In the Mid-West, there are 11 remote Aboriginal communities, this includes Puntawari, which is unoccupied, and a further two communities are not used as permanent living areas. These communities have a total population of approximately 500 residents. Community populations vary from places like Kutkububba with 30 permanent residents, to Burringurrah with about 110 permanent residents. The region spans some 478,000 square kilometres and on average, communities are 200 kilometres from the closest town.
Community leaders told us that remoteness and small populations make community stores unviable, increasing the cost of living for residents. Accessing basic services such as telecommunications or power requires a trip to town to purchase pre-paid cards. Remoteness can also cause access issues for emergency services, which are exacerbated in flooding. Residents told us a large proportion of their income is spent on fuel and car maintenance, and families will often share resources to live week-to-week.
Many communities in the region are looking to mining for employment opportunities, with communities that hold a native title determination seeking agreements with mining companies, conditional on training and employment for local residents.
Community leaders told us of their on-going aspirations to utilise native title land for business and enterprise. Ranger programs, mining agreements, agriculture ventures and even tourism projects are all on their radar, but they told us they struggle with initial start-up costs.
Some leaders identified the need to build capacity in areas such as stakeholder negotiation, business planning and writing funding applications.
Community leaders raised concerns about the effectiveness of CDP, with many saying they are not seeing the benefits in their local community. During consultations, CDP participants identified four different services providers, all of which community members felt were not being held accountable and were just conducting a ‘tick box’ exercise. Community members identified a lack of effective communication and meaningful training opportunities as the reasons why CDP had been ineffectual. A common view was that governments should employ more local community-based people in service delivery, rather than have people external to the community visit and leave on an irregular basis.
Several communities spoke to us about HMAs with the Housing Authority. Three communities told us they are expecting housing refurbishments to begin mid-2017, while others saw refurbishments last year. Some expressed a disappointment that after signing an HMA and paying higher rents, property and tenancy management services had declined, rather than improved.
Community members told us they live on-country because culture is central to their way of life. However, community leaders felt that culture was not reflected in the school curriculum and that this absence directly contributed to poor educational outcomes for their children.
Other factors contributing to poor outcomes included the turnover of teaching staff, and the need for students to leave community to board in Perth or a major regional town for high school. They noted that as a result, many students failed to successfully progress through to Year 12.
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