Governance Issues in the APY Lands

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation regarding governance issues in the APY lands.

Leave granted.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I have met with members of the APY lands community over a period of several months, commencing with my trip to the APY lands in October last year. This included people who have previously worked for the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI) about a range of problems with governance and services in these remote communities, including the failure of government to provide adequate services and support to people in these remote areas. More recently, I have learnt of increasingly concerning developments. The cases and issues discussed recently with people from these communities include cultural insensitivity from government departments, lack of provision of suitable mobility equipment, no Indigenous staff actually employed by DCSI in the APY lands, and clients with disabilities being chewed by mice and infected with maggots. So fed up with the lack of response from the state government are these communities that they have decided to raise the flag, of course not just any flag but the Anangu traditional owners flag. Not just one Indigenous community has done this, but eight, reaching right across the north of South Australia. This is a very serious action. These communities say that this means that ‘things are very wrong and it is time to come together and make things right’. As I understand it, letters have been written to the Premier, Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation by communities that have raised the flag. To date, they have not had a response. My questions to the minister are:

1. When is the minister intending to visit the APY lands and discuss the concerns communities that have raised the flag have raised with him?

2. Is the minister aware that raw kangaroo tail and uncooked vegetables were served to elderly, chronically ill and disabled community members in Mimili when they are supposed to be served hot meals by DCSI from Monday to Friday?

3. Is the minister aware that the Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion wrote back to communities about the raw kangaroo tail incident, effectively lecturing them about their own cultural practices?

4. Given the widespread problems in these communities, will the minister admit the need for intervention from himself in his capacity as Aboriginal affairs minister to help drive reform in this region?

5. Does the minister agree that DCSI staff need cultural competency training?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation): There are a lot of assertions in that explanation which I simply do not accept. The state government has invested heavily in improving the provision of services delivered to Anangu people on the APY lands in the areas of preschool facilities, family centres, education, vocational education, policing, youth, allied health services, home living skills and family wellbeing programs. The state government continues to support community capacity building by funding the employment of up to eight community council support officers across the APY lands.

I am told they are located at Amata, Fregon, Pukatja, Mimili, Indulkana, Pipalyatjara, Kalka and Nyapari/Kanpi. The CCSOs are supported by two DPC-AARD remote service delivery coordinators located at Umuwa and Pipalyatjara. The state government has also taken positive steps to improve the delivery of essential services by transitioning the management of electricity and water supply to state government agencies (DMITRE for electricity and SA Water for water).

These initiatives will lead to better long-term asset management of these essential services. This transition was supported with a significant increase in state government funding.

Community safety continues to be a strong focus on the APY lands and the government’s commitment here has led to the construction of three new police stations located in Amata, Pukatja and Mimili.

Since 2010, there have been 19 full-time sworn police positions on the APY lands. As at 27 March 2013, all of these positions were filled, is my advice. Under the Commonwealth-State National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing, introduced in 2009, 99 new community houses have been built on the APY lands to date, with a further 17 under construction. Additionally, 111 upgrades have been delivered, with a further 20 underway. A state government procurement policy applies to all contracts awarded for the construction or upgrade of housing under that agreement.

This requires that 20 per cent of total on-site hours be undertaken by Aboriginal people. Under this policy, approximately 40 Aboriginal people were employed during 2011-12. These workers also gained, I am told, certificates in civil construction. The policy continues to achieve strong outcomes, with the most recent quarterly report, ending December 2012, indicating that 26.2 per cent Aboriginal employment hours were achieved; that is, 4,961 hours out of 18,000-and-a-bit total workforce hours. Providing employment and training opportunities for Aboriginal people in the resource sector is a high priority of the government, given the rapid growth in mining activity in South Australia.

TAFE SA, in partnership with OZ Minerals, has administered pre-employment aptitude testing for 19 Anangu to date, which has led to full-time employment opportunities for a number of Anangu at the Prominent Hill mine. An exciting initiative in this field is the recent opening of the Trade Training Centre at Umuwa. This facility is now providing good quality, locally-based training in construction skills, in particular, the electrical, plumbing and roofing trades.

Finally, recent school enrolment data (2013, I believe) indicates that there are 614 students enrolled in schools in the APY lands. School attendance rates are also gradually improving: in 2012, the rate was 65 per cent, compared with 60.6 per cent in 2000. The government is committed to improving services on the APY lands. We have been committed throughout our whole term in office, and we will continue to be committed to improving services to local Aboriginal communities in APY. I totally reject the assertions made in the honourable member’s explanation.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I have a supplementary question. Will the minister answer the question: when is he going to make contact with the Aboriginal communities that have raised the flag, and when is he going up to the lands so that he can experience these issues for himself? I believe that this is now the third time that I have had to ask him that question.

The PRESIDENT: The minister has answered the question.