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Chairperson's Report

Annette Brown, Chair, WBACC Executive Committee
Annette Brown, Chair, WBACC Executive Committee

Dear Members

On behalf of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council, I am pleased to present to you our annual report for the 2019–2020 financial year, a year characterised by many unexpected events requiring WBACC, like other organisations across the country, to act flexibly and creatively. After the trials of the bushfires and COVID-19, WBACC received some very welcome news at the end of the financial year in relation to our Home Ownership Implementation Strategy, Caring for Country Rangers' Program and a new Cultural/Visitor's Centre for Booderee National Park that all bode well for a really positive future for WBACC and its Registered Members.

Thanks to Council staff for their work to support the Executive Committee (the Board) and to implement Board decisions and also to registered members for the confidence they have shown by re-electing me as Chair at the December 2018 annual general meeting. Thanks also to my fellow eight directors for their service to the community and for the support that they have given to me in decision making on some very complex matters over the last twelve months.

Council is regulated by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act, 2013 (PGPA Act). The Executive Committee under Section 28 of the Aboriginal Land Grant ( Jervis Bay Territory) Act, 1986 (Land Grant Act) is the accountable authority under the PGPA Act.

In this report I have briefly discussed each of the areas of Board responsibility and outlined the Board’s approach for the 2019–20 financial year.

Governance

Governance responsibilities include:

  • grant control and reporting
  • financial reporting
  • policy development
  • community engagement and liaison
  • management of the by-laws
  • Board participation; and
  • human resources.

Grant control and Financial reporting: Council partners the Commonwealth - the National Indigenous Australian’s Agency (NIAA))—in a three-year Funding Agreement ending in the 2021–22 financial year. The ‘Indigenous Advancement Strategy’ (IAS) provides funding for Jobs, Land and Economy.

The program outcomes include:

  • employment for indigenous Australians
  • work readiness through community and other activities and work experience
  • the fostering of indigenous business
  • assistance to indigenous Australians to generate economic and social benefits
  • effective and sustainable management of land; and
  • assistance to indigenous Australians to progress land and sea claims under commonwealth native title and land rights legislation.

This program continues to give Council opportunities for its registered members. WBACC spends the grant monies on the programs discussed throughout this report.

Grant funding also comes from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications for land council and local government activities and from the Department of Education for WBACC’s day care centre, Gudjahgahmiamia (which means “children’s shelter”).

Council met its reporting and acquittal requirements for all grant funding. Meeting the acquittal requirements means demonstrating that the activities funded have been conducted. Council reports twice each year to the funding departments to demonstrate proper expenditure of money on required activities. The summer bushfires and COVID-19 did have an effect on the ability of WBACC to deliver some of its community based programs, however, with the assistance and understanding of NIAA, delivery was staggered over the funding cycle to ensure that a hiatus of several months did not prevent the programs being delivered across the year.

Policy Development: Community policy development and implementation remain priority projects for the Board. This year the Board updated and upgraded many of its community policies, including those for Bond Assistance, Funeral and Wake Assistance and Tertiary Education Assistance . WBACC also updated its social media policy and did a large amount of work to progress its work health and safety (WHS) policies and procedures.

Importantly, the Board and Council staff progressed the Home Ownership Implementation Strategy this year, designed to attract funding to improve housing in Wreck Bay Village on a large scale and to effect the Board’s decision to facilitate home ownership for its current housing tenants. In June 2020, Government approved the first amount of funding of the strategy ($3million) and a tender has been released to secure a project planner to develop and cost the steps towards home ownership. Work to assess all existing housing, survey lots, register title and to develop 99 year leases, similar to the Crown Leases in the ACT will begin in earnest at the beginning of the 2020-21 Financial Year.

Community Engagement: The 2019-20 financial year saw the continuation of extra methods for community consultation and communication. Council modified its monthly newsletter, introduced a staff newsletter, continued and built on its closed facebook group (adding a staff page, a day care page and a youth page) and new community programs aimed at youth, including a school holiday program and homework club, were introduced.

Various service organisations were invited to present regular information sessions to community. These included information and assistance to develop wills, provided by Shoalcoast Legal and information from Indigenous Business Australia on investment opportunities available to WBACC, Scientific information was presented by Council engaged scientists in relation to PFAS, as was legal information in relation to potential legal action over PFAS contamination. Town planning sessions were also conducted by representatives from Indigenous Community Volunteers (now re-branded Community First Development) and 2020-21 will see the further development of the new Town Plan. Council’s Community Liaison Office (CLO), along with its HR and training arms, conducted regular whole of community mailouts to provide information on job opportunities offered by Council and Parks Australia and organised, with Parks Australia, a careers expo at the local Vincentia High School. Unfortunately the event was unable to go ahead due to the impact of COVID-19 but the planning work will be vital for a time when restrictions ease. Our yearly NAIDOC event held in July 2019, was a great success.

Our men’s and women’s groups had the benefit of gym programs this year, our elder’s enjoyed a Christmas lunch and most recently, our community veggie garden became a reality, with a water tank installed and fencing and garden beds and soil delivered and installation underway.

Elders enjoying the Christmas party
Elders enjoying the Christmas party

Management of the By-Laws: WBACC undertook two very important pieces of work this year, developing draft Cultural Heritage Strategies for the 403, 151 and 152 and the Booderee National Park. The draft strategies are currently being consulted with Registered Members. The 403 strategy made very clear the need to monitor activities on the 403 and the importance of the by-laws under the Land Grant Act. WBACC’s current by-laws have limited enforcement options and require amendment. WBACC is currently negotiating with NIAA for legislative reform associated with necessary changes to the way WBACC manages its housing and it is expected that there will also be associated changes to the by-laws and other parts of the legislation. As the financial year ended, NIAA provided its suggestions for legislative change, including changes to allow enforcement of the by-laws and I am relieved to say that there is a program in place to achieve legislative reform, including the community consultation required, with a process and timeline established. Legislative Reform takes time - all going to plan, we should achieve it by the end of 2021. The successful grant application for WBACC's Caring for Country Rangers, along with the draft Cultural Heritage Strategy, assists the case, as one of their many functions to be achieved under the funding arrangement is the enforcement of the by-laws on the 403.

Board participation: In 2019–20 the Board maintained its rhythm of one meeting per month. The Board has made some difficult decisions this year, all within required time frames for the progression of WBACC business. The audit committee of Council also held meetings providing financial and other relevant information at Board meetings. 2019-20 also saw the establishment of economic development, community services, cultural heritage and governance sub-committees of the Board, made up of Board, community and staff representatives. The Committees brought several recommendations to Council, including revamping of the WBACC website (which is now ready for 2020-21); a presentation from Indigenous Business Australia on investment options (which occurred late in 2019); the development of a Cultural Heritage Strategy for the 403, culminating in a draft strategy ready for consultation at the end of the financial year); the development of a community well-being policy (a draft is currently with the governance and community services sub-committees for consultation) and the development of more youth programs - leading to discussions for the establishment of a youth council which will be further explored this financial year. In June 2020, the Board decided to extend the sub-committees for another year, and I expect to report more successes in next year's annual report.

The Board continued its ongoing governance training program. This year the Board received training focusing on financial governance and implemented some further measures to ensure proper reporting of real or perceived conflicts of interest. This coming year will include governance training focusing on the Board's WH&S responsibilities.

Human resources: WBACC has provided several training courses for community and staff this year, with the intent of improving skills for job readiness and job progression. These included courses in leadership, governance, project management, first aid, GIS training, cleaning operations, plant operator license training and WHS. Council also sponsored several staff in their higher education pursuits, as well as six community young people in their tertiary pursuits. Three year 11 students from Community, were signed up for school based apprenticeships and traineeship (SBAT) in Early Learning (Child Care), AFL mentoring and Civil Construction; thanks to the hard work of Council HR staff, collaborating with the Australian Training Company and Vincentia High School.

Current staff of WBACC continued with team building exercises. In the last quarter of the year, WBACC worked with a volunteer from CFD to begin a restructure of the organisation. The restructure is aimed at filling gaps in the current organisational structure and providing more flexibility for staff to enable skills to be built up in different areas. The exercise was somewhat hampered by COVID and delivery dates have been pushed back to the end of the 2021 financial year.

Community Service

The Board’s community service responsibility includes:

  • housing
  • education (including early childhood education)
  • health
  • recreational activities.

Housing: The 2019-20 year saw the continued preparation of the Home Ownership Implementation Strategy. As the year concludes, with NIAA funding, a tender has been released to engage a consultant to schedule and cost the whole activity. This report and submission for further funding will go to the minister in the second quarter of 2020-21.

Education: Gudjahgahmiamia Early Learning Centre is a purpose built centre which was built to provide Aboriginal families in the Wreck Bay Community and surrounding areas early Childhood care and education. The centre is funded with a Community Child Care Fund (CCF) grant from the Department of Education, parent fees and contributions from WBACC.

Gudjahgahmiamia is licenced by the Early Childhood Policy and Regulation Unit in Canberra to care for thirty children each day. They make regular visits and the centre is required to provide written evidence that the centre is consistently meeting the ACT Children’s Services Standards.

Enrolments for 2019-20 have been steady with the largest demand for care in the nursery room.

The Centre is currently providing care for children from twenty five families, the majority of whom have a family connection to the Wreck Bay community.

WBACC is investigating methods to expand its enrolments and is actively working on a marketing campaign with help from the Commonwealth government.

Day Care flyer
Day Care flyer

WBACC's day care bus, bought with CCF funding in August 2018, continues to be a valuable service. Staff are able to transport three children under four years of age and seven children over four to and from the centre three days a week. Under the new CCS funding we are not able to claim subsidy for the time the children are on the bus so a nominal fee of $7 is charged. In 2019-2020, whilst the bus was well used, no children were using the bus as their sole method of transport. When the bus run stopped in March 2020 due to COVID19 ,all children were still able to attend their usual days, with alternative transport organised by parents and carers..

Gudjahgahmiamia was closed from 24th March – 25th May 2020 due to COVID-19. Whilst there were no cases, the centre is situated in Wreck Bay, a vulnerable Aboriginal community, and the decision was taken to close the centre as part of a closure of the village to all but residents.

Staff continued to stay in touch with families through emails and text messages, sending home activities ideas, useful Facebook pages & websites and updates on the when the centre would re-open.

Before the centre re-opened all staff and families were given information about additional practices that would be implemented to support the good health of children, staff and families. These included taking the children’s temperature before they entered the playroom, asking all families to wait in the foyers, additional cleaning throughout the day & limiting the number of staff working in small rooms.

It has been an ongoing challenge to recruit trained casual staff. To overcome this difficulty, WBACC has offered a number of short term contracts which better support the staffing needs of the centre while offering more stability for employees. Gudjahgahmiamia in partnership with Vincentia High School has created a SBAT position. The student is due to complete their Cert III in Children’s Studies at the end of 2020.

In August, 2019, the centre submitted its quality improvement plan to NSW/ ACT Department of Education and Training. While this is a requirement of our funding agreement it also provides the staff an opportunity to reflect on best practice.

The Dental team visited the centre to check the children’s teeth in November 2019 but weren’t able to visit in May 2020 due to COVID-19. Having the dental team visit regularly has been a wonderful opportunity for the children to have a positive experience and we hope they can resume their visits in the near future to support the children's good dental health in later life.

Noah’s Ark Early Intervention Service and its staff continue to develop respectful and supportive relationships with the children, families and staff of Gudjahgahmiamia and the Wreck Bay community. Having Noah’s Ark early childhood teachers come to the centre weekly to support the children and staff is a very valuable service. The teachers have been able to work with children and staff over time to develop skills and helpful strategies.

Gudjahgahmiamia was invited by Noah’s Ark to participate in the SWAY program (Sounds Words Aboriginal language & Yarning).This involved a Gudjahgahmiamia staff member being trained and then implementing the program weekly. The Speech Therapist also works with the 3 – 5 year old once a week. SWAY is an oral language and literacy program based on Aboriginal knowledge, culture and stories. It was developed by Educators, Aboriginal Education Officers and Speech Pathologists at the Royal Far West School in Manly, NSW.

The good relationship between WBACC and Jervis Bay Primary School continues. The school works with WBACC on the Junior Rangers Program and the Big Cuz, Little Cuz program to ensure children have as smooth as possible transition through the levels of development and education.

Likewise, WBACC is working closely with Vincentia High School to identify school based apprenticeship opportunities as well as arrange for information sessions for students on educational and employment opportunities.

Health: South Coast Illawarra Health Service, the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) and Waminda Women’s Health Service all provide health services to the community. Council is currently working with the services to increase the breadth of service delivery within Wreck Bay, to alleviate the stresses of travel, particularly for elders. 2019–20 saw the introduction of podiatry services delivered in Wreck Bay and discussions continue to occur in an attempt to establish a renal nurse and renal chairs in the community.

Medical clinic flyer
Medical clinic flyer

Healthy Recreational Activities: WBACC implemented several of the recommendations of the corporate and community plans this year. The community veggie garden has been built and a gym program has been established for men's and women's groups. Council organised its regular trip to the Huskisson Carnival for community children

community garden underway
community garden underway

Men;s group flyer
Men;s group flyer

families enjoyed the Husky Carnival tickets provided by WBACC
families enjoyed the Husky Carnival tickets provided by WBACC

After lots of lobbying the NBN was installed in Wreck Bay and Jervis Bay.

NBN launch party
NBN launch party

WBACC homework club and JB Primary school kids celebrate the new nbn node featuring their artwork
WBACC homework club and JB Primary school kids celebrate the new nbn node featuring their artwork

A homework centre and holiday program were implemented

School holiday bowling
School holiday bowling
lunch after a busy day out
lunch after a busy day out

A community well being policy was developed and will be implemented throughout 2020-21. This policy assists community members to attend the local gym and to become involvde in other activities that promote health and well-being.

Land Management

The Board’s responsibilities in land management include:

  • cultural heritage management,
  • land use planning,
  • weed/feral animal control
  • contracts for maintenance of the Booderee National Park.

Cultural heritage: As well as the Cultural heritage strategy for the 403, 2019-20 saw the first year of the Cultural Heritage contract with the Director of National Parks, requiring the establishment of a cultural heritage function. Under the agreement, WBACC developed a Cultural Heritage Strategy for Booderee National Park. It was due to be approved by the Joint Board of Management in March however COVID restrictions resulted in reduced agendas with the strategy now due for review in July. The WBACC Board has endorsed the strategy which bodes well for Joint Board approval. When this is achieved a four year contract to implement the strategy will be negotiated with Parks.

Land Use Planning

WBACC worked with Community First Development this year to develop a Town Plan. The plan is complicated by the jurisdictional issues within the JBT and the team is still working on the application of the ACT planning laws to Wreck Bay. Unfortunately COVID put a stop to community consultation for development of the plan and it is likely that the work will continue throughout 2020-21. Work on the plan will focus on the identification of various zones. This work will assist WBACC in its Land Grant claim.

The Department of Defence released two draft final reports this year regarding the PFAS contamination in the Jervis Bay Territory. Council’s Independent experts from the University of Newcastle had reviewed the Defence reports and provided scientific information back to Council which had allowed us to respond to Defence in an informed way. WBACC’s responses led to improvements in the final management and monitoring plans. WBACC continues to investigate its options in relation to compensation for PFAS contamination.

The South Coast People’s Native Title Claim continued this year. Council has become a party to the claim and has instructed lawyers accordingly to look after Council’s interests.

Weed/feral animal control: WBACC used funding provided by NIAA to continue its weed control program, with significant improvement in the control of Bitou Bush and Sea Spurge. It is unlikely that these weeds of national importance will be completely eradicated but the team has established a pattern of control which should prevent the weeds from spreading further. Work has been undertaken to assess all trees in the village for safety and there was a program of tree lopping and removal during 2019–20. Feral animals such as foxes in the BNP are largely controlled by park rangers. The Caring for Country Rangers Program will train Wreck Bay Rangers to assist in feral animal control in BNP and on Wreck Bay lands.

Contract Services: Roads and trails, cleaning services, infrastructure, ground maintenance and entry station services continue to be provided by Council to the Director of National Parks under Service Level Agreements with Parks Australia. Contracts are also held with the territory administration (DITRDC) for grounds maintenance, roads and infrastructure services. All contracts were reviewed this year and re-signed. Unfortunately COVID pushed out the Commonwealth budget process so that Parks Australia and DITRDC required short term extension of contracts until October 2020 and it is expected that at that time, the services under the Parks contracts will be finalised and budgeted properly to allow for four year agreements to be entered (under a five year Head Agreement already in place).

The way ahead

The Board looks forward to an exciting and eventful 2020-21, with the introduction of the home ownership implementation strategy and associated funding, the Caring for Country Rangers program and plans and money for a new Cultural Centre in BNP. The Board sub-committees offer a further great opportunity for community participation in the future development of WBACC. Architectural design work on the re-development of our community centre and hall will continue (after a COVID hiatus), as will finalisation of the Town Plan and work on another Land Claim for further parcels of land in the Jervis Bay Territory.

A view of Booderee National Park after rain
A view of Booderee National Park after rain