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APY food showpiece becomes a ghost town - litigation possible?

This is an analysis of "APY food showpiece becomes a ghost town" written by Michael Owen and published in The Australian 27 March 2015. The Watarru First Nations Community is in APY Lands in north west South Australia which sits at the foot of Mount Lindsay and the community has at times been known as "Mount Lindsay" - A market garden offered hope to the young community members, but it was defunded by the government and closed down before it was properly established, leaving everyone confused and hurting.

Watarru community Location
Watarru Community was an Aboriginal community in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia which sits at the foot of Mount Lindsay and the community has at times been known as "Mount Lindsay"

This is an analysis of "APY food showpiece becomes a ghost town" written by Michael Owen and published in The Australian 27 March 2015.

The article is in plain text and the blockquoted comments by Maureen Brannan.

A remote South Australian Aboriginal community that the state's government has been accused of abandoning will not have essential services restored because of a lack of permanent residents.

Waturra Community photo
Waturra - Wikipedia

Watarru community members
Watarru community members
(Source: Paper Tracker - photo: D. Geraghty)

Mary and her child Henry of the Watarru community

Mary and her child Henry of the Watarru, cooking kangaroo tails for lunch

(source: ABC)

Community leaders of Watarru, 1200km northwest of Adelaide in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, say people will not return to the outpost because the government has refused to turn the power back on since 2012.

Watarru — once a showpiece of the state government's failed $800,000 food security strategy with a community garden that ultimately withered and died

If it was a ‘showpiece' it obviously was a great success – what happened? Funding ceased to continue it? If so, once again demonstrates that government places the almighty dollar over the lives of humans.

— lost most of its population of 75 after the community store closed in December 2011.

WHY did it close? Loss of funding?

At the time, the government ignored concerns about staffing and funding of the store and claimed the population drop was a routine and common "summer exodus" of residents.

Then that is a blatant LIE they used as an excuse to cut funding and then cut the power – this can be proven in a court of law, that they KNEW the exodus was due to their removal of funding, but claimed it was a ‘routine summer exodus' – inexcusable and clearly immoral if not illegal in some way ... wilfully negligence or something.

In early 2012, power was cut to the town because of the exodus, to avoid damaging the town's generator, and has remained off since.

Watarru is one of the most remote Aboriginal communities in the country, 550km southwest from Alice Springs and 1200km northwest of Adelaide.

The community is essentially a ghost town, where taxpayer-funded assets and infrastructure valued at about $20 million are going to waste. About 20 houses, a modern school including facilities built as part of the Rudd government's BER funding, a clinic, a store, a community office and a regional transaction centre are all but abandoned.

This comes as debate continues to rage about federal funding cuts potentially risking the via­bility of some remote Aboriginal homelands in Western Australia and South Australia.
South Australian Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher said the state government continued to work with the commonwealth "to secure important funding for South Australia's remote Aboriginal communities".

This is an example that many Aboriginal communities will relate to, especially on remote Homelands - The government throws money into projects and promises future prospects to the people and then when one small thing does wrong, ignorant and nervous governments withdraw funding and the projects go to the wall. This leaves the media running the First Nations people down, and the trainees feeling that they have failed and are forced to walk away with much reduced self-esteem and an increased sense of hopelessness.
This is an example that many Aboriginal communities will relate to, especially on remote Homelands - The government throws money into projects and promises future prospects to the people - and then when one small thing goes wrong, ignorant and nervous governments withdraw funding and the projects go to the wall. This leaves the media running the First Nations people down and the trainees feeling that they have failed and are forced to walk away with much reduced self-esteem and an increased sense of hopelessness.

"The viability of the Watarru community and provision of government services depends on the permanent return of a significant number of residents. I'm advised that less than five people (are) living in the community," Mr Maher said yesterday. "The value of state government assets in Watarru is approximately $1.2 million. There are no plans to relocate any of these assets."

Liberal Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said Mr Maher's claims that Watarru's assets were worth $1.2m was "laughable".

I'd say far more serious than just laughable – another outright Lie and a clear case for prosecution – why cannot ATSIL's litigate? When I enquired why Perth ATSILS hadn't litigated against the WA government for their uncalled for eviction of the Swan Valley community and the bulldozing of their fine earth-built homes, they told me it was not within their proscribed ability to action – or something like that. But I still maintain, even if ATSILS won't act to protect the First Nation's very existence, which is being threatened right now more than at any time in the past 227 years, then surely another law firm can step in?

Watarru is located in South Australia near the northern edge of the Great Victoria Desert, adjacent to Mt Lindsay. It lies approximately 550 km south west of Alice Springs as the crow flies. Mt Lindsay is west of the closed (Home)town.

"This is a community with significant assets that have been previously valued at around $20m," he said.

"Less than four years ago, it was the flagship for the government's ill-fated market gardens scheme."

Mr Marshall said for years the government under successive ministers for Aboriginal affairs had failed to give the community solid answer about their future. "The new minister needs to get real with the people of Watarru and the rest of South Australia and tell us what their real plans are for this community."

A confidential government report obtained by The Australian in 2013 found that millions of dollars of infrastructure in the community could be restored with "limited'' government funding.

Can Freedom of Information reveal this report? It is essential for any future prosecutions. If The Australian can, surely ATSILS can.