APY Lands: community council support officers

First posted on 12 October 2010 under APY Lands & Employment.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: governance

Summary

pukatja_office_signIn May 2010, the South Australian Government announced plans to establish “community council support officer” positions in Amata, Iwantja, Kaltjiti, Mimili, Pipalyatjara and Pukatja.[i] Funding for these positions was originally for twelve months only.[ii]

On 30 June 2011, the Government reported that the officers’ contracts had “been extended for a further three months” and that it was in negotiations with the Federal Government about future “joint funding” arrangements.[iii]

On 2 December 2011, the Government advised the Paper Tracker that funding for the positions had been extended until 30 June 2012. At that time, the Mimili and Pipalyatjara positions were both vacant.[iv] More than a year later, neither position had been filled.[v]

The Paper Trail

Introduction

On the APY Lands, the first Anangu-controlled community council was established in 1973.[vi]

Over the course of the next 30 years, many other councils were formed.[vii] Each one functioned independently, with its own chairperson and council members.[viii]

For many years, the main government funding allocated to these councils was known as “municipal services” funding.[ix] This funding was “allocated on the basis of community size” and the “need and complexity of the services to be provided.” Such services included: housing support, dog control, rubbish collection, landfill maintenance, landscaping in communal areas and, in some cases, funding to cover the cost of diesel fuel for electricity generation.[x]

For the 2004/2005 financial year, a total of $3.4 million of municipal services funding was provided to 16 APY community councils.[xi] At that time, community councils also received funding to deliver particular services and programs, including the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program.[xii]

Still other grants were provided to purchase and maintain community infrastructure or run pilot and short-term projects. For example, in 2004, the then Federal Department of Family and Community Services provided the Mimili and Pukatja councils with $72,000 and $47,000 respectively to support the establishment of night patrols in their communities.[xiii]

Notwithstanding the many and varied ways funding was provided to APY community councils, the day-to-day costs of running an office and holding council meetings were typically paid for out of the municipal services funding allocation.

In August 2004, the then Federal Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs acknowledged this long-standing arrangement, writing:

Although not technically a municipal service responsibility it is acknowledged that [these] funds are used for the overall administration of the community and the resourcing of meetings of the [APY] councils.[xiv]

Similarly, in 2007, the then Federal Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs observed:

While Municipal Services Program funding is intended to cover specific eligible activities, the funding has also supported the governance/administration of many Indigenous communities to the point where their ongoing management has become dependant on its availability.[xv]

2005 consultancy

In April 2005, the Federal Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination engaged a consultant to undertake a “preliminary assessment” of what would be required “to improve program and service delivery” on the APY Lands.[xvi]

The consultant’s final report, dated June 2005, noted:

A high proportion of program and service funding is provided directly to individual communities rather than regional service providers. Additionally, much of the responsibility for the implementation of programs and services … is borne by individual communities rather than through an overarching organisation that represents the collective interests of Anangu communities.[xvii]

The report suggested that the burdens borne by Anangu communities were “difficult to sustain” and that “invariably the quality and effectiveness” of both community governance and administration, and program and service delivery was “mixed or poor.[xviii]

2007 consultancy

In 2007, the State and Federal Governments engaged the same consultant to examine the potential to regionalise some service delivery arrangements on the APY Lands.

The final report of this consultancy – completed in September 2007[xix] – recommended that:

  • “direct funding of APY communities for the delivery of municipal, essential, environmental health and community management services should be abandoned and replaced by the regionalisation of service delivery”, and
  • the bulk of funds provided for these services “should be pooled” and provided to a regional organisation.[xx]

However, the report also drew attention to the crucial role of local community offices, observing that:

  • they were “viewed by Anangu, Governments and other stakeholders as ‘one stop shops’ for nearly everyone and everything,” all of whom “want the Municipal Services Officers that work in those offices to do things for them without notice or support”,
  • “at least half of the time of Municipal Services Officers” was “consumed with community management tasks”,
  • community management was “an ongoing, time consuming and highly demanding function that need[ed] to be formally recognised and funded,” and
  • the salaries for existing management positions in communities were “relatively low given the range of functions and amount of work most people in those positions undertake.”[xxi]

Crucially, the report recognised that municipal services funding sustained the offices, their councils and the day-to-day management of communities and warned that it was “extremely unrealistic to think otherwise.”[xxii]

The report continued:

It is equally unrealistic to think that if the function of community management was not funded, that community members would be willing or able to take on and successfully undertake a vast array of community management functions without training, mentoring, support and payment for their labour.[xxiii]

The report recommended that:

  • community offices “should continue to provide support to community residents and … be the central location for government and non-government agencies seeking to consult with community members”,
  • funding for their operations should be drawn from the pool of funding created through the regionalisation of service delivery,
  • new “Community Manager” positions should be created in 11 APY communities, and
  • these managers should be paid “substantially more” than existing Municipal Services Officers to enable the recruitment and retention of people with “the requisite skills” to “do the job properly.”[xxiv]

Funding decline

The 2007 report recommended that the regionalisation of key services across the APY Lands should “occur in stages”, beginning “on or about 1 July 2008.”[xxv]

While some services and programs had been regionalised by mid 2009,[xxvi] other aspects of the reform process stalled. During this period, local community councils experienced a significant reduction in their funding base. Understandably, this led to a decline in their capacity to meet the needs of local residents and/or genuinely engage with government agencies and other stakeholders.

As of 1 January 2011, more than three years after the consultant recommended that community manager positions be created in 11 APY communities, these positions had not been established.

Community Council Support Officers

On 5 May 2010, the then State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Grace Portolesi MP) advised an APY Executive Board meeting that:

  • the State and Federal Governments would fund six community council support officer positions on the APY Lands in 2010-11,
  • each position was for 12 months only, at “30 hours a week”,
  • these positions would be based in Amata, Iwantja, Kaltjiti, Mimili, Pipalyatjara and Pukatja.[xxvii]

In response to the Minister’s announcement, representatives from Kanpi, Nyapri and Watarru immediately expressed concern that similar support was not being provided to their communities.[xxviii]

On 22 June 2010, the State Government’s Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division provided the Paper Tracker with some information on the selection and appointment of the officers. This included noting that:

  • staff from the Division had met with the chairpersons of the six community councils “all of whom” supported “this initiative and [were] assisting with the appointment process,” and
  • a “joint meeting” of the Pipalyatjara and Kalka community councils had recently been “held to consider nominations for an officer” who would “support both councils.”[xxix]

On 16 August 2010, the Division provided the Paper Tracker with a copy of the official “position description” for the six positions. It notes that the “primary purpose” of each position is to:

–   ensure the provision of efficient, reliable administrative and clerical support services to Community
Councils on the APY Lands,

–   provide assistance for Community Council meetings, [and]

–   contribute to effective governance in communities.[xxx]

It also indicates that while each officer was to be employed as a public servant, he or she would also report to and “take directions from” the chairperson of their local community council “on a daily basis”.[xxxi]

Click here to download a copy of the position description (file size 41KB)

Staff appointment and vacancies

On 27 September 2010, the State Government advised the Paper Tracker that:

  • four of the community council support officer positions had been filled (in Amata, Iwantja, Kaltjiti and Mimili),
  • the position in Pipalyatjara had, at the request of the Pipalyatjara and Kalka communities, been split across these communities and that a part-time officer had been appointed for Kalka,
  • interviews for the Pipalyatjara officer were delayed due to rain but were scheduled for 7 October 2010,
  • discussions with Pukatja community council were continuing,
  • the term of all of the officers would expire on 30 June 2011, and
  • four of the five officers appointed to date were Anangu.[xxxii]

The Government also advised that:

  • prior to the appointment of the support officers, Regional Anangu Services had “been contracted to provide community council support services in five of the six original communities”,
  • the Government was “currently negotiating with PY Media to provide community council support in Pipalyatjara” until its officer was appointed, and
  • it was also “negotiating with Bungala Aboriginal Corporation to provide a position at Nyapari/Kanpi”.[xxxiii]

On 6 October 2010, Bungala Aboriginal Corporation advised the Paper Tracker that:

  • negotiations with the South Australian Government for the position in Kanpi/Nyapari were progressing slowly, and
  • to date, the Government had been unable to confirm that it had secured the required funding of $40,000.[xxxiv]

On 26 November 2010, the Paper Tracker asked the State Government for an update on its efforts to:

  • appoint community council support officers in Pukatja and Pipalyatjara, and
  • establish a similar position in Kanpi/Nyapari.[xxxv]

In a reply dated 17 March 2011, the then State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Grace Portolesi MP) advised the Paper Tracker that:

  • appointments to the Pipalyatjara and Pukatja positions had not yet been made,
  • candidates for these positions had recently been identified and the selection process was continuing,
  • the Government had arranged for Regional Anangu Services (RAS) to have its employees provide the necessary support until the positions were filled,
  • the Government has approved funding for Bungala Aboriginal Corporation as a “contribution towards the costs of the community council support services provided to the Nyapari and Kanpi communities for the period 1 September 2010 to 30 June 2011.”[xxxvi]

On 30 June 2011, the Minister advised State Parliament that:

  • a candidate for the Pipalyatjara position had been selected and was “awaiting a police clearance”, and
  • a person had been working in the Pukatja position since 9 May 2011.[xxxvii]

Funding for 2011/12

Funding for the community council support officer positions was originally due to end on 30 June 2011.[xxxviii]

On 30 June 2011, the then State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Grace Portolesi MP) informed Parliament that:

  • the officers’ contracts had “been extended for a further three months”,
  • the Government was “currently negotiating with the Commonwealth Government around continuing joint funding” for the positions, and
  • the “effectiveness” of the positions would be evaluated.[xxxix]

On 9 August 2011, the Minister advised the Paper Tracker that her Government was continuing to work “with the Commonwealth to find a model where these positions will continue into the future” (i.e. beyond 30 September 2011).[xl]

On 2 December 2011, the State Government advised the Paper Tracker that:

  • funding for the positions had been extended until 30 June 2012, and
  • the Mimili and Pipalyatjara positions were currently vacant.[xli]

More than a year later, both the Mimili and Pipalyatjara positions remained vacant. At that time, each position had been vacant for more than 14 months.[xlii]

On 29 November 2012, the South Australian Government reported in somewhat vague terms that it was working with the Federal Government on “a joint proposal for structuring functions and locations” of the Community Council Support Officers and the “governance support” provided to them.[xliii]

Our concerns(as of February 2012)

While the Paper Tracker is pleased that some support was extended to most APY community councils for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 financial years, we are concerned that:

  • the wages provided to the support officers fall far short of the level of remuneration identified in the 2007 consultant’s report as being necessary to recruit and retain skilled staff,[xliv]
  • the level of support provided to communities does not take into account local circumstances (particularly Pukatja, the largest community on the APY Lands, which unlike some other communities does not have either a PY Ku Centre or a Government Business Manager),
  • the establishment of these positions did not include any support for either Watarru or Yunyarinyi communities, and
  • long-term funding for these or similar positions has not been secured.[xlv]

This article was last updated in 2012. It has been archived and will no longer be updated. It will, however, remain accessible online as a source of background information for anyone wishing to undertake further research on this issue. Information included in the article was current at the time it was archived. Keep in mind, however, that Ministerial changes and names of departments, among other things, may have since changed.


[i] See Minutes of the APY Executive Meeting held at Umuwa on 5-6 May 2010, p1. Available at: http://www.anangu.com.au/documents/cat_view/9-apy-executive-board-minutes.html. Accessed: 11 October 2010.

[ii] See Minutes of the APY Executive Meeting held at Umuwa on 5-6 May 2010, p1. Available at: http://www.anangu.com.au/documents/cat_view/9-apy-executive-board-minutes.html. Accessed: 11 October 2010.

[iii] Portolesi, G. 30 June 2011. “Administered items for the Department of Premier and Cabinet, $9,733,000”, Hansard, Estimates Committee 5, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p203.

[iv] Papapavlou, C (DPC-AARD). 2 December 2011. Email to J. Nicholls.

[v] Cronin, P. 6 December 2012. Email to J. Nicholls from the Office of the South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation.

[vi] Edwards, W. H. 1992, “Patterns of Aboriginal Residence in the North-West of South Australia,” Journal of the Anthropological Society of South Australia, 30:1-2, page 16.

[vii] See: Parliament of South Australia. 2004, Report of the Select Committee on Pitjantjatjara Land Rights, pp218, p69.

[viii] See: Parliament of South Australia. 2004, Report of the Select Committee on Pitjantjatjara Land Rights, pp218, p70.

[ix] See, for example: Bonner, N. 1988, Always Anangu: a review of the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal communities of Central Australia, p34.

[x] Yates, B (DIMIA). 11 August 2004. Letter and Attachment to Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia,

[xi] Sullivan, M (FACS). 20 July 2004. Letter and attachments sent to the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia, Attachment C.

[xii] See, for example. McNally, C (DEWR). 19 July 2004. Letter and enclosure to Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia. The enclosure indicates – page 5 – that for the 2004/2005 financial year, the Federal Government allocated $2.5 million to 16 APY community councils to operate the CDEP program. This funding was in addition to the $8.5 million allocated for CDEP wages.

[xiii] See: Sullivan, M (FACS). 20 July 2004. Letter and attachments sent to the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia, Attachment C. Also: Tynan, M (FACS). 2 September 2004. Information provided in response to follow-up questions from the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia.

[xiv] Yates, B (DIMIA). 11 August 2004. Letter and Attachment to Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia,

[xv] Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. 2007, “Municipal Services Issues Paper,” p7-9, cited in John Thurtell Consulting Services. September 2007. “Scoping Study of the Delivery of Municipal and Local Government Services on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, p36.

[xvi] John Thurtell Consulting Services, June 2005, “Improving Program and Service Delivery on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands: A Proposed Approach by the Australian Government and the South Australian Government. Final Report”, p8.

[xvii] John Thurtell Consulting Services, June 2005, “Improving Program and Service Delivery on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands: A Proposed Approach by the Australian Government and the South Australian Government. Final Report”, p9.

[xviii] John Thurtell Consulting Services, June 2005, “Improving Program and Service Delivery on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands: A Proposed Approach by the Australian Government and the South Australian Government. Final Report”, p9.

[xix] Mazel, J. 20 March 2007, Letter to Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia, p12; John Thurtell Consulting Services, September 2007, “Scoping Study of the Delivery of Municipal and Local Government Services on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Final Report.”

[xx] John Thurtell Consulting Services, September 2007, “Scoping Study of the Delivery of Municipal and Local Government Services on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Final Report”, p73-74.

[xxi] John Thurtell Consulting Services, September 2007, “Scoping Study of the Delivery of Municipal and Local Government Services on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Final Report”, p42, p43, p52-3, p73.

[xxii] John Thurtell Consulting Services, September 2007, “Scoping Study of the Delivery of Municipal and Local Government Services on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Final Report”, p73.

[xxiii] John Thurtell Consulting Services, September 2007, “Scoping Study of the Delivery of Municipal and Local Government Services on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Final Report”, p73.

[xxiv] John Thurtell Consulting Services, September 2007, “Scoping Study of the Delivery of Municipal and Local Government Services on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Final Report”, pages 6, 67 and 74.

[xxv] John Thurtell Consulting Services, September 2007, “Scoping Study of the Delivery of Municipal and Local Government Services on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Final Report”, p5.

[xxvi] See: Fleming, R (FaHCSIA). 26 June 2009. Letter to Mr B. Singer (APY). Also: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. June 2009, “Changes to the Delivery of Municipal Services (MUNS) in the APY Lands,” information sheet. Also: Cameron, L (AP Services). 2 July 2009, “Anangu organisation appointed to provide municipal services across the APY Lands,” media release.

[xxvii] See Minutes of the APY Executive Meeting held at Umuwa on 5-6 May 2010, p1. Available at: http://www.anangu.com.au/documents/cat_view/9-apy-executive-board-minutes.html. Accessed: 11 October 2010. Please note that some of the funding for the six positions was provided by the Federal Government (see: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Inidgenous Affairs. May 2010, “2010-2011 Arrangements for the Delivery of Municipal Services (MUNS) in the APY Lands,” information sheet).

[xxviii] See Minutes of the APY Executive Meeting held at Umuwa on 5-6 May 2010, p2. Available at: http://www.anangu.com.au/documents/cat_view/9-apy-executive-board-minutes.html. Accessed: 11 October 2010.

[xxix] Petersen, K (AARD). 22 June 2010. Email to J. Nicholls

[xxx] Department of the Premier and Cabinet. 2010. “Position Description: Community Council Support Officer”, p1. This document was provided to the Paper Tracker as an attachment to an email received on 16 August 2010. See: Foster, R (DPC-AARD). 16 August 2010. Email to J. Nicholls.

[xxxi] Department of the Premier and Cabinet. 2010. “Position Description: Community Council Support Officer”, p1. This document was provided to the Paper Tracker as an attachment to an email received on 16 August 2010 See: Foster, R (DPC-AARD). 16 August 2010. Email to J. Nicholls.

[xxxii] Hummel, G (Office of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation). 27 September 2010. Email to J. Nicholls

[xxxiii] Hummel, G (Office of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation). 27 September 2010. Email to J. Nicholls

[xxxiv] The Paper Tracker understands that this amount of funding is needed to cover wage support of 15 hours per week ($20,000), as well as the cost of operating an office and administrative support services ($20,000). See: Pearce, D (Bungala Aboriginal Corporation). 6 October 2010. Email to J. Nicholls.

[xxxv] Nicholls, J. 26 November 2010. Email to G. Hummel (Office of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation).

[xxxvi] Portolesi, G. 17 March 2011. Letter to J. Nicholls.

[xxxvii] Portolesi, G. 30 June 2011. “Administered items for the Department of Premier and Cabinet, $9,733,000”, Hansard, Estimates Committee 5, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p203.

[xxxviii] See Minutes of the APY Executive Meeting held at Umuwa on 5-6 May 2010, p1. Available at: http://www.anangu.com.au/documents/cat_view/9-apy-executive-board-minutes.html. Accessed: 11 October 2010.

[xxxix] Portolesi, G. 30 June 2011. “Administered items for the Department of Premier and Cabinet, $9,733,000”, Hansard, Estimates Committee 5, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p203.

[xl] Information provided by Hon G. Portolesi MP (South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) on 9 August 2011 during a interview for the Paper Tracker radio show.

[xli] Papapavlou, C (DPC-AARD). 2 December 2011. Email to J. Nicholls.

[xlii] Cronin, P. 6 December 2012. Email to J. Nicholls from the Office of the South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation. See also: Saunders, N. 16 March 2012. Hansard of evidence presented to the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia, p29.

[xliii] Portolesi, G. November 2012. Fourth Annual Report by the Minister for Education and Child Development to the Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry, p65. This report was tabled in the South Australian Parliament on 29 November 2012.

[xliv] The 2007 consultant’s report estimated that the proposed community managers would need to be paid a base salary of “at least $80,000 per annum”, and noted that, at that time, municipal services officers received a salary of around $55,000 per annum (John Thurtell Consulting Services, September 2007, “Scoping Study of the Delivery of Municipal and Local Government Services on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Final Report”, pages 67). In contrast the 30-hour Community Council Support Officer positions will be paid as ASO3 public servants and as such, as of 1 October 2010, receive a salary of less than $44,000 per annum.

[xlv] Government of South Australia. February 2012 “Progress on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Service Delivery and Development”, p11.

The Paper Tracker works hard to provide accurate and up-to-date information. We will correct any inaccurate information as soon as it is brought to our attention. Please contact us if you have additional information or can provide us with an update.