Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 February 1999



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 February 1999

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Parliamentary Record 14


Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Wednesday 17 February 1999 at what they have been doing in the bush since the Local Government Act came into operation, before standing in this Chamber and claiming credit for things they had nothing to do with. I have not once seen a Labor politician walking out around the bush promoting to communities the development of community government or providing any community advice and instruction and assistance on the concept of community government, the concept of local government, and encouraging and supporting people to develop an understanding of local government and how important it can be for those people in self-determination and self-decision making within their communities. Rather, they come in here and criticise us for things that may have gone wrong, often caused by their own political allies. Lets not get too hypocritical in this House. This side of the House, the CLP government, has worked assiduously since self-government to promote the development of local government in Aboriginal communities. It is an evolutionary process. It is a developing process and there have been some unsuccessful experiments in community government. The minister has recognised that there are some areas where it is not working as well as it should be. I support the concept that the minister has raised today on 2 conditions. One is the support of and working in close cooperation with the Local Government Association of the Northern Territory, which she has said she will be doing. Secondly, that any amalgamation or rationalisation will be done by agreement and will not be forced either by subterfuge or otherwise into existence, and I support her on that basis. I support her also on the basis of there being high levels of consultation and community education on local government. My experience, Mr Speaker, and I am sure it is yours from over the years, is that sadly, even today, the conceptual role of local government in many communities is not properly understood. When it is thrust on people, without people understanding the conceptual framework within which it should operate, we often see the emergence of problems that I am sure every member of this Chamber has seen. You end up with a council president who regards himself probably more closely aligned with the old mission superintendent than an elected official. Or with a council clerk that sees it his God given right to do whatever he likes, whenever he likes, without reference to the people that he is serving or representing. Or financial mismanagement occurs from time to time in those structures and that checks and balances that should exist, to ensure that money provided for the benefit of the people, is in fact used for the benefit of the people and not for personal gain. There are real problems there. It is my belief that much of this rests in developing amongst the community, the voters in the community, a clear understanding of what our democratic systems are and how local government fits into that democratic system. Papers have been written by organisations like the Aboriginal Resource Development Service, who refer to issues such as cross-cultural demystification. It is not just about white people understanding Aboriginal society but vice versa. This is to make sure that the people are working within a correct conceptual framework when they are moving into these areas. Sadly, when Australia rushed into self-determination in the 1970s, nobody bothered to explain to people what they were being mshed into in this process of self-determination. Many misconceptions and poor outcomes resulted from what should have been a very powerful and positive initiative on behalf of Aboriginal people in Australia and, certainly, in the Northern Territory as well. In respect to the structures and layout of the councils, I also fully support the proposal by the minister that if you bring the structure of community government to more closely reflect the structure of traditional decision-making, whether it be clan based or language group based structures, there will be a consistency in decision-making between the traditional mechanisms within an Aboriginal society and those which exist within local government. Again, I think that also supports that conceptual understanding and avoids clashes. It is my experience also that there is an awful lot of duplication and wastage in communities. You can go into almost any community and you will find not just the council but a community government, federally incorporated association or Territory incorporated association called the council, plus there is a housing association, plus theres a CDEP committee, plus there is another committee running the womens resource centre. This is in a community of maybe 100 people. You might have 10 different committees all competing for different bits of funding and all competing against each other for their place in the sun with their fancy title, and all sucking off massive amounts of administrative money. Wouldnt it be really good if some cohesive structure could exist in that community where those activities could be carried out, but without the duplication, triplication and quadruplication of administrative structures aimed solely at creating jobs for administrators, half of whom end up being white people in a community? Maybe we could get a larger percentage of the money provided to assist Aboriginal people, actually being spent on assisting Aboriginal people, rather than funding bureaucrats in those communities. 2775