The Murraylands’ Aboriginal people will be granted more power to determine how federal funding is spent under an initiative to be introduced next month.
The Ngarrindjeri nation is the first new community to join the Empowered Communities initiative since its formation five years ago, and only the ninth in Australia.
The program originated not with government, but with leaders from eight communities across the country – including prominent land rights advocate Noel Pearson, of Cape York – who developed a framework for tackling disadvantage by empowering Aboriginal people to address it.
Meetings are currently being held across the region to let Aboriginal organisations and the broader community know about the initiative and how they can contribute to it.
After that will be a series of round-table forums where anyone can identify community needs and service gaps, shaping a list of first priorities to be addressed over the next three years.
The priorities which emerge in those discussions will be advocated for by the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority, and given a 75 per cent weighting in determining where federal Indigenous advancement strategy funding should go.
The priority list will be published on October 30 at an Empowered Communities community event, to which the likes of Mr Pearson and federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion have been invited.
Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority chairperson Derek Walker said there were significant differences between a community like Cape York and the Murraylands, but that lessons learned there could still apply here.
“We’re really excited about the opportunity,” he said.
“With a little bit of tweaking you can get value for money when you come together in a coordinated way.”
It was not just about Aboriginal-operated organisations such as Moorundi and the Raukkan Community Council either, Mr Walker said, but about government and non-profit organisations which provided services to Aboriginal people.
“For the first time we’ll be able to direct resources around where we’re going to get the biggest bang for our buck,” he said.
He hoped to visit Redfern, in Sydney, and the New South Wales Central Coast to see first-hand what had been achieved there.
But the success of the initiative would be determined by the willingness of Aboriginal organisations and community members to get involved, NRA engagement coordinator Bill Wilson said.
“Our mob will need to vote with their feet to say what are our priorities, what are our needs going forward?” he said.