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of Queanbeyan is proportionately much higher: 2.5 per cent of the Queanbeyan population (about 700 persons). Yarralumla Shire, on the other hand, has the same percentage as the Territory or, in actual numbers, about 40 people.
Research at the University of New England, based on the 1996 census, indicates the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in the Territory is rapidly increasing: an average annual rate of increase of 11.8 per cent over the period 1991-96, comprising:
- natural increase;
- migration; and
- an increasing self-identification as either an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.
Other statistics show the sex ratio is balanced and the population is a youthful one, particularly when compared with the broader population:
- 39.7 per cent is aged under 15; and
- 60.5 per cent is aged under 25.
Only 5.1 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is aged over 50, and just 1 per cent is over 65.
It should be noted that, for various reasons, it is difficult to gather accurate statistics and, more difficult still, to disaggregate statistics for effective analysis of access to, or effectiveness of, programmes and services. Not the least of these reasons is the unreliability of data on births and deaths, and the increasing willingness of people to identify as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. Thus, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander demographic statistics for the Territory can only be indicative and, as such, are likely to be under-representative of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The Government recognises this and has funded the development of a demographic profile.
Unique characteristics of the Australian Capital Territory
In general terms, the Territory is unique among the States. Various factors combine to create the special circumstances or characteristics that need to be taken into account when examining Australian Capital Territory government services. They include the Territory's:
- geographical location as a land-locked island within New South Wales - it is the only jurisdiction with 100 per cent of its population living within 25 kilometres of another jurisdiction which means government services are continually accessed by the surrounding regional population;
- role as the national capital and seat of Federal government;
- city-state character and the combined responsibility for state and local government; and
- relatively recent achievement of self-government.
These factors all impact on the policy decisions of the Territory's government as they affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. So too do associated cost drivers, including:
- diseconomies of small scale - a full range of services is required for the relatively small Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population;
- the Territory Government tends to use a mainstream service provision model with a focus on improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander access to, and ensuring the appropriateness of, mainstream services;
- extensive use of cross-border services by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations of the region. Research on kinship patterns for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the southern areas of New South Wales suggests that Canberra is the major centre for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population located well beyond its borders.
Therefore, limiting the Territory's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population to those within defined borders is artificial. Cross-border service delivery issues arise in:
- health - arrangements with Southern Area Health Services include access to the Canberra Hospital and Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service; and
- housing - because of the interaction of the Canberra market with the housing markets of Queanbeyan and other bordering areas of New South Wales.
The relative youthfulness of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population increases the costs of service delivery in a number of areas including health, justice and education. The city-state nature of the Territory presents its own difficulties when comparing the types of services offered with those offered in other regions.