The Northern Territory Government (NTG) has refused to pay 90% of the waste management charges levied on its remote Aboriginal public housing properties in Eastern Arnhem Land since July 2009. Community residents rely heavily on this funding for the provision of waste management services, health outcomes and associated employment opportunities.
The NTG has advised the East Arnhem Shire Council to set its waste management service levels in accordance with the reduced amount that it has offered to pay. This would mean each house in the nine communities of Galiwin’ku, Milingimbi, Ramingining, Gapuwiyak Yirrkala, Gunyangara, Angurugu, Umbakumba and Milyakburra would only have their bin collected once every 38 days - affecting over 10,000 Aboriginal people.
Due to high levels of overcrowding the Council currently provides a twice weekly collection, which incidentally is similar to services provided in many urban areas. Once every 38 days would create a major health risk for these communities and would widen the gap of Indigenous disadvantage in remote regions.
The NTG says it has insufficient funds to pay for the current level of waste management services and has suggested that the charges are too high. The Council maintains that the charges have been set in accordance with national local government industry benchmarks and practices, on a user pay basis and are reflective of the real cost of delivering services in the remotest parts of Australia (5 communities are on islands).
Shire President, Banambi Wunungmurra, described the offer from the NTG as insulting “the government is not serious about closing the gap on service provision when they offer silly things like this. The NTG should be working with our communities to understand how often our garbage bins need to be collected with the high number of people living in our houses as well as the unfenced, tropical environment, close to bushland. For the government to offer this, shows how little they understand the reality of living in our communities and the lack of understanding they have of proper service provision”.
The Council is currently exploring legal avenues for the collection of the debts from the NTG.
Contact: Ian Bodill 0419 917 162
Chief Executive Officer
East Arnhem Shire Council