ABA Homelands Project Update

Date: Dec 23, 2018

Subject: Aboriginals Benefit Account

The Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA) Homelands Project has been allocated a total of $40 million from the ABA; $35.5 million will be allocated for the delivery of activities in homelands across the four Aboriginal Land Council regions in the NT. These funds are accessed through a grant application process coordinated by the NLC.

Kararmwanamyo homeland, West Arnhem

Budget break down across the NT land council regions is as follows:

  • Northern Land Council — $15.75 million;
  • Central Land Council — $15.75 million;
  • Tiwi Land Council — $2 million; and 
  • Anindiliyakwa Land Council - $2 million.

An amount of $4.5 million will be kept as a contingency for the engagement of technical specialists as required. Any remaining funds are to be re-invested in this project. 

Key Facts: Established Homeland communities in the NLC Region 

  • There are up to 5,000 Aboriginal people living in homelands;
  • Populations can fluctuate depending on season, cultural activities and access; 
  • Approximately 200 communities are regularly occupied; and
  • Overall Infrastructure need is extremely high. 

Community Eligibility

  • Existing homelands that are regularly used and maintained for residential or cultural purposes will be eligible to apply for funding; 
  • Homelands will be required to demonstrate involvement with a CDP provider and/or activities, or the potential to become involved in CDP activities; 
  • Homelands connected to Power and Water Corporation’s Indigenous Essential Services network will not be eligible for funding for these services under this project; 
  • Meeting the above criteria does not automatically guarantee funding for this project. Eligible homelands will be identified by the relevant land council and invited to submit proposals. Proposals will be considered on merit and the available funding. 

Application Process 

  • $15.75 million allocated for homeland communities in the NLC region sits with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC) who manage the administration of the ABA;
  • Project funds are accessed via a grant application process facilitated by the NLC;
  • NLC Regional Councils have prioritised the project’s eligibility and funding criteria to assist and guide the application assessment process;
  • On receiving applications from NLC, PMC staff will review all applications and provide recommendations to the ABA Advisory Committee for their consideration;
  • ABA Advisory Committee considers those recommendations and then provides its own recommendations to the Australian Government Minister for Indigenous Affairs for his consideration and approval;  
  • Minister for Indigenous Affairs will consider the recommendations from the ABA Advisory committee and then provide an approval;
  • Approved projects will be notified by PMC, who will negotiate with a service provider to deliver. It is anticipated that each project will be delivered by an Aboriginal organisation and will have high levels of Indigenous participation.    

Managing Expectations

While the total amount of $15.75 million may sound like a lot, unfortunately it isn’t when you consider: 

  • Extreme high levels of need – basic essential service, access and communication infrastructure to be replaced or upgraded at 200 homeland communities; and 
  • Significant costs associated with remote infrastructure and capital works projects.

It is expected that not every homeland community will directly benefit from this project; however, the project will potentially fund 80 to 100 high priority community projects that are likely to have a significant positive impact for Aboriginal people living on their country. 

Approved projects are unlikely to start on the ground until at least the 2019 dry season.  

NLC’s Role and Consultation Process

This type of project is not something that NLC normally does; PMC have engaged us to apply our knowledge and networks to identify priority homeland communities and eligible activities under the project guidelines. 

NLC commenced consulting Aboriginal homeland service provider boards and related boards servicing homelands at the end of May this year. It is these service providers that often have the strongest relationships with homeland communities and are the local experts in understanding need and priority with associated community infrastructure. 

After these consultations, service providers have reviewed community and project eligibility and have undertaken a basic assessment of need, benefit and capacity to provide NLC with a list of prioritised homeland communities each with a detailed list of identified priorities.

NLC then consults the residents of these prioritised communities, and the information from the service provider helps to guide the conversation. However, it is the community residents that prioritise their projects and NLC prepare detailed funding proposals based on this consultation. 

Complete funding applications are then forwarded to PMC for assessment.

ABA Advisory Committee Meetings

Meetings are usually held three times a year – May, July and October. Dates within these months can vary according to availability of members. The first meeting in 2019 is being brought forward to March, so this will provide a unique opportunity for early consideration of applications.

NLC aim to have the following packages ready for the ABA Advisory Committee meetings next year:

  • March 2019 – up to 50 ABA Homeland Project community proposals. These will need to be submitted in early February 2019.     
  • July 2019 – 30 to 50 ABA Homeland Project community proposals. These will need to be submitted in early June 2019.  

Please note that NLC have not put forward any applications for consideration to date. 

Service Provider and Community Consultations

There are more than 20 service providers in the NLC Region servicing just over 200 homeland communities. The aim is to engage all service providers in each of NLC’s seven distinct regions and find out about what are the priorities throughout the vastness of the NLC service footprint.

NLC have successfully engaged a large portion of the current service providers and most of them have provided feedback about what they view as their service area’s community priorities. So far we have visited just over 40 priority homeland communities to discuss the project, and collate critical information for compiling the ABA applications on behalf of those communities.  

Some of the homeland communities NLC have visited have anything up to 100 Aboriginal residents with 10 to 20 residential dwellings. On investigation, the basic essential service and communication infrastructure and access needs appear to be considerably high so the project is quite timely.

In regards to our community consultations, NLC are less than half way into it and presently we are racing the Wet Season. NLC’s intent is to consult all homeland community service areas and visit the prioritised communities within that location. Any service provider or community consultations that have not taken place prior to the Christmas period will get picked up the following year between February and June 2019.

If you have questions about the ABA Homelands Project please feel free to touch base with the Regional Development Branch to discuss.