More than 200 people attended the opening of the Kalkaringi Community and Family Centre on Tuesday to celebrate the next stage of self-determination for Gurindji people.
The centre is just one highlight from the first two years of the Gurindji Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) Local Decision Making (LDM) Implementation Plan and will allow delivery of critical programs and services for Gurindji people in Kalkaringi and Dagurargu.
The 2021-23 stage of the plan was signed off on Monday by both the GAC and Territory Government to coincide with the new centre's opening.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said from increasing cash flow to completing remote housing upgrades and creating new jobs - Gurindji are leaders in local decision-making.
"Empowering remote communities to build up their services and improve facilities is making a big difference in the bush," Mr Gunner said.
"We will continue to back in local decision making because it opens up so many new opportunities for remote Territorians, which is great for our economy."
The GAC LDM Implementation Plan 2018-20 was one of the first to be signed in the Territory, following the introduction of the policy by the Territory Labor Government in 2017.
GAC Coordinator, Traditional Owner & Community Liaison officer Rob Roy agreed it had made a big difference to the historically significant community.
"We made change here, and you know, our grandfathers and grandmothers and mothers and fathers who walked off 55 years ago, I think they'll be smiling down on us," Mr Roy said.
"They'll be saying, well, we didn't just move from Wave Hill for nothing; we've moved to make changes to give our children better health, better education, and better housing.
"Lingiari proved that to us, and we are just continuing his legacy."
On August 23, 1966, Vincent Lingiari led 200 Gurindji stockmen and their families off the Wave Hill Station in protest of poor conditions and pay.
The strike led to a years-long battle by the Gurindji people to reclaim their land. A portion of Gurindji land was returned to the traditional owners, with Prime Minister Gough Whitlam symbolically pouring a handful of dirt into the hands of Vincent Lingiari in August 1975.
This landmark event is now celebrated in Kalkaringi each year with a Freedom Day Festival.
Mr Roy said the current agreement is bridging the gap between his community and the NT government.
"We meet halfway, and the decision comes from the ground level up to the higher level where the parliament sits," he said.
"So we've got a really good strong relationship between us and the government now because we all signed off on it.
"We want to be the community that can mentor other communities."
In May 2014 the Federal Court made a determination of Native Title over the Township of Kalkaringi in favour of Native Title Holders, with Gurindji Aboriginal Corporation becoming the Prescribed Body Corporate (PBC) for the Kalkaringi Indigenous Land Use Area (ILUA).
"We advocate and work to improve the social and economic wellbeing of our community through enterprise, improved housing and facilities, local employment and preserving Gurindji culture and heritage," Mr Roy said.
The Kalkaringi Community and Family Centre contains office space, board and consultation rooms, and communal areas for the community. It will be home to the Community Family Centre program - part of the government's commitment to driving generational change following recommendations set out in the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT.
Allowing many outreach programs from Katherine to operate efficiently.
"They'll link up with Community Family Centre and the school," Mr Roy said.
"They'll run young mothers and young fathers program and activity that allows them to go out bush and learn and teach their kids and building up families to be strong.
"We're just building up that relationship and networking with other non-government and government organisations."
Formerly the Kalkaringi Health Centre, the building was wrecked in the 2001 flood, and for the last four years, local workers have been cleaning it out and removing asbestos.
"They cleaned it up proper, and they've done a pretty good job," Mr Roy said.
"I used to work at the old health centre, and now I have my old office back 20 years later."
In October, a smoking ceremony was held at the newly refurbished facility to prepare the building for its next incarnation as part of the first birthday celebration for the Community Family Centre program.
"The older people said we better smoke it because it is going to be a family centre, and it used to be a clinic where we lost a lot of people in the past," Mr Roy said.
The GAC 2021-23 Implementation Plan has six key focuses: strengthening culture and cultural respect; more locally run and owned businesses contracting to serve local people; enhanced services for young people, children and families; more community housing; more local jobs and training opportunities; and better community recreation facilities.
The opening of the centre this week is just one of several achievements during the past two years.
There has been a 52 per cent increase in overall cash flow, resulting in a 16.6 per cent growth in the GAC controlled businesses.
The GAC has also gained $3.5 million Contractor Accreditation Limited accreditation and completed 10 Remote Housing upgrades, 10 Room to Breathe upgrades, and 13 Government Employee Housing contracts in Kalkaringi and established the Kalkaringi Community and Family Centre program.
"GAC have come a long way in just a couple of years, and it's inspiring to think of everything else they can achieve with the extension of this Local Decision Making Agreement," said Minister for Treaty and Local Decision Making Selena Uibo.
"This is a great milestone reached on country where history has acknowledged from little things big things grow.
"Local Decision Making is delivering for Aboriginal Territorians by improving services and providing new opportunities for jobs on country and strengthening capacity and leadership."
The signing of the 2022/2023 stage of the GAC LDM Implementation Plan follows the extension of Local Decision Making Agreements by the Jawoyn Association Aboriginal Corporation, the Yugul Mangi Development Aboriginal Corporation, and the Anindilyakwa Land Council.
The GAC Local Decision Making Agreement is one of five in various stages of implementation across the Territory. Engagement for another sixteen is underway.
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