Some hope for Alice Springs?

I have edited this post because I got it completely wrong. In the context of sheer bastardry this week by the Alice Springs Town Council, the news that the Federal Government was going to spend money on building housing and transient accommodation in the town seemed like a glimmer of rare, precious hope. Sadly my optimism was a little naive…

This looks like good news for the people of Alice Springs:

A BITTER dispute between the Federal Government and the indigenous Tangentyere Council over management of the squalid Alice Springs town camps has finally been settled.

The council has agreed to a $100 million houses-for-leases deal.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin announced the breakthrough yesterday, saying that under the deal some 16 town camps would receive new and refurbished houses, sealed roads, power and sewerage.

In exchange, the Tangentyere Council will sign 40-year leases handing the Government effective day-to-day control of the camps.

“We can now provide a safe and healthy environment for kids to live and grow up in,’’ Ms Macklin said. ‘‘The new houses will be effectively managed and maintained to a standard that the majority of Australians enjoy.”

Particularly for the poor, as the Town Council plans to make their lives even more miserable:

In addition to the $100 million, the Federal Government will spend a further $38 million to provide hostel accommodation for the transient population, drug and alcohol programs and improved security. Ms Macklin said alcohol bans would be enforced and police would be quickly alerted to problems.

That’s how you deal with the problem of begging. Not by criminalising it.

So, what’s the problem? Well, the price they’re going to be made to pay for this long-overdue infrastructure is high:

The council had accused successive governments of ignoring the rights of Aboriginal people by stripping the council of day-to-day responsibility. It claimed it would do a better job of managing the camps than the new management authority, NT Housing.

Pat Dodson, Ian Thorpe and other prominent Australians urge the government to reconsider:

“We, concerned citizens, call on the federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, to immediately end moves to compulsorily acquire the Alice Springs town camps, represented by Tangentyere Council,” it states.

“Tangentyere Council is a democratic organisation that has been the only service provider to the town camps since their inception.”

And Chris Graham points out:

Another day, another deal done with Aboriginal people while a gun is held to their head. I am, of course, referring to the news overnight that Jenny Macklin has signed a deal with the Alice Springs town camps which is supposed to deliver $138 million in housing and infrastructure upgrades in exchange for a 40-year lease over the land.

Except, of course, no deal has actually been done. All that’s really happened is a letter has been sent to Macklin from some of the town camp housing associations indicating they’ll accept a deal. So they’ve agreed to agree.

Call me pedantic, but when a $100 million or so and a pile of Aboriginal land is at stake, I prefer to see some names on dotted lines. The truth is, the battle for the Alice Springs town camps is just beginning.

He then gives six very good reasons why, most damningly noting that they’ve “had almost two years to build homes under the Northern Territory “national emergency” housing program (SIHIP)” and managed to build precisely NONE.

Not much hope of improvement there, after all. Not much hope at all.

UPDATE: It’s gotten a lot worse for the Minister.

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5 responses to “Some hope for Alice Springs?

  1. Returned Man

    Sting in the tail indeed. This is a contentious issue that has been going on for a few months. It’s total blackmail but the media has been spinning it as the Council being stubborn and greedy. And it’s that sort of reporting that causes people to feel justified in making attacks like the one with the 4WD the other day.

  2. Jeremy, you’ve got your councils mixed up.

    Tangentyere and the town council are two different groups.

  3. You are quite right Michael. I realised that there were two councils, but for some reason had the ASTC in my head and retorted to them.

    I will amend the post – fairly heavily, since it’s more important at this point to publicise what’s actually happening than confuse by retaining my original erroneous version.

  4. You wouldn’t know it from the news grabs on this story, but Tangentyere have very good reasons for resisting the takeover of town camps.

    Tangentyere was formed to fight for land rights for the town camp residents who had moved in near Alice in response to various pressures pushing people off their traditional lands. People living in the town camps were morer comfortable there than in Alice itself where they tended to be treated as undesirable aliens. Tangentyere fought long and hard, and eventually successfully, to gain communal rights over the town camp lands, giving them a measure of certainty and self-control. After such a bitter struggle it’s hardly surprising that they have baulked when confronted by Government demanding that they cede control of the land they live on.

    The argument that the issue is so urgent that this is a necessity just doesn’t wash. If it’s so urgent why can it be held up for so long by the lease issue? The reality is that the funding ear-marked for the town-camps could have been utilised from the day it was announced.

  5. “It claimed it [Tangentyere Council] would do a better job of managing the camps than the new management authority, NT Housing.”

    Haha! Tangentyere Council couldn’t organise the proverbial pissup in a brewery. They have had years to act and a budget of tens of millions (more than the Alice Springs Town Council allegedly, although they refuse to make the real figure public) and the town camps are still as bad or worse than most 3rd world shanty towns. The question you eager lefties should be asking Tangentyere Council is ‘where has all that money gone?’. We complain about corruption in African countries holding them back but go oddly quiet when it happens on our own doorstep.

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