Raukkan community short-changed

Frustrated: Raukkan Community Council members Verna Koolmatrie and Rose Rigney, pictured front, are bitterly disappointed their community's funding has been cut by 93 per cent of what they need, which will affect day-to-day life and programs such as the women's health workshops they run with Aboriginal Health workers Kathy Abdulla and Valda Rigney, pictured.

Frustrated: Raukkan Community Council members Verna Koolmatrie and Rose Rigney, pictured front, are bitterly disappointed their community's funding has been cut by 93 per cent of what they need, which will affect day-to-day life and programs such as the women's health workshops they run with Aboriginal Health workers Kathy Abdulla and Valda Rigney, pictured.

Raukkan is a proud Ngarrindjeri community on the banks of Lake Alexandrina, whose historical church takes pride of place on the Australian $50 note. 

But the town’s jobs, education initiatives and health services are now under threat.

Individual Aboriginal communities in South Australia have received less than 10 per cent of the funding they need, with most of the $4.9 billion Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) funds allocated to non-indigenous organisations.

Raukkan manager Clyde Rigney Senior said the community only received 7pc of the IAS funding it applied for: $44,000 a year to run the community and council.

“That means we can’t do education programs that we wanted to, can’t support youth to the level that we wanted to and we can’t do some casual employment programs that we had in mind,” Mr Rigney said.

“I met with all the Aboriginal community organisations in the State and none of those communities got more than 10 per cent of the funding they asked for.

“When you consider two thirds of the funding went to non-indigenous organisations, like the AFL, it certainly tells us that there’s not the commitment to Aboriginal communities.”

The Raukkan Community Council spent years developing a strategic plan, detailed in a 60-page report, which included establishing a homework centre, Saturday club and culture camp for young people, among other projects.

The Federal Government triggered public outcry when they suggested closing some remote Aboriginal communities earlier this year, yet founding member of Murray Bridge’s Ngoppen Together Reconciliation Group Michele Madigan felt it was now closing communities by stealth. 

“I think it’s a scandal, it’s really distressing,” she said.

“It looks to me like it’s closing communities under a different guise.

“Communities can’t stay viable if the funding is unviable; some of the communities are bigger than some regional towns that they’d never consider closing.”

The Federal and State governments have reached an agreement on the Municipal and Essential Services fund, guaranteeing basic services - power, water and sewerage - to Raukkan and other Aboriginal communities.

But the programs and activities that make a town a community have been defunded.

Raukkan Community Council member Verna Koolatrie said the community was disappointed with the decision but would keep positive and carry on.

“Raukkan is such a beautiful place and we have some great things happening here, it would be great for the Government to support and advance that,” she said.

“We have a good governing council, with intelligent people on that committee; we don’t want to sit here and have people do things for us, we want to be a part of closing the gap.

“We promote training and development, so people are constantly upskilling; we came up with what we thought were good strategies for Raukkan.”

The IAS replaced more than 150 individual programs and activities in July last year with the objective to meet aspirations and priorities of individual communities; get children to school and onto further education; adults into work; create safe communities and close the gap on disadvantage.

A Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet spokesperson said applications were carefully assessed against the selection criteria set out in the IAS guidelines to ensure the best possible services were delivered to local communities.

“Raukkan Community Council was approved for funding for a leadership development, governance and mentoring support program - this is new funding to an organisation that was only receiving funding under the Municipal and Essential Services program before the IAS funding round.”

“As at December 2014, around 30 per cent of grant funded organisations in this portfolio were Indigenous ... the proportion of Indigenous organisations approved for funding has increased to around 45 per cent.”

The spokesperson said negotiations with relevant providers were ongoing to strengthen and support communities in the Government’s three main priority areas of children and schooling, jobs and training and safer communities.

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