In October 2019 the NT Government commissioned an independent review of its homelands policy. The review was published as a 30-page report with 13 recommendations:
- That the NT Government re-engages with the Commonwealth Government and land councils to encourage a more equitable sharing of financial and program responsibilities, in the interests of securing long-term and sustainable policy outcomes through a co-ordinated approach to homelands’ policy and service provision.
- That homelands be defined on the basis of population size and land tenure: as small discrete Aboriginal communities of less than 100 persons of Aboriginal descent living on Aboriginal communally-owned and -controlled lands. Locations that are already over 100 people, but do not wish to become a community, should be grandfathered and homelands’ services maintained. Existing homelands that grow to exceed 100 people should become a gazetted community.
- That homelands experiencing strong growth pressures in locations with economic development potential have the opportunity to negotiate funding for investment in new and expanded service delivery through LDM processes. Where homelands successfully negotiate an LDM agreement that incorporates services that provided by the homelands program, and that homeland meets eligibility requirements for funding, there should be a funding transfer from the homelands program to fund the LDM agreement.
- That existing eligibility criteria be maintained and strengthened to require that an eligible homeland must be the occupant’s principal place of residence, and that support for a homeland will be reviewed if left unoccupied for more than four months. The onus to provide proof that homelands are occupied should lie with service providers.
- That a homeland must have an adequate potable water supply for its occupants, as identified in the water management plan for that location. For homelands being added to the program, funding will not be available to establish a new water source locally (where the existing source of water is no longer available or becomes contaminated and unusable).
- That a homeland must have in place appropriate infrastructure for the provision of an adequate power supply for its occupants. Where the Department makes an investment in updating power infrastructure (such as a transfer from diesel to solar generation) it should secure the rights, through negotiation with the appropriate land council, to repurpose or move the asset should the homeland become unoccupied.
- That Municipal and Essential Services (MES), Housing Maintenance Services (HMS), Homelands Jobs, and Homelands Extra Allowance (HEA) grant programs be combined into a single grant to allow maximum flexibility for service providers in delivering services to Homelands. MES Special Purposes Grants (MESSPG), to fund municipal and essential services capital works, should be quarantined as a separate grant program (to which service providers are required to apply for funding of capital projects). Quarantining of additional funds for emergency works should also be considered as a component of the MESSPG.
- That the focus of program monitoring shift from program inputs, to program outputs, with the onus placed on service providers to illustrate compliance with the output measures that are established and the outcomes achieved.
- That grant rollovers from year to year only be allowed where the service provider has been fully compliant with the terms of the agreement in the prior year and the proposed activities and spending timing of the rollover funds are provided, to be included as an addendum to the next year’s agreement.
- That public expressions of interest be called for the delivery of homelands’ services. The expression of interest and draft contract should seek to rationalise the delivery of services to homelands on the basis of their regions by seeking one service provider per region (not precluding the delivery of homelands’ services through sub contracting, joint-venture or partnership arrangements).
- That a function of the Homelands Services Group be established to support institutional capacity-building of homelands’ service providers, through initiatives such as regional workshops, information sessions and other activities which encourage networking and information sharing between service providers working on common issues, and that Departmental funds be allocated accordingly.
- That co-funding of housing cease to be a policy of the homelands program. Where homelands residents have access to funds to contribute to co-funding new housing on homelands, this be managed through a LDM agreement between the NT Government and a regional or representative body, and include the relevant land council with potential planning and funding responsibilities.
- That guidelines be put in place to attribute to parties other than the NT Government, responsibility for upgrades and recurrent maintenance of utilities and other essential infrastructure required when new housing is constructed on homelands.
Download the review (PDF 2.2mb).
Response to the review
The NT Government then produced a 14-page document responding to the homelands policy review. It agreed with most of the recommendations, though recommendations 2 and 9 were agreed to ‘in principle’.
Download the response (PDF 2.5mb).