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Hopeless - Aboriginal Outback Towns? Solutions.

When does something extremely important to Australia and Australians become so hopeless that it will never be able to be hoped for again? Never!

The recent media coverage of the hopeless aboriginal lifestyle situation in Tennant Creek reminds me of our time travelling through there and many other predominantly aboriginal towns on our trip up the Stuart Highway from Adelaide to Darwin. And across to Kununurra in WA.

There was an absolute sense of hopelessness and destitution in most of these outback towns.


The overriding reason being a lack of worthwhile and liberating work, along with other worthwhile social engagement within the community! It is so obvious, yet what is being done in the field to solve it? Once there is worthwhile employment and positive social endeavours and an improvement in self-worth, so many of the other inherent problems within many aboriginal communities will be on the way to a solution.

The apparent view of so many Aussies is that the indigenous do not want to work. I don’t believe this, and statistically, it isn’t so. Of course, in any society, there are those who would rather live an alternative lifestyle. Many have never had the opportunity to work where enjoyment, passion and a real sense of pride and place within the community abounds. Most towns don’t have anywhere near enough enhancing employment opportunities or community-engaging activities.

One solution:

Kununurra is one example where many of the first peoples have chosen a particular lifestyle which suits their needs and helps lead to positivity. A former aboriginal liaison officer for one of the mines explained to me that the first peoples often have a different attitude to work than the standard western view. Many of these locals prefer to work for months or a few years and then take time off and live off their earnings while being one with their country and a more relaxed, traditional lifestyle. They would then return to work when a further income was needed. They enjoy this option.

Tennant Creek, NT, Major Issues:

The Tennant Creek social situation has become so bad now that it has taken years of sexual and physical abuse reporting, hundreds of underage STI reports and a recent two-year old’s rape to start things moving. Imagine if this abuse were happening in eastern Australia, the outcry would be incredible. Just as the outcry was when ABC’s Four Corners showed the Don Dale Detention Centre abuse. It led to a Royal Commission being implemented from the next day.

Statistically, the situation doesn’t appear to be bad at all. (See the last paragraph.) It is only when you scratch the surface that the issues become obvious. Thank you, ABC and Murdoch press for doing this.

But this problem at TC is so entrenched that no-one seems capable of solving it. No PM or Opposition Leader or Federal Minister is calling for a commission, no serious response from any governmental leader in the NT, no real aboriginal leadership outcry except a few lower level aboriginal leadership people. If the ABC and The Australian newspaper hadn’t alerted us to the problems, it would still be a ‘nasty secret’ of outback Australia.

Suddenly it is in the WAY TOO HARD basket.


If the billions that have been wasted over the decades had gone into decent, life-enhancing job creation ventures, social enhancement projects and drug and alcohol educational and health programs, all with major aboriginal community input and leadership, the next future billions spent would have been considerably less and more specifically directed.

The statistics for Tenant Creek are quite surprising. Much analysis is required. Some statistics which stand out: Aborigine to non-aborigine is almost 50/50, over 80% have less than a diploma’s education, the median age is 33, over 2.5 times fewer people are over 70 years, and there are twice as many communities and personal service workers proportionately to the rest of Australia, almost 40% single parent families to the rest of Australia and double the rental accommodation to Australia overall.

Extrapolating for aborigines, Tennant Creek is basically 50% aboriginal, who are educated mainly to year 10 level or to a certificate 3 level, with a young median age of 33 and a high proportion of single parents 40%, all who live in twice as many rental properties to the rest of Australia and who have access to twice as many community and personal workers proportionately. (Source ABS)


Aboriginal guided and eventually led:

  • Life-enhancing, worthwhile job creation ventures and employee training,

  • social enhancement projects,

  • worthwhile downtime facilities and activities

  • drug and alcohol educational and health programs, which are accepted by the needy

  • isolation ridding programs, including quality internet and improved communications,

  • local media posts, e.g. radio and television – to run good news stories, news, educational programs, documentaries, general entertainment and sport. The high content of local aborigines employed. Streamed or broadcast over the airwaves,

  • positive, life filled and loving community

Expertise from the wider Australian community will be needed to assist in these developments. This outside expertise would need to be continually monitored until the local aborigines will be able to, where possible, fully control and run each enterprise. The timelines for withdrawal would vary depending on familiarity and expertise, size, complexity, etc.

There will also be options for local non-indigenous and outsiders to form joint-ventures with the local indigenous. These would need to be formed in such a way that the outsiders had to respect the locals and their needs and input and never be allowed to take over the business.

Tennant Creek is only the main example used. There are so many other outback towns in similar or far worse situations. All need both the local and broader communities to stand up and demand proper research and exposing of the problems. To then actively work with the local aboriginal community towards solutions. Way too much money has been wasted over the decades. Time to genuinely listen to the aborigines on the ground and become money smart, investing in worthwhile endeavours, while still assisting the local indigenous get through some very difficult lifestyle experiences.

ABS Detailed Stats:

Tennant Creek statistically from the ABS for 2016 (Sometimes rounded off %): 51% aborigine, 70% f/t work and of these 75% work over 35 hrs/wk, 18% have diploma or higher, median age is 33, 4% are 70 or older (10.7 Aust.), no religion 34%, unemployed 7.1% (6.9% Aust), Community and Personal Service Workers 20.3% (10.8% Aust), Income $650 ($662 Aust), one parent families 22% (16% Aust), 30% unoccupied dwellings (11% Aust), 64% rented (31% Aust), Single person households 33% (24% Aust), medium rent $175 ($335 Aust), Internet dwellings 69% (83% Aust), medium rent at least 1 person aborig. $150 ($250 Aust).


Tennant Creek - Drive Through video by Fozzie:

The video, images and Text © Copyright 2018 Bryan W Foster

Bryan Foster is author of ' One God for All' published November, 2016; e-book January 2017. website: Facebook - Bryan Foster Author’s website:

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