From Our Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi
One of the most important events of the year was the 120th NLC Full Council meeting at Nitmiluk in late June 2019.
It was important for several reasons.
Firstly, it was the first held after the extraordinary Full Council meeting in early March 2019 called by the former Indigenous Affairs Minister. At the conclusion of that meeting Full Council members took strong action to ensure the NLC remained unified and I was heartened to see that resolve confirmed at the Nitmiluk meeting.
Secondly, after too many years of inaction and confusion, the Full Council meeting at Nitmiluk saw the signing of Heads of Agreement between the seafood industry, recreational and commercial fishers, the NLC and the NT Government to provide a path forward for final settlement of all of the outstanding issues related to the Blue Mud Bay court case.
Thirdly, all members at the Nitmiluk Full Council meeting welcomed our new CEO, Marion Scrymgour, who started work with the NLC on a part-time basis in late March and full-time from early May 2019.
Marion brings her exceptional management, political and personal skills to the NLC. I know that I speak for all of the NLC members in welcoming her to the NLC.
Better housing for our people continues to be a big issue, which the NLC is determined to keep fighting for. We need to make sure we look after countrymen and women living in the larger towns as well as those living on homelands and outstations.
I have had a personal interest in improving housing in the bush from my days growing up in Bamilyi (now Barunga). Back then I lived in a small Kingstrand hut, which was hot in the wet season and freezing cold in the dry. Thankfully, those days are long past, but we are still faced with a remote housing system that is in crisis and has been for far too long.
Thankfully, there are signs of progress. Since 2015, I have been an active member of Aboriginal Housing NT (AHNT), a peak body organisation for all of the Aboriginal housing organisations across the NT.
Great strides have been made in the past few years, including AHNT winning the 2018 NT Human Rights Commission’s Fitzgerald Award for Diversity. AHNT is expected to be incorporated as an Aboriginal corporation in the next few months and will continue its good work of collaborating with government, land councils and key stakeholders to progress Aboriginal housing outcomes in the NT to effect substantive change and to ensure the return of local decision-making on housing matters to communities.
Another important development for the NLC concerning housing is the establishment of the Joint Steering Committee (the JSC) on which representatives from all of the NT land councils, along with NT and Commonwealth government officers, will sit as full members to consider strategic and operational decisions and monitor progress of the next round of the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Housing (NPARIH).
NPARIH is expected to significantly reduce severe overcrowding, increase the
supply of new houses and improve the condition of existing ones, and ensure that rental houses in remote communities are well maintained and managed.
Like the earlier ones, the next NPARIH round will not provide housing to the smaller outstation and homeland communities in the NLC area. That is an important issue we will be concentrating on in the near future. There is some good news for outstation and homeland residents, though. For the past year, the NLC’s regional services branch has been involved in an ABA project specifically designed to provide infrastructure support to homelands. This will provide critical infrastructure improvements, which will address environmental health issues, reduce diesel consumption and create significant savings for homeland residents across the NLC area. These projects are expected to directly benefit hundreds of homes occupied by more than 1500 homeland residents and a large percentage of all Aboriginal people living on homelands across the NLC area.
Another highlight of the Nitmiluk Full Council meeting was the presentation by the NT’s recently appointed Treaty Commissioner, Mick Dodson AM.
Commissioner Dodson has stressed the need to consult with our people as widely as possible and also to ensure that voices of women and youth are heard as part of that process. I welcome the announcement that a female deputy Treaty Commissioner will be appointed in the near future. The NLC looks forward to working closely with the Commissioner and his deputy in the coming months and years.
Finally I’d like to give warm thanks to the NLC members who have worked hard over the past year to represent their communities and organisations, especially the members of the Executive Council, which now has an increasing workload because of its delegation to approve most land use agreements.
Also, I take the opportunity to thank all of our staff who have, as they always do, put in a superb effort to manage and administer an increasing workload.
The organisation is in much better shape because of their dedication and hard work.