Reports and publications (published elsewhere)

The future of homelands/outstations

Posted on: 18 June, 2010
Issue: Vol 10 No 2, April 2010 - June 2010
Related to Cultural ways Caring for country Physical environment Policies

Kerins S (2010)
The future of homelands/outstations.
Canberra: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research

The Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA) and the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) convened a workshop on homelands/outstations in 2009 at the Australian National University in Canberra. Invited to the workshop were homeland/outstation residents, their resource agencies, peak Aboriginal organisations, social and physical scientists, educationalists, medical practitioners and bureaucrats. The workshop aimed to give a voice to homeland/outstation residents in relation to their growing concerns about being excluded from policy development concerning their futures. This report seeks to record the broad commentary from the workshop, over which there was consensus demonstrated and the endorsement of a Communiqué in response to policy currently being implemented by government.

The workshop reported that government policy:

  • is not informed by available evidence from research
  • is not based on the aspirations of residents of homelands/outstations
  • will not deliver substantive equality
  • has the potential to widen the gap in life expectancy
  • is not consistent with Australia’s international obligations.

The forum called on the government to:

  • Recognise the cultural, environmental and strategic importance of nearly 1,000 homelands/outstations located on the Aboriginal estate including along the northern coastline
  • Recognise the unique significance of homelands/outstations for Aboriginal livelihoods, health, education and well-being and in the provision of environmental services
  • Recognise the importance of homelands/outstations for linguistic diversity and Indigenous knowledge
  • Call a moratorium on COAG and other government processes, like the reform of CDEP, that are undermining the positive contributions made by homelands/outstations to Closing the Gap
  • Assess the compatibility of current policy on homelands/outstations with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Refer the issue of homelands/outstations to a parliamentary inquiry such as the Senate Select Committee on Regional and Remote Indigenous Communities.

Significant policy developments in 2008 and 2009 required the need for such a workshop. The first was the release of the Northern Territory Government’s Working Future policy framework, which outlined, amongst other things, its first-ever homeland/outstation policy. The second was the overarching Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) National Indigenous Reform Agreement (Closing the Gap) (NIRA). The NIRA was established to frame the task of ‘closing the gap’ in Indigenous disadvantage, especially the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has consistently stressed his government’s commitment to evidence-based policy development. This coupled with governments’ willingness to commit extraordinary funding targeted at Indigenous disadvantage held out great optimism for Indigenous Australians living in homelands/outstations. During the past 30 years, research has indicated that life at homelands/outstations might be better in health outcomes, livelihood options, social cohesion, and housing conditions, than at larger townships, despite government neglect and under-funding. This research suggests that ‘closing the gap’ might be more likely at homelands/outstations than elsewhere.

Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet abstract

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