NT Indigenous housing funding fuels political standoff, as remote communities face ‘major uncertainty’

People living in poor and overcrowded conditions in remote communities in the NT face major uncertainty as a housing funding impasse between the Territory and federal governments intensifies, the Northern Land Council has warned.

The clock is ticking on the two governments to reach an agreement before June 30, the first expiry date for subleases that give the Territory Government responsibility for all aspects of Indigenous housing, including tenancy management and repairs and maintenance.

Numerous reports have shown that poor and overcrowded housing in remote Indigenous communities contributes to issues such as ill-health, higher rates of child abuse and poor school attendance.

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Media silence: NT Govt caught stealing $2 billion from Indigenous budget

The scathing report from The Australian came at a time when all eyes were on the NT after a shocking case of child sexual abuse hit Tennant Creek. The NT is facing a mountain of problems right now. From Indigenous health to housing, unemployment to education. Indigenous communities really need all the help they can get. The situation is nothing short of a national disgrace.

While many people have their fingers pointed directly at Aboriginal communities, no one seems to be questioning the $2 billion of Indigenous funding that was taken out of Indigenous aid budgets by the NT Govt. Can you honestly say that problems would be so bad in these communities if the $2 billion was invested like it was supposed to be?

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NT Government agrees to review child services funding, despite pledging not to a month ago

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has agreed to a review of his government’s spending on family and child services — despite pledging to “not cooperate” with it less than a month ago.

The apparent backflip was announced on Thursday, after the state and federal government met to discuss their responses to the Royal Commission into Youth Detention and Child Protection in the Territory.

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Fair Fares NT – Your Voice is Important

Following on from the success of our recent change.org poll (read more here) concerning Gove’s desire for a reliable and affordable air service, MP Luke Gosling OAM has asked for our assistance in gathering your stories and comments. Luke is creating the Fair Fares NT website with the aim of publishing stories from concerned members of the public.

DEAL introduces Thunderdome in which Govites battle for housing

DEAL is set to introduce an innovative approach to the town’s perennial housing crisis – a Thunderdome in which residents do battle for an affordable home.

The Thunderdome, to be built on the outskirts of Nhulunbuy by yet another interstate construction firm promising local jobs, will be governed by one simple rule – ‘two enter, one leaves…with an asbestos-free* (*conditions apply), Rio-owned unit of your choice’.

It is expected that Imparja will secure the rights to broadcast live Thunderdome contests and also a lucrative Saturday night highlights package.

“There’s nothing I like more than watching impoverished plebs batter each other into submission for my entertainment,” said one well-to-do local who asked to remain anonymous.

Some employees from sectors other than mining and government were dubious of the plan.

“Right, so it’s not enough that I have to take out a mortgage to fly in and out of my hometown, that I have to wait 6 weeks for Winellie to regurgitate my mail or that my career prospects are dependent on my ability to look enthusiastic when I hear ‘clean-up on aisle 3′,” said young person Miyala Marika.

“Now the only way I can secure sensibly priced housing is through brutal unarmed combat.”

“The region’s decision-makers couldn’t show me any more contempt if one of them came ’round and shat on my dining room table.”

It is understood that DEAL may have once toyed with the idea of offering a small number of reasonably priced units to local residents who expressed a desire to remain in the region post-curtailment, and continue to plow their below average wages into the local economy, but as that would likely infuriate estate agents and their alleged burgeoning list of businesses falling over each other to relocate to the region, it was decided that the Thunderdome plan was slightly less stupid.

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NT Government criticised for giving top Aboriginal affairs job to former MLA

The Northern Territory’s Labor Government has come under fire for giving a former politician who was abandoned by remote Aboriginal voters in 2016 a job as a top Indigenous affairs adviser to the Chief Minister.

Lynne Walker lost the seat of Nhulunbuy on the north-east tip of Arnhem Land in the 2016 NT election when voters in the electorate’s remote Aboriginal communities dumped Labor and instead voted for Independent Yolngu candidate Yingiya Mark Guyula.

Ms Walker’s new taxpayer-funded position comes after she was moved from the first government job given to her upon the loss of her seat.

The ABC has learned that late last year, the unit’s staffers — which include another failed Labor candidate, Anthony Venes — were also quietly dispersed into other ministerial offices.

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Has badly needed cash for the Territory bush been hijacked?

Chief executive Denise Bowden’s nine-page report is filled with inconvenient accusations and has had everyone from northern politicians to east-coast PC activists running for cover ever since…..

…..Even worse, consider the decision to build a new hospital at Palmerston, just a 20-minute drive from Royal Darwin Hospital. Both sides of politics at a Territory and Federal level are responsible for this calamitous move, one that was driven by bullshit arguments about the Berrimah Line and allowed to proceed because Solomon is a marginal seat. God only knows how the NT Government plans to staff this new facility when it can’t even fill the roster at RDH. Perhaps that $150 million would have been better spent on renal services in remote communities, so patients don’t have to fly to Darwin every time they need dialysis. They would have saved a fortune on patient travel and might have even helped address the itinerant problem…..

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Not all doctors agree my patient deserved his kidney transplant. They’re wrong

Just before Christmas 2016, a 68-year-old man received a kidney transplant, one of 1,091 Australians that year.

However, as an Aboriginal Australian, he was one of only six over the age of 65 to receive a kidney transplant in the past 20 years. In fact, he was the second-oldest ever.

Should my patient have received a kidney? Many of my kidney specialist colleagues apparently don’t think so.

Not only have some told me so, but national transplant data shows an Indigenous Australian from a remote or very remote area has only a tenth the chance of a kidney transplant as a non-Indigenous patient from the same region.

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We’re not closing the gap on Indigenous employment, it’s widening

Zoe Staines, Queensland University of Technology

As 2018 approaches, the government has failed to meet its deadline for halving the gap in employment between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This gap is still wide, and is growing, particularly in remote areas.

The Council of Australian Governments agreed to this goal in 2008 as part of the Closing the Gap framework on Indigenous disadvantage.


Read more: Radical rethink of Closing the Gap required, despite some progress


Recent Census data shows the extent of Indigenous unemployment across Australia and in Queensland’s remote communities. The unemployment gap appears to have reduced from 20.2% to 11.6% across Australia and from 53.6% to 30.7% in Queensland’s remote communities.

However in 2016 across Queensland’s remote communities, Indigenous Australians were still nearly 13 times more likely to be unemployed (at a rate of 33.3%) than non-Indigenous Australians (2.6%). The gap in labour-force participation, while remaining somewhat steady across Australia, is growing in Queensland’s remote communities (from 29.0% in 2006 to 35.4% in 2016).

The gap in median weekly personal income is also widening between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians both nationally and across Queensland’s remote communities.

When we look at median personal income, even where Indigenous Australians are more likely to be working, non-Indigenous Australians are still being paid more. Different skill sets, the continued gap in educational attainment, job choice, workplace discrimination and underemployment may play a role here.

Since employment is meant to be, at least partially, a means of ending cycles of disadvantage, we ought to ask ourselves about what this means for our government’s choice of target. Is simple “employment” the only helpful measure?

How to address the gap

Recently, the federal government announced it would work with Indigenous Australians to review and refresh the Closing the Gap framework.

In remote areas, there are a complex variety of issues that lead to bigger employment gaps. One example is a legacy of poorer school attendance and outcomes.

For example, a recent report by the Australian Council for Educational Research and the most recent Closing the Gap report confirm that attendance can be up to 20% less in remote areas. So tackling school attendance and outcomes will likely lead to improved employment over time.

There are typically also poorer outcomes for Indigenous Australians across other key social indicators (for example health and safety) that affect their ability to work. A successful approach will ensure these issues can also be addressed.

Remote economies also tend to be weaker, so there are often fewer jobs available (though non-Indigenous unemployment is still very low in these locations).

The impacts of past remote-employment programs should also be carefully considered. Over 30 or so years, the Community Development Employment Programme (introduced in 1977) created artificial economies that stifled genuine economic development by providing free or heavily-subsidised work for the dole labour.

Subsequent programs, such as the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme and particularly the current Community Development Programme do the same to varying extents. The government hasn’t yet struck the right balance between up-skilling remote job seekers, stimulating remote economies, and transitioning job seekers into real employment.

It’s now in the process of creating yet another remote employment program to replace the Community Development Programme (the sixth program in ten years). Whether or not they are able to better strike this balance in future programs is yet to be seen.


Read more: Census data shows just how bad we’ve been at closing inequality gaps


Finally, it has been said time and time again, but the message still does not seem to be getting through – to close the gap, Indigenous Australians need to lead the process, as the experts. They understand Indigenous history, context and circumstances in ways that non-Indigenous public servants and politicians, sitting at their faraway desks, simply can’t.

This includes Indigenous organisations, which are more likely to employ Indigenous people and achieve outcomes than non-Indigenous service providers because they have real “skin in the game”.

However, in Queensland, only about 13% of the Community Development Programme providers listed by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet are Indigenous. There is clearly some way to go here.

The ConversationThe government’s commitment to working with Indigenous Australians to refresh the Closing the Gap framework is positive. However, only time will tell whether we end up with the same old agenda or a more useful approach that enables meaningful progress to be made.

Zoe Staines, Research Consultant; Research Assistant, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Airfares to Darwin, Alice Springs to get Senate scrutiny as airlines ‘take advantage of monopoly’

Top Enders forking out for sky-high airfares will get the chance to air their frustration when a Senate inquiry visits Darwin next year.

The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee is calling for first-hand experiences of flight prices in regional, rural and remote locations and will scrutinise the factors that determine pricing.

“It’s looking at regional routes and seeing what can be done from a federal perspective, from a regulatory perspective, to try and improve our connectivity,” Member for Solomon Luke Gosling said.

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