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




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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 achievable. I believe a process of discussion with key stakeholders is currently underway - that is LGANT and ATSIC among others - and I believe also that the land councils will be briefed and I feel sure their input will be very welcome. The reform of local government will provide many opportunities for Aboriginal people. Very importantly, it provides an opportunity to establish legitimate and credible decision-making bodies for groups which recognise and incorporate, where appropriate, traditional decision-making processes. It provides an opportunity to replace the artificially imposed boundaries with culturally appropriate communities of interest. Aboriginal communities will be able to build on initiatives such as the Tiwi and Katherine West Regional Health Boards, which successfully show improved health outcomes for large communities in their regions. That is a feather in their cap. Strong and effective service delivery frameworks are imperative, so that Aboriginal people can expect improved services, health status improvements, and educational and employment opportunities available to mainstream Territorians. The reforms are also remarkable for what they are not about. They are not about the government imposing new artificial government structures on Aboriginal people. It is up to the communities themselves to define new government models to reflect and incorporate existing traditional decision-making structures. They are not about the NT government defining artificial council boundaries for remote areas. It is up to the communities themselves to define their own boundaries and communities of interest. In all of this, the NT government will be assisting the communities wherever requested or required. Most importantly, the reforms are not about achieving cost savings for the government. The substantial administration and economy of scale savings that should be achievable will be available to the new councils for improved service deliveries to their communities. When you look at some of the statistics, you will see that more than half the remote and Aboriginal communities have less than 500 people. It think there are about 68 councils altogether - not a great number of people - and if the administration was spread over smaller communities they could be pulled together, one would hope, to their own benefit. I think there are only half a dozen that are funded for local government purposes. I suppose an example of an area where this could work is possibly the Tiwi area - that is Nguiu, Milikapiti, Pirlangimpi and their outstations. A model which they could look at would have a central office with a CEO and an accountant, instead of 3 CEOs and accountants, which they currently have. There would be an additional requirement for local administrators, and positions which would more than likely be filled by the Tiwi, rather than bringing other people in. Only one set of accounts would need to be maintained and audited. The smaller councils would benefit from access to a wider range of equipment and therefore better and more affordable services. There should be economies achievable in the use of contractors through enhanced bargaining power and the availability of the required equipment. As an example you could look at Ngukurr, Numbulwar and places like that, where specific road funding was given to the councils a few years ago. Individually, it was not possible for them to get a great deal done. But if they had been able, back about 3 or 4 years ago I think it was, to get together and pool their resources, they would have been able to get a much better road system between Ngukurr and Numbulwar at that time. I am aware that it has gone ahead since then. That is an example of what can happen. It is not difficult to see that there would be substantial savings in administration and capital for the new council - that is taking the Tiwi one as an example. These savings will be available for improved service delivery for residents, which is what it is all about. I support the ministers statement, and I do look forward to positive outcomes. Mr TOYNE (Stuart): Mr Speaker, continuing the debate on the ministerial statement put out this morning by the Minister for Local Government, I offer - with sincere goodwill, I might say - a first lesson in how to establish Aboriginal management structures or arrangements out bush in the Territory. Only one starting point has ever made sense to me in the long period I have been out there, in the number of things that I have set up over years. You always have to start in some way or another with the traditional ownership arrangements for the land area. Whatever structure youre trying to put together, whether it be a community council, an art cooperative, any sort of enterprise activity, a school or whatever, if there isnt a very clear connection made to the traditional arrangements, the traditional authorities, the traditional responsibilities for that area you get continuous dysfunction in the organisation concerned. It seems such a simple principle. But when it comes to the practical business of running one of these organisations or the activities that they are responsible for, it can often translate into a lot of hard yakka on the ground to make sure that the right people have been there to consider the decisions and 2777