RESTORE COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE
Urgently rebuild Aboriginal community government councils. Restore decision making power and administration of municipal services to these councils.
Transfer all assets seized by the shires to the Aboriginal councils and pay compensation for all other assets sold off by the shires.
Remove Government Business Managers installed by the Intervention.
Repeal Business Management Area Powers which grant the Minister the capacity for total control over the budgets and direction of organisations receiving Commonwealth funding.
Since 2007, Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory have suffered a sustained assault on their ability to participate in decisions regarding community services and development.
The NT Intervention installed Government Business Managers (GBMs) into most communities. GBM compounds were built in a matter of weeks, often surrounded by barbed wire, without consultation with local people.
The federal government legislated extraordinary Business Management Area Powers which grant the Minister capacity to direct local organisations, seize assets and fire staff.
Prior to the Intervention, most communities had Aboriginal Community Government Councils. These were bodies elected by the local people.
They had an important representative function, being the main point of contact with government agencies and any organisations wanting to do business in the community.
Community councils also ran municipal and other social services and often Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP).
Council offices were also hubs of community life, one of the only access points to the outside world through phone, fax or internet.
Following the Intervention, these councils were dissolved through a process of local government reform (pdf) undertaken by the NT government.
58 community councils were replaced by eight shire councils in July 2008. Decision making power and council assets were removed from local sites, to regional centres in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Darwin.
The NT government's design of shire amalgamation began prior to the Intervention. But it was Intervention powers and newly installed Commonwealth officials which ensured the smooth multi-million dollar transfer of buildings, assets and authority in circumstances which may have otherwise been challengeable. Both the imposition of GBMs and shire councils have been experienced as a new wave of dispossession, disempowerment and an effective loss in levels of service.
Currently there is no local organ of decision making power where Aboriginal people can play a role directing the process of development in their community - this must change immediately.
Explore the reality further here: What's the next demand?