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 Post subject: Is the homeland movement coming to an end?
PostPosted: 19.05.2009, 09:10 
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Looks like the "Homeland Movement", the big initiative from the 1970s that allowed people to move back to their ancestral lands and live a more "traditional" lifestyle is about to face a major drawback if not a deadly stab from the government. The NT government is expected to announce a cut in financing remote outstations today. Australiana newspaper "The Age" says about it:

Death knell for homelands
Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin
May 19, 2009

Thousands of Aborigines living on their remote Northern Territory homelands will be forced to move to larger communities to receive key government services in a radical shake-up of indigenous policy.

The NT Government is set to announce that 20 communities will be developed into regional economic hubs with a wide range of government services such as housing, schools and clinics.

But about 580 smaller communities will be deprived of many government services, threatening the fruits of what became known in the 1970s as the homelands movement when thousands of Aboriginal people moved back to their ancestral lands.

The decision will anger many homelands elders who say it will threaten their culture and traditional way of life and expose their children to problems such as alcohol and drug abuse and violence endemic in the larger communities.

The Laynhapuy Homelands Association Inc, which represents 19 communities in north-eastern Arnhem Land, told a Senate inquiry last year that the majority of their Yolngu people "do not wish to be assimilated or mainstreamed".

"They strongly value their culture and law and links to country, and do not regard the fact of their physical/locational separateness from the mainstream as equating to being disadvantaged," the association said.

The shake-up detailed in the statement Working Futures — Remote Service Delivery is expected to be released in Darwin tomorrow by NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson and Minister for Indigenous Policy Alison Anderson.

It will bring the Northern Territory into line with the Federal Government, which announced in March that only selected larger communities would benefit from initial funding in a 10-year program to build 4200 houses in remote indigenous communities across Australia.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said at the time the Government would, as a first step, bring selected communities up to a standard equivalent to other non-indigenous towns of similar size in Australia.

The two governments will still provide some support for the smaller homelands communities, such as housing and employment services, with funding kept at existing levels. But an effective ban that was placed on development in the smaller communities, pending a review of what services should be made available to them, will continue.

A report prepared by the NT's Department of Chief Minister last year acknowledged that homelands might provide an "acceptable and positive trade-off of lifestyle" for Aboriginal adults but said it was important that government "ensures that children have access to adequate services, especially education".

Under the new policy, children in many smaller communities will travel long distances in buses to regional schools.

The new priority will be to develop the selected communities into regional economic and education hubs with a significant concentration of the NT's Aboriginal population.

One of the communities selected to be a regional hub is Wadeye, 250 kilometres south-east of Darwin, where in the past youth gangs have fought running battles in the streets. The community has already received tens of millions of dollars for new housing and other facilities under the $1.5 billion federal indigenous intervention.

Other communities selected include Yirrkala, Ngukurr, Yuendumu, Maningrida, Lajamanu, Gunbalanya and Hermannsburg, Nguiu, Angurugu and Umbakumba.

The NT Government is also set to announce changes aimed at improving the way services are delivered to indigenous communities.

These are expected to include the appointment of a Coordinator-General, who will have access to all government department heads and report directly to the NT's Chief Minister.

The Federal Government announced a similar position in February.

The NT Government will also announce that business managers appointed under the federal intervention will be jointly managed by the NT and Federal governments in an attempt to align the targets set by the two governments for closing the gap on indigenous disadvantage.

The NT Government is also set to release a report into the viability of the indigenous homelands by Aboriginal leader Pat Dodson.

This has of course triggered some strong reactions from Aboriginal People like Waturr Gumana, fearing that another "Stolen Generation" will be created as he says in today's ABC News:

'Another Stolen Generation': elder slams homeland cutbacks

An Aboriginal elder in Arnhem Land has warned that a new Stolen Generation will be created if the Northern Territory Government scales back vital services in hundreds of remote outstations where thousands of Indigenous people live on their ancestral lands.

The Laynhapuy Homelands Association, which oversees 26 outstations near Yirrkala, 900 kilometres east of Darwin, says the Territory's Minister for Indigenous Policy, Alison Anderson, yesterday briefed it on the future of Aboriginal outstations.

The association's Waturr Gumana says the Government wants to consolidate services such as housing, schools and medical clinics into 20 large communities and will no longer provide additional funding or services for existing smaller outstations.

A Government spokesperson has refused to comment on the Government's plans, which are expected to be unveiled by the Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, tomorrow.

However, Fairfax Media today reported that about 580 remote outstations would lose government-supported services.

It would mark an end to the 1970s "homelands movement", which enabled many Aboriginal people to move back to their ancestral lands, Fairfax Media said.

Mr Gumana, who lives at the Gan Gan homeland in the Laynhapuy region, says the Government is pushing his people off their own land.

"The Stolen Generation, this is happening again," he said.

"People are going to be taken out of their homes.

"Our people are going to be taken back to the main communities.

"History is going to repeat itself. This is not good.

"This does not give us the right to live on our property, on our land."

Bid to save outstations

Joe Morrison from the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance says tomorrow's announcement will be a watershed moment but he is fearful it could slash funding and services to small and remote outstations.

The alliance is trying to develop more ranger work in outstations to help end Indigenous disadvantage and also benefit the environment.

"I do think that they have got to maintain an open policy and an open mind in relation to outstations," Mr Morrison said.

A medical study released this week found that Indigenous people living and working on their traditional lands are less likely to develop chronic health problems.

Mr Morrison is calling for tens of millions of dollars to be invested in outstations.

"They need to direct some significant funds into investing in people who are living in remote locations.

"Anywhere in the order of $20 to 50 million annually in relation to supporting people who are looking at opportunities on their lands and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and also looking at innovative development options."

The Government needs to look beyond the high cost of delivering education and health services to remote outstations, he says.

"This is part of the debate that needs to happen and it hasn't really happened," he said.

"There's been a one-sided dialogue going on where it's been largely around the cost of providing services but it dismisses the other benefits.

"We know that cost of services in overcrowded communities is going to go up as well because people are getting forced into these large communities from outstations."

I certianly can see the government's point that maintaining health, educational and infrastructural services to a large number of isolated outstations while there are hardly any job opportunities available is extremely costly. On the other hand, seeing what the large settlements do to the social life and health of many Aboriginal people, I do see Waturr's point that focussing on the costs of providing services falls short in this matter.

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