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Wednesday, 16 March 2005
Page: 134


Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) (6:06 PM) —Senator Nettle, I am glad you asked that question and I am glad you chose other words than ‘penalties’. We do not think of it in that sense. We do want to make agreements. Where, for example, you make an agreement with a community for a pool, we think no pool, no school works very well. It is an idea that Indigenous Australia came up with, and it works very well in the communities where there is a commitment to it. It will be different from community to community. Some communities will be closer to regional areas where there might be a private sector firm that is happy to service the pool. Some communities will be more remote and will not have that capacity, so they might want to make an agreement about keeping enough people trained to keep the pool in good order, keeping enough people trained to be lifeguards at the pool so that the kids are safe, and organising swimming competitions or other physical activities using the pool so that there is a greater sense of community—that is, that the asset is really used and maintained—and in some cases they might want to make an agreement about kids who do not go to school not using the pool. In some cases we would be very happy with just that.

You are asking what happens if they do not do it. I will tell you what happens. If the pool is not maintained, the water is dirty and the kids are not safe—that is a disaster. If that community then came back and said, ‘Now we would like you to do something else,’ you can understand that our approach would be, ‘Hold on, we have an agreement with you about the pool. Let’s work on that agreement about the pool. Let’s get both sides of the bargain going there.’ So we have a very open and flexible approach working with community by community.

I do not have the expectation that an individual community will say, ‘We have got the pool; now we can sit down and do nothing.’ They want the pool to be clean and they want the kids to be safe and they want the kids to go to school. Ngukurr in Arnhem Land was the first community where I came across this approach. The community thought of it. They told me that everyone in that community had money taken out of their CDEP for three years, and they did this by themselves. They went to the local government—the federal government was not involved in this—and said, ‘We have this much money. Will you help us with the rest? This is what we want: we want a better future for our kids, we want them to go to school and we want them to be healthy.’ We will help them maintain the pool, keep lifeguards there and keep the kids active. If you get the opportunity you should go to Ngukurr and have a look, because they do a damned good job. So I do not approach these agreements on the basis of what I will do if Indigenous Australia do not live up to their word; I approach these agreements on the basis that Indigenous Australia will live up to their word.