Pipalyatjara: mechanical workshop for vehicle maintenance

First posted on 28 September 2007 under Pipalyatjara.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: infrastructure & transport

Summary

In April 2005, the Federal Government agreed to provide funding to establish a mechanical workshop at Pipalyatjara. As part of those arrangements, the Government promised to hire a qualified mechanic, develop a business plan and establish traineeships for local Anangu. In 2006, after government funding had been expended, the workshop closed.

In August 2009, an Anangu-controlled service organisation hired another mechanic and re-opened the workshop.

The Paper Trail

The poor condition of roads on the APY Lands takes a heavy toll on vehicles. It is difficult for Anangu to keep their cars running and in good repair – especially when the nearest mechanic is hundreds of kilometres away.

The community of Pipalyatjara is located in the far north-west corner of the APY Lands. Its nearest regional centre – Alice Springs – is about 750kms away by road (much of it unsealed and very rough).

On 19 April 2005, the Federal Government signed a Shared Responsibility Agreement (SRA) with Pipalyatjara community.[i] As part of the agreement, the Federal Government agreed to provide $155,000 funding to:

  • upgrade an unused workshop ($75,000),
  • employ a qualified mechanic ($70,000), and
  • develop a business plan to make sure the community garage was viable as a business in the longer term ($10,000).[ii]

For its part, Pipalyatjara community agreed to:

  • provide administrative support,
  • oversee the management of the garage,
  • provide workshop assistance and trainee mechanics,
  • ensure mechanical services were provided on a ‘user pays’ basis, and
  • make sure community members did not pressure workshop staff to provide goods or services free of charge.[iii]

The Federal Government stated that the aim of the agreement was to:

establish a self-sufficient mechanic’s workshop that will provide for the Pipalyatjara community, visitors, and outlying communities, with a view to having a local mechanic in place in five years.[iv]

The Government noted that the agreement would “give young people opportunities to learn a trade.”[v]

Under the agreement’s feedback mechanisms and monitoring strategies:

  • representatives of the Port Augusta Indigenous Coordination Centre agreed to “meet regularly with Pipalyatjara community and Council,”
  • the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) agreed to “provide regular updates” on its planning for the traineeships, and
  • the Department of Families and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FACSIA) agreed to report on the need for “any ongoing funding.”[vi]

On 2 May 2005 – a fortnight after the agreement was signed – the Federal Government reported that it was endeavouring to establish the Pipalyatjara workshop “as an accredited training facility” and that DEWR was involved in the development of the project’s business plan.[vii]

At that time, the Government estimated that the development of a training program would “be completed within 10 weeks,” and that the program would begin with two apprenticeships but expand to four in 2005/2006.

Concerning this training, the Federal Government noted that it was “engaged in discussions” with the State Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (DFEEST).[viii]

Subsequent research, conducted towards the end of 2005, reported:

Feedback from the Pipalyatjara community on the implementation of its SRA has been extremely positive; it appears that both the government and the community commitments are being well observed, and the establishment of the mechanic’s workshop is having clear benefits in the community.[ix]

A year later, however, the mechanic had left the community and the workshop was closed.[x]

Shared Responsibility Agreements (SRA)

The Shared Responsibility Agreement (SRA) that Pipalyatjara community signed was a product of new administrative arrangements that the Howard Federal Government had introduced on 1 July 2004.

A key component of those arrangements was “direct engagement” with local Aboriginal communities via the development and signing of Shared Responsibility Agreements (SRAs). “Mutual obligation” was to be a key aspect of all SRAs.

In March 2005, the Federal Government’s Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs explained:

SRAs are agreements between the government and Indigenous communities or groups, to provide a discretionary benefit in return for community obligations. These discretionary benefits may take the form of extra services, capital or infrastructure over and above essential services or basic entitlements … The government wants to do business this way because SRAs are driven by community priorities and provide a mechanism to deliver services with much more flexibility to tailor to community needs than has been used in the past. SRAs are to contribute towards the long term vision and plans that Indigenous people have for their communities, their children and grandchildren. [xi]

In the first year of the new administrative arrangements, the Federal Government finalised 76 SRAs with 64 Aboriginal communities and groups across Australia.[xii] The agreement with Pipalyatjara was the only SRA finalised with a community or group on the APY Lands.[xiii]

On 11 May 2006, the Federal Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FACSIA) reported that it expected:

  • most SRAs would “be reviewed as part of the evaluation after their first 12 months of operation, or at an earlier appropriate review point”,
  • the “first round” of reviews would commence in April 2006, and
  • overall 20 reviews would be conducted in 2005/06, 100 reviews in 2006/07 and another 100 in 2007/2008.[xiv]

On 2 November 2006, FACSIA advised that independent consultants had completed 28 reviews and that another 50 reviews were underway.[xv] At that time – more than 18 months after its signing – the Pipalyatjara SRA had not been reviewed.[xvi]

Questions & Responses

On 11 September 2007, the Paper Tracker wrote to three government departments about the Pipalyatjara SRA.

Department of Families and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FACSIA)

The Paper Tracker asked FACSIA for information on:

  • the number of Anangu who commenced apprenticeships through the Pipalyatjara workshop during the operation of the SRA,
  • whether the Pipalyatjara SRA had been internally or independently reviewed and, if so, what the review found,
  • the steps FACSIA took or was taking to secure ongoing operational funds for the Pipalyatjara workshop, and
  • the number of occasions representatives of the Port Augusta Indigenous Coordination Centre had met with Pipalyatjara community and council to discuss the operation of the SRA and the outcome of those discussions.

In a response dated 19 October 2007, FACSIA neglected to provide most of the requested information. Instead, it wrote:

The Pipalyatjara SRA … was coordinated and funded through the Port Augusta Indigenous Coordination Centre (ICC) in 2005. Funds for the mechanic workshop and associated activities were expended in accordance with the SRA objectives prior to the mechanic’s departure in 2006.

The ICC has advised that ongoing work associated with this SRA, including further review activity, will be coordinated through the ICC as required in consultation with the community, other relevant stakeholders and funding bodies.[xvii]

Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR)

The Paper Tracker asked DEWR for an account of its involvement in both the preparation of the business plan and the development of traineeships/apprenticeships at Pipalyatjara. The Paper Tracker also asked DEWR for a copy of the business plan.

In a reply dated 19 September 2007, DEWR stated that it had:

held a number of fruitful discussions with the [Pipalyatjara] Community during the execution of the agreement. The commitments made in this agreement by DEWR have been executed and we thank you for your interest in this matter.[xviii]

On 25 October 2007, the Paper Tracker met with DEWR to discuss the matters raised in our original request.[xix] In the course of that discussion, DEWR indicated that:

  • as part of the SRA, it had contracted a third party to complete a feasibility study/business plan, a copy of which had been provided to the Pipalyatjara community,
  • for contractual reasons it was unable to provide the Paper Tracker with a copy of the study/plan but suggested that we might be able to obtain a copy from the community,
  • its involvement in the SRA had been limited to the preparation of the feasibility study/business plan (i.e. it had not participated in the development of any traineeships/apprenticeships), and
  • the Pipalyatjara SRA had finished.

Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (DFEEST)

The Paper Tracker asked DFEEST to provide a summary of the training programs it had delivered at Pipalyatjara in 2005/06 and 2006/07 that were connected to the operation of the workshop. As part of that summary, DFEEST was asked to indicate the number of Anangu who had participated in that training and the specific qualifications they had obtained.

In a response dated 3 October 2007, DFEEST stated:

Whilst the workshop was a base for Community Education Programs in 2005-06 and 2006-07, the facility was not used for the delivery of mechanical/automotive training at Pipalyatjara. The reasons surrounding this is firstly, because the Community Mechanic, the only person suitably qualified to provide such training, did not have the time available, and secondly, there are serious questions about the compliance of the Community Workshop with OHS&W standards required for the training. Should these two pre-conditions have been addressed then the full associated automotive traineeships and apprenticeship opportunities available from DFEEST would have been made available at Pipalyatjara.[xx]

DFEEST had been aware of concerns about the OHS&W standards of the workshop since at least November 2004.[xxi] The Paper Trackers considers it unfortunate that these concerns were not addressed as part of the SRA’s $75,000 upgrade of the facility.

Further developments

In 2007, the Paper Tracker spoke directly with representatives of the Pipalyatjara Community Inc. about the mechanical workshop. At that time, the community was disappointed that the workshop had been closed for almost a year.[xxii]

The community provided the Paper Tracker with considerable documentation relating to the SRA, including a copy of a presentation given in July 2005 on the findings of the DEWR-funded feasibility study.[xxiii]

The presentation indicated that the study had found that Pipalyatjara was “an excellent choice of venue at which to establish a workshop” but that it was “unlikely” that there would be “enough regular paying business to meet the full costs of operation.” It continued:

A workshop at Pipalyatjara is a worthwhile investment for the community as it provides benefits other than income generation.[xxiv]

On this basis, the feasibility study recommended that the community negotiate an agreement with Fleet SA to have SA Government staff vehicles, such as those used by teachers and police, serviced at the workshop. [xxv]

Subsequent to the completion of the feasibility study, the Federal Government and Pipalyatjara renegotiated the terms of the SRA. As part of those negotiations it appears that the training and apprentice components were removed.[xxvi]

Across the APY Lands, Anangu have repeatedly asked for genuine training programs to be established so that they can obtain “real jobs.”[xxvii] In promoting the Pipalyatjara SRA in 2005, the Federal Government stated that it would “give young people opportunities to learn a trade.” [xxviii]

The Paper Tracker believes that the removal of this core element undermined the SRA’s overall purpose. We also believe that the SRA should have been formally evaluated.

Garage reopens

In mid 2009, more than two years after the workshop closed, an Anangu-controlled service organisation announced plans to hire a mechanic and reopen the Pipalyatjara garage. [xxix]

On 7 January 2010, Regional Anangu Services – formerly “AP Services” – advised the Paper Tracker that, in consultation with the Pipalyatjara community, it had employed a mechanic in August 2009 and re-opened the community’s mechanical workshop/garage.[xxx]

On 22 October 2010, Regional Anangu Services further advised that:

  • its first mechanic had left Pipalyatjara after one year (i.e. in August 2010),
  • the position then remained vacant for approximately one month while a replacement was recruited,
  • a new mechanic commenced work in September 2010, and
  • an Anangu community member would be employed as the mechanic’s assistant.[xxxi]

On 25 January 2012, Regional Anangu Services advised the Paper Tracker that while the mechanic was still in place, an “Anangu Trades Assistant” was not employed at the garage. The advice continued:

The garage performs a vehicle/equipment repair function … [and] also manages the full pumps on behalf of the community.[xxxii]

This article was last updated in January 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] According to documents tabled in the Senate on 9 February 2006, the agreement was signed by the Pipalyatjara Aboriginal Community, the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination and the Federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations. See Hansard, 9 February 2006, Senate, Parliament of Australia, p191.

[ii] “Pipalyatjara, South Australia: Providing mechanical services within the community,” 2005, Share Responsibility Agreement Fact Sheet, Australian Government. www.indigenous.gov.au/sra/sa/fact_sheets/sa03.html Accessed: 10 September 2007. Proposed costs outlined in ” ‘Providing mechanical services – Pipalyatjara’ SRA document,” Shared Responsibility Agreements database, Australian Government, www.indigenous.gov.au/sra/search/srasearch.aspx.  Accessed 10 September 2007.

[iii] “Pipalyatjara, South Australia: Providing mechanical services within the community,” 2005, Share Responsibility Agreement Fact Sheet, Australian Government. www.indigenous.gov.au/sra/sa/fact_sheets/sa03.html Accessed: 10 September 2007

[iv] ” ‘Providing mechanical services – Pipalyatjara’ SRA document,” 2005, Shared Responsibility Agreements database, Australian Government, p1. www.indigenous.gov.au/sra/search/srasearch.aspx.  Accessed 10 September 2007.

[v] “Pipalyatjara, South Australia: Providing mechanical services within the community,” 2005, Share Responsibility Agreement Fact Sheet, Australian Government. www.indigenous.gov.au/sra/sa/fact_sheets/sa03.html Accessed: 10 September 2007.

[vi] “Providing mechanical services – Pipalyatjara” SRA document, 2005, Shared Responsibility Agreements database, Australian Government, p2. www.indigenous.gov.au/sra/search/srasearch.aspx.  Accessed 10 September 2007.

[vii] Minutes of the meeting of Tjungungku Kuranyukutu Palyantjaku (TKP) held in Adelaide on 2 May 2005, p2. www.waru.org/organisations/tkp/minutes/TKP%20minutes%2002-05-05.pdf Accessed: 10 September 2007.

[viii] Minutes of the meeting of Tjungungku Kuranyukutu Palyantjaku (TKP) held in Adelaide on 2 May 2005, p2. www.waru.org/organisations/tkp/minutes/TKP%20minutes%2002-05-05.pdf Accessed: 10 September 2007.

[ix] Urbis Keys Young, March 2006, “Review of the COAG Trial in the APY Lands,” p14. Note: comments on page 2 of this report indicate that the research on which its findings are based was conducted in October and December 2005.

[x] Moody, D. (FaCSIA). 19 October 2007. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald.

[xi] Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs, Bulletin, April 2005, Available online at: www.apsc.gov.au/indigenousemployment/bulletin0105.htm. Accessed: 10 September 2007.

[xii] Calma, T. 2005, Social Justice Report 2005¸ Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, p148.

[xiii] Shared Responsibility Agreements database, Australian Government, www.indigenous.gov.au/sra/search/srasearch.aspx.  Accessed 29 September 2006. The next three SRAs with APY communities were signed on 10 January 2006.

[xiv] Information provided by FACSIA in response to questions asked by Senator C. Evans on 15 February 2006. Tabled in the Senate, Parliament of Australia, on 11 May 2006.

[xv] Bryant, J. 2 November 2006, transcript of evidence presented to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, p13.

[xvi] A list of the 28 completed reviews was tabled in evidence to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs on 2 November 2006. It indicated that three South Australian SRAs had been reviewed: one each at Yalata, Aroona and Coober Pedy.

[xvii] Moody, D. 19 October 2007, Letter from FACSIA to Rev P McDonald.

[xviii] Webb, P. 19 September 2007. Letter from DEWR to Rev P McDonald.

[xix] The meeting was held in DEWR’s South Australian State Office. The Paper Tracker was represented by Rev P McDonald and Mr J Nicholls. DEWR was represented by Ms N Govan, Ms C Steele, Ms H Marden & Mr B Mouton.

[xx] Cunningham, B. 3 October 2007, Letter from DFEEST to Rev P McDonald.

[xxi] Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology, November 2004, “TAFE SA Anangu Lands: Occupational Health Safety and Welfare, Audit Report,” p14-15.

[xxii] The Paper Tracker first spoke with representatives of Pipalyatjara Community Inc. on 10 September 2007. Communication has continued since then by phone, email and fax.

[xxiii] Komene, D. 10 October 2007. Letter to J Nicholls and enclosures.

[xxiv] Information contained in fax sent to Pipalyatjara Community Inc. on 18 July 2005 by J Love (DEWR). The fax provided the community with a 25-page printout of a PowerPoint presentation on the findings of the feasibility study.

[xxv] Information contained in fax sent to Pipalyatjara Community Inc. on 18 July 2005 by J Love (DEWR). The fax provided the community with a 25-page printout of a PowerPoint presentation on the findings of the feasibility study.

[xxvi] McGarvey, G. August 2005, Notes of 5 August 2005 conversation with M Leverington (ICC Port Augusta).

[xxvii] See, for example, the record of the Wiru Palyjantjaku strategic planning workshop held at Umuwa in April/May 2006, p11. Available at: http://www.waru.org/organisations/tkp/workshops/wpwkshpaprilmay2006.pdf. Accessed: 28 October 2007.

[xxviii] “Pipalyatjara, South Australia: Providing mechanical services within the community,” 2005, Share Responsibility Agreement Fact Sheet, Australian Government. www.indigenous.gov.au/sra/sa/fact_sheets/sa03.html Accessed: 10 September 2007.

[xxix] Anangu Pitjantjatjara Services Aboriginal Corporation. August 2009. Newsletter, Issue 2, p3. Available at: http://www.oric.gov.au/document.aspx?concernID=101902. Accessed 11 January 2010.

[xxx] Cameron, L (Regional Anangu Services). 7 January 2010. Email to J. Nicholls.

[xxxi] Cameron, L. (Regional Anangu Services). 22 October 2010. Email to J. Nicholls.

[xxxii] Tolhurst, M (Regional Anangu Services). 25 January 2012. Email to J. Nicholls.

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.