The Aboriginal dollar drives the Katherine economy.
That is what Northern Land Council CEO Joe Morrison believes.
“Small towns like Katherine are heavily reliant on Aboriginal money coming into town, that has always been the case,” Mr Morrison said.
“Industry and businesses rely on the money that Aboriginal people come and spend in town. The Katherine economy was built on Aboriginal disadvantage.”
Mr Morrison said hundreds of jobs have been generated in Katherine’s not-for-profit sector to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
“If it was not for Aboriginal money, businesses in Katherine would not be operating,” he said.
“That has been the case since white fellas arrived, there is a long history of Aboriginal people growing and sustaining industry here.”
He says royalties and welfare benefits inject life into local businesses.
A feud erupted in Katherine this week between local traders and NT Senator Nigel Scullion over grant money.
Senator Scullion defended the use of almost half a million dollars of taxpayer money to support an Indigenous company, Innovative Office Furniture.
He said the grant would boost Aboriginal employment and training opportunities in Katherine.
Custom Cabinets owner Jeffery Usher said he had no problem with funding for Indigenous employment.
“What we are disappointed about is the Government has given a grant to a Darwin company to franchise here and compete in our market,” Mr Usher said.
“The money could have been spent on companies that are already established here in Katherine that want to train Indigenous people.
“I am really keen to support Indigenous employment and I do not want to bash the other business owner who got the money, or come across as racist. I just think the government has changed our economy without consulting us,” he said.
Darwin based businessman Allan Lodge was awarded the grant.
“It is true that we have received some financial support from the Federal Government but this is only a small part in comparison to the time, effort and money we have invested, and continue to invest, in this business and in Katherine,” Mr Lodge said.
“Innovative Office Furniture has been operating in Katherine and surrounding regional and remote areas since 2013 so this is nothing new and we are not new to Katherine.
“We have accounts with numerous businesses in Katherine and are spending thousands of dollars every week in the town.”
Late last year NT Treasurer Nicole Manison told a government committee “clearly Katherine is a defence town”.
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