Community Development

Children from Nyirrpi visit Rosebud Secondary College and participate in a science class as part of the WETT program

Many programs and projects designed to help improve the wellbeing of Aboriginal people in Central Australia are failing, and gaps in many socio-economic indicators compared with mainstream Australia are increasing. But community development, which has local participation at its core, is increasingly being identified as an appropriate engagement strategy in Aboriginal development.

It involves a set of principles and processes that build self-reliance, strengthen communities and promote good governance through the participation of local people in designing and implementing their own development projects.

So far, it has been challenging, innovative and extremely successful.

The CLC has used this community development approach since 2005 to work in partnership with Aboriginal people to direct their own resources to initiatives that both maintain their Aboriginal identity, language, culture and connection to country and strengthen their capacity to participate in mainstream Australia through improving health, education and employment outcomes.

The four objectives of the CLC Community Development Program are:

  • Maximise opportunities for Aboriginal engagement, ownership and control, particularly in relation to the management of resources that belong to them
  • Generate service outcomes which benefit Aboriginal people and are valued by them, including social, cultural and economic outcomes
  • Build an evidence base for the CLC’s community development approach and the value it has for contributing to Aboriginal capabilities
  • Share lessons learned with other government and non-government agencies

Some publications you may be interested in:

Community Development Newsletters

Community Development News - 2015 Winter

Community Development News - 2014 Summer

Community Development News - 2014 Winter

Community Development News - 2013 Summer

Community Development News - 2013 Winter

Community Development News 2012


Monitoring reports

The CLC's Community Development Monitoring Report 2013

Policy Brief of the Independent Evaluation of the CLC’s Community Development & Governance Programmes 2014 

Independent Evaluation of the Central Land Council’s Community Development and Governance Programmes 2014

The CLC's Community Development Monitoring Report 2012

The CLC's Community Development Monitoring Report 2011

The CLC's Community Development  Monitoring Report 2010


Other Publications

The CLC's Community Development framework

Achieving broader benefits from Indigenous land use agreements: community development in Central Australia (Danielle Campbell and Janet Hunt)

Community Development in Central Australia: Broadening the Benefits from Land Use Agreements (Danielle Campbell and Janet Hunt)

Community Development Tools

Community Development Program Brochure

Community Benefit Poster


Community Development DVDs

GMAAAC: Our Projects, Our Way

Community Development: Our Money, Our Projects

Traditional Owners' Uluru Rent Money Community Development Project

Putting Parks Rent Money to Work

WETT; 2011

WETT; 2009


The CLC's community development programs are grouped into six main areas:

  • The Uluru Rent Money Project - puts rent paid to the relevant traditional owners towards a range of sustainable initiatives such as BMX tracks, community halls, craft rooms, mechanics sheds and other infrastructure which improves people's lives on communities.
  • The Warlpiri Education and Training Trust (WETT)  - uses mining royalties for wide and sustainable education and training.
  • Granites Mine Affected Areas Aboriginal Corporation (GMAAAC) Project - supports community committees using ‘affected area’ monies flowing from mining for community benefit projects.
  • Tanami Dialysis Support Services Project - uses mining royalties for health benefits
  • Community Lease Money Project - the CLC’s newest CD Project involves 31 communities whose traditional owners are directing significant rent money from leasing to ensure lasting benefits for their communities.
  • NT Parks Rent Money Community Development Project - involves 16 traditional owner groups deciding how they will spend the rent for NT national parks on community initiatives.

Independent monitoring on four of the CLC’s established community development projects during 2010 found that in most of the projects, there was strong and increasing engagement of Aboriginal people and an increasing sense of their control and ownership of the projects.
 It said Aboriginal people were able to identify the benefits of projects and increasingly were focused on enlarging benefits for the whole community not just for individual gain. In many of the projects external stakeholders were also able to point to tangible and intangible project benefits.
It also said Aboriginal people’s capacities and capabilities were being increased through the community development approach, however there are also suggestions that the way services were provided by other organisations may undermine some of the benefits of this approach.

The WETT Project


WETT is a Warlpiri people's project,  set up in 2004 to use royalties from Newmont Asia Pacific’s mining operations in the Tanami region to improve education and training outcomes for Aboriginal people in the region. The WETT project has expanded rapidly as the Warlpiri enjoy increasing success of the programs it implements such as  early childhood programs, youth and media projects, learning centres on Warlpiri communities  and a raft of other initiatives.

Left: the opening of the Nyirrpi Learning Centre in 2010

The WETT Youth and Media Program, managed by the Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation (WYDAC, formerly known as Mt Theo) in partnership with Pintupi Anmatyerre Warlpiri (PAW) Media, continues to provide a broad range of diversionary and training activities to significant numbers of young people in the Tanami region. The funding provided by WETT since 2008 has enabled WYDAC to extend its youth service from Yuendumu to include Willowra, Lajamanu and Nyirrpi.

Project monitoring in 2010 found that people in Willowra, Lajamanu and Nyirrpi identified the program as a major reason why crime and other negative behaviour among young people is decreasing.

The Warlpiri Learning Community Centre Program is setting up learning hubs in the Warlpiri communities which provide a range of formal and informal learning opportunities for all community members, as well as library and internet access.

The Secondary School Support Program supports Warlpiri secondary students studying in their communities and at boarding and other schools, both in the Northern Territory and interstate.  Warlpiri schools organise excursions to visit capital cities and monitoring interviews with students and teachers after the excursions indicate very tangible benefits, including more confident use of English, an understanding of the link between school attendance and reward activities, and enthusiasm to encourage other children to attend school and also go on excursions.

The Trustee for the fund is the Kurra Aboriginal Corporation, and WETT is administered by the CLC.

The CLC consults Warlpiri to identify their education and training priorities and then facilitates the development of projects with input from relevant project partners.

These projects are considered and further developed by the WETT Advisory Committee, which includes eight representatives from the Warlpiri-patu-kurlangu Jaru Association (WpkJ – the peak Warlpiri education body), and one representative each from the CLC and Newmont, and three independent members with education expertise. Projects are then recommended to Kurra which decides on funding.

The Warlpiri Education and Training Trust story

Uluru Rent Money Project 

WatarrkaschoolEvery year the traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park allocate funding from the rent from the national park to community development projects.
Again this program's popularity increases with time as people appreciate the benefits of investing their rent monies in community benefits rather than short term individual spending.

Left: Lilla community decided to use the rent from the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park Community Development Project to build a shelter where the children can enjoy their lunch and have their uniforms laundered

Traditional owners have used the money to upgrade outstations, basketball courts, improve stores  and renovate a recreation hall at Mutitjulu. Emergency water points were installed on two remote roads using rent money .  Now the traditional owners say they  want to develop and fund a regional dialysis project as a way of responding to the epidemic of kidney disease that continues to decimate the Aboriginal population of Central Australia. Mutitjulu has allocated a large portion of its money to build and operate a swimming pool.

GMAAAC Project  

One hundred community benefit projects were funded by GMAAAC in 2010  totalling $2,960,956  including youth and cultural activities, health services, education, aged care, community infrastructure improvements, sporting clubs and art centre projects.
Monitoring shows that the GMAAAC Community Committees are increasingly funding projects that will have broad development outcomes for their communities and build community members’ capabilities to manage in Aboriginal and mainstream Australian worlds. For example, through the Warnayaka Art Centre project in Lajamanu, eight local people are now employed in either a part-time or full-time capacity, sales are up 98 per cent from the year before and local artists now have the support they need to enter national art exhibitions and competitions.

GMAAAC members are proud of their initiatives with one committee member stating that “GMAAAC projects help all the community. Help support things that are important to [Warlpiri people]”.

Tanami Dialysis Support Services Project

This project is overseen by the CLC and managed by the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (WDNWPT). Itprovides much needed remote health services to kidney disease patientsand  support to Warlpiri patients on dialysis in Alice Springs.
A major development in this project was the opening of a dialysis service in Yuendumu in August 2010. The $1.5 million dialysis facility and staff accommodation were funded by Kurra, and operational costs are being co-funded by Kurra and the Australian Government.
Significant steps have also been taken towards the establishment of a dialysis service in Lajamanu for Aboriginal people living in the Northern Tanami region

NT Parks Rent Money Community Development Project

This is a large regional community development project involving 16 traditional owner groups across the CLC region and  $1.1 million in national park rent each year between all of them them.
This project is in its early stages and traditional owners are being consulted.