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More questions about Territory's policies for -

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More questions about Territory's policies for the bush

The World Today - Friday, 19 June , 2009 12:50:00

Reporter: Sara Everingham

PETER CAVE: This weekend marks two years since the beginning of the Federal intervention in the
Northern Territory.

Earlier this week the Commonwealth began a series of consultations with people in Central Australia
about possible changes to its emergency response.

But further north it's another issue which has many Indigenous people fired up - the Territory
Government's policy on small remote outstations or homelands on Aboriginal land.

Sara Everingham has this report.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Yilpara is a tiny homeland on Blue Mud Bay in north-east Arnhem Land. The
community looks over a small pristine beach.

As Djambawa Marawilli watches the waves roll in, he says tells me there's nowhere he'd rather be.

DJAMBAWA MARAWILLI: For me homelands and the remote place like this, it is the safest place and the
healthiest place to live.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Yilpara is home to about 150 people. There's a school but at the moment around 60
children of different ages are taught in two classrooms.

More funding is in the pipeline but Djumbawa Marawilli wants more government funding for housing
and more help to create jobs.

DJAMBAWA MARAWILLI: I need to see a school where all the children should be having school right
here. Education is really important to me. Education is the key.

SARA EVERINGHAM: But under a new territory policy funding for homelands such as Yilpara is set to
remain the same.

Recently at Yilpara Aboriginal people from Arnhem Land burnt the policy document to show their
disgust.

Aboriginal people started moving into more remote and smaller communities such as Yilpara in the
1970s.

The challenge for governments since then has been how to deliver services to small outstations
spread over a large area.

The Northern Territory Government says its new growth town's policy is an attempt to do just that.
It sets out a plan to create 20 larger hub communities. People in smaller homelands will travel
there for government services and secondary schools.

Money for homelands will not increase and there will be no money for new ones.

Malarndirri McCarthy is the Northern Territory's Minister for Children.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: We recognise that in over 20 years' time half the population will be
Aboriginal in the Northern Territory. Most of that is going to be in our regions and it would be
irresponsible for our Government not to be planning so that these communities become towns in our
regions for population growth.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The policy is one reason why the territory MP Marion Scrymgour recently quit the
Labor party.

MARION SCRYMGOUR: The growth towns concept and if you look at the, you know the $160-million that
is going over those 20 communities to increase some of the infrastructure - whether that increases
a lot of those services and the infrastructure you know we'll have to wait to see.

I support that concept of moving with that but it doesn't mean you put all your eggs in one basket
and forget about the homelands because that is an important growth area that certainly still needs
to and continues to be supported.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The policy includes $160-million over five years for the 20 growth towns. Funding
for outstations will remain at $36-million a year.

The closest growth town to Yilpara is Yirrkala, several hundred kilometres away by road. In the wet
season it's cut off. Getting people to Yirrkala will be expensive.

Marion Scrymgour again:

MARION SCRYMGOUR: These people deserve more. Their populations have increased, their infrastructure
has never been upgraded.

SARA EVERINGHAM: But Rolf Gerritsen from Charles Darwin University says the debate about the policy
is irrelevant.

ROLF GERRITSEN: Well it's like a debate about whether or not Australia should put a man on the
moon. You know you can be in favour of it or against it. The reality is we are not going to. This
is a policy that is not going to be implemented.

SARA EVERINGHAM: He says it simply doesn't include enough money to make a difference for people in
the bush .

ROLF GERRITSEN: The $160-million that has been identified is over four years so that is $40-million
a year for 20 hub towns so that's $2-million each which might build you two classrooms onto the
school. I don't see the money is there to do it.

PETER CAVE: Dr Rolf Gerritsen from Charles Darwin University ending that report from Sara
Everingham.