The Paper Tracker recognises the importance of meeting regularly with Anangu on their lands. These meetings are opportunities for Anangu to highlight issues that are of particular concern to them and for us to check the direction and impact of our work.
In June 2010, the Paper Tracker spent five days visiting communities on the eastern-half of the APY Lands.
Itinerary / Activities
The visit started on Sunday, 20 June with an evening walk around Pukatja. Since our last trip, the restoration of the old mission church had been completed. Pastor Graham Kulyuru proudly showed us inside the building.
Monday began with a guided tour of some of the projects being delivered in Pukatja through the Australian Army’sAboriginal Community Assistance Program 2010. These include: the construction of a major water pipeline; the building of three new community houses; intensive training programs for some Anangu young men; daily exercise and nutrition programs at the local school; dental services; and the re-building of an 850-metre section of the road to Umuwa.
Across the community, people seemed very pleased with the army’s efforts and, in particular, with how their staff had consulted with Anangu about what projects should be undertaken.
At the school it was great to see the family centre full of small children and their mothers. We also had the chance to visit the new skills shed that the male secondary school students are helping to build.
Over the course of the day, the Paper Tracker spoke with community members about current concerns and aspirations. This included meetings with Katrina Tjitayi and Makinti Minutjukur at Anangu Education Services and with Gary Lewis and Kawaki Thompson at the community office.
Mid afternoon, we sat in on a rehearsal of the school children’s choir. About 50 children participate in the twice-weekly rehearsals.
The school has also involved itself with a recycling program that Zero Waste SA has been trialing on the APY Lands. At the time of our visit, students and staff had collected around 14,000 recyclable cans and bottles.
A cursory visit to the community store confirmed reports that it is poorly stocked and that the prices for many essential food items remain unacceptably high. For example, a 250g jar of instant coffee cost $24.00 (at that time, the same item cost $13.52 at a supermarket in Adelaide).
Monday’s activities ended with a quick tour of the community’s new police complex. Earlier in the day, some community members expressed concern that the two-metre fence surrounding the complex made it difficult to know when the police station was open and/or officers were on duty. The Paper Tracker shares these concerns. Indeed, from the outside we found it impossible to determine if the station was open and/or staff were present. Better signage – and keeping the main gate open when staff are on duty – would go a long way to solving this problem.
Umuwa was the focus of our itinerary on Tuesday, 22 June. We started the day at PY Media with a discussion about its 5NPY radio station and the possibility of broadcasting a regular Paper Tracker radio show. Another staff member then briefed us on the PY Ku Centres and PY Media’s ongoing efforts to increase the number of government services that can be accessed from those buildings. At the time of our visit, five of the six PY Ku centres were open for business each week and 13 of their 14 staff were Anangu. The Paper Tracker understands that SA court hearings continue to be held in the centres and that in Amata and Mimili, Federally-appointed Government Business Managers work out of these buildings.
We next spent several hours in conversation with representatives of the land-holding body Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara. This included a meeting with its Anangu Director (Rex Tjami) and separate discussions with staff working in the areas of mining exploration and land management.
Most of Wednesday (23 June) was spent in Mimili. There we met with local community members including Huey Tjami and Debra Umala. At the Mimili TAFE centre, students were interested to see how the Paper Tracker website works. Later, we observed two students participating in an online class with a lecturer based in Port Augusta. Both students are undertaking TAFE studies as part of a pre-employment program with Oz Minerals. The students are hoping to secure ongoing employment towards the end of this year at the company’s Prominent Hill mine.
At the local CDEP depot, a number of young men were working hard to improve the general appearance and safety of their work site.
It was good to see that the overall condition of the Mimili bush food garden had improved since our last visit.
Another positive development is the completion of the new police complex. As was the case in Pukatja, some local residents expressed concerns about access to the station and its staff.
Probably the biggest change in Mimili is the amount of new housing under construction, though at the time of our visit, none had been handed over to Anangu.
Housing was the focus of a conversation we had in Umuwa later that afternoon. There, Housing SA talked with us about the ongoing construction program and the challenges of changing the way housing is managed across the APY Lands. As part of these changes, the process of allocating new houses will be controlled by Housing SA and not – as was previously the case – by local community councils. A new rental formula will also be introduced (though this was still being finalised at the time of our visit).
Thursday (24 June) began with an early morning drive from Pukatja to Amata. On arrival, the Paper Tracker met first with the chairperson of the local community council (Owen Burton) and then with staff of Bungala Aboriginal Corporation, the CDEP provider for the APY Lands.
A large number of new houses for Anangu are also under construction in Amata. People we spoke with were understandably pleased at this development and eager to move in to their new homes.
Mid afternoon, we met with some staff who work to improve childhood nutrition and well-being and address the needs of “at risk” children. While funding for the construction of an early childhood learning centre in Amata has been allocated, the Paper Tracker was informed that this facility is not expected to be completed for at least another year.
As always, Tjala Arts was a hub for artistic expression and economic activity. Over the last seven years, the annual sales figures for this organisation have grown over 2000% (from $36,000 in 2002 to almost $800,000 in 2009). However, a lack of staff housing is threatening the long-term sustainability of this Anangu-controlled business. It was disappointing to hear that other organisations with surplus staff housing have not been prepared to allow Tjala Arts to use these houses even for relatively short periods of time.
On Friday, 25 June, the Paper Tracker headed north to Alice Springs for an afternoon meeting with the NPY Women’s Council and other groups working to improve government responses for people with end stage renal disease. At the meeting, Kinyin McKenzie and Colin Brown spoke passionately about the need for people from the APY Lands to be able to access dialysis in Alice Springs or, preferably, in their home communities.
Issues identified during community discussions
Over the course of the trip, Anangu and their co-workers brought a range of issues to our attention. These included:
- the diminishing level of government support for local community councils,
- the infrequency with which the youth sheds in some communities open,
- fears that the momentum generated through the Australian Army’s efforts in Pukatja will not be sustained in the longer term,
- the impact that gambling is having on some Anangu households,
- frustration at the ineffectiveness and irregularity of government communication and consultation processes,
- the lack of support for homelands,
- the negative effects of government changes to the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program,
- a lack of transparency around the way monies earned from some cattle agistment agreements are distributed, and
- the high cost of fresh food and other essential items in community stores.
The trip was a chance for the Paper Tracker to talk openly with community leaders and Lands-based staff about local achievements, pressing concerns and future challenges. Thanks to everyone who welcomed us into their busy lives and, in a couple of cases, provided us with somewhere to sleep at night.
The Paper Tracker will endeavour to monitor the issues and concerns that were brought to our attention in the course of the trip and look for opportunities to bring these matters to the attention of the relevant government agencies, Members of Parliament and the broader Australian community.