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Transitioning from Community Organisation to Local Government, The case of Ngaanyatjarra Council and the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku Patrick Sullivan AIATSIS Leanne Stedman Ngaanyatjarra Council
Background – people and land • Ngaanyatjarra people number about 3000 and live in 11 communities in the Warburton region bordering the Northern Territory and South Australia • Ngaanyatjarra people control about 250,000sq kms of land under • Leased Aboriginal reserve • Native title • Joint management of nature reserve • Indigenous Protected Area (IPA)
Background - governance • Twelve communities, separately incorporated • Community chairs are Directors of Board of Ngaanyatjarra Council • Ngannyatjarra Council incorporated in 1981, operated under auspices of Pitjanjatjarra Council since at least 1975 • Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku created in 1993 by division of Shire of Wiluna. Encompasses 10 of the 12 communities serviced by Ngaanyatjarra Council • Substantial overlap in Councillors and good cooperative relationship between Shire and Council
Background - services • Ngaanyatjarra Council major service provider • Operates community-controlled socially-oriented businesses, eg financial services, freight, building • Provides municipal and essential services through FaHCSIA MUNS programme • Administers CDEP • Acts as advocate and prepares policy input • Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku smaller role • Municipal services, eg roads and rubbish, sporting facilities • Social activities such as youth work
Funding • Clear difference in funding • Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku • Commonwealth $3.4m • WA govt $1.0m • Other $0.4m • Total $4.8m • Ngaanyatjarra Council • Commonwealth $20.0m • WA govt $0.9m • Other grants $9.9m • Other income $6.1m (primarily form Council-owned businesses) • Total $36.9m • Source: provisional estimates SVA Consulting for 2003/4
Post-2004 developments • Abolition of ATSIC/ATSIS • Mainstreaming • Whole-of-government services • Agreement making • Shared Responsibility Agreements • Regional Partnership Agreements
Mainstreaming • Two consequences of mainstreaming • Increased control by Canberra-based bureaucracy with little experience in Indigenous issues. Tighter political influence • Transfer of functions to the states and territories, renegotiates 30 year agreement
Ngaanyatjarra Regional Partnership Agreement • RPA signed 2005 expired July 2008 • Principle benefit for Ngaanyatjarra guaranteed continuation of MUNS funding during this period • Transfer of funding to WA government for distribution to local shires discussed during this period, but no consistent plan formulated • Community organisations will ‘fall through the cracks’. MUNS will not transfer community support functions to shires.
Leanne Stedman, General Counsel, Ngaanyatjarra CouncilSeeds of failure • There has already been a failure on the part of governments to consult the genuine experts; the two organisations that are the chosen representatives of Ngaanyatjarra people; • Failure to consult the genuine experts has led to a distinct failure of understanding on the part of both Commonwealth and State governments of what is actually involved in the provision of Municipal and essential Services on the Ngaanyatjarra Lands; and • The recent history of government involvement in the Ngaanyatjarra region points to potential failures of implementation.
Community assistance is more than municipal services • “the community office […] serves many of the functions of government and non-government agencies in mainstream small regional communities. It assists people with their banking, financial difficulties, contacting relatives, obtaining and storing necessary identity and other personal documentation, emergency financial assistance, liaising with justice or other government agencies and community governance. It also provides the central location for many government parties seeking to consult with community members”.
Conclusion • The relationship between the Ngaanyatjarra Council and the Ngaanyatjarraku Shire is probably unique in Western Australia. There will be cooperation over the transfer of functions. But, Indigenous citizens in other regions of Western Australia do have genuine cause for concern about the practical effect of the policy of mainstreaming and the transfer of Commonwealth functions to the state and to local government.