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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2851


Senator VIGOR(11.25) —I would like to commend the communities at Yuendumu and Ernabella on their pioneering work in public television. During the winter recess I visited the Ernabella community in my State and saw at first hand how the television facility was being run very creatively in that area on a shoestring budget. It was obvious that there was a great deal of community involvement in the filming and other activities, and there is similar involvement at Yuendumu. I think it is very important for Aboriginal communities to be able to make decisions about just how they are going to use media technology and how they will use it to maintain their culture. What I would like to know from the Minister at the table, the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes), is what plans the Government has for extending the service which is now being developed at both of these places, to give both an entertainment and cultural service to those areas. I understand that this is currently not a matter of priority within the Department. But it was obvious to me that due to this type of centralising community activity, which was expressed through the public television activity, there was much better morale within the community and less petrol sniffing and drunkenness and other types of anti-social behaviour than was happening in some of the other communities I visited which had no such similar cultural focus. I am pleased that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is continuing to take an interest and has made some funds available for this. However, it is only a very small amount of funds and it appears to be being spent in only limited areas, and I therefore would like some comment on this from the Minister.

I would also like to take up the point, which was provided in a written answer to a question asked during the Estimates committee hearing, of the potential for expansion of Aboriginal broadcasting, which has been restricted by the fixed funding for the Public Broadcasting Foundation. In fact all public broadcasters are affected in this way, despite various election pledges by the Government. I believe some type of special grant, which would help in this area, could be granted through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I ask the Minister what plans the Government has because during the Estimates committee proceedings I searched in vain for this.

I would also like to commend the Department for the hope that the community development employment projects have restored to many communities. I shall be watching what effort goes into getting skilled people on site to enable communities to start on-going projects. I was particularly impressed by some of the projects where some members of a community were being trained by carpenters and other tradesmen to develop sufficient skills to build their own housing. This program does not seem to have received as much money as has been given for suburban houses just being plonked, if I may put it that way, out in the bush, which was certainly what I saw in various other areas. I was particularly impressed with the community near Ceduna where the people were working with local tradesmen trying to develop their own sites.


Senator Messner —Koonibba.


Senator VIGOR —Yes, at Koonibba. This was not evident in other areas and apparently that is not the way in which the money is being spent. During my tour of communities in the winter break I saw several examples of quite inappropriate buildings. I would like to know what type of consultation is carried out with the people concerned. We see buildings, which are just basically suburban houses, being used to house up to 24 and even 30 people because of the method of living that these people have chosen. That causes real problems because the sewerage facilities, the septic facilities, are unable to cope. With a little more thought and Aboriginal involvement in the planning-as I believe has happened at Uluru; I was impressed by what was happening in that community-the money could have been much better spent and many of the problems of health and disease avoided. I would like a comment from the Minister on that, and on the likely practical outcome of a meeting being held right now in Alice Springs of some 120 people from the Aboriginal health field. I would like to know how Aboriginal health will be affected by these types of spending programs.

It would be useful if we could have an indication whether the statements by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs or those of the Aboriginal Development Commission are the more reliable on the transfer of housing related functions of the community management and services program during 1985-86. The Department says that there was agreement about staff beforehand and that the balance of moneys unexpended was handed over. The Commission says that commensurate levels of staffing and funding have not been transferred. It is very difficult when we get these conflicting statements. The Commission suggests that the reasons for the disparity and attempts at rectifying the situation are matters more appropriately answered by the Department. I would really like to know whether the Minister can tell us what is going on in this area as there seems to be some contradiction between the answers given to me, or not given to me, by the Commission and the statements by the Department.

In another answer during the Estimates committees, the Department indicated that it will establish an area office at Marla as part of its central region restructure. I would like some indication of when work is expected to be completed on that office. I have already had indications that communities are having increased difficulties dealing with staff at such a distance. The staff who deal with them are at Port Augusta and Adelaide. The people already have to undertake an enormous amount of onerous travel, which must cost them and, if they are subsidised, the taxpayers, a lot more money than would be involved in establishing a proper facility and office at Marla. Generally, it seems that the Department is tackling a very difficult problem, and I commend it on the work that it is doing. But it seems that there is some need for the Parliament to be informed about the priorities that I have questioned in those areas.