NACCHO NEWS: SA remote Indigenous communities thrown lifeline by $15 mill funding deal

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South Australian Indigenous communities in danger of being closed have been thrown a lifeline after the state and federal governments reached an agreement on funding.

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Report from  The Guardian Bridie Jabour Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Demotix/Corbis : Protester outside South Australia parliament in Adelaide: closure of Indigenous communities had been imminent until the agreement was reached

The SA government has agreed to take over municipal and essential services in remote Indigenous communities from 1 July, with the federal government delivering a package worth about $15m, described by Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion as “generous”.

The state government will be in charge of power, water and sewage and rubbish collection in communities outside the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in the north-west of the state, which the federal government will continue to fund.

Every Indigenous community was under threat of closure when South Australia rejected the $10m initially offered by the federal government to take over responsibility for them.

“This agreement demonstrates the collaboration that exists between the two governments and is a positive move away from the ad hoc way in which services have been delivered in the past,” Scullion said on Monday.

“The Commonwealth now has agreements with governments in Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and SA for the delivery of essential services in remote Indigenous communities.”

Scullion and SA’s Aboriginal affairs minister, Kyam Maher, emphasised there were no plans to shut any community.

“During my discussions with Aboriginal communities, municipal service delivery was one of the key topics raised and I thank our Aboriginal leaders for their patience during the period of uncertainty,” Maher said.

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Haydn Bromley, from the Aboriginal Lands Trust, said closure of Indigenous communities had been imminent until the agreement was reached.

“I can tell you that there are quite a number of people who are breathing a huge sigh of relief,” he told ABC Radio National.

Senator Nigel Scullion : Joint Media Release with South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation The Hon Kyam Maher MLC

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The Australian and South Australian Governments have today signed an historic agreement that will provide funding certainty for remote Indigenous communities in South Australia.

Under the agreement, the South Australian Government will deliver municipal and essential services in remote Indigenous communities in South Australia from July 1 2015.

The Australian Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, and South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, Kyam Maher, said the agreement would benefit more than 1500 Aboriginal people in remote South Australian communities.

Minister Scullion said the Federal Government would provide the South Australian Government with a generous funding package to support it to take up its responsibility for delivering municipal and essential services including power, water, and sewage and rubbish collection in communities outside of the APY Lands.

“This agreement demonstrates the collaboration that exists between the two governments and is a positive move away from the ad hoc way in which services have been delivered in the past,” he said.

“The Commonwealth now has agreements with governments in Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and S.A for the delivery of essential services in remote Indigenous communities.”

Ministers Scullion and Maher stressed that, despite recent media attention, the agreement was not about closing down communities, but providing funding and service delivery certainty for communities and providers.

Minister Maher said the S.A Government welcomes the agreement with the Commonwealth.

“During my discussions with Aboriginal communities municipal service delivery was one of the key topics raised and I thank our Aboriginal leaders for their patience during the period of uncertainty,” he said.

“I would also like to thank Minister Scullion for the positive way he negotiated with us and I look forward to continuing our close working relationship.”