Recommendation 1: changes to community governance

First posted on 27 June 2008 under Mullighan Inquiry.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: governance

Summary

In April 2008, the Mullighan Inquiry found that some governance structures on the APY Lands were “detrimental to the disclosure of child sexual abuse” and recommended that changes to community governance “be implemented promptly so as to reduce the extent of dysfunction and possible corruption in the communities.”[i]

In July 2008, the South Australian Government expressed support for this recommendation and noted that it would “shortly release a discussion paper outlining the Government’s preferred governance and service delivery model for the APY Lands.”[ii]

In October 2008, the Government released its discussion paper. At that time, it expected to finalise a new governance and service delivery model by mid 2009.[iii]

In December 2009, the Government reported that an “interim” APY “regional service delivery body” will be established in 2010.[iv]

As of January 2013, the new model had not been finalised, nor had an interim body been established.

The Paper Trail

Background

For over 30 years, communities on the APY Lands have elected and maintained Anangu-controlled community councils, “entrusting them with the responsibility to determine and regulate a variety of matters pertaining to local community governance and service requirements.”[v]

The first such council was established in 1973.[vi]  Many more were established in subsequent years.[vii]

The first Anangu-controlled regional organisation was established in 1976 when community councils from South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory formed the Pitjantjatjara Council.[viii] Aside from leading the push for land rights, the Pitjantjatjara Council helped build and strengthen the administrative capacity of local communities and homelands.[ix] Its first meeting included “a lengthy discussion on the role and effectiveness of community councils” and a consideration of ways communities could coordinate the use of costly machinery and equipment.[x]

Throughout the 1980s, the establishment of more homeland settlements led to the formation of additional councils and associations. Concurrently, in an effort to deliver better and more efficient services and programs, additional regional organisations were also established.[xi]

As of mid 2004, the Federal Government funded 16 community councils on the APY Lands and five regional organisations.[xii]

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.[xiii] The consultant’s final report, dated June 2005, stated:

Program and service delivery varies quite considerably across the APY Lands … 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.[xiv]

The report suggested that the burden borne by Anangu communities was “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.[xv]

The consultant suggested efforts needed to be made to determine which programs and services should be delivered on a regional basis and which at the local community level.[xvi]

In 2007, the State and Federal Governments engaged the same consultant to examine the potential to regionalise some service delivery arrangements.[xvii] This second consultancy – and an associated final report – was completed in September 2007.[xviii]

Findings of the Mullighan Inquiry into child sexual abuse

The Mullighan Inquiry into child sexual abuse on the APY Lands “received evidence of dysfunction and corruption” in some APY communities “including councils and administration.”[xix]

It noted “that poor governance and corruption frequently inhibited the proper reporting of child sexual abuse,” commenting that “some of the current governance structures are quite detrimental to the disclosure of child sexual abuse.”[xx]

The Inquiry suggested that these problems could be addressed by implementing the recommendations of the consultancy that had considered how service delivery on the APY Lands could be regionalised.[xxi]

Referring to the findings of that consultancy, the Mullighan Inquiry noted:

Recommendations have been made as to four possible options to resolve the problems … [all of which] appear appropriate. The State Government will decide which of them to adopt.[xxii]

The Inquiry emphasised the importance of any change to governance structures taking into account the “negative impact” of existing structures and, also, of the need for the Government to “consult widely … before making any substantive changes.”[xxiii]

On the basis of the evidence presented, Commissioner Mullighan made the following recommendation (Recommendation 1):

That any change to governance of communities on the Lands be implemented promptly so as to reduce the extent of dysfunction and possible corruption in the communities.

That the nature of any change should have regard to the empowerment of Anangu and enhancing confidence in disclosing child sexual abuse and implementing measures to prevent the abuse and address its consequences.[xxiv]

Government Response to Recommendation 1 of the Mullighan Inquiry

On 6 May 2008, the Premier of South Australia (Hon Mike Rann MP) tabled the Mullighan Inquiry’s report in State Parliament and stressed the importance of his Government responding promptly and thoroughly to all of the Inquiry’s recommendations.[xxv]

On 24 July 2008, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Jay Weatherill MP) tabled the Government’s preliminary response to all of the Inquiry’s 46 recommendations in State Parliament. As part of that response, the Government indicated its “support” for Recommendation 1 and noted that it would “shortly release a discussion paper outlining the Government’s preferred governance and service delivery model for the APY Lands.”[xxvi]

The Government also indicated that it would “consult with all interested stakeholders” prior to “determining the final model.”[xxvii]

The Government’s discussion paper was released in October 2008.[xxviii] At that time, the Government expected to decide on the final “service delivery and associated governance model for the APY Lands” in mid 2009.[xxix]

Click here to access a copy of the Government’s discussion paper (file size: 35KB)

Update (2009)

In December 2009, the South Australian Government advised State Parliament that “further scoping work” was being undertaken on “a proposed model” for improving service delivery on the APY Lands “through the establishment of a local government-type body.”[xxx]

The Government stated that it expected “interim arrangements” for the establishment of a “regional service delivery body” to “be in place during 2010. [xxxi]

The Government also reported that in an effort to strengthen local communities’ capacity and governance arrangements, consultants had been engaged to provide nine communities with:

  • ongoing community-based governance reform and training, and
  • capacity building initiatives. [xxxii]

Update (2010)

In November 2010, the State Government advised Parliament that consideration of:

The Council of Australian Government’s … Indigenous Reform process and national partnership agreements, as well as the re-allocation of Municipal Services funding from July 2010 [had] delayed the release of a proposed new model for service delivery and governance on the Lands.[xxxiii]

The Government also stated that the capacity of local APY community councils would be “further strengthened” with the appointment of “six Community Council Support Officers currently being recruited.”[xxxiv]

Update (2011)

In November 2011, the Government advised Parliament that:

State and Commonwealth Governments [were] working with the APY Executive, local community councils, and key regional service providers, to develop and establish a Regional Partnership Agreement to provide overarching governance and coordination for strategic planning and service delivery.

This work follows on from important strategic review work undertaken by the APY Executive in the APY Functional Review and Realignment Project. The State and Commonwealth Governments are supportive of this work and continue to work towards stronger governance and leadership on the APY Lands.

Strengthening the knowledge and skills base of the Community Council members will provide Anangu with greater empowerment to effectively govern their own communities and therefore reduce the extent of dysfunction and possible corruption in the communities.[xxxv]

The Government also noted that the appointment of Community Council Support Officers was helping to “build capacity in the day to day administration of communities” and that these officers:

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.[xxxvi]

The Paper Tracker notes that at the time that this statement was made, two of the six Community Council Support Officer positions were vacant.[xxxvii]

Update (2012)

In November 2012, the State Government advised Parliament that:

  • a Regional Partnership Agreement was still “being developed”;
  • “formal consultation sessions” about the proposed Agreement had been held in six APY communities in May 2012; and
  • “consultations and discussions between the Australian Government, the South Australian Government, the APY Executive, non-government organisations and Anangu will continue to progress [an Agreement] that reflects the needs of the APY Lands communities.”[xxxviii]

The Government also noted that two of the two of the Community Council Support Officer positions remained vacant.[xxxix] The Paper Tracker notes that at that time, each position had been vacant for more than 14 months.[xl]

This article was last updated in January 2013. 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] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, p113.

[ii] Government of South Australia, July 2008, “Response by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation to the ‘Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry: A report into sexual abuse’,” [p1].

[iii] Government of South Australia, 30 October 2008, “Implementation Statement by the Minister for Families and Communities to the Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry,” p2.

[iv] Rankine, J. November 2009. First Annual Report to the Parliament of South Australia by the Minister for Families and Communities on the ‘Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry – A Report into Sexual Abuse,,” p6 & p31. This report was tabled in the South Australian Parliament on 2 December 2009.

[v] Parliament of South Australia. 2004, Report of the Select Committee on Pitjantjatjara Land Rights, PP218, p69.

[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] Minutes of the meeting of the Pitjantjatjara Council held at Amata on 13 and 14 July 1976,

[ix] Pitjantjatjara Council. 2001. “Land – Let’s Get It Right!”  Special Edition Annual Report 2000-2001, p7.

[x] Minutes of the meeting of the Pitjantjatjara Council held at Amata on 13 and 14 July 1976.

[xi] The governance structures of those organisations often formally recognised the importance of developing and delivering services in response to community-based needs and priorities. For example, at that time Nganampa Health Council’s Executive was “made up of members of Community Health Committees, which are chosen by the community in which they operate … The Council’s health services are divided into community groups, with the community responsible for the health services through their chosen health committee and Anangu director” (Nganampa Health Council. 1986, Anangu Winki Nyaa:ku Pikatjararinganyi Nya:a-nguru (Why are we becoming sick and what is it from?). Health report 1985/86, p21.

[xii] COAG Team (Australian Government). June 2004, “A summary of Commonwealth agency activity in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands of South Australia.”

[xiii] 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.

[xiv] 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.

[xv] 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.

[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”, p19.

[xvii] Mazel, J. 20 March 2007, Letter to Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia, p12.

[xviii] 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.”

[xix] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, pxvii.

[xx] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, p110 & 113.

[xxi] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, pxvii.

[xxii] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, pxvii.

[xxiii] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, p113.

[xxiv] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, p113.

[xxv] Rann. M. 6 May 2008, “APY Lands Inquiry,” Ministerial Statement, Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p3149-3150.

[xxvi] Government of South Australia, July 2008, “Response by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation to the ‘Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry: A report into sexual abuse’,” [p1].

[xxvii] Government of South Australia, July 2008, “Response by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation to the ‘Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry: A report into sexual abuse’,” [p1].

[xxviii] Weatherill, J. 22 October 2008, Letter to Rev P McDonald. The Paper Tracker notes that the consultation paper was released almost 13 weeks after the Government announced it would “shortly release a discussion paper” (see: Government of South Australia, July 2008, “Response by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation to the ‘Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry: A report into sexual abuse’,” p1).

[xxix] Government of South Australia, 30 October 2008, “Implementation Statement by the Minister for Families and Communities to the Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry,” p2.

[xxx] Rankine, J. November 2009. First Annual Report to the Parliament of South Australia by the Minister for Families and Communities on the ‘Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry – A Report into Sexual Abuse,,” p31. This report was tabled in the South Australian Parliament on 2 December 2009.

[xxxi] Rankine, J. November 2009. First Annual Report to the Parliament of South Australia by the Minister for Families and Communities on the ‘Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry – A Report into Sexual Abuse,,” p6 & p31. This report was tabled in the South Australian Parliament on 2 December 2009.

[xxxii] Rankine, J. November 2009. First Annual Report to the Parliament of South Australia by the Minister for Families and Communities on the ‘Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry – A Report into Sexual Abuse,,” p30-31. This report was tabled in the South Australian Parliament on 2 December 2009.

[xxxiii] Government of South Australia. November 2010. Second Annual Report to the Parliament of South Australia by the Minister for Families and Communities on the ‘Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry – A Report into Sexual Abuse,” p16.

[xxxiv] Government of South Australia. November 2010. Second Annual Report to the Parliament of South Australia by the Minister for Families and Communities on the ‘Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry – A Report into Sexual Abuse,” p17.

[xxxv] Government of South Australia. November 2011. Third Annual Report by the Minister for Education and Child Development to the Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry – A Report into Sexual Abuse, p56.

[xxxvi] Government of South Australia. November 2011. Third Annual Report by the Minister for Education and Child Development to the Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry – A Report into Sexual Abuse, p56-57.

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

[xxxviii] Government of South Australia. 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.

[xxxix] Government of South Australia. 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.

[xl] 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.

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