Tuesday 16th of July 2024

australia needs a VOICE.....

This is a story of what a voice can achieve and how easily it is undone by external forces.

A little over 35 years ago I was Council Clerk and CDEP Coordinator for a small indigenous community in the far reaches of the Northern Territory tablelands. I saw my task was to act as the intermediary voice – and I use that word in its deliberate current context – between the needs of the community and the constricting demands of the federal and NT Government bureaucracy. The local Community Council also believed my task was to listen to their voice, and to put it into, what was for the old ringers, a foreign bureaucratic language so the outcomes they wanted could be delivered.


By Daryl Guppy


I like to think we had some success. The community grew from around 150 people to over 700 as people voted with their feet and relocated from surrounding dysfunctional communities and outstations. This was, and remained, a community with deep and active connections to country and culture. I took instructions from the Community Council and wore the ire of Government providers and at times, of the Council when I was not able to achieve the outcomes they wanted.

This was no idyllic indigenous paradise. Although the elders on the Community Council had declared the community a dry area, enforced under NT legislation, alcohol remained a major problem, resulting in fights, injuries and deaths. Sometimes justice came at the point of a spear, or the end of a rifle barrel. The two-man police station was 2 to 3 hours away when the road was open and officers willing to attend.

This is a story of what a voice can achieve and how easily it is undone by external forces.

Key to success was the original version of the Community Development Employment (CDEP) scheme. The community was paid a lump sum grant equal to the unemployment entitlements of the community residents. The Community Council distributed payment at an hourly rate for 20 hours work a week. Work less than 20 hours, and you received a pro-rata payment or a minimum amount of tucker money at a level determined by the council. Work longer hours and the entitlement was topped up.

This provided flexibility so work could be supported and scheduled according to community needs. We essentially had three workers for every single job. The bureaucrats didn’t like it, but it meant that people could attend to cultural obligations and not leave the office, the health clinic, the school, the maintenance crew, the rubbish collection crew, short staffed.

It helped parents to work at school, assisting in language and extending community involvement. It gave people dignity, not dependency.

Just before I finished there was a federal Government review of the CDEP program. The report was entitled “No Reverse Gear’ because participants believed the program gave them agency and control. That was a strong voice.

The Federal Government received the report and then killed CDEP. It became a mutated, bureaucratically strangled version of metropolitan unemployment benefits which has condemned communities to the destructive cycle of welfare dependency to this day. Now it’s said that the most common music heard on remote Communities is the on-hold Centrelink recording.

We tapped Government funds to build new houses. The Community Council decided who was entitled to each new house. We sat in the dirt and sketched the floorplan and orientation for each new dwelling. For health reasons, the toilet should not back onto the kitchen. One wall should include a breeze block to gather cooling winds in the summer and face away from the cold south east winter winds. Verandas were wide and at ground level so people could sleep outside if they wished and it gave room to cater for the inevitable visitors and the resultant overcrowding. Preferred windows were louvres, easy to open for air circulation and easy to replace if broken.

It was a long and difficult fight to have houses built to these designs. The NT Government and the Federal Government demanded houses modelled on Sydney suburbs. Sheet glass windows, ready for air-conditioning. For cost savings, toilets always backed onto kitchens.

We won.

The voice was heard, but it was a tortuous and difficult path, disfigured by threats of funding withdrawal. The repair and maintenance bill for the community was the lowest per capita of any indigenous community in the NT because people did not need to ‘modify’ the dwelling with an axe to make it suitable for climatic and social conditions.

We lost.

The staff that replaced me did not work in the same way. They acted as an agent of the Government, so new houses were built Sydney style, with toilets backing onto kitchens. Houses were quickly and ruinously modified.

Community Councils, the very amplification of the indigenous voice to the organs of Government, were later disbanded and merged into cumbersome regional councils because this was the only way to receive Local Government funding.

The indigenous voice has always been there, sometimes weak, sometimes strong, but rarely listened to for any length of time. Australia has a sad record of taking indigenous programs that work, and defunding them. The Canberra and NT bureaucracy, despite their best intentions, simply do not listen, or provide funding certainty, to the multiple voices that are already in place in health, education, alcohol and domestic violence management. Or they are constrained in what they can do by a raft of ‘white tape’ like Sydney design and environmental planning standards for a family home to suit 3.5 residents instead of 10 to 15.

On a broader scale, the challenge to unleash the smothered indigenous voice remains largely unsuccessful. But it can be overcome. The tools have been there for 30 plus years, but they still hammer on closed ears.


Daryl Guppy lived and worked in Australia’s very remote Northern Territory communities with First Nations people for more than a decade. He worked in remote communities of traditional people ruled by lore and where some European guidance was accepted as a necessary evil in smoothing the abrasion of Government interference. He had ample time and opportunity to understand the different types of compromises people made to survive and continue their obligations to country and song lines.





an illegal operation by the ecuadorian government, by the USA and by the UK — and by Australia...

a good offer....








Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Missouri has crowned a biological male as this year’s homecoming queen. The ‘coronation’ of Tristan Young was announced on the school’s official X (formerly Twitter) account on Saturday, however, the comments section under the post was closed.

The incident is allegedly the second time the school, which belongs to the North Kansas City Schools district, has awarded the title to a biologically male trans student, despite there being multiple biologically female contestants for the traditionally woman-only award. 

A ‘homecoming queen’ is an honorary title used in US high schools, which is typically awarded to a young female student who – along with a ‘homecoming king’ – is chosen by their peers or by a committee of faculty members to ‘reign’ over activities related to the Homecoming game – an annual game of American football between the highschool and their closest rival team. The titles are often considered to essentially be a popularity contest.

One parent in the district told Libs of TikTok, asking to remain anonymous, that they were appalled by the school’s decision and its continued support of the LGBT “agenda.”