Close the Gap Committee


A closer look at the Bidyadanga Land Activation Pilot Project

Hon Dr Gary Johns

10 Jan 2024

2:57 min

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In this video, Close the Gap Research Chairman, Hon Dr. Gary Johns takes a closer look at the 'Bidyadanga Land Activation Pilot Project,' an initiative by the WA government involving a $7.3 million investment.

The aim is to dismantle land tenure obstacles for Bidyadanga residents, marking the initial phase of what's dubbed 'full economic transformation' and the 'regularisation of services across the community.' Despite these aspirations, Gary raises some critical questions about the practicality of such endeavors, especially considering the economic landscape in Bidyadanga.

With a community where only a few people are employed and the average weekly rent stands at $80, the video looks at the feasibility of residents affording homes under the proposed project. Gary sheds light on the complexities surrounding funding for remote infrastructure, with the federal government's previous disengagement and the current attempt to tap into northern development funds.

This video is a thought-provoking exploration of the Bidyadanga initiative, emphasising the challenges and potential implications of this 'back-door' approach to involve the federal government in remote community affairs once again.

Video transcript

Now you've probably read in the last couple of days that the federal government, Minister King, that is, has announced that she's trying to assist Aboriginal people in remote northern Australia to buy their own houses. Now that's a wonderful aspiration.

She's talking to an Australian Government finance facility, the National Australia Infrastructure Facility, which mainly funds agriculture, minerals, transport, logistics, some social infrastructure, but mainly those to some hospitals and universities in northern Australia. They've not previously loaned for private houses in remote Aboriginal communities, but OK, we wish them well.

Now, the Western Australian government, meanwhile, has been loosening up the rules around private ownership in one community near Broome, on the North West Coast. It's the largest Aboriginal remote community in WA called Bidyadanga. We wish them well.

What's actually going on here is that the federal government abandoned payments to keep remote communities going five, six, seven, eight years ago, and the West Australian government is seeing its chance to revisit it and get some money out of the Feds, this time via another facility.

Now the problem here is that there are about 600 people in Bidyadanga, mainly Aboriginal people, and they rent. The average rent is $80.00 a week. Now, I don't think you could pay a mortgage for a house at $80.00 a week.

The other problem is what employment do they have? Now, the labour force participation rate in WA is about 65%. Bidyadanga. The labour force participation is 28%. So and I can't find any great economic base there. There are no mineral processing facilities or agriculture or whatever in the area.

So you have a remote group of people where there's low participation in the labour force. Where you have a finance facility, even if it worked, would probably never get its money back. So, we have to question what's happening here. Is this just the government flying a kite to suggest it's doing something different in Aboriginal Affairs, or is it something new on the block? We'll keep you posted.

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