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Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

Minister disappointed by decision on Alice Springs Town Camps

“Today’s decision by Tangentyere Council and the Alice Springs Town Camps to reject the Howard Government’s offer for a major upgrade is very disappointing, especially for the kids who are now subjected to continue to live in third world conditions,” Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, said today.

“The Howard Government made an offer, in good faith, to provide sufficient funds to upgrade the town camps – so they would be the same as the rest of Alice Springs.

“The offer was made in direct response to an approach to me early last year by the NT’s Chief Minister.

“Tangentyere and other parties knew at the time that the Town Camps needed to operate like normal suburbs. There were no objections then to this approach.

“The offer would have benefited not only those living in the town camps, but the whole of Alice Springs.

“The key requirement on the Town Camps was to sub lease to the NTG (Northern Territory Government) and to transfer houses to Territory Housing so that homes could be properly managed and provide home ownership opportunities. This is an essential element to normalising the Town Camps. It provides no material benefit to the Australian or NT Government. The leases being transferred do not represent traditional lands, only special purpose leases granted to legitimise occupation of the camps.

“Improved housing and living conditions are fundamental to improving the overall health and wellbeing of Indigenous people.

“Tangentyere have today, through their Sydney-based lawyers, indicated a desire to continue negotiations. Regrettably, in rejecting the offer, the funding will be allocated to other areas of need outside the NT.

“I have this afternoon spoken to Chief Minister Martin. She has indicated to me that she remains confident that reform of the Town Camps can still be achieved. I remain committed to a better future for the kids of the camps. If Ms Martin is successful, we will discuss what the Australian Government can do to assist at that time.

“In the meantime, after more than a year of discussions I cannot and will not hold back $60 million of funding from other Indigenous communities.

“Establishing short term visitor accommodation sites was part of the package for upgrading town camps. I indicated to the Council during my meeting with them Tuesday night that I would appreciate its advice over the next couple of weeks on that aspect. I will await advice from the Council before making a decision on those facilities. Issues regarding the location of the sites are purely a matter for the NTG.”