Election roundup.

Getting down to one week out from the Federal election and there are more questions than details on Indigenous policies.

A rundown of recent announcements, in brief …


The ABC Vote Compass site provides a snapshot per electorate of which seats are ‘least’ and ‘most in favour’ of the statement Australian constitution should recognise indigenous people as Australia’s First inhabitants.

In a clear difference to the recently confirmed bipartisan support for a referendum on Constitutional Recognition to take place in the first term , the Greens announced support for a Treaty.


Has bipartisan agreements on CTG shut the door to leaders in Indigenous health seeking support for the Building on Ciosing the Gap platform

and the NACCHO ten-point Investing in Healthy Futures for Generational Change plan ?


It has been asked more than once if the era of the large land councils is coming to a natural end. Have they outlived their usefulness?

In keeping with past changes of government, should the Liberals achieve election victory in two weeks time, the focus will be on the ALRA (NT) Act 1976.

[ This is a Commonwealth act because the NT is a territory rather than a state, where different councils and acts apply. ]

More specifically, the federal government, the NT land councils, the NT government and the Traditional Owners (TOs) focus will fall to section: ALRA S20.A.

There’s already been years of reviews about devolving powers to TOs to speed up negotiations over land use agreements and exploration applications, leases and licences.

But the lack of capacity for alternative structures will curb any enthusiasm to dismantle the large councils – and both major political parties have voiced continued support for the larger structures to supply the administrative and financial management grunt to the smaller regional land councils.

NLC Chairman, Wali Wunungmurra, endorsed Senator Scullion’s comments of the Council’s place in the Top End landscape.

– NLC Full Council Meeting, Timber Creek NT June 2013

NLC Monthly Newsletter August 23

Future dealings of individual communities with their respective land councils depend on cooperative arrangements between land councils, the NT, state and federal governments. That’s where the energy for negotiations will be spent if the economic agenda is to be played out in the desired timeframes.

Communities and governments want results soon. They want action on their economic plans, and progress made with the funding allocations.


  • More details came to light on the proposed Indigenous Advisory Council, that would have a specific economic and commercial focus; was not intended to be a representative body; and membership was being canvassed. [Mundine]
  • Bipartisan support for the creation of a new Indigenous Policy Productivity Commission. [Pearson]


A name that will soon be very familiar to those following Indigenous policy reforms: Jawun.

The Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships have been operarating for some time, and provides some background to yesterday’s $5m pledge of support from Tony Abbott for the ‘8 Empowered Communities’ taking part in the Jawun Empowered Communities initiative.

The initiative marks a new direction in Indigenous affairs and unless they are members of one of the communities who’ve opted in to the arrangement, observers will not be across the finer details of the program.

Regions are Cape York, the central coast of NSW, inner Sydney, Goulburn Murray, East Kimberley, West Kimberley, APY/NPY Lands, and Northeast Arnhem Land.

The community must make their own decisions.

It would seem that the 8 communities are signatories to the Jawun Empowered Communities initiative for that reason. Under this model, the price of admission is wanting to be part of the Initiative.

Underlying principles: ( as reported in the media and participants websites)

  • Movement on economic reform is driving these policy reforms.
  • Communities must already be at a point where they are ready to opt-in to the program.
  • There needs to be local leadership to engage with. Someone needs to be nominated, and effective as being the person in charge. They are the contact point, the local driver and the interface between community and corporate interests.

This is a significant break from the familiar custom of outsiders having the job of engaging a sometimes receptive and other times hostile community, and needing local agreement on business plans, land use proposals etc.

Years of Indigenous community advice confirmed by the ineffectiveness of efforts to do without it,  that nothing will be achieved unless locals make their own decisions are enabled by an initiative that if in keeping with past practices says ‘call us when you are ready’.

Leadership is a volatile subject – the federal election being just such an example – and there’s just as much speculation and vitriol in Indigenous affairs. 

The other issue that inevitably arises is ‘representation’. Queue references from media, researchers and community members alike to the National Congress, and draw parallels with ATSIC and the NIC.

It’s worth noting who served on this previous advisory council. The NIC advised beyond economic development, but the initial savage criticism faded once the Indigenous community realized who was appointed. The NIC met regularly for four years before being decommissioned.

Remote polling booths have now commenced in the Northern Territory.

Please advise of any corrections or feedback. Questions are welcome, and can be posted anonymously  at http://ask.fm/SivParker 



Promising prosperity




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