APY Lands control to be divided – blame for the dysfunctional APY Lands management shifts

The current urgency to harness mining in the Far North of South Australia, though adding dollars to SA coffers, may ultimately see Anangu absorbed into local councils in most areas of South Australia, in particular a new body which will deliver essential services on APY Lands.

Anangu will still be given the ability to have a say in what is said to be “once their land” or traditional land. 

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Hon Jay Weatherill MP has announced that talks will begin next week on the Lands regarding the new local council structure which is expected to be implemented in 2009. 

Whilst it is not being called an intervention, the APY Lands administration has been labelled as “troubled and dysfunctional” for many years with various attempts at merging a white system of governance with the Anangu traditional culture.  Much depression has taken place along with loss of culture  and incentive for the Anangu to operate as traditional people. 

Blame for the dysfuntional APY Lands management shifts

The blame game for all of APY Land troubles shifted focus today from the ongoing acusations collectively targeting all nearby Mintabie residents, onto “another organisation” which involves deep corruption, according to APY Lands general manager Ken Newman.  Does this mean some home truths may soon emerge?

It is not clear at this stage whether the Mintabie Opal Fields and township, previously the scape-goat caught in the crossfire of mining and control of the APY Lands will be an impediment to Officer Oil Basin and other prospective mining operations needing Aboriginal land access, signatures and possibly convenient infrastructure near to the Darwin rail, as it appeared in 2002 when the extraction of minerals and petroleum on Aboriginal and APY Lands came to the fore of parliamentary discussions.

Previous efforts to launch exploration within Australia declined in 1998, mainly due to the Asian economic crisis and failing commodity prices. Then by 2002,  48 Petroleum Exploration Licence Applications were awaiting resolution of native title issues, sparking an urgency to streamline the way clear to harness the mineral potential in the state of SA.  However the Federal Native Title Act’s clause 43 caused protracted negotiations resulting in a backlog of Petroleum Exploration Licenses. This was a situation that would require the “tweaking” of a few legislations in order to hasten procedures.

The Mintabie Township lease due for renewal in 2002 was coincidently left unrenewed and in limbo despite negotiation meetings taking place.   Mintabie, a gazetted opal field, historically had not been part of what later became the APY Lands during the Don Dunstan reign.  Consultation has not, to date, been held with Mintabie residents, despite OACDT having input into the currently proposed “Country Plan” for the Far North and APY Lands in South Australia.

With the world economy currently on the brink of recession an urgency appears prevalent in taking advantage of a much hoped for “mining boom” in the far north which is greatly dependent on Aboriginal signatures.  Previous impediments which have held up the extraction of minerals from Aboriginal lands have been the lengthy period taken in obtaining signatures from the Anangu; the time needed for Pirsa to build relationships with the Anangu along with other hinderances including access to land along with Native Title and cultural heritage issues. Legislations relating to Land Rights and Opal Mining  suddenly require altering, along with the introduction of Indigenous Land Use Agreements.

With this week’s revelation of the current APY Lands board having it’s powers to deliver essential services stripped, the Anangu whilst not being able to administer received funding designed as signature incentives from mining companies, will still be able to sign off on land and receive benefits for Land Use. It may nevertheless be a double financial windfall for the South Australian economy with Anangu being known to return their money back into the economic system very quickly.  Whether or not the benefits of this new situation will improve the lives and return to culture for the Anangu, it is yet to be seen.