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

2020 Summer / Winter | 2019 Summer Winter| 2018 Winter | 2017 Summer / Winter | 2016 Summer / Winter | 2015 SummerWinter | 2014 Summer / Winter | 2013 SummerWinter | 2012

Monitoring reports

2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

The CDU work is currently implemented through six major projects each with numerous sub programs and projects. The various projects have different management arrangements, decision-making models and implementation processes. However, all the projects are characterised by the nature of the funding, which comes from Aboriginal peoples’ own money and the fact that they focus on achieving outcomes sought by Aboriginal people. In addition, all the projects are governed by Aboriginal decision-making bodies. The projects include the following:

  • The Warlpiri Education and Training Trust Project (WETT)
  • The Tanami Dialysis Project
  • The Uluru-Kata Tjuta Rent Money Community Development Project (URM)
  • The Granites Mine Affected Area Aboriginal Corporation Project (GMAAAC)
  • The Northern Territory Parks Rent Money Project (NT Parks)
  • The Community Lease Money Project.

There are also some new projects. These include:

  • Rover CD Project
  • Wangarri-Kari CD Project
  • Nolan's Bore CD Project
  • Areyn CD Project
  • Urlampe CD Project
  • Love’s Creek CD Project
  • Twin Bonanza CD Project
  • Surprise Well Affected Areas

Indigenous Governance Awards

In 2018, the achievements of CLC’s Community Development working groups were recognised by Reconciliation Australia at the prestigious Indigenous Governance Awards. The WETT Advisory Committee won the Indigenous Governance Award in the non-incorporated category, in recognition of its outstanding support for bilingual, bicultural education and lifelong learning programs. Meanwhile, the Alekerange Working Group were highly commended in the same category, in recognition of its impressive community driven initiative planning and investing nearly $1m of its lease income on community benefit projects including youth media, driver training, school holiday programs and sports facility upgrades. Read more about it.

Akekerange working group members Peter Corbett (far left) and Derek Walker (far right) and WETT Advisory Committee members Kirsty-Anne Martin, Fiona Gibson and Cynthia Wheeler. Picture by Jillian Mundy.

Watch the story of the WETT Advisory CommitteeWatch the story of the Alekerange working group

The WETT project

WETT is 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 expanded as the Warlpiri enjoyed increasing success of the programs it implements, including the early childhood programs, youth and media projects and learning centres in Warlpiri communities.

The WETT Youth and Media program, managed by the Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation (WYDAC, formerly known at 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.

The Warlpiri Learning Centre program has established learning hubs in the Warlpiri communities which provide a range of formal and informal learning opportunities for all community members, as well as internet access and a safe, communal meeting place.

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 interstate excursions 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 an enthusiasm to encourage other children to attend school and also have the opportunity to 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 Jary 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 makes the funding decision.

The Warlpiri Education and Training Trust story

Download the WETT Brochure

The Tanami Dialysis project

The Tanami Dialysis project is overseen by the CLC and auspiced by the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (WDNWPT) which is based in Alice Springs. It provides much needed remote health services to kidney disease patients and support to Warlpiri patients on dialysis in Alice Springs. The project has two remote sites, Yuendumu and Lajamanu, which operational costs are being co-funded by Kurra and the Australian Government.

Uluru Rent Money project

The Uluru Rent money project commenced in 2005, where each year the traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park allocate funding received from rent to community development projects in their communities, and more broadly across the region. Communities include Mutitjulu, Kaltukatjara (Docker River), Utju (Areyonga), Aputula (Finke) and Titjikala (Maryvale) in the Northern Territory, and Pukatja (Ernabella) and other communities in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands of South Australia.  This program’s popularity has increased with time as people appreciate the benefits of investing their rent monies in community benefits rather than short term individual spending.

Traditional owners have used the rent money to contribute to the building of the Mutitjulu pool at the Mutitjulu Tjurpinytjaku Centre, as well as upgrade outstations, recreational facilities and implement projects to improve education outcomes across the region. Over recent years, the traditional owners have also chosen to 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.

GMAAAC Project

In 2008, the CDU began working with GMAAAC in order to try and create more long term community benefit, as well as to ensure compensation payments were applied in accordance with the association’s rules and objectives. The purpose of GMAAAC is for community benefit and development across nine communities, by helping with health, education, employment and essential services, sports clubs, supporting cultural activities such as funeral, sorry business and country visits and promoting Aboriginal self-management.

GMAAAC was established in 1991 to receive compensation payments from the Granites mine, with 50% to be invested and 50% to be applied as community funds.

Project decisions are made by elected community GMAAAC committees following community meetings. This process includes consulting with the community on appropriate eligible community organisations who then develop plans and budgets for prioritised projects.  

The NT Parks Rent Money Project

The purpose of the project is to implement the November 2010 CLC council resolution that all rent and income generated from 16 national parks, conservation areas, historic reserves and nature parks across the CLC region be paid only for the benefit of traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, via community benefit projects.  The project aims to achieve this by establishing a community development planning process with each of the groups, in order to achieve broad ranging social, cultural and economic benefit.

Community Lease Money Project

In 2007, as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (widely known as ‘the intervention’), the Commonwealth Government compulsorily acquired five-year leases over 20 ALRA and 10 Community Living Area (CLA) Aboriginal communities.  The government paid fair rent for these communities, and from late 2011 CLC staff began meeting with traditional owners and community residents to talk about how the rent money could be split between individual distribution, community benefit and investment.

In November 2012 the full Council passed a resolution that ensured that at least half of the final payment of rent for the 20 communities would be applied for the benefit of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land for community purpose projects. In addition, the 10 CLA communities decided to work with the CLC to use their five year and other lease money exclusively for community benefit.

The CDU has worked with traditional owners and community residents since 2012 to establish decision making processes in each community, to prioritise, plan and make funding allocation decisions for community benefit projects. 

New Projects

Traditional owner groups also allocate income they receive from mining royalties, pastoral leases or other land use agreements to community benefit projects, working with the CLCs Community Development Unit. Traditional owner groups establish governance arrangements and plan, prioritise and allocate funding in the same way as other community development projects.

Other Publications

Community Development Framework 2016-2020

Translating Aboriginal land rights into development outcomes: factors contributing to a successful program in Central Australia (Janet Hunt and Danielle Campbell)

Making Use of Payments: A Community Development Model (Danielle Campbell and Janel Hunt)

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