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Appendix H : Progress reports on improvements in service provisions 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. In addition, responses by State departments responsible for local government to questions on access by discrete Indigenous communities to local government services are provided. Minor editorial changes, not affecting the meaning, have been made to the State and Territory reports. Table H.1, at the end of this appendix, lists the financial assistance grants to each of the 91 Indigenous councils.

New South Wales

Department of Local Government

Local Government Aboriginal Network

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. Until 2003, conferences were held biannually. From 2004 onwards, conferences are being held annually. The 2004 conference was held in September.

Social Justice Initiatives Survey

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, about 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 (including those relating to implementation of the New South Wales Government Aboriginal Affairs Policy Action Plan). It is anticipated that the full report on the findings from the survey will be available in 2005.


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, sharing ideas and a forum for discussing local government related issues.

As at 31 December 2003, of 143 (out of a total of 172) councils that responded to the Social Justice Initiatives Survey 2004, 56 councils reported having a role in reconciliation groups in their area.

Aboriginal Mentoring Program

This program provides an opportunity for Aboriginal community members to gain 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.

As at 31 December 2003, of 143 (out of a total of 172) councils that responded to the Social Justice Initiatives Survey 2004, 20 councils reported having implemented the Aboriginal Mentoring Program and 47 Aboriginal people had participated in the program.

Local Government Aboriginal Advisory Committees

The function of the Local Government Aboriginal Advisory Committees is 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.

As at 31 December 2003, of 143 (out of a total of 172) councils that responded to the Social Justice Initiatives Survey 2004, 68 councils reported having established Aboriginal advisory or consultative committees.

Cultural Strategies

Local councils provide support for development and implementation of various Aboriginal cultural strategies.

As at 31 December 2003, of 143 (out of a total of 172) councils that responded to the Social Justice Initiatives Survey 2004, 34 councils have employed an Aboriginal Community Development or Liaison Officer; 92 have helped with cultural exhibitions, events or programs; and 67 have helped Aboriginal communities develop or deliver cultural programs within their communities.

Social Plans

Under the Local Government Act 1993 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 and formulates strategies that council and/or other agencies could facilitate or implement to address identified needs. The Social Plan identifies specific policies and action plans for seven mandatory target groups, which includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Through this process, councils may identify issues and services they could be addressing in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. A review in 1999 found that 93 per cent of the first council social/ community plans identified and addressed the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Councils that did not do this were advised accordingly by the department.

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 plans would 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. In 2004, two brochures to complement the publications were prepared and distributed to all councils - one brochure was aimed at councillors, General Managers and other senior council staff; the other was aimed at community members. The brochures have been translated into seven languages - Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese. Both publications and the brochures 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.

New South Wales Government Aboriginal Affairs Policy

The New South Wales Government has developed a plan for action, 'Two Ways Together, Partnerships: a new way of doing business with Aboriginal people', to improve service delivery by both State and local government to Aboriginal people. The CEOs Group on Aboriginal Affairs and the New South Wales Department of Aboriginal Affairs coordinated development of the plan. The Department of Local Government is represented on a number of working groups established to develop and monitor the implementation of specific action plans concerning such areas as heritage and culture; housing and infrastructure; and families, children and young people. Services listed 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, information technology, and heritage and cultural strategies.


Department for Victorian Communities

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.

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.

Local Government Victoria 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 understood to be 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.


Department of Local Government, Planning, Sport and Recreation

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Councils

A decision was made to transfer administrative responsibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island councils 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.

New legislation was being developed which would establish the 15 Aboriginal councils as shire councils and move them to the legislative framework for mainstream local governments.

The Community Governance Improvement Strategy, with a budget of $16.6 million over four years, was developed to help Aboriginal and Island councils improve their operations so they can deliver effective local government services to their community and improve compliance with relevant legislation. The strategy will be implemented from 2004-05.

The Queensland Government has established genuine partnerships between government and Indigenous communities. The community engagement measures include allocating 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 more than 70 visits to 22 Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to June2004. 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.

Western Australia

Department of Local Government and Regional Development

Local Government Service Delivery

The Western Australian Government views the abolition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS) and the inter- government negotiations on Indigenous affairs as an opportunity to improve local government services to Indigenous communities 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 in the context of the bilateral negotiations.

The department is pursuing a number of specific initiatives designed to improve local government services to Indigenous communities. These include:

  • Facilitating service agreements between local governments and relevant Indigenous communities. This involves a whole- of-government approach to negotiating Indigenous community service agreements with local governments. This issue has come into greater prominence since ATSIS was abolished and federal Indigenous programs have been incorporated into mainstream portfolios.
  • Supporting the capacity building of elected Indigenous local government councillors through peer support and development strategies.
  • Implementing a leadership grant program of which a significant proportion is allocated to Indigenous capacity building. This program is linked to encouraging Indigenous people to participate in local government.
  • Implementing a public awareness program, in partnership with the Australian Electoral Commission, designed to maximise Indigenous participation in local government elections.
  • Supporting local government boundary adjustments, where appropriate, to improve local government services to some Indigenous communities.

South Australia

Department for Transport and Urban Planning

Strategic context

Progressing the three-year strategic directions set out in the report entitled Local Councils Belong to Aboriginal People 2, June 2000, has resulted in achievement of a number of significant milestones for South Australia and these have been reported upon since 2000-01.

During 2003-04 South Australia maintained the Intergovernmental Local Government/ Aboriginal Network which comprises representatives from the State Office of Local Government (convenor), the Local Government Association of South Australia, the Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, the South Australian Local Government Grants Commission, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (South Australia), the Aboriginal Policy Officers' Network (two nominees) and the Social Inclusion Unit, Department of the Premier and Cabinet.

First established in 2001, the network provides a structural mechanism to share information and foster a collaborative approach to improved 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 in 2003-04. This project, jointly funded by the State Government (through Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation and the Office of Local Government) and the Local Government Association, is essentially aimed at exploring the notion of local service agreements in a collaborative manner. The project seeks to promote the concept of local service agreements and to consider approaches to applying the agreements amongst relevant councils and landholding bodies in South Australia.

As part of the project, a two-day workshop was held on 22-23 October 2003. Chaired by South Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) Zone Commissioner, the workshop was attended by representatives of ATSIC Regional Councils, the Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, the Office of Local Government, the Local Government Association, the Aboriginal Lands Trust and the South Australian Local Government Grants Commission. Workshop discussions raised policy issues, legislative matters and relationship issues relevant to service agreements. These included roads and rating on Aboriginal Lands Trust land, representation, alignment of respective strategic plans and the role of councils in fostering harmonious relations within the wider council area. Participants also profiled good practice initiatives. Based on the workshop outcomes, the project team has moved into Phase 2 of the project and invited participants to further contribute to preparing local service agreement guidelines for South Australia.

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


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 them. Broadly, the topics covered include:

  • developing 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
  • taking measures to enhance economic development and employment opportunities for Aboriginal people.

In acknowledging the vital role that Aboriginal people can play in State and local government and with the added advantage of achieving equity in the labour market for Aboriginal people, the department has agreed with the Commonwealth Department of Employment and Workplace Relations to undertake a Structured Training and Employment Project to continue to increase Aboriginal access 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 and Torres Strait Islander people in the State 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 (COAG) trial that is focusing on Aboriginal family violence. The trial is being conducted in the north of the State and local government will be engaged in the process. The Launceston City Council has shown good support for the trial.

Northern Territory

Department of Community Development Sport and Cultural Affairs

The current service delivery framework in remote areas primarily consists of local councils that service small, scattered Indigenous communities: these councils are struggling to maintain some form of autonomy and are subject to decreasing levels of financial support.

The failure rate is very high and they have, in the main, developed a huge dependency on resident non-Aboriginal staff and government agencies for their basic survival. A proposal for broad regional structures that would provide for a more effective and efficient service delivery framework for the small councils is now being developed.

The new Thamarrurr Regional Council is at the centre of national attention as one of the COAG 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 communities.

Local Government Association of the Northern Territory

The Association has 63 member councils, the overwhelming majority (49) of which could be termed 'Indigenous' in the sense that their elected members are Indigenous and the majority of people they service are Indigenous residents. The bulk of the Association's services are delivered to these councils. Without doubt the Association has been able to provide a higher- level service to these councils during 2003-04 compared to previous years. This has been achieved with the assistance of grant monies from both the Australian and Northern Territory governments in areas relating to information technology and human resource management.

Australian Capital Territory

Department of Urban Services

United Ngunnawal Elders Council

The United Ngunnawal Elders Council was established in 2002. This council comprises 12 Ngunnawal family representatives. Each family also has an alternative representative who can attend meetings if the Elder is unable to do so. The Council advises the ACT Chief Minister on Ngunnawal-specific cultural and heritage issues. The Council held four meetings in 2003-04.

The first Ngunnawal newsletter was prepared in July 2002 and widely distributed. Two issues of the newsletter were distributed in 2003-04.

The 'Welcome to Country' ceremonies are conducted as a sign of respect for the traditional owners of a particular Aboriginal Country. The Ngunnawal people are the traditional owners and custodians of the ACT and surrounding area. ACT Government agencies are encouraged to conduct 'Welcome to Country' ceremonies prior to official events and/or functions within the ACT.

ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre

The Burringiri Association Inc. was the successful tenderer selected to manage the Aboriginal Cultural Centre. The ACT Government handed over the Cultural Centre to the Burringiri Association in April 2004. Burringiri officially reopened the Cultural Centre in NAIDOC Week 2004.

ACT COAG Trial - ACT Shared Responsibility Agreement

The ACT Government, the Australian Government, the former ATSIC and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in the ACT signed a Shared Responsibility Agreement on 15 April 2004.

ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Publications

Key publications have been produced including an ACT Directory of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Resources 2004, a 2004 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diary with contacts and messages on family violence, and a 2004 calendar.

ACT Government Partnership Plan 2004-13

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


The ACT Government allocated $100 000 in the 2003-04 Budget for a public artwork in a prominent place acknowledging the traditional owners of the ACT region.

Family violence

Videos on family violence were distributed to a range of shelters throughout the ACT and region. A number of small family violence grants were provided for the Aboriginal and Torres Islander organisation to address family violence issues.

Digital divide

An ACT Digital Divide program was established to address inequalities in the use of the Internet and new telecommunications services across the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in the ACT.

Local government services to discrete Indigenous communities

At a hearing of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Inquiry into Capacity Building and Service Delivery in Indigenous Communities attended by the Department of Transport and Regional Services in September 2003, a number of questions were raised about 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 of Transport and Regional Services approached each State and the Northern Territory for answers to the following questions:

  1. In your State, are there discrete Indigenous communities located within the boundary of a council but located separately from the non-Indigenous community?
  2. If so, is the council, within whose boundary the discrete Indigenous community is located, responsible for providing local government services to the community?
  3. If the council is responsible for providing these services,
    1. are there any legislative provisions or other reasons that prevent the council charging these Indigenous community council rates or levying a charge for services?
    2. if the Indigenous community is not receiving local government services, what avenues are open to the community to seek to have this situation addressed? If the council is not responsible for providing these services, who is?
  4. If the situation in your State does not neatly fit into this set of questions, would you please outline the arrangements in your State.

The following answers were provided, and are given here in full:

New South Wales

The New South Wales Department of Local Government did not provide a response.


Question 1: Yes, Victoria's Indigenous population is largely urbanised, but there are two small, discrete Indigenous communities - Lake Tyers Settlement in the municipality of East Gippsland Shire and Framlingham Aboriginal Settlement in the municipality of Moyne Shire.

Question 2: Yes, a council is responsible under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1989 (s.6(c)). The Act states that the purposes of a council include to 'provide equitable and appropriate services and facilities for the community'. The Schedule of functions of a council is broad, covering human, property, land use, emergency, welfare and general municipal functions and not excluding Indigenous or any other demographic group.

In practice, while the council is responsible for municipal services, with there being Aboriginal cooperatives, trusts and some dedicated welfare services in place, it is reported practice that Indigenous people prefer to approach such specific entities for services because of their tending to deliver services in more culturally appropriate and accessible ways. With Indigenous people thus exercising such a preference, both local governments tend to provide back-up and emergency services to the two discrete Indigenous communities.

Moyne and East Gippsland Shire Councils report that there is no differentiation in the range of municipal services available across their municipalities, with the exception of no garbage collection within Moyne's Framlingham settlement.

Question 3(a): No, there are no such legislated provisions. Under the Local Government Act 1989 all land is rateable except for certain specified classes of land which include land vested in trustees appointed under an Act to hold the land in trust for public or municipal purposes, and land used exclusively for charitable/ benevolent purposes.

Under the Act, councils have the capacity to waive rates or give exemptions on the basis of hardship. From a 2002 survey of all Victorian councils it is reported that both hardship and benevolent status rate exemptions to Indigenous properties have been given.

In the case of East Gippsland Shire and the Lake Tyers Settlement, the council has advised that rates are levied on a concessional basis, using a conservative valuation base, thus recognising both historical practice as well as some disadvantage of the settlement.

Question 3(b): Both councils report that their services are openly available to all within their respective municipalities, despite some tendency of the discrete Indigenous communities to prefer services provided from Aboriginal-specific sources. Local consultation and informal arrangements between representatives of the Indigenous communities and the councils around provision of municipal services tends to be the more effective avenue to redress any service deficiency.

Question 4: While the municipal councils formally retain responsibility, Aboriginal cooperatives, organisations and trusts have assumed much of the responsibility, in practice, in response to the preferences expressed by their communities.

Other comments: In Victoria, with the Indigenous population at approximately 0.46 per cent (min.) of the total population, only seven of the 79 local governments have a reported Indigenous population in excess of 1 per cent. In short, the Indigenous population is comparatively small (~23 000) and mainly dispersed as individual households in urban and regional centres.

Prevailing arrangements - as understood from enquiries of the relevant councils:

1. East Gippsland Shire Council

Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust was formed in 1970, with the Lake Tyers Aboriginal settlement working towards self-sufficiency. Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Cooperative was established in 1975 to develop and provide medical and cultural facilities and services.

2. Moyne Shire Council

Framlingham Aboriginal Community is a self-contained community on land to which the Framlingham Trust was granted trusteeship under the Aboriginal Lands Act 1970. The Trust provides most of the services needed by this self- sufficient Indigenous community.

Moyne Shire Council maintains an arterial road leading to the community, as well as dollar-for-dollar grants for community works.

The individual landholders within the settlement pay municipal rates. Exception is made regarding the garbage collection charge as there is no collection and this fee is deducted. There have been unsuccessful applications by the Trust for rates relief on the basis of benevolent status, but the council determined that such status did not apply as any benevolence provided was not available to the whole municipality. Although rate relief hardship applications would be considered, Moyne reports that no such applications from Framlingham property owners have been made.


Question 1: Most discrete Indigenous communities in Queensland receive local government services from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander local governments established under the Community Services Acts or the two Shire councils (Aurukun and Mornington) established under the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Act.

However, there are also a number of generally small discrete Indigenous communities that exist within the jurisdiction of 'mainstream' local governments established under the Local Government Act. A similar situation can also exist within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander local government areas, for example, Bentinck Island near Mornington Island.

Almost all these small communities are situated on land reserved for Aboriginal purposes (Aboriginal reserves) that is not rateable land. Jumbun community in the Cardwell Shire area is an exception, being freehold land held by a company. Some reserves are in the process of being transferred under the Aboriginal Land Act 1991 whereupon that land used for residential or commercial purposes will become rateable.

Examples of discrete Indigenous communities considered in the preparation of this advice include Jumbun in Cardwell, Mona Mona in Mareeba Shire, Mossman Gorge in Douglas, Port Stewart in Cook, Gregory Downs in Bourke and Marmanya in Boulia.

Question 2: Other than those responsibilities that are specifically devolved to local governments by the State, local governments are not required to provide services commonly recognised as local government services in the sense that the services must be provided.

Generally the Indigenous communities in question are under the jurisdiction of remote rural local governments that have small service populations spread over a large area and consequently the local governments do not always have the financial capacity to provide the necessary infrastructure in order to adequately deliver basic local government services to all small population settlements. The Local Government Act does allow local governments to charge a utility fee to cover the cost of providing a service and therefore could charge the trustee of a reserve (for example the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy or a community organisation vested with the trusteeship) but obviously the necessary infrastructure needs to be in place first.

The situation is complicated further by the fact that most of these small discrete Indigenous communities have large seasonal fluctuations in population. For example the population of Port Stewart in Cook Shire on Cape York may fluctuate in the region of six to 50 residents over the course of a year.

Combined response to Questions 3 and 4:

Generally speaking, local government services provided to these communities are limited to the maintenance of access roads. Other local government services (refuse collection, water, sewerage (that is, septic tank maintenance) is usually provided by a community-based organisation using ATSIS funding (Community Development Employment Projects, Outstation funding, etc).

Some local governments have sought to develop Integrated Planning Act planning schemes for discrete Indigenous communities within their jurisdiction. For example, Mareeba Shire for Mona Mona and Cook Shire for Mapoon (before it became an Aboriginal council area).

Mossman Gorge has a population of about 300. The Douglas Shire manages the water supply, provides a refuse collection service and maintains the access road. The community uses septic tanks that are maintained by the community.

At Jumbun the land in question is freehold and thus rateable. The community has a population of about 300 and includes a banana farm and a cane farm. The Cardwell Shire maintains the access road, provides a weekly refuse collection service and also provides a grave digging service.

Although, not wholly Indigenous, Prince of Wales Island in the Torres Shire has a population of approximately 100, about half of whom are Indigenous. Residential land is a mixture of freehold and leasehold and is thus rateable. The Torres Shire maintains some roads and provides a refuse collection service for most residents. Residents also have access to the services provided by the Torres Shire on Thursday Island (for example, a library).

The pattern for the delivery of local government services to discrete Indigenous communities seems to be that if local governments are able to provide local government services, they do.

Western Australia

Question 1: In Western Australia there are approximately 300 discreet Indigenous communities of varying populations that are located separately from the non-Indigenous communities. The majority of these communities are located north of the 26th parallel.

Question 2: Section 3.1 of the Local Government Act 1995 makes each local government responsible for the provision of good governance of all people in its district. Each local government is responsible to provide municipal services to all people within their boundary.

Question 3(a): No, but there is a perception that the tenure of the land on which most communities exist prohibits the imposition of rates. Section 6.26 of the Local Government Act 1995 enables communities to seek exemption of rates due to their charitable nature and many have sought such exemption. Where leases have not been provided, the Aboriginal Lands Trust, as a Crown instrument, is automatically exempt from rates but not service charges.

Question 3(b): Overall, there is no doubt that most remote Indigenous communities receive a significantly lower standard of local government services than would be available in the major towns but the local governments argue that they simply do not have the funds available and the questions over land tenure are such that they cannot provide the facilities.

Such communities would have every right to approach their local government for provision of services and facilities but most would be rejected on the basis that the local government does not have the funds to provide such services. Land tenure is often an issue in that the communities are not located on gazetted town sites and therefore ownership of local government facilities could be disputed. Under such circumstances local governments are not prepared to commit to significant capital outlays for facilities such as recreation grounds or swimming pools. Responsibility for roads within communities may also be questioned but most local governments maintain the access roads to the communities.

ATSIS, in partnership with the Western Australian Aboriginal Health Service, provides direct funding support for many remote Indigenous communities and often this funding incorporates provision for 'municipal services'. This phrase can be a misnomer in that the funding is for a wider range of issues than traditional local government services in such communities. On this basis, ATSIS funding for 'municipal services' can appear larger than it really is.

The Western Australian Local Government Grants Commission recognises the greater needs of local governments that contain discrete Indigenous communities in terms of both revenue and expenditure disadvantages but there is insufficient funds to fully compensate the local governments for the higher net costs of these communities.

Question 4: As stated above, local government has the responsibility but has insufficient resources and uncertain ownership. ATSIS and other agencies have tried to fill the gap where possible. Local government would and could do the job if funded so, ATSIS funding, if it is to continue, needs to be better directed, perhaps through local governments. This would have a dual benefit of stimulating local governments to provide more to the Indigenous communities and enable direct access by the communities to the local government expertise of such things as administration and engineering.

South Australia

Context: There are 74 local governing bodies, giving the entire State a local governing presence, made up of:

  • 68 local government councils under the Local Government Act 1999
  • 6 other local governing bodies prescribed for the purposes of receiving grants under the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995.

Five of the six local governing bodies, are Indigenous local governing bodies responsible for delivering local government type services to their communities. They are:

  • Anangu Pitjantjatjara, incorporated by the Pitjantjatjara Lands Rights Act 1981
  • Maralinga Tjarutja Lands, incorporated by the Maralinga Tjarutja Lands Rights Act 1984
  • three Aboriginal Community Councils, outside of the areas of the Local Government Act and administered within the terms of the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 1966, which are:
    • Nepabunna Community Council
    • Gerard Community Council
    • Yalata Community Council.

The sixth local governing body is the Outback Areas Community Development Trust, established by the Outback Areas Community Development Trust Act 1978. The area covered by the Trust includes pastoral areas as well as townships in outback areas. There are 36 (township) Progress Associations located in the Trust's area that provide local government type services to their communities.

Each of the six local governing bodies has different statutory arrangements, organisational structures and local government service delivery arrangements. All receive funding through the South Australian Local Government Grants Commission to deliver 'local government type services' to their communities and are accountable and report to the Grants Commission for their funding.

Metropolitan area: In the metropolitan area, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are dispersed throughout the community.

Regional areas: In country/regional South Australia, there are five 'discrete' Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities residing on Aboriginal Lands Trust land (under the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 1966), which are within local government council areas, as follows:

  • Goreta District Council of Yorke Peninsula
  • Raukkan Coorong District Council
  • Koonibba District Council of Ceduna
  • Davenport City of Port Augusta
  • Umoona District Council of Coober Pedy.

Local service agreement project: A local service agreement project (stemming from the Local Councils Belong to Aboriginal People 2, August 2000 report) seeks to explore, in a collaborative manner, the notion of local service agreements between the Aboriginal community landholders on Aboriginal Lands Trust land within a local government council area and the relevant local government council. It seeks to consider approaches to application and development of an approach to service agreements in South Australia and position parties to develop agreements should they wish to do so.

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

As part of the project, an Adelaide workshop was convened on 22-23 October 2003. The workshop was attended by representatives of four of the five areas, representatives of both Aboriginal landholders and the respective councils. The workshop was also attended by representatives of ATSIC, ATSIS, Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, Office of Local Government, Local Government Association of South Australia, the Aboriginal Lands Trust, and the South Australian Local Government Grants Commission. The workshop generated a productive learning environment to openly discuss issues with those who have an interest in local service agreements.

Within this context the following response is forwarded to the questions

Question 1: Yes. Five, see 'Regional areas' above.

Question 2: Yes, but the land has private land status under the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 1966. For example, roads not owned by a council, but which are freely accessible to the public, are regarded as private roads* under the Local Government Act (*see also 3(a)).

Question 3(a): The question has two parts:

  • on rates, the Aboriginal Lands Trust is established as a South Australian statutory authority and subject to the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act, the land, other than that used for domestic premises, is not rateable.
  • on levying a charge for services, using the example of roads* above: for roads not owned by a council, but which are freely accessible to the public, subject to the Local Government Act, councils can carry out road works to a private road, with agreement of the owner; and recover the cost of agreed road works to a private road from the owner.

Question 3(b): See 2 above.

Question 4: South Australian Local Government Councils do not deliver power or water services. However, in South Australia the geographically remote District Council of Coober Pedy is the exception and provides power and water throughout its area.

Water: The District Council of Coober Pedy is unique in that it operates and maintains the bore field, desalination plant, storage and reticulation systems for all of its local government council area. Prior to this water had to be trucked in. Within the 'discrete' Umoona landholding area, the State Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation is responsible for maintenance of the water supply reticulation. The District Council of Coober Pedy delivers water to the Umoona landholders through a single meter at the landholders' boundary.

Power: Electricity to Umoona is supplied from the Coober Pedy town system. The District Council of Coober Pedy carries out all supply, reticulation, maintenance and upgrading work. Metering is installed to consumer facilities and the Coober Pedy Council administers the electricity accounts.


Question 1: Cape Barren Island has a discrete Indigenous community. It lies within the boundary of the Flinders Council but is located separately from the non-Indigenous community. The Indigenous population is estimated to be 50 to 60 and there are four non-Aborigines on the Island.

Question 2: The Flinders Council provides the Cape Barren Islanders with roads, waste disposal (tip site), building services etc. With the logistics and expense of servicing an island, plant and equipment necessary to carry out the required works are sent over to the Island every couple of years. The Islanders maintain their own water supply and sewerage system which was funded through a Commonwealth grant. The Islanders also maintain their tip site. The Commonwealth Government also funded the power generation facility on the Island.

Question 3(a): Rates are payable on Cape Barren Island. Under section 87 of the Local Government Act 1993 Aboriginal land, within the meaning of the Aboriginal Lands Act 1995, which is used principally for Aboriginal cultural purposes, is exempt from general and separate rates. There is only a small section of Aboriginal land on Cape Barren Island which is a considerable distance from the community.

Question 3(b): The community has a number of approaches to gain services not currently supplied. They can:

  • approach council directly
  • approach council through ATSIC
  • approach the Office of Aboriginal Affairs of the Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • raise the issue at a Local Government Board Review of the council. The Local Government Board's guidelines include the relationship between the council and its Indigenous community
  • encourage council to include the issues in a schedule of a Partnership Agreement with the State government. Indigenous issues are addressed in Partnership Agreements, where relevant.

Question 4: The Commonwealth Government funds the water supply for Cape Barren Island.

Northern Territory

Combined answers to Questions 1 and 2:

In the main, the answer is no. In the Northern Territory, nearly all discrete Indigenous communities of over 300-400 people in rural and remote areas have their own local government councils which are incorporated either under the Northern Territory Local Government Act or under Northern Territory or Commonwealth Associations Acts and are recognised as local government bodies for the purpose of local government funding. These councils deliver local government services to their own people.

There are approximately 50 such local government councils elected by and serving Indigenous communities. This number will be reduced as smaller councils are replaced by Regional Authorities, on a voluntary basis, to provide regional approaches to governance and service delivery in accordance with the strategic policy direction of the government.

There are also Aboriginal Urban Living Areas in each major regional centre (Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek) that are managed by elected Aboriginal Management Committees and financed primarily by ATSIS with some funding assistance also from the Northern Territory Government. These areas fall within the boundaries of municipal councils and may be considered as discreet communities, up to a point. The municipal councils do not deliver local government services within these leases. The incorporated Management Committees are funded to deliver their own internal services.

However, outside the lease areas, the people have access to all the services provided to the rest of the city or town community, such as the roads, reserves, the dump, sporting and recreation facilities, libraries etc. and participate, to varying degrees, in the life of the town. So the situation differs considerably from the discrete communities in rural and remote areas that have their own local government councils providing an entire range of services.

Question 3(a): The municipal councils are not able to charge rates on Aboriginal Urban Living Areas as the governing committees responsible for the leases have 'benevolent institution' status.

Question 3(b): As in the answer to Question 1, services are not provided within the leases but all local government services provided to the general community outside the lease areas are accessible to the residents of Aboriginal Urban Living Areas. Current governance arrangements over lease areas currently preclude the issue from being easily addressed. Although it is an historically untidy situation, going back to the time of Northern Territory Self Government when certain aspects of Indigenous affairs were retained by the Commonwealth, the dual arrangements for Aboriginal Urban Living Area residents seem to work satisfactorily for them.

Question 4: Answer contained in response to Question 1.

Table H.1 Financial assistance grant entitlements to Indigenous councils for 2003-04


Council name

General purpose








433 136

77 195

510 331


Badu Island

471 423

26 292

497 715



347 742

27 232

374 974


Boigu Island

268 928

22 047

290 975



78 880

36 563

115 443


Dauan Island

273 987

2 879

276 866



319 460

57 405

376 865


Erub Island

292 029

7 333

299 362


Hammond Island

247 808

4 008

251 816



304 644

75 948

380 592


Iama Island

299 035

4 432

303 467


Injinoo (Cowal Ck)

260 140

101 324

361 464



327 446

87 089

414 535


Kubin Island

299 038


308 719


Lockhart River

298 299

72 230

370 529


Mabuiag Island

266 993

5 389

272 382


Mapoon Aboriginal Council

357 398

14 726

372 124


Mer Island

302 965

5 841

308 806



672 902

214 695

887 597



254 668

14 389

269 057


New Mapoon

243 433

9 002

252 435


Palm Island

302 924

35 660

338 584



221 088

145 396

366 484


Poruma Island

254 406

2 877

257 283


Saibai Island

317 228

5 763

322 991


Seisia Island

232 759

3 822

236 581


St Paul's Island

259 780

8 139

267 919


Ugar Island

224 550

1 229

225 779



223 200

9 850

233 050


Warraber Island

370 623

3 909

374 532



71 035

38 269

109 304


Wujal Wujal

59 897

10 638

70 535



215 720

38 485

254 205


Yorke Island

281 069

5 853

286 922


Ngaanyatjarraku (S) a

1 809 048

404 899

2 657 033


Anangu Pitjantjatjara

781 479

95 212

876 691



30 499

12 685

43 184



63 726

34 065

97 791



19 564

12 630

32 194



77 612

27 426

105 038


Aherrenge (Arunga)

77 003

26 606

103 609


Ali Curung

55 258

48 799

104 057



77 408

39 041

116 449



33 186

10 535

43 721



112 555

95 146

207 701



193 438

103 324

296 762



42 299

29 146

71 445



45 199

29 173

74 372



49 035

18 478

67 513



33 699

24 069

57 768



31 244

12 538

43 782



109 000

58 592

167 592



97 095

67 722

164 817



223 691

142 347

366 038



146 865

154 341

301 206



56 579

34 935

91 514



40 458

22 149

62 607


Jabiru (T)

84 999

76 594

161 593



36 788

23 371

60 159



65 370

88 965

154 335



222 615

426 466

649 081



116 530

84 358

200 888


Ltyentye Purte (Santa Teresa)

75 652

76 313

151 965



243 714

187 395

431 109



31 033

15 477

46 510



116 190

41 832

158 022



56 944

18 136

75 080



47 920

66 350

114 270


Nauiyu Nambiyu

82 129

139 602

221 731


Nganmarriyanga (Palumpa)

62 218

57 772

119 990



76 304

70 263

146 567



161 139

130 089

291 228


Nyirranggulung Mardrulk

252 624

292 777

545 401



65 154

82 001

147 155



52 013

41 136

93 149



76 038

129 064

205 102



107 597

100 414

208 011



36 448

20 417

56 865



356 275

183 735

540 010


Tiwi Island

434 352

586 846

1 021 198



87 853

120 338

208 191



143 678

74 147

217 825



66 403

48 249

114 652


Wallace Rockhole

34 487

15 444

49 931



76 906

97 918

174 824



60 535

81 936

142 471


Watiyawanu (Mt Liebig)

44 255

26 949

71 204



101 313

52 975

154 288



49 747

56 436

106 183



223 887

256 773

480 660


Yugul Mangi

251 705

164 725

416 430


24 929 185

Note: a Ngaanyatjarraku also received special road works funding of $443 086.

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