The Barkly Regional Deal forges ahead, while Katherine is left in the lurch
Journalist: Roxanne Fitzgerald
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has visited Tennant Creek this week to meet with community members as the rollout of the $78.4 million Barkly Regional Deal continues to forge ahead.
It is a deal which brings all three levels of government together with the aim of improving social outcomes in the troubled town.
The CEO of the Northern Territory’s peak body for affordable housing Peter McMillan has said Katherine also needs a deal on the table to rise out of its ongoing homelessness crisis.
“We need the government to come out with a plan that addresses how it is going to tackle the current and future shortfall of social housing,” NT Shelter executive officer Peter McMillan told the Katherine Times in October.
“We know there has been a whole range of investment committed for the Barkly Regional Deal that happened after a crisis in 2018, of course it shouldn’t take a crisis before we move on providing accommodation to visitors coming to Katherine.”
As Katherine’s homelessness rate remains one of the highest in the nation, with hundreds of people waiting an average of six to eight years on a list for social housing, he is not the only person calling on the government for action.
The Katherine Accommodation Action Group said the absence of a strategy in Katherine was entrenching disadvantage.
“There is no homelessness strategy right now in Katherine, despite the fact that we have one of the highest homelessness rates in the country,” previous coordinator of the Katherine Doorways Hub Harley Dannatt said.
“Programs like the Hub and Wurli’s Katherine Individual Support Program give strong evidence that we have the capability and the passion within existing services to respond effectively.
“But looking towards the next steps in addressing homelessness, Katherine needs all levels of government working together.”
The Barkly Regional Deal is the first of its type in Australia with aims to deliver on 28 initiatives focused on stimulating economic growth, increasing child safety and reducing overcrowding.
The Morrison Government has contributed a total of $45.4 million, $30 million is from the Northern Territory Government and $3 million from the Barkly Regional Council.
Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories Nola Marino jetted in to Tennant Creek with Minister Wyatt this week to see progress on initiatives first-hand.
Minister Wyatt said the visit demonstrated the Morrison Government’s commitment to connecting with communities to hear their perspectives on local issues and opportunities for change.
“With its commitment to co-designing solutions and embedding Indigenous voices in its delivery, the Barkly Regional Deal has provided a new way to ensure community-identified concerns are prioritised for action,” Minister Wyatt said.
The deal has already brought about the completion of the Alpurrurulam airstrip upgrade and delivery of an affordability trial at the Aboriginal Hostels Limited Wangkana Kari hostel to reduce the nightly tariff for local residents receiving medical treatment who would otherwise be sleeping rough.
Minister Wyatt and Assistant Minister Marino also visited the Youth Links Drop-In Centre, which is one of the youth infrastructure sites to be upgraded or replaced through the deal.
“Identified as a community priority during the deal’s development, the $7.6 million investment through the BBRF will replace the Youth Links Drop-In Centre, construct a new cycling and walking path between Weaber Road and Blaine Street in Tennant Creek, and build a new sport and recreation centre in Ali Curung,” Minister Wyatt said.
Minister Wyatt has been contacted for comment on plans for a deal for Katherine.
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