Friday, 3 September 2010

Local government leaves Mutitjulu : Commonwealth government should own up to responsibility

Hat Tip to Robbo of Bite The Dust for steering me to this.  Many Australians are still sour as green, green apples at the handback of Uluru to the Traditional Owners in spite of the immediate lease-back provisions of the deal.  Ignorant and arrogant Australians continue to climb Uluru against the clearly and sensibly expressed wishes of the Traditional Owners.  Clearly, most of us don't give a fig for the state of affairs of the community and Traditional Owners at Mutitjulu in spite of the luxury of nearby tourist accommodation.  

The Traditional Owners of some of the richest and most significant real estate in this nation are consigned to a life of deprivaton and poverty.

It is reported that the McDonnell Shire has withdrawn from Mutitjulu. McDonnell is one of the remote mega-shires which came into being in 2008 under local government reforms in the Northern Territory.  It is a desert shire and its rate base is interesting, to say the least.  In areas, such as those covered by McDonnell Shire, the local authority is the source of much service delivery to communities and towns.  Difficulties abound not only for administration but for the voice of Aboriginal people to be heard.  

Many Aboriginal communities had their own community councils, their own individual voice, before being absorbed into the megashires.  This was recognised in the legislation by allowing for the advisory committees to be established in each community.  However, no budget was attached to this provision and the committees are voluntary.  There are no co-ordinators, and no expenses for travel.  In communities which happen to have a councillor, the councillor may of course (but it is a matter of choice) promote an active advisory committee.  In places where communities have no direct representation it is unlikely that an advisory committee on such a voluntary and ad hoc basis is sustainable in any effective way to give a community a representative voice.

The tenor of the article in the news item demonstrates the proverbial buck passing.   Parks Australia does not want to be involved in local governance and, while the Feds might be the cheer squad for The Intervention, they don't really want to have the responsibility of ditches, dunnies and drains...even if the health and welfare of Aboriginal citizens is at stake.  Amazing how some things never ever change - just the inhabitants of the comfortable chairs.

A fortuitous postcript written Saturday 4 September 2010:

I had the good fortune to meet Bess Price yesterday at the Public Interest Journalism Conference, New News 2010, held in conjunction with the Melbourne Writers Festival.  Bess was with Local Government Minister Malarndirri McCarthy when she visited Mutitjulu this week.  Bess advises that the Minister has returned to Darwin to give full consideration to the matter.  McCarthy's task could be a bit tricky.  Like all ministers in the tiny NT Parliament, McCarthy holds numerous portfolios.  Hers are:

Minister for Local Government
Minister for Regional Development
Minister for Indigenous Development
Minister for Tourism
Minister for Women’s Policy
Minister for Statehood
So one assumes that when considering the matters affecting Mutitjulu the portfolio impacts include not only Local Government, but Regional Development, and Tourism - not to mention how women at Mutitjulu might be affected. We look forward to hearing more.

BTW, Bess was in Melbourne in the company of Rita Cattoni.  Many will remember Rita from Warlpiri Media days. She is now with ICTV (Indigenous Community Television)

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