Jump to Content

Chapter 5 : Services to Indigenous communities

According to the 2001 Census, about 27 per cent of the Indigenous population lived in remote or very remote parts of Australia compared with only 2 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians (Australian Bureau of Statistics, October 2003). The Indigenous population is more widely dispersed than the general population, with approximately 90 per cent of Indigenous Australians living in areas covering 25 per cent of the continent, while 90 per cent of Australia's total population is contained within an area representing only 2.6 per cent of the continent (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002).

Living in remote areas increases the probability that people have difficulty accessing services such as education, health, reliable water and electricity supply, public transport, welfare, sewerage and rubbish disposal. The Atlas of Health-Related Infrastructure in discrete Indigenous communities (Bailie et al. 2002) based on data from the 1999 Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey (conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for ATSIC) provides a collection of information on discrete Indigenous communities. It indicates that there were 1223 discrete communities, 80 per cent of which were in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. About 880 of these communities had a population of less than 50, with a further 200 communities with populations between 50 and 200 people.

By far the majority of these discrete communities are in remote and very remote areas of Australia. For example, there are over 300 discrete communities that are more than 50 kilometres from the nearest primary school, nearly 390 communities where the nearest community health centre is more than 50 kilometres away, and over 900 communities where the nearest hospital is more than 50 kilometres away. Often the only access roads are unsealed and not passable year round.

The States and Territories are the primary providers of a range of services such as education, infrastructure, health and housing to the population as a whole. At the local level, local government is chiefly responsible for town planning, rubbish collection and disposal, provision and maintenance of local roads and community amenities, and in some States, local government is responsible for water and sewerage services. Local government revenue is primarily from rates, user charges and grants from the State or Territory government and the Australian Government.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs conducted an Inquiry into Capacity Building and Service Delivery in Indigenous Communities during 2003. At a hearing attended by the Department of Transport and Regional Services in September 2003, a number of questions were raised regarding provision of local government services to discrete Indigenous communities and the ability of local governments to charge rates on property occupied by Indigenous communities. In order to clarify the issue, the Department sought information from each State and the Northern Territory on the situation in each jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction responded except for New South Wales, which declined to provide a response. The questions put to each State and the Northern Territory and the responses provided are included in full in Appendix H.

The responses indicate that, while the situation varies between the States, in many instances local governments are either unable to impose rates on properties in Aboriginal communities, or are unwilling to do so because of the unclear nature of the legal status of the land. There is also a clear indication that in some States local government is responsible for providing services to all residents.

Reporting requirements

The Act requires an assessment, based on comparable national data, of the delivery of local government services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Performance measures have not been developed to assess performance of councils in providing services to Indigenous people, however, all States, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory provide reports on progress in this area.

Back to Top   

State reports

Full progress reports for 2003-04 from State agencies and for local government associations on provision of local government services to Indigenous communities are at Appendix H. A summary is provided below. These reports identify a range of priorities, strategies and actions, and a variety of differing approaches.

The New South Wales Department of Local Government continues to support Aboriginal Network Conferences. The host council is responsible for organising and running the conference. From 2004 conferences will be held annually.

Since 2000 the Department of Local Government has conducted surveys to collect data on specific Aboriginal and disability initiatives being undertaken by New South Wales councils. In 2004, the Department surveyed councils to obtain data for the year ending 31 December 2003 relating to a range of Aboriginal, disability and youth initiatives. The survey was expanded to gather additional information, such as Aboriginal community roads, reconciliation and Aboriginal cultural strategies, to help the Department meet various reporting requirements. These requirements include those relating to implementation of the New South Wales Government Aboriginal Affairs Policy Action Plan. A full report on the findings from the survey is expected to be available in 2005.

The Aboriginal Mentoring 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.

Local Government Aboriginal Advisory Committees aim to improve communication, understanding and trust between Aboriginal people and local government. These committees, in many local government areas, have helped resolve issues such as provision of water and sewerage services and development of appropriate cultural strategies.

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.

In Victoria local government awareness of Indigenous issues was heightened and strengthened by the sector's 2002 resource document, 'Toomnangi'. Councils generally now maintain a greater commitment to consideration of both the needs and the contributions of their Indigenous communities.

Local Government Victoria is aware of increasing engagement of representatives from Indigenous communities on consultative committees and reference groups established by councils. In the environment and heritage areas such representation is understood to be particularly effective.

In Queensland administrative responsibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island councils was transferred from the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy to the Department of Local Government, Planning, Sport and Recreation giving those councils direct access to the expertise of local government specialists in the new administering department.

In establishing genuine partnerships between government and Indigenous communities, community engagement measures include establishing Directors-General as Government Champions to formally support community participants in the Negotiation Table process and to coordinate the efforts of State and Australian Government agencies, Indigenous organisations and community groups to identify and address community needs.

Since the Negotiation Table process began in 2003, Government Champions have made over 70 visits to 22 Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to June 2004. Negotiation Tables have been convened in 15 communities. The Negotiation Table process is multi-staged and includes developing,
monitoring and reviewing a shared responsibility agreement, community development plan and community action plan.

In Western Australia the Department of Local Government and Regional Development is liaising with the Western Australian Local Government Association on a strategic approach to improve local government services to Indigenous people.

Specific initiatives designed to improve local government services to Indigenous communities include:

  • facilitating service agreements between local governments and relevant Indigenous communities
  • supporting the capacity building of elected Indigenous local government councillors
  • a leadership grant program
  • a public awareness program designed to maximise Indigenous participation in local government elections
  • supporting local government boundary adjustments to improve local government services to some Indigenous communities.

South Australia has been progressing the three- year strategic directions set out in the Local Councils Belong to Aboriginal People 2, June 2000 report. A number of significant milestones for South Australia have been achieved. During 2003-04 South Australia maintained the Intergovernmental Local Government- Aboriginal Network comprising representatives of a number of relevant organisations. The Network provides a structural mechanism to share information and foster a collaborative approach to improve local government outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander South Australians, by promoting shared strategic directions and effective working relationships between the three spheres of government.

South Australia has also advanced the Local Government-Indigenous Service Agreement project that aims to explore developing local service agreements in a collaborative manner. This approach seeks to promote the concept of local service agreements in relevant councils and landholding bodies in South Australia. As part of the project, a two-day workshop was held in October 2003. Workshop discussions raised policy issues, legislative matters and relationship issues relevant to service agreements. Based on workshop outcomes, the project team has moved into the second phase of the project and invited participants to further contribute to preparation of local service agreement guidelines for South Australia.

In Tasmania, the government continues a major program to negotiate partnership agreements with individual councils and regional groupings of local government across the State. As part of negotiating some agreements, the government seeks to promote links between local government and the Indigenous community. The aim is to identify key issues that affect Indigenous people in the local government area and develop strategies to address them.

The government has agreed with the Australian Government Department of Employment and Workplace Relations to undertake a Structured Training and Employment Project to continue to increase access by Indigenous people to employment in State and local government. It aims to employ a further 20 Indigenous people in the State public service and five with local government.

A cooperative and collaborative working relationship continues with the Australian Government to progress Tasmania's Council of Australian Governments' trial that is focusing on Aboriginal family violence. The trial is being conducted in the north-east of the State, and local government is engaged in the process. All the local governments involved in the trial region have shown good support for the trial.

In the Northern Territory the new Thamarrurr Regional Council is at the centre of national attention as one of COAG's integrated Indigenous Community Coordination Pilots. The objective of Indigenous Community Coordination Pilots is to try out new ways of improving service delivery and promoting development in Indigenous communities. This involves all spheres of government getting together and working with people to improve the wellbeing of Indigenous communities. In conjunction with this work, the Northern Territory Government is developing a proposal for broad regional structures that will provide for a more effective and efficient service delivery framework for small councils, particularly those in remote areas.

In the Australian Capital Territory the United Ngunnawal Elders Council advises the Chief Minister on Ngunnawal-specific cultural and heritage issues. The United Ngunnawal Elders Council held four meetings in 2003-04.

The Burringiri Association Inc. was the successful tenderer selected to manage the Australian Capital Territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre. The Government handed over the Cultural Centre to the Burringiri Association in April 2004. Burringiri officially reopened the Cultural Centre in NAIDOC Week 2004.

Development of the Australian Capital Territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnership Plan 2004-13 began in 2003-04, and incorporates a series of measures to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage. The report, Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2003 (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, November 2003), will be used as the framework for measuring outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Capital Territory.

The government provided funding for a public artwork in a prominent place to acknowledge the traditional owners of the Australian Capital Territory region; and for distribution of video material about family violence, and a program to address inequalities in use of the Internet and new telecommunications services across the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in the Australian Capital Territory.

Back to Top   

Australian Government expenditure and progress

Financial assistance grants to Indigenous councils

In 2003-04, 91 Indigenous councils were receiving financial assistance grants. Some of these councils are established under mainstream local government legislation of the State, such as Aurukun and Mornington Shires in Queensland and Ngaanyatjarraku in Western Australia. Others are established under separate State legislation such as the Deed of Grant in Trust councils in Queensland. The final group consists of those bodies that the Federal Minister, on advice from the State Minister, has 'declared' to be local governing bodies so they can receive financial assistance grants. Table 5.1 shows the distribution of Indigenous councils by State and by the way in which they have become eligible for the financial assistance grants.

In 2003-04, $24.93 million in financial assistance grants was provided to these 91 councils. The actual 2003-04 entitlements under this program for these councils are provided in Table H.1.

Table 5.1 Distribution of Indigenous councils, by eligibility type and by State, June 2004

State

Established
under State local
governmen
legislation
(no.)

Established under
separate State
legislation
(no.)

Declared local
governing bodies
(no.)

Total Indigenous
councils
(no.)

NSW

0

0

0

0

Vic.

0

0

0

0

Qld

2

32

0

34

WA

1

0

0

1

SA

0

0

5

5

Tas.

0

0

0

0

NT

26

1

24

51

Total

29

33

29

91

Source: Department of Transport and Regional Services, unpublished data.

Allocation of general purpose payments to mainstream councils in relation to their Indigenous population

Mainstream councils that have Indigenous people within their boundaries received some of the $1501 million in 2003-04 financial assistance grants funding in respect of these people. However, it is not possible to estimate the general purpose grants or the local road grants that were provided specifically for the Indigenous population.

In assessing grant need, Local Government Grants Commissions must comply with agreed distribution guidelines, called National Principles (see Appendix A), when they allocate financial assistance grants to councils. For the general purpose grants, Local Government Grants Commissions apply cost adjusters where it has been determined that the cost of providing a local government service is affected by a recognisable factor, such as demographic profile, remoteness, or climate.

In addition to a National Principle requiring grants commissions to allocate the general purpose grant on the basis of relative needs, Principle 5 relates specifically to Indigenous people:

5. Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders
Financial assistance shall be allocated to councils in a way, which recognises the needs of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders within their boundaries.

In complying with this National Principle, some Grants Commissions apply cost adjusters for the Indigenous population in assessing the cost of providing certain services. This may be the result of Indigenous people having a different average level of demand for certain services or there may be higher costs in delivering the service to Indigenous people, perhaps for language and/or cultural reasons. Grants Commissions also recognise that councils are often unable to charge rates for the land on which some Indigenous communities reside. This reduces the revenue these councils are able to raise.

In this way Grants Commissions should take into account the impact of Indigenous people on a council's finances, both in terms of reduced revenue received and higher expenditure requirements, when determining the financial assistance grant to be allocated to the council (see Appendix C for a detailed description of the treatment of the needs of Indigenous communities by grants commissions).

It may be possible for grants commissions to identify the additional level of financial assistance grant that individual mainstream councils receive in respect of Indigenous people. However, there would be conceptual difficulties in using these estimates as a measure of the financial assistance grants that mainstream councils actually received to provide local government services to Indigenous people. This is because the financial assistance grant funding is untied and the funding is being provided to give local governing bodies the capacity to provide a standard range and average quality of local government services. Whether that funding is used to achieve a particular outcome is up to the elected local governing bodies to determine.

Other financial assistance grant funding that can be identified as being for Indigenous communities

The Western Australian and South Australian Local Government Grants Commissions allocate part of their States' local road grants for Special Road Works (7 per cent in Western Australia and 15 per cent in South Australia). Although these funds are untied, councils in these States have accepted arrangements that appear to involve a degree of tying the funds.

In Western Australia, one-third of the Special Road Works funding is directed to councils to provide access roads for Indigenous communities. This funding is therefore in addition to the funding paid directly to Indigenous local governing bodies. Table 5.2 shows the funds for access roads to Indigenous communities provided to Western Australian councils in 2003-04.

Table 5.2 Funds for access roads to Indigenous communities, Western Australia

Council

Special project grants ($'000)

Broome

$162

Derby West Kimberley

$72

East Pilbara

$408

Halls Creek

$206

Kalgoorlie

$44

Laverton

$48

Wiluna

$30

Wyndham East Kimberley

$170

Total

$1 140

Source: Department of Transport and Regional Services, unpublished data.

National Awards for Local Government

The 2004 National Awards for Local Government included a category 'Strengthening Indigenous Communities', sponsored by the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services. This award aimed to highlight initiatives by local government and community councils that demonstrate innovation and/or excellence in their approach to increasing opportunities for Indigenous people to engage and participate in the affairs of the local community. It also aimed to highlight improving community governance and service delivery arrangements for Indigenous people.

There were 10 entries in this category. Projects entered in the category included:

  • establishing formal agreements and/or memorandums of understanding between local governments and the local Indigenous community
  • working in partnership to develop frameworks and strategies for improving service provision increasing involvement by Indigenous people in local government, community life and employment
  • progressing reconciliation issues
  • encouraging education and training opportunities for Indigenous people
  • establishing cultural and sporting events and projects.

The category winner was the City of Onkaparinga for its project, 'Kaurna urban design - a living culture'. The council and the local Kaurna community have adopted a new approach to Indigenous consultation with the incorporation of cultural heritage in the redesign of coastal foreshore parks. The approach moves beyond traditional consultation methods to acknowledge the value of traditional knowledge of the land and invest in the cultural heritage, language, artistic and urban design skills currently within the Kaurna community. It also acknowledges the role of the Kaurna community as traditional owners by contracting specialised skills to advise council on the care and control of land in culturally important areas. This approach was used in developing designs for three coastal foreshore upgrades at Christies Beach, Port Willunga and Moana.

A series of design workshops is used to translate the skills and knowledge of a Kaurna design team to provide an understanding of the context for the area and create a design for the area's upgrade. Designs acknowledge traditional land use and practices, movements, significant places and dreaming stories through recommended land use, configuration and design of parks, landscaping, seats, artworks, shelters, recreational areas, and trails. The process, which has focused on investing in the community's skills and in developing council's understanding of cultural heritage, has been a catalyst for adoption of a reconciliation agreement between four local councils, various cultural heritage bodies and the native title committee by facilitating partnerships and mutual trust between council and the Kaurna community.

Byron Shire Council, New South Wales, was awarded a commendation in the 'Strengthening Indigenous Communities' category for including, in its planning strategy, provisions for recognising and protecting Aboriginal interests in council decisions.

Some of the other award categories included projects and initiatives aimed at improving service provision and/or Indigenous peoples' participation in local government. See Appendix I for details on the 2004 National Awards for Local Government, including category winners.

Leading Practice Seminars

In the four years since inception of the Leading Practice Seminar series, hundreds of local government bodies across Australia have had the opportunity to share with councils entering the National Awards for Local Government. The seminars are a partnership between DOTARS and host councils, regional organisations of councils or local government associations.

In June 2004, Hobart City Council hosted the first Leading Practice Seminar devoted to addressing the issue of cultural diversity. One of the presenters at the Seminar was the Shire of Kojonup, which won the inaugural 'Strength in Diversity Award' (for a rural council) in the 2003 National Awards for Local Government.

Kojonup s community worked together to realise Kodja Place, a community reconciliation project and a pivotal expression of Kojonup's identity.

Kojonup is a town with a sizeable migrant population. The Kodja Place project sought to discuss the contribution made to the community by Noongars (local Indigenous people) and British, Italian and New Zealander immigrants equally. Kodja Place is an interpretive museum of local history that integrates Indigenous, pioneer, and more recent migrant settlement contributions to the local area. It was begun as a Shire of Kojonup Centenary of Federation project that aimed to be a local, regional and national tourist attraction, a focus for education and promotion of local Indigenous culture, and a stimulus to local business opportunities.

The centre now provides considerable local employment and training opportunities to local Noongar people. It was well planned, responsive to community needs, imaginative and consultative. As well as meeting their development and business goals, community engagement in the project has built the Shire's capacity and confidence to respond to its needs.

The Kodja Place project illustrates the role that local government can play as a leader in community development and social cohesion.

The Australian Government's new arrangements for Indigenous affairs

Following a comprehensive review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon. John Howard MP, and the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon. Amanda Vanstone, announced new national arrangements for delivery of programs and services to Indigenous people on 15 April 2004.

The reforms aim to achieve better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with new arrangements reflecting the lessons emerging from the COAG trials - see below.

Programs and services previously run by ATSIC and ATSIS are retained but are now delivered by mainstream government agencies. Funding for Australian Government Indigenous-specific programs continues to be quarantined for Indigenous-specific purposes and separately identified in budgets and annual reports.

The new Australian Government arrangements for Indigenous affairs have at their heart a whole-of-government approach to customised design and delivery of services and programs based on direct engagement with Indigenous Australians at the regional and local level. The approach is based on five key principles:

  • Collaboration - all Australian Government agencies will work together in a coordinated way.
  • Focus on regional need - the new Indigenous Coordination Centres work with regional networks of elected and representative Indigenous organisations. Together they will shape Australian Government investment in a region through negotiated Regional Partnership Agreements to guide Shared Responsibility Agreements at the local community level.
  • Flexibility - Program guidelines will no longer be treated as rigid rules, constraining innovation. Departmental allocations will be able to be moved between agencies, and between programs, to support good local strategies and whole-of-government objectives.
  • Accountability - There will be annual reporting on programs against a range of socioeconomic indicators designed to test the effectiveness of government services and the new arrangements.
  • Leadership - Strong leadership will be required to make the new arrangements work both within government and from the regional networks of elected and representative Indigenous organisations.

The Australian Government is strongly committed to ensuring the new arrangements work. It has established whole-of-government leadership at the highest level by establishing a Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs, supported by a Heads of Departments' Group.

The first operational structures are the network of 22 Indigenous Coordination Centres in regional and rural areas. These are whole-of-government offices, staffed by mainstream service delivery agencies and led by an officer of the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination.

The effective operation of Indigenous Coordination Centres will be the keystone to the success of the arrangements. The Indigenous Coordination Centre Team Leaders are helping to carve out a new role in flexible Australian Government service delivery arrangements.

Council of Australian Governments

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) met on 24 June 2004 and reaffirmed its continuing commitment to advancing reconciliation and addressing the social and economic disadvantages many Indigenous Australians experience.

COAG committed to cooperative approaches on policy and service delivery between agencies and to maintaining and strengthening government effort to address Indigenous disadvantage.

National Framework of Principles for Government Service Delivery to Indigenous Australians

To underpin government effort to improve cooperation in addressing Indigenous disadvantage, COAG agreed to a National Framework of Principles for Government Service Delivery to Indigenous Australians. The principles address sharing responsibility, harnessing the mainstream, streamlining service delivery, establishing transparency and accountability, developing a learning framework and focusing on priority areas. COAG committed to Indigenous participation at all levels and a willingness to engage with representatives, adopting flexible approaches and providing adequate resources to support capacity at the local and regional levels.

These principles will provide a common framework between governments that promotes maximum flexibility to ensure tailored responses and help to build stronger partnerships with Indigenous communities. They also provide a framework to guide bilateral discussions between the Australian Government and each State and Territory government on the new Australian Government arrangements for Indigenous affairs and on the best means of engaging with Indigenous people at the local and regional levels. Governments will consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their efforts to achieve this.

Reconciliation Framework

In November 2000 COAG adopted a framework for reconciliation and directed Ministerial Councils to develop action plans, performance reporting strategies and benchmarks to advance reconciliation and to report to it annually on progress in promoting reconciliation.

At its Perth meeting on 13 February 2004 the Local Government and Planning Ministers' Council considered a draft 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reconciliation Action Plan'. The Council endorsed the draft action plan and supported continuing work on the plan, reaffirming the need for practical approaches to address this important challenge. However, at its meeting on 25 June 2004 COAG decided that, while Ministerial Councils should continue to address reconciliation issues, they are no longer required to report to COAG against action plans. In the light of this decision, the Local Government and Planning Ministers' Council will need to consider what work will be undertaken in relation to the draft action plan.

Council of Australian Governments trials

The National Framework of Principles for Government Service Delivery to Indigenous Australians also build on the promising early progress of the whole-of-government trials of new ways of working with Indigenous communities. Following its April 2002 meeting COAG entered into partnerships with local Indigenous communities in eight sites across Australia. The Council reaffirmed its strong commitment to supporting the trials and to supporting participating communities. It will continue to work through the processes agreed at each site and to improve cooperation between all spheres of government. It will adequately support and resource community participation in the trials and pursue innovation and flexibility in government policy, programs and service delivery to be able to respond to community-identified issues and directions. The trials provide an important opportunity to identify what works, what does not work and to make those lessons available more broadly.

For the trials, governments agreed to work in partnership with Indigenous communities to support them to develop and implement long-lasting solutions to local problems. COAG agreed priority actions in three areas:

  • investing in community leadership initiatives
  • reviewing and re-engineering programs and services to ensure they deliver practical measures that support families, children and young people; in particular, governments agreed to look at measures for tackling family violence, drug and alcohol dependency and other symptoms of community dysfunction
  • forging greater links between the business sector and Indigenous communities to help promote economic independence.

Through discussions and consultations with Indigenous communities around the country, eight trial sites have been identified. They are Cape York in Queensland, Wadeye in the Northern Territory, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands in South Australia, the East Kimberley region in Western Australia (see 'COAG East Kimberley trial'), Shepparton in Victoria, Murdi Paaki in New South Wales and the Indigenous communities in both Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

COAG East Kimberley trial

DOTARS is the lead Australian Government agency in the COAG Western Australia East Kimberley project and, in partnership with the Western Australian Department of Indigenous Affairs and the Halls Creek Shire Council, has taken a lead role in coordinating government agencies and working with Indigenous communities in the region.

There are five discrete Indigenous communities involved in the COAG Western Australia East Kimberley trial - Wirrimanu (Balgo), Yakka Yakka, Mulan, Mindibungu (Billiluna) and Kundat Djaru (Ringers Soak) - with approximately 1500 people in a site that covers 39 500 square kilometres. The trial area includes all of the lands of the Tjurabalan Native Title Determined Area, granted in 2001, recognising the rights and interests in land of approximately 950 Walmadjeri, Nyininy and Djaru traditional owners.

Communities participating in the COAG Western Australia East Kimberley trial have been able to access budgeted funds to initiate a wide range of projects aimed at building capacity and improving social and economic wellbeing in the communities. There has been a particular focus on governance, housing, nutrition and health.

More recently, the Lingiari Foundation Inc. completed a major scoping, profiling and planning study of the Munjurla region during 2003-04. The aim of the Munjurla study was to establish a physical, social, cultural, environmental, economic and governance profile of the trial region and the communities within that region. Its intent is to provide a series of recommendations and options that will provide a framework for developing a comprehensive agreement between the people within the region and all spheres of government.

Other Australian Government initiatives that have occurred within the COAG Western Australia East Kimberley trial site during 2003-04 include:

  • Establishing a Community Initiatives Coordinator position to progress the project at a community level. An officer started in June 2003, based in the Halls Creek Shire Council Chambers. The key responsibility of the position is to support a whole-of-government approach to doing business with communities in the region (funded by DOTARS).
  • Planning for a 'Community Safety - Grog and Justice' summit, which took place at Mulan in September 2004. Members of all communities in the project site participated, with groups in each community now developing individual community plans.
  • Establishing an Interim Community Reference Group to help with community governance and overall decision making during the project. The group comprises two representatives from each community, the chairperson of the Tjurabalan Native Title Land Aboriginal Corporation (holders of the native title in the region), and senior representatives of the Wunan Regional Council, the Halls Creek Shire Council, DOTARS and the Department of Indigenous Affairs.
  • Appointing two Community Consulting Agents from each community who are undergoing a training program with a view to providing communities with an avenue for having a 'voice' within the trial process (funded by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations).
  • Installing temporary accommodation and administration centres in Balgo and Billiluna (funded by DOTARS).
  • Appointing a dedicated project officer within the Kimberley Land Council to support and develop the capacity of the people in the COAG Western Australia East Kimberley site to engage effectively as partners with government under the COAG trial (funded by the Department of Family and Community Services).
  • Announcing funding to support a 'Fixing Houses for Better Health' initiative and development of a 'Regional Stores Strategy' (funded by the Department of Family and Community Services).

The first year of the COAG Western Australia East Kimberley trial has proven that a key issue for participating communities is fulfilling their desire to take responsibility for managing and long-term planning of their communities, within a safe and healthy environment. It is these three themes that will be the focus of the trial over the coming year.

Family violence and child protection

The extent of family violence and child abuse among Indigenous families continues to be a matter of grave concern for governments and for Indigenous communities.

All governments agree that preventing family violence and child abuse in Indigenous families is a priority that requires national action. Jurisdictions will work cooperatively to improve how they engage with each other and work in partnership with Indigenous communities to tackle this issue under a new National Framework on Indigenous Family Violence and Child Protection. Bilateral arrangements to underpin this important work will be settled with all jurisdictions during 2004-05. The Australian and Northern Territory governments have already agreed to implement two new measures - community patrols and anti-violence education for Indigenous young people - as part of their biĀ­ lateral partnership commitment.

Negotiations between the Australian and Victorian governments to trial family healing centres and men's time-out facilities, and between the Australian and Queensland governments to test a 'safe haven' approach to preventing Indigenous family violence, are well advanced. Negotiations will continue with all jurisdictions.

The Tasmanian COAG trial is focusing on Aboriginal family violence.

Back to Top