Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Joint operation to deliver health and housing to remote indigenous communities

Members of the Australian Army will play a key role in the construction of new clinics, housing, water and sewerage facilities in three remote Aboriginal communities.

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson today announced that construction will begin this month at three communities in the Fitzroy Valley region of Western Australia under a $4.8 million Aboriginal-Army Community Assistance Program (AACAP) project.

“AACAP represents a collective effort by the Howard Government to improve environmental health in remote Indigenous communities, which draws on the expertise of various government departments as well as the specialist skills of the Army,” said Senator Patterson.

“The Army program is an outstanding demonstration of both practical reconciliation and whole-of-government cooperation in action.

“With 15 projects completed since 1996, AACAP has a proven track record of improvement to the quality of life of thousands of Indigenous people in remote communities who have benefited from the program.

“This new project will assist about 460 Aboriginal people living in the remote communities of Yiyili, Yakanarra and Kadjina in the Fitzroy Valley region of the Kimberley.

“A new clinic will be built and fitted-out in Yiyili, about 150 km east of Fitzroy Crossing on an excision of the Louisa Downs Station. Sewerage systems will also be installed in two of the community’s three outstations. About 250 people are living in the area.

“The Army will construct a clinic, staff accommodation and an airstrip in Yakanarra, about 75 km south of Fitzroy Crossing on an excision of the Go Go Station. A fit-out of the clinic and an upgraded access road will also be provided for the community of about 160 people.

“The Army will also construct two new three-bedroom houses and a four bedroom single person’s quarters in Kadjina, about 150 km south west of Fitzroy Crossing on the Millijidee pastoral lease. A clinic will also be built and fitted out as well as staff accommodation and a water supply facility provided for the community of about 50 people,” Senator Patterson said.

The Army is directly involved in $2.2 million of the construction and service costs of the project while the balance of the works program will be undertaken under contract through public tender.

The Army will also deliver a range of other benefits including the upgrading of community tips and the delivery of medical, dental, veterinary and environmental health support in the form of travelling clinics at each community.

Another important aspect of the program is that Army personnel will give basic training to community members in construction, rural skills and health care.

“AACAP is another example of the Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to achieving real improvements in the lives of Indigenous people and actively engaging and involving Indigenous people in the process,” Senator Patterson said.