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Progress reports on improvements in service provision to Indigenous communities

State-lead agencies and local government associations have provided the following reports on activities aimed at improving local government services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

New South Wales

Department of Local Government

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 conferences.

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 host councils.

Between July 2002 and June 2003 two conferences were held. One was hosted by Ballina Council in October 2002 and the other by Liverpool, Fairfield and Holroyd Councils, in Liverpool in March 2003. From 2004 conferences will be held annually.


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 Program

This program 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. Local councils are responsible for implementing the program.

An evaluation of the program began in March 1999 and data collection was completed by December 1999. The purpose of the evaluation was to determine the effectiveness of the program, identify factors affecting its effectiveness and improve its operation.

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 web site.

As at 30 June 2002, of 150 councils (out of 172) that responded to a survey, 17 reported that they had implemented the Aboriginal Mentoring Program and 24 Aboriginal people had participated.

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.

As at 30 June 2002, of 150 councils (out of 172) that responded to a survey, 48 reported that they had established Aboriginal advisory or consultative committees.

New South Wales Government Aboriginal Affairs Policy

The New South Wales Government is currently developing a plan for action, 'Partnerships: A new way of doing business with Aboriginal people', to improve State and local government service delivery to Aboriginal people. The Chief Executive Officer's Group on Aboriginal Affairs and the New South Wales Department of Aboriginal Affairs are coordinating development of the plan. The Department of Local Government is represented on a number of working groups established to develop specific action plans concerning such areas as heritage and culture, housing and infrastructure, health, justice and education. Services proposed for inclusion in action plans which are relevant to local government include urban planning and development, water, sewage, waste collection, roads, community services such as recreation and youth facilities, and information technology.

Social Plans

Under the Local Government Act all councils in New South Wales are required to develop a social/community plan at least every five years. A social/community plan examines the needs of the local community, including groups that may be disadvantaged in some way, and formulates strategies that councils and/or other agencies could implement to address identified needs. The Social Plan identifies specific policies and action plans for seven mandatory target groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Through this process, councils may identify issues and services they should be addressing in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. A review of the first council social/community plans in 1999 found that 93 per cent identified and addressed the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Councils are expected to report in their annual reports about activities designed to target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in accordance with identified needs. Reviews of councils' annual reports in 1999-2000 and 2000-01 found that about 90 per cent of reports included information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander activities. Detailed information on how councils service their Aboriginal communities through their social/community plans need to be obtained direct from local councils.

The Department of Local Government revised its Social and Community Planning and Reporting Guidelines and Manual during 2002-03. Both publications are available from the Department's web site. The next local council social plans are due to be submitted to the Department in November 2004.

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Department of Infrastructure

With the local government awareness of Indigenous issues heightened and strengthened by the sector's 2002 resource document, Toomnangi, councils have generally maintained greater commitment to consideration of both the needs and the contributions of their Indigenous communities.

Such contributions tend to come to the fore during local celebrations of historical and cultural events. For example, there is now a greater appreciation of the contribution of Indigenous communities to festivities around cultural diversity, even in the smaller, non-metropolitan municipalities throughout Victoria.

The Local Government and Regional Services Division is aware of increasing engagement of representatives from Indigenous communities on consultative committees and reference groups established by councils. In the environmental and heritage areas, such representation is particularly effective. A net result of engagement of this nature with Indigenous communities can be an improvement in the appreciation of the unique needs for service delivery.

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In Queensland, the Department of Local Government and Planning, the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy, and the Queensland State Library have all made significant contributions to improving service provision to Indigenous communities.

Department of Local Government and Planning

Smaller Communities Assistance Program

The Smaller Communities Assistance Program has a budget of $150 million over 10 years to 2005-06. Its aim is to help local governing bodies provide reliable water supply and sewerage services of an acceptable standard and cost to communities with populations fewer than 5000 people. The methodology used to determine the level of Smaller Communities Assistance Program assistance to councils is to assess each council's capacity to meet the costs from its internal sources and provide top-up funding.

Although largely targeted at local governments, the program can also be accessed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils that meet the guidelines which, in the past have been difficult for most due to a requirement to commit to ongoing operation, maintenance and asset replacement.

In seven previous Smaller Communities Assistance Program rounds of funding allocations, the following communities with significant Indigenous populations obtained assistance:

Amount Funded

Aurukun Shire Council
$125 000
Burke Shire Council
  • Burketown
$4 297 336
  • Gregory
$1 143 000
Torres Shire Council
  • Prince of Wales Island
$240 000
  • Thursday Island
$3 362 000
Cook Shire Council
  • Cooktown
$9 500 000
  • Coen/Laura
$4 196 993
$2 600 000
Stage 2 of the Major Infrastructure Program on Torres Strait Islands
$13 100 000

Rural Living Infrastructure Program

Under the Rural Living Infrastructure Program, $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
  • greater incentives for people to live in rural towns.

Funding available through the program 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 obtained assistance:

Amount Funded

Badu Island Council
$153 000
Bamaga Island Council
$150 000

Cherbourg Aborginal Council

$41 935

Doomadgee Aboriginal Council

$170 000
Hammond Island Council
$7 051

Hope Vale Aboriginal Council

$145 000

Iama Island Council

$175 000
Injinoo Aboriginal Council
$100 000

Mapoon Aboriginal Council

$160 000

Mer Island Council

$100 000
Mornington Shire Council
$192 493
Napranum Aboriginal Council
$165 000
New Mapoon Aboriginal Council
$87 000
Palm Island Aboriginal Council
$97 500
Seisia Island Council
$124 000
St Pauls Islands Council
$100 000
Torrest Shire Council
$210 000
Ugar Island Council
$90 000
Umagico Aboriginal Council
$100 000
Yarrabah Aboriginal Council
$175 126

$2 543 105

Security Improvement Program

Under the Security Improvement Program, $2 million per annum is available to provide up to 60 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 rounds of allocations, the following Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils or communities with significant Indigenous populations obtained assistance:

Amount Funded

Bamaga Island Council
$9 930
Injinoo Aboriginal Council
$185 070

Kubin Island Council

$4 134

Mornington Shire Council

$15 599
Napranum Aboriginal Council
$33 000

Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Council

$50 843

Seisia Island Council

$112 715
St Pauls Islands Council
$15 000

Warrabah Island Council

$5 000
Woorabinda Aboriginal Council
$75 000
Yarrabah Aboriginal Council
$44 695

$550 986

Road and Drainage Grants

The annual State Road and Drainage Grant is designed to encourage capital works expenditure by local governing bodies on road and urban storm water drainage infrastructure. An amount of $28.226 million was paid in 2002-03.

The grant is an administered grant automatically allocated to all councils and Aboriginal and Island councils. The allocation is conditional on funds being spent on road and drainage works.

In 2002-03, the 34 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils and communities each received $20 402 while Torres Shire Council, which has a significant Indigenous population, received $36 769. Total expenditure was $730 437.

Local Governing Bodies' Capital Works Subsidy Scheme

Under the Local Governing Bodies' Capital Works Subsidy Scheme, a standard percentage rate of subsidy is paid on the capital cost of the capital works undertaken by local governments. Examples of capital works projects funded by the Department are:

  • water supply (up to 40%) - source of supply and off-stream storage of raw water, treatment works and delivery from source to first reservoir
  • sewerage or common effluent drainage (up to 40%) - treatment works, nutrient removal works, disposal of effluent after treatment and disposal and re-use of sludge after treatment
  • wastewater re-use (up to 50%) - works which provide for the beneficial long term re-use of wastewater from sewage treatment plants as an alternative to discharging into waterways.

In 2002-03, the following Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils or communities with significant Indigenous populations obtained assistance:

Amount Funded

Aurukun Shire Council
$86 000
Torres Shire Council
$430 511
Yarrabah Aboriginal Council
$23 039

$539 550

Administration Grants

Funding of $2.02 million is provided annually to Aurukun and Mornington Shire Councils as a financial contribution (in lieu of rates) to meeting costs associated with local government operations, financial administration and essential services.

Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy

Community Governance

The Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy 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 local government jurisdiction for the area for which they are established including the ability to make by-laws about various matters. These councils also undertake a range of additional functions including housing, community policing, various enterprises and Commonwealth and State Government funded programs.

State Government Financial Aid Program

Funding of $19.38 million was provided in 2002-03 to Aboriginal and Island councils under the State Government Financial Aid Program as a financial contribution (in lieu of rates) to meeting costs associated with local government operations, financial administration, essential services and community policing.

Indigenous Environmental Health Workers

The Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy supports the employment of Indigenous environmental health workers in Cape York.

A total of $0.5 million was provided in 2002-03 to a number of Aboriginal councils to employ Indigenous environmental health workers. The environmental health workers will identify and manage environmental health needs particularly those associated with housing, water quality, refuse, food safety and sewerage.

The program is being administered in partnership with Queensland Health and the Queensland Department of Employment and Training.

Negotiation Tables

Meeting Challenges, Making Choices is the State Government's response to the Cape York Justice Study undertaken by Mr Tony Fitzgerald.

It identified a range of reforms, some immediate, some long-term, to address issues affecting Indigenous communities in Queensland.

A key to the success of Meeting Challenges, Making Choices is establishment and maintenance of genuine partnerships between government and each community. These partnerships will be enabled through a range of measures including Negotiation Tables and the Government Champions program.

Negotiation Tables will be the primary interface for negotiations between government and communities. Community planning support has been identified as the way to help communities develop their position.

The Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy provided funding of $30 000 to each community to facilitate their participation at Negotiation Tables - a total allocation of $660 000 in 2002-03. It is proposed that communities use this funding to secure the expertise needed for the community leadership to consult within the community, review work to date and to synthesise and present issues for negotiation with the government.

Financial Accountability Improvement Program

Funding of $1.7 million was provided in 2002-03 under the Financial Accountability Improvement Program to help Aboriginal and Island councils meet their financial accountability obligations and improve systems of financial management. This included funding for internal audit services, accounting support, professional development for council staff and the statutory appointments of financial controllers.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Infrastructure Program

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Infrastructure Program provides financial assistance for significant upgrading of environmental health infrastructure for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. In 2002-03, $13.5 million was provided under this program. The program operates in close partnership with various other Commonwealth and State agencies through separate bilateral agreements for provision of housing and infrastructure for mainland Aboriginal communities and Torres Strait Islands.

The majority of program funding is directed toward improving basic water, sewerage and waste disposal facilities in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities established under the Community Services Acts. The program also provides funds for serviced allotments for new housing. Significant funding is also provided for the operation and maintenance of infrastructure in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities.

Council Chambers Capital Works Program

In 2002-03, funding of $1.4 million was allocated for the completion of works on new council chambers for the Doomadgee Aboriginal community.

Motor Vehicle and Heavy Equipment Program

The Motor Vehicle and Heavy Equipment Program provides grants to Aboriginal councils to acquire or make capital repairs to motor vehicles and heavy equipment used to maintain and develop infrastructure and to deliver essential local government services. The total funding for 2002-03 was $1.06 million.

From the program budget, $0.45 million was allocated to supporting the Torres Strait Heavy Equipment Management and Training Project. In a joint arrangement, the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy, the Torres Strait Regional Authority, the Island Coordinating Council and the Department of Main Roads each contribute funding and/or management, advisory and technical services to the Project.

The Project operates a pool of heavy equipment which is deployed on a rotational basis to Island councils and provides community residents with accredited training in the operation of plant and equipment.

State Library of Queensland

In 2002-03, the State Library of Queensland continued to implement the Indigenous Library Services Strategy, which aims to:

  • establish Indigenous Knowledge Centres in Cape York and Torres Strait Regions
  • improve service delivery to Indigenous peoples in public libraries throughout Queensland
  • increase employment and training opportunities
  • include services to Indigenous peoples in planning and designing the Millennium Library Project
  • ensure Indigenous collections and culture are represented appropriately in library spaces.

In 2002-03, the State Library established the first eight Indigenous Knowledge Centres in the Cape communities of New Mapoon, Lockhart River, Wujal Wujal, Aurukun and Pormpuraaw and in the Torres Strait communities of Erub (Darnley Island), Mabuiag and Poruma (Coconut Island). The Indigenous Knowledge Centres are being developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Community councils and local community members to provide library services tailored to community needs and act as a meeting place for the community.

The State Library also developed and commenced the Indigenous Knowledge Centre Training and Support Program, which involves 16 previously unemployed Indigenous people completing accredited, culturally appropriate library training to enable them to manage and develop their local Indigenous Knowledge Centre. The State Library and the Queensland Department of Employment and Training are funding the program.

In 2002-03, the State Library developed the Librarians in Communities Program, which involves a qualified librarian working with local Indigenous Knowledge Centre staff for six months to help develop the organisational capacity of Indigenous Knowledge Centres, including developing targeted programs and activities for the community. The program is being funded through the State Library of Queensland and the Australian Government's Department of Employment and Workplace Relations' Structured Training and Employment Program.

Planning and design for the Indigenous Knowledge Centre in the redeveloped State Library (Millennium Library Project) has begun with the establishment of an Indigenous reference group to provide advice to architects involved in the project. The group has focused on the schematic plans associated with the design and function elements of culturally appropriate social spaces within the redeveloped State Library.

It is envisaged that this Indigenous Knowledge Centre will serve as a hub to the Indigenous Knowledge Centres throughout the rest of Queensland, offering support and services in the same way the State Library acts as a hub to the Queensland public library network.

The Indigenous Knowledge Centre and other public spaces within the State Library will actively recognise the rich and diverse cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through display of art and craft installations, paintings, murals and artefacts. Cultural heritage inter-woven with books and collections to draw out cultural knowledge will be integrated into public exhibitions and programs and within the day-to-day delivery of service to clients.

Over the next 12 months, the State Library will negotiate a range of Service Level Agreements with councils across the State to create the framework for advancing the strategic aim of improved service delivery to Indigenous peoples in Queensland public libraries.

Already, public libraries in some regional towns, such as Thuringowa, Townsville, Mossman and Caloundra, are working in partnership with the State Library to develop strategic plans and initiatives that will lead to an improvement in service delivery. Capacity building with the public library network will ensure collections are managed and represented appropriately in public libraries in the interest of all Queenslanders.

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Western Australia

Department of Local Government and Regional Development

There is growing recognition of the importance of local government to Indigenous communities in the provision of municipal services, administration of beneficial legislation such as the Health Act, and strategic support for capacity building and governance development.

Over the past 12 months the Department of Local Government and Regional Development has invested considerable effort, on a number of fronts, to improve local government service delivery to Indigenous communities. This has involved:

  • working with individual local governments, ATSIC and other State and Commonwealth agencies to improve mainstream services to Indigenous communities
  • developing long-term capacity building and Indigenous governance
  • developing policies and strategic approaches that will involve local government in long-term Indigenous community development
  • increasing Indigenous community awareness of the importance of local government
  • supporting Indigenous people to better participate in local government.

In Western Australia there are significant issues that need to be addressed to improve local government provision of services to Indigenous communities. These include the status of Indigenous land title, lack of funding, and the separate funding of Indigenous Services by ATSIC and other agencies.

In many large remote Aboriginal settlements, an unreasonable expectation has been placed on community governance structures to run municipal entities that encompass the full range of issues that would normally be administered by local governments. This includes the operations of essential services, public housing, environmental health and by-laws covering community order. This agency notes that these responsibilities have been placed on Indigenous community councils without the support of staff with local government expertise and qualifications.

The Department of Local Government and Regional Development is developing policy to improve local government service delivery arrangements at a time of significant reform opportunities in Indigenous public policy at both the State and national level. The potential for reforms to ATSIC and the State Government's commitment to provide permanent police facilities in remote communities provides opportunities for social and economic development in remote communities involving local governments playing a key role.

Municipal services and funding to local government

Through a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Local Government and Regional Development, the Department of Indigenous Affairs, the Department of Housing and Works and ATSIC, two Indigenous officers have been employed by the Department of Local Government and Regional Development to pursue initiatives designed to improve local government services to Indigenous communities.

The Indigenous unit is currently developing a partnership involving delivery of governance, municipal and environmental health services through Shires rather than the current separate Indigenous funding arrangements.

A pilot project is currently being negotiated with the Broome Shire involving rationalisation of various Indigenous municipal funding sources through the Broome local government administration. The project aims to develop better forms of governance in communities and skill development whilst providing more effective service delivery.

The Broome pilot project is based on a fee-for-service arrangement. The Department of Local Government and Regional Development is also exploring policy options that could see local governments receiving funds directly through Grants Commission processes so they can provide services to communities as part of their core responsibilities. The capacity for this to occur, however, will largely depend on significant structural reform of Indigenous affairs administration that could emerge as a result of the current review of ATSIC.

Another issue the Department's Indigenous section is addressing is development of measures to resolve the long-standing tension between Indigenous communities and some local governments over non payment of rates.

The Department is pursuing a number of initiatives under its capacity building and governance development responsibilities.

These include:

  • using the agency's leadership fund to develop the capacity of Indigenous members of various local governments
  • strategic involvement in implementing the government's Gordon Inquiry commitment to establish multi functional police facilities as a means of involving local government in the long-term development of communities through provision of core civic services
  • strategic involvement in the Tjurabalan COAG trial in the Halls Creek Shire and the potential for developing new and effective Indigenous community governance through partnerships with local government.

In collaboration with other State agencies and in partnership with ATSIC/Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services, the Department is developing policy initiatives to ensure State laws administered by local government, namely sections of the Health Act, Local Government Act, Planning and Development Act and Building Act, are applicable to Aboriginal communities on Aboriginal reserves.

Western Australian Local Government Association

Native Title - Memorandum of Understanding

The Association has negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding with the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea council to develop template agreements as a resource that will help over 100 local governments in the south west area negotiate at the local level. The template agreements will facilitate a process to enable local governments to reach mediated outcomes for Native Title rather than become involved in litigation.

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South Australia

Department of Transport, Urban Planning and the Arts

With the release of the report, Local Councils Belong to Aboriginal People 2, in August 2000, new strategic directions were established with the aim of achieving improved local government outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

The report contains recommendations relating to the nine program areas of coordination and integration, intergovernmental relations, participation in local government, community awareness, access to services and facilities, employment and economic development, local and regional planning, native title and reconciliation. The Department made significant progress in implementing the recommendations during 2000-01 and 2001-02 and progress continued in 2002-03 (see below for details of progress made in some program areas).

South Australia continues the approach characterised by collaboration between the three levels of government in program design and implementation.

The State Government's release of a new policy framework, Doing It Right, in May 2003 provides a welcome opportunity to explore new directions within a wider context. Driven by nine key principles, including locally driven and integrated action, the approach of Doing It Right provides the State Government framework for achieving positive and lasting outcomes for Aboriginal people living in South Australia. Consistent with the Local Councils Belong to Aboriginal People 2 strategic directions, Doing It Right recognises that change begins with a collaborative approach and allows for the cooperative development and implementation of strategies.

Coordination and integration

Intergovernmental Local Government/ Aboriginal Network

Established and maintained since May 2001 the Intergovernmental Local Government/Aboriginal Network provides a structured framework to promote shared strategic directions and effective working relationships between the three levels of government. Hosted by the State Office of Local Government, membership comprises representatives of the Local Government Association of South Australia, Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, the South Australian Local Government Grants Commission, ATSIC State Policy Centre and two nominees of the Local Government Association's Aboriginal Policy Officers - District Council of Ceduna and City of Port Adelaide Enfield. In April 2003 membership was expanded to include representation from the Department of the Premier and Cabinet's Social Inclusion Unit.

Among other activities, the Intergovernmental Network:

  • met with representatives of the Office of Regional Affairs within the Department of Business Manufacturing and Trade, and the Heritage, Language and Arts Group within the Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation to discuss directions and explore issues of mutual interest
  • contributed to Planning South Australia's review - Development Plan Improvement Project - by suggesting promotion of good practice in Indigenous issues in Development Plans
  • sought information about council's strategic planning initiatives through the Local Government Grants Commission General Information Return which saw a 100 per cent response rate to two questions and combined, 18 councils signalled references as follows:

    Does your council's Strategic Management Plan contain specific references to either Indigenous people or any specific measures to ensure Indigenous citizens are able to access council mainstream services?
    15 councils affirmed references - 6 rural and 9 metropolitan.
    Does your council have any Indigenous advisory structures in place? 11 councils affirmed a structural mechanism in place - 5 metropolitan and 6 rural.

Aboriginal Policy Officers' Network

Established and maintained since September 2000, the Local Government Association of South Australia convenes the Aboriginal Policy Officers' Network. The Network provides a consultation link between South Australian councils employing Aboriginal Policy Officers. Two nominees of the Network are represented on the Intergovernmental Network. The Aboriginal Policy Officers' Network met twice during the year - affected by a number of staff changes in councils - to share information about local and State-level developments. The Indigenous Councillor elected in May 2003 has been invited to join the group.

Local Government Association web site

As a part of redeveloping the Local Government Association web site, pages have been created focusing on both Indigenous issues and Native Title www.lga.sa.gov.au/goto/indigenous.

These pages contain most of the reports and information referred to in this report and complements the Office of Local Government's website www.localgovt.sa.gov.au/.

Intergovernmental relations

Aboriginal communities in local government council areas - service agreements

The Local Service Agreement project will seek to collaboratively explore the notion of Service Agreements between Aboriginal community landholders on Aboriginal Lands Trust land within a local government council area and the relevant local government council. It will support local efforts to clarify service provision and associated arrangements.

The project is being undertaken with joint State Government (through the State Office of Local Government and the Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) and local government financial contributions. A project team, comprising representatives of the Local Government Association, the Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, the Office of Local Government and ATSIC State Policy Centre, has been established to oversee the project.

In accordance with the August 2000 report, five council areas have been approached to participate in the project. Invitations have been extended to Davenport Community Inc. and the City of Port Augusta; Koonibba Community Inc. and the District Council of Ceduna; Pt Pearce Community Inc. and the District Council of Yorke Peninsula; Raukkan/Point McLeay Community Inc. and the Coorong District Council; and Umoona Community Inc. and the District Council of Coober Pedy.

The project is scheduled to conclude in June 2004.

Participation in local government

Partnership local government/Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander - elections and voting project

This partnership project was undertaken with joint Commonwealth (Local Government Incentives Program 2001-02) and State Office of Local Government financial contributions and managed by the Local Government Association. The project concluded in September 2002 with production and distribution of a resource kit developed by the Office of Local Government, Local Government Association, State Electoral Office, ATSIC State Policy Centre, Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation and the Aboriginal Policy Officers' Network.

This is the first time councils have received a kit specifically to maximise Aboriginal participation in polls across local government areas of the State. Resources included a poster for display in council offices, three brochures providing information on local government, the responsibilities of being a Councillor, voting in the elections and how to get on the electoral roll. It also contained a Resource Guide for Councils for the May 2003 elections. The practical guide is intended for use not only for the 2003 polls, but also as a model for future elections and generally to encourage greater participation by Indigenous citizens.

In early 2003 the kit was again drawn upon for the Local Government Association's 'So You Want to Be a Councillor' Seminars held throughout the State - at Port Augusta, Tumby Bay, Adelaide, Murray Bridge and Naracoorte. For the May 2000 elections there were two known Indigenous candidates with neither elected. For the May 2003 elections there were seven known Indigenous candidates, with one councillor successfully elected to the Kingston District Council.


Reconciliation initiatives

As reported last year, South Australian councils are involved in a range of reconciliation initiatives including giving Aboriginal place names to parks, acknowledgment of traditional owners of the land at the opening of council meetings, development of Statement of Reconciliation and arts and cultural celebrations.

In September 2002, in response to a question from a State Member of Parliament, the Local Government Association undertook a survey to gain knowledge of the extent and nature of councils flying the Aboriginal flag and there was a 100 per cent response to the survey. Fifty-seven per cent of councils in South Australia fly the Aboriginal flag either permanently or during Reconciliation Week or other special events. Notably, of the 12 councils flying the Aboriginal flag permanently, six are metropolitan and six are country.

The survey results were circulated to all councils. Further discussions resulted in exploring the question of the State's policy in relation to flying of the Aboriginal flag and this has contributed to the Parliament (Joint Services) (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Amendment Bill being introduced to the South Australian Parliament
on 28 May 2003.

Native Title

Indigenous land use agreements

The Local Government Association has ensured key materials prepared by the Australian Local Government Association, including in the past year 10 checklists for different professional groups in councils, are disseminated widely and has conducted training based on these materials. The District Council of Yorke Peninsula, its three adjacent councils and the Narrunga Peoples Native Title Management Committee have taken a leading position in relation to negotiation of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement involving local and State Government in an environment in which the Narrunga Peoples have not lodged a claim with the Federal Court.

This process is a pilot under Statewide Negotiations which the Local Government Association was invited to join in November 2002 - see www.iluasa.com. The negotiations involve the South Australian Government, the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement, the South Australian Farmers Federation, the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy, peak fishing bodies and the Local Government Association, which accepted the invitation in December 2002. A local government committee has been established to develop a template Indigenous Land Use Agreement for local government.

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Department of Premier and Cabinet

The Tasmanian Government continues on a major program to negotiate partnership agreements with individual councils and regional groupings of local government across the State. As part of the negotiation of some agreements, the State Government seeks to promote links between local government and the Aboriginal community. The aim is to identify key issues that affect Aboriginal people in the local government 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 Aboriginal 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
  • measures to enhance economic development and employment opportunities for Aboriginal people.

One example of a council re-examining how it relates to its Indigenous community through the partnership process is the Hobart City Council in developing its Aboriginal Strategy. This strategy is based on:

  • improving the level of Aboriginal participation in local government
  • improving the level of understanding about Aboriginal community culture and heritage
  • improving the level of local government services to the Aboriginal people
  • economic and employment development
  • management and protection of sites of Indigenous cultural significance.

In acknowledging the vital role that can be played by Aboriginal people in State and local government and with the added advantage of achieving equity in the labour market for Aboriginal people, the Department of Premier and Cabinet has agreed with the Commonwealth Department of Employment and Workplace Relations to undertake a Structured Training and Employment Project to continue to increase access by Aboriginal people to employment in State and local government.

This will build upon the successes of a previous employment strategy and aims to employ a further 20 Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders in the State service and five with local government.

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Northern Territory

Department of Community Development, Sport and Cultural Affairs

The Minister for Local Government, Mr John Ah Kit announced a strategy for building stronger regions during the year. His summary of that strategy is set out below.

The Northern Territory is a unique part of Australia. It has a small population scattered over a wide and diverse area; proportionally the largest Indigenous population of any State; and a huge potential to develop and grow.

The diversity of the Territory can be its major strength. Every region has different opportunities and challenges. The Territory needs these opportunities to be taken up and these challenges met if we are to realise our potential.

Broadly, the government's strategic approach to regions centres on the development of sustainable regional economies through the identification of opportunities; negotiation of governance arrangements which support regional social and economic development; and the provision of physical infrastructure that fosters sustainable development. Underpinning this approach is an emphasis on the development of partnerships that focus our activity in progressively improving levels of education, health, infrastructure and opportunity and which provide an environment in which our young people can confidently build their futures of their communities and regions.

Regional development with our Government is not something that is done to a region. It requires the focused collaboration of individuals and organisations of the region along with the Government. Organisations and structures need to be in place that own and drive development. This strategy for Building Stronger Regions - Stronger Futures includes the establishment of five Regional Development Boards.

The other major structural initiative included in Building Stronger Regions - Stronger Futures is provision for establishment of Regional Authorities where existing community councils agree to amalgamate. These elected representative bodies will have the power to take on a broad range of functions and responsibilities to provide an effective framework for good governance and service delivery.

The Government is also changing the way that is does business in the regions and will be taking an increasingly direct role in the facilitation of regional development. Staff will be applied directly to assist communities and regions to develop the capacity they must have if they are to participate fully in a strong developmental approach.

A keystone of the Building Stronger Regions - Stronger Futures is commitment to the negotiation of Partnership Agreements. These will be negotiated by the Government and those representing a region. They will identify the service delivery outcomes all of us agree should be achieved, and initiatives that we all agree will be pursued. Most importantly, they will be monitored and evaluated through a rigorous, formal and transparent process.

The Building Stronger Regions - Stronger Futures strategy signals the start of a new era in regional development in the Northern Territory. The models and approaches that will be undertaken are not untested. A considerable amount of work has already been done and progress is being made. Building Stronger Regions - Stronger Futures that work and sets it in a strategic framework that clearly articulates where we are going, how we will get there and how we will ensure that we stay on track.

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Australian Capital Territory

Department of Urban Services

The United Ngunnawal Elders Council has been established in the past year for the Ngunnawal community. Each Ngunnawal family has an allocated position on the Council. The Council has established a register for Welcome to Country ceremonies, liaised with several schools to establish an Elders program, contributed to consultations on the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and discussed various issues of concern with ACT Government agencies.

The United Ngunnawal Elders Council's major project is a rural based training program which has a considerable focus for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth who have undergone detoxification or rehabilitation programs.

Programs that deliver practical measures that support families, children and young people

The draft Territory Records Bill 2002, establishes a framework for agencies to manage and allow access to records. This includes records containing information that may allow people to establish links with their Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage. A survey has been undertaken to identify records in the custody of the ACT Government that may allow people to establish these links.

Employment initiatives

The ACT Government coordinates a Structured Training Employment Project. This is a Commonwealth funded project with a primary objective of more jobs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Funding is provided for packages of tailored assistance including structured and accredited training that enables employers to provide long-term jobs.

During the reporting year, 22 Structured Training Employment Project places were implemented across the ACT Public Service. As at 30 June 2003, 16 occupants remain in full time employment.

As a result of the successful implementation of the program in 2002-03, the program will be extended to cater for 25 new placements across the ACT Public Service in 2003-04.

Under this program, Environment ACT employs an Aboriginal Interpretation Officer and three trainee Aboriginal rangers. Environment ACT is also putting in place a number of training programs for members of the Ngunnawal Aboriginal community that will provide community members with enhanced skills and improved employment prospects. The programs include Walking Track Construction and Maintenance Skills; Cultural Interpretation and Presentation Skills; and Heritage Survey and Audit Skills.

Community Partnerships Program

Canberra Urban Parks and Places administers the Community Partnerships Program on behalf of the Department of Urban Services Social Policy Steering Committee. The steering committee consists of the Senior Executive of the Department and reports to the Department's Board of Management.

The Community Partnerships Program is a proactive program aimed at improving customer service within the Department of Urban Services while working towards addressing disadvantage in the Canberra community.

The program makes funding available for Urban Services agencies to work in partnership with identified groups, including Indigenous communities, to develop projects that complement and extend their core business. This partnership process is designed to encourage community participation in the design, planning and delivery of services provided by Urban Services, ensuring that the Department is inclusive and responds to the diversity of the Canberra community.

During 2002-03 the steering committee approved 16 diverse projects including two projects that enabled staff to work in close partnership with Indigenous people.

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