Thursday, 27 August 2009

LIFE IN REMOTE AUSTRALIA: Australia's Governments just don't get it

Click to enlarge
Diagram from here.

Australian governments, whether State or Commonwealth, whether elected politicians or non-elected bureaucrats don't get it.  What don't they get?  The don't get their own neglect of Remote Australia.  Australians romanticise The Outback.  The love to get on a plane or a bus and go to Uluru - but most of them don't give a fig for Aboriginal wishes and climb Uluru.  Grey Nomads tootle up the Stuart Highway in their caravans trying to avoid the caravan parks and avoid leaving any economic sustenance in small Outback towns.  

A lot has been said by me on this blog about Tennant Creek and the failed public policy on housing that is the SIHIP program.  This has to do with Aboriginal housing.  However, Tennant Creek has long had a housing problem and is currently suffering overcrowding in the general community as people huddle up because houses are either available or the rents are too high.  And why would the rents be too high?  Because there is not enough housing to go around.

You see, building houses in remote Australia is not easy nor is it cheap.  As well, governments can manipulate land release and planning issues.  In Tennant Creek, right across from the Council is a subdivision of long-standing with full channelling and kerbing.  No houses, though.  A memorial, I would say, and a reminder.  

And it needs to be a memorial and a reminder and I would suggest that Gerry McCarthy, the Member for Barkly take a short walk from his office and stand and look at this ghostly subdivision and meditate on it.  What does that housing layout that never was have to say for his black and white constituents?

You see, Gerry wrote this Opinion piece in the Tennant & District Times last week.  This was a week of damage control by the NT Labor Government and the relevant Minister, Jenny Macklin, in the Federal Parliament.  Now, I don't know whether Gerry's Opinion piece just went from his computer across the road to the TDT office or whether it had to be vetted by the Govt Media Office in Darwin first.  Because the GMO really would be remote from Remote Australia.

Please note, Networkers, not only the damage control mode of the piece but that addresses only Julalikari Council and the matter of Aboriginal housing.  It is as if neither the wider community of Tennant Creek nor the electorate of Barkly mattered in this whole failed public policy stuff-up.

But, Networkers, the wider community of Tennant Creek and the electorate of Barkly do matter.  The whole community and people across the electorate are affected by this failed public policy.
Betty Tennyson of Corella Creek has spoken out about how things are for her community.  Where is Corella Creek a lot of you will ask?  You will find it on the map below, click to enlarge.  Corella Creek is an Aboriginal community living area which is off the Tablelands Highway on the Barkly Tableland in the Northern Territory.  It has been excised from the famous, historic and extensive Brunette Downs cattle station.
Meanwhile, in Tennant Creek it will be interesting to know how much money local businesses will see when and if the Tennant Creek housing is built under the failed public policy that is the SIHIP program.  The tenders relating to the housing program are broken into two parts: Housing and Civil.  Civil covers the infrastructure works that go on around and in support of the housing.  It would appear that on the Civil side of things no local business has been successful.  And not surprising.  If you have a look at this brochure from New Future Alliance not a thought has been given to the economy of a small town in remote Australia.  Professional urban hobnail boots have ridden over and past that idea.

Now the sort of money involved in the award of work to local business in Tennant Creek is a dot on a balance sheet to the Commonwealth and NT Governments and to Leighton Contractors who are involved in New Future Alliance.  However, to a place like Tennant Creek that dot on a larger balance sheet can take on greater significance.  Every bit of business that comes to Tennant is valued.  I have had direct experience of that across the years.  Business people in Tennant Creek are all ears in trying to find out about new opportunities.  The newly revamped and energised Chamber of Commerce in Tennant Creek is keen to assist.  Yet, it would appear that no one gives a fig about them and their local Member of Parliament has not given any assurances to business in his latest round of damage control.

Just like it is doubtful whether government gives a fig for Desert Knowledge whose CRC funding has been knocked on the head and it continues to seek further funding.  This in spite of the fact that the CSIRO has shifted on to the Desert Knowledge campus in Alice Springs.

If remote communities were vivified, it would have far reaching effects.  These communities, in turn, would have the capacity to lift nearby Aboriginal communities and the services that could be provided to them and the interaction with them that could assist in bringing economic activities into clear focus - if ever governments would provide all weather roads into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.

Further Reading:
Sanderson speech

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