Alyawarr people, in central Australia, have welcomed the self-reliance theme within Andrew Forrest's report into Indigenous training and employment.
Richard Downs, spokesman for Apmer Aharreng-arenykenh Aknganenty, welcomed the recognition within the report of the importance of local decision making and cultural authority to set and enforce norms. He called on the Commonwealth Government to negotiate governance arrangements with the Alyawarr nation around these principles. He said that the Alyawarr nation had been seeking regional governance arrangements for some time.
“We started our discussion on Regional Authority in 2004", Downs said. "We now have laid out a draft plan across our language region as this is the way Alyawarr people want to go. The NT Government at the time assisted Alyawarr people to organize themselves into an Alyawarr region through its ‘Stronger Regions’ policy. The policy direction was that the NT Government wanted to see small councils come together to make bigger councils and Regional Authorities under the NT Local Government Act.”
According to Downs, the implementation of the NT Emergency Response on Alyawarr lands was unnecessary and has been a failure.
"Our maintenance of outstations and the general absence of the influence of missionaries are widely recognized as factors that have contributed to our high level of social functioning. The problems that we face are as a result of lack of resources and inept bureaucracy, not social disintegration. All that the NT Emergency Response has done for us is increase bureaucracy and despair."
"Alyawarr culture remains strong and we do not face many of the social problems that some other Aboriginal peoples have been confronting."
Instead of greater government intervention, Downs has called upon government to allow for much greater Alyawarr decision-making over its lands.
“Our Alyawarr leaders have agreed to continue on this path to establish a regional authority in Alyawarr Language Region and to work in partnerships and mentoring arrangements with NT and Federal governments along with developing the region to establish a central location to set up business and tourism partnerships which we still see as the only way to create training and job opportunity for our people and to keep our people on country. Alyawarr leaders are keen to sit down and talk with the Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments to establish regional governance arrangements. And real two way partnerships.”
“Andrew Forrest’s report has a lot of great points we want to discuss with Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion and Adviser, Warren Mundine. We urge Minister Scullion to listen to Yolungu and Alyawarr leaders.”
4 August 2014
For more information, telephone Richard Downs on 0457 636 513.