Aboriginal advisors from the Kimberley and Pilbara met with Premier Colin Barnett this week to discuss the progress of major reforms to improve the lives of Aboriginal people in regional and remote Western Australia.
The Strategic Regional Advisory Council members were in Perth with other council members, including State reform leader Grahame Searle and State and Commonwealth Government representatives, to review the reform’s achievements and priorities.
Mr Searle said the reform had come a long way since the State Government made a commitment last year to work with Aboriginal people to make communities stronger and families more resilient.
“We have released a roadmap outlining 10 priority actions and the State Government has committed $250 million for improvements and better access to Aboriginal housing, education and essential and municipal services,” he said.
“In a relatively short time there has been very good progress, but we also understand that it could be one generation or more before we see systemic change.”
Mr Searle said Strategic Regional Advisory Councils and District Leadership Groups had been established in the Kimberley and Pilbara in the past year to help guide and implement reform initiatives.
The Regional Services Reform Unit had also begun consulting with WA’s 274 remote Aboriginal communities about the reform and to better understand regional and local priorities.
Since August this year, the reform unit had visited more than 80 communities in the Kimberley, Pilbara and Goldfields, ranging from those with hundreds of residents such as Bidyadanga in the West Kimberley to remote outstations with fewer than five residents.
Mr Searle said a major commitment of the reform was to progressively upgrade power, water, sewerage and municipal services in larger remote Aboriginal communities, where 80 per cent of remote Aboriginal residents lived.
Funding for the upgrades would be sequenced over time with priority given to those that offered the greatest prospect of long-term sustainability.
By the end of 2016 the State Government would identify up to 10 communities with which it would work to upgrade essential and municipal infrastructure, and introduce commensurate charges. Upgrades to other larger communities would happen over time.
Other reform progress included work on projects to ensure government-funded services responded better to local needs and achieved better outcomes for Aboriginal children and families.
Strategic Regional Advisory Council members with Premier Colin Barnett on the steps of Parliament House.