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Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Historic Agreement Secures Power In Remote Aboriginal Communities

Five large remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia’s Kimberley region will now have guaranteed access to secure and cheaper power supplies under a historic agreement agreed to today between the Australian and Western Australian governments.

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said the Howard Government was pleased to have secured a joint agreement, which would also provide jobs for Aboriginal people and fairer electricity prices.

“The Government will provide $21.2 million over 11 years to the Aboriginal and Remote Communities Power Supply Project (ARCPSP), which will ensure five remote communities have access to a power supply at the same retail rates and performance levels as other WA towns of comparable size in the region,” Senator Patterson said.

“This funding agreement will ensure that the standard WA power utility delivery for regional power supplies will be extended to the Ardyaloon (Bardi), Djarindjin/Lombadina, Beagle Bay, Bidyadanga and Warmun Aboriginal communities.

“Provision of contracted power generation, reticulation and customer management services will also lead to the employment of two part-time Essential Service Operators in each community and the offering of between two and five apprenticeship positions annually.

“This significant agreement is also likely to lead eventually to the supply of electricity to all Aboriginal communities in Western Australia with 200 or more people living in them.

“The agreement is a boost for Aboriginal people living in the Kimberley and it is also expected to reduce tariffs to consumers in these remote communities.

“Historically the Australian Government has borne the total costs of power supply to these communities and Aboriginal community organisations have owned and operated the power generation and distribution facilities and services for members.

“The management of services through a State Government utility will provide more professional and stable delivery of power supplies and will also provide local employment in the communities which will be better supported than under the previous system.

“This agreement is also consistent with the Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG) commitments to reform Indigenous affairs by reducing duplication and having one level of Government delivering services.”