Upgrades to Marralum outstation: Building a strong future for native title holders

Date: Aug 30, 2018

Subject: Community Planning & Development

Native title holders are driving upgrades to Marralum outstation near the Western Australian border using funds generated from a major prawn farm project.

Native title holders negotiated $500,000 in funding for the upgrade of Marralum as part of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement for the development of the prawn farm at Legune Station. They’re being supported by the NLC and its Community Planning and Development (CP&D) program.

The upgrades include getting reliable power to houses through a diesel generator and solar power kits with high power battery storage, fixing water access, and building fences to protect the houses from bullocks. 

Native title holder Marcus Simon is one of the lead workers on the upgrade, putting his station and fencing skills to use while also gaining new skills in repairs and landscaping. He is one of six local staff working on the project.

“We got an agreement over our country, with some money to fix up our community Marralum,” he said. “We’ve got six people out there working already: three men and three women. We’re renovating the houses and fixing the water up so we can have a hot shower and use the toilet. It’s working really good now.” 

After taking the time to plan carefully, native title holders partnered with Tangentyere Constructions, an Aboriginal owned social enterprise, to complete the works. 

“There was good planning done. Making decisions was good, we chose the work to be done and picked who to do it with us, and it turned out good. It happened the way we wanted it to,” said Mr Simon.

“Tangentyere Constructions are working with us in a good way. It’s really good working with this mob on our own country fixing our houses up. Next we want to start our own business to help the community run. I reckon it will be good for people to run their own community and look after their own place, so our kids can take over and then their kids.”

The Indigenous Land Use Agreement also has the potential to deliver major benefits in the future and NLC and its CP&D unit is supporting native title holders to plan long term. 

“There is a ladder there for us to climb… and we need to be getting ready for each step,” says native title holder Bernadette Simon. “We need to make a strong plan to be ready to go when the time comes.”

Upgrading Marralum outstation will support people to live on country, but the location also has the added advantage of being near the prawn farm and the likely base for a future ranger program if the project goes ahead. Fixing up the outstation, which is giving local people jobs, is also about laying the foundation for future employment for native title holders – a major aspiration for the group. Planning in other important areas of life has also begun, like setting up businesses, education support funds for younger people and projects to keep culture strong. 

With the upgrade almost finished, native title holders and their families are now spending more time at Marralum, glad to be spending more time back on country.

“This is where our heart is. We’ve achieved a lot out here, I am proud,” said Bernadette Simon. “I don’t want to leave.” 

The NLC CP&D team is currently working with Aboriginal groups in Daly River, Ngukurr, Galiwin’ku, Gapuwiyak, South East Arnhem Land, Wadeye and Palumpa to generate positive outcomes in their communities using their own money. Together they have set aside more than $5.3 million of Aboriginal land use payments for community development. This shows just how serious Aboriginal people are about driving their own development outcomes in the Top End.