Community Specific Insights

Authority of Elders
  • Decision-making needs to start with traditional owners and elders groups, not at the council office.
  • The government officers speaking with elders should themselves be senior enough to make decisions.
  • Younger Yolŋu can be ‘brainwashed’ by the government (and others) to act precipitously, (for example to make announcements on the loud speaker or to call a community meeting). Discussions should be had with the right people in a proper context. There is a Yolŋu word for this context: dhuni.
New generations
  • The purpose of good engagement is to provide role models and a pathway for the next generation. Government departments need to invite young people to meetings so they can learn, listen and watch.
  • Working in the right way with young people is a good way for governments and elders to learn to work together.
Right people
  • The integrated machinery of government must meet and engage with an integrated working community, meeting with equal opportunity for both.
  • Good engagement involves community, parents and organisations and their representatives.
  • Engagement involves beginning with what the community wants, comparing this to what the government wants, and then negotiating a pathway forward together. This includes opening up discussions about where money is coming from, and where it will go to.
  • There is a hope to one-day return to working through a community council, with Balanda assisting and mentoring. There was one of these in Galiwin’ku as recently as 2007.
  • Good government engagement and coordination depends upon a vibrant community, and a vibrant community depends upon employment.
  • If government people don’t listen to Yolŋu voices, then Yolŋu learn to lean on service providers, getting their instructions from Balanda instead of leaning on each other as Yolŋu – ‘if we listen to each other in a good way everything will go well and Yolŋu will be interested to work’.
Community development
  • Every department should have its agenda set locally and maintain this focus consistently.
  • When government people come to discuss issues like housing they often push Yolŋu into making decisions quickly, so they can take the answer back on the plane. That is poor engagement. Workers should stay 2 or 3 nights, so they can understand the problem and the decision should be made in the community, not in the departments.
  • It is important that Yolŋu in community can trace the messages and information they have given as they travel into government. That is, that there is a clear picture of how the system works and the ‘twisting journey’ their suggestions will take when delivered to government departments.

Community Projects

Ngukurr View Project
Ntaria View Project