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AUSTRALIAN COMMUNITIES


                           Case Study written by Malcolm Stacey

What is a community?

A community is a group of people who feel they belong because they share something in common.
There are two main types of communities:

        social communities—where people share a common bond or interest, such as family, a
         sporting team, religion, work, Aboriginality, or ethnic group.
        spatial communities—where people share a common space because they live in the same
         area, such as a town or suburb.

It isn’t easy to distinguish between social and spatial communities because they overlap each other.
That’s because social communities exist wherever people live. As well as belonging to a spatial
community, people can belong to any number of different work, leisure or other social communities at
the same time.

What makes a community?

People sometimes form communities without even realising. For example, we form a community
around a sporting team. It includes the players, the coach and the supporters. It also includes the family
and friends who take us to the training sessions and games and cheer us on. We all have a common
bond and interest. To make it even more complex, these communities can vary in size from the group
that, for example, plays at the local tennis courts to the groups that play, support, sponsor and promote
tennis at a national level.
Communities can be created at a variety of scales. In this example, a community based around a
particular team is linked to AFL communities around the country, and perhaps even to fans of the code
around the world.
Source: Ron Ryan/Cooee Picture Library

Communities can be organised around particular issues. A community of interested people can form to
improve our local hospital or the main street, or to protest about a new housing development on
untouched bush land.

A community might consist of all the people who use the same shops or go to the same school.
Sometimes we even wear a uniform to advertise that we support a particular team, group or town.

Communities before 1788

Before the European invasion, Australia’s indigenous people lived in communities with common
beliefs and life patterns. They didn’t live in one place. They moved around their land according to the
seasons so that they had a continuous supply of food all year round. They also visited places for
spiritual reasons.
Over the long period of time that Aboriginal people have been in Australia, regional differences in
languages, cultures and social organisation developed across the country.
Source: Reproduced with the permission of Sinclair Knight Merz and AIATSIS.

The map above shows 18 broad Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander regions, each with unique
languages, weapons, art styles and initiation rituals. The Indigenous Language Groups map on page 39
of the Longman Atlas is a comprehensive analysis of different Australian indigenous communities.
Each group had its own land, language/dialect, culture and spiritual beliefs.

Traditional indigenous Aboriginal culture is based on the values of community and citizenship. In their
society, people belonged and were valued. Members of each community were citizens who contributed
to and benefited from the group. Long before the European invasion, their communities were based on
co-operation and collective patterns. Focus was on the community as a whole, rather than on individual
ownership, power and control. It was the community’s responsibility to pass their traditional land and
culture on to future generations.

There was little or no similarity to European-based cultures. The European invaders saw no evidence of
individual property and ownership. There were no plots of land growing crops, and no European style
fences and maps showing boundaries.
The Spread of European Settlement

When the Europeans arrived they brought their own beliefs and ideologies with them. They settled in
the one place, often along rivers or the coast. It was easy to displace and remove the indigenous people
because they didn’t have permanent settlements and live in the same place all year. The Europeans did
not understand this way of life or the land they were settling. Some of the invaders’ settlements
developed into towns, while many declined.



             1

Contemporary communities

Today, we form communities when we meet needs like shelter, food, water, energy, employment,
transport and leisure. Our communities range in size from an individual farmhouse —> to a small
village with a few houses and a general store —> to a country town —> to a large city.

Our communities are often quite distinctive. We might live in a beach-side suburb, an established
suburb with older homes and lots of trees, a brand new housing estate on the outskirts of a large city, or
a country town of 300–400 people. Some communities are distinctive because, for example, they
depend on tourism, mining, commercial fishing, farming or the defence force for their existence.

The one thing that all communities have in common is that its people feel a sense of belonging and can
identify with it. Community members make contributions to the group—think of the local area
community at a public meeting tonight, the work community tomorrow, the sailing club on Saturday
and the local church on Sunday. They feel a common bond or interest and get something back in return.
Right around the world, people—citizens—belong to communities that satisfy their needs in their own
particular way.

Remote communities

Distance, isolation and remoteness are continuing themes in Australian history and geography. Once
we leave the high rainfall coastal areas, a community consists of more than just the people living in an
urban area. It expands to include those who live in the surrounding area who depend on the urban area
to meet their needs.

Remote communities are distant or isolated from other communities. Mostly, they are rural
communities, that is, they meet the needs of people in the surrounding rural area. Many are remote
from other communities in terms of distance and vital services—the distance people have to travel to
reach their community centre can often be measured in hundreds of kilometres.




Mount Isa is the largest centre in western Queensland. It is first and foremost a mining centre, with the
region having the world’s largest resources of zinc. The area is also a major supplier of silver, lead and
copper.
Source: Mount Isa City Council

Some remote centres are special purpose centres, such as the mining town of Mount Isa, or the tourist
centre of Alice Springs. Large remote centres such as Mount Isa (population 21 700 in 2001) have
enough people to provide most of the services that those in the coastal cities take for granted.

The decline of rural communities

The harsh Australian inland has never supported a large population, even in areas where extensive
cropping and pastoralism is considered a relatively safe land use, but rural communities have been
further reduced by constant technological change. Expensive technology has reduced the need for farm
labour. Farms have become larger to produce more income to pay for the new technology. Fewer
people living in the surrounding farming area means less demand for services in the local town.

Outlets for services provided by banks, doctors, dentists and chemists, and retail stores for clothing,
electrical goods and cars, therefore start to disappear from the town. People then tend to bypass the
closest small centre and drive further to a larger centre. Rural populations in some areas are now not
large enough to support a viable township.

Crisis in rural and remote communities

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report, Bush Talks (February 1999), said ‘…
people in rural and remote Australia generally come off second best. Distance, isolation, lower incomes
and minority status all exacerbate the experience of discrimination, harassment, and lack of services
and participation.’ Some of the issues outlined are listed below.

Health

        severe doctor shortages—fewer doctors per person
        inadequate health services in every state and territory
        fewer mental health services, particularly for youth
        severe Aboriginal health care problems
        rapidly ageing communities.

Education

        children less likely to finish school
        distance education is a poor substitute for face-to-face secondary schooling
        fewer Aboriginal students completing secondary schooling
        fewer rural students commencing tertiary education.

Youth

        increasing rates of youth suicide
        youth unemployment 3–4 times the national rate
        fewer drug and alcohol services and treatment.

Other issues

        fewer opportunities for employment
        bank and government agencies closing
        poor quality telecommunication services
        public transport almost non-existent.

Overcoming remoteness

People in rural areas form remarkably close communities that fight to survive. With some assistance
from local governments, many work to overcome the disadvantages of remoteness and isolation. This
is important for all Australians because a healthy rural economy is essential to our urban population.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Source: Photo courtesy of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) and the Townsville
Bulletin.

Some unique rural services are listed below.

        The School of the Air, now called the School of Distance Education, which provides
         schooling to students via correspondence lessons, telephone and the internet.
        The Flying Surgeon Service, where general surgeons, obstetricians and gynaecologists visit
         hospitals in rural and remote areas on a regular basis and are available on 24-hour call.
        Tele-health services, where local doctors and nurses can consult with major city hospitals for
         training and advice or even assistance during medical procedures, by using video conferencing
         equipment.
        Government subsidised air transport services to remote centres, which would otherwise be
         withdrawn entirely due to insufficient numbers of passengers. The subsidy from the
         Queensland government, for example, ensures that Longreach has a daily service to Brisbane
         and a weekly service to Townsville.
        Satellite communication for phone and internet services, essential in many areas.



             2

Cape York communities

We usually think of the arid and semi-arid areas of inland Australia as being remote and isolated. Cape
York Peninsula, however, which stretches north from the Daintree region of the Queensland Wet
Tropics World Heritage Area (latitude of about 16°S) to the tip of Cape York, is one the most remote
and isolated areas in Australia.

A remote environment
Cape York isn’t just remote because of its distance from Cairns, the closest large centre. It is mainly
remote from services, that is, most of the people who live on Cape York have difficulty obtaining
access to services. This is due to:

        the monsoon climate, and
        the lack of an all weather road network.

Cape York’s monsoon climate ensures that it’s warm to hot all year, with a distinct wet and dry season.
Without an all-weather road, most Cape York communities need to get supplies before ‘the wet’
because they will be isolated by rain and raging rivers for four to five months. Even in ‘the dry’, the
condition of the road tends to limit movement. Life on Cape York is restricted by remote location and
the condition of the one main access road from the south.

To drive from Cairns to Bamaga (about 1000 km) or to Weipa (about 800 km) you really need to go in
the dry in a four-wheel drive vehicle. During the wet the rivers are in full flood. There are few bridges
on the one gravel road through Cape York, and washouts and landslides are common. Even in the dry
every river crossing has to be approached with extreme care. Dust, corrugations, washouts, unfenced
cattle and wildlife make driving very hazardous.




Map of Cape York communities.
The communities

About 18 000 people live on Cape York Peninsula, including about 10 000 Aboriginal and 3000 Torres
Strait Islander peoples, mainly on or near the coast. There are five main social communities, which are
listed below.

        Aboriginal people who live in seventeen individual communities, the largest of which are
         Aurukun, Napranum and Kowanyama, each with more than 1000 individuals. As most people
         were forced off their traditional land by the government, pastoralists, and miners, communities
         are now a mixture of people from different parts of Cape York, who have had to develop their
         own identity.
        Torres Strait Islander people who live in Bamaga (population about 1100) and other small
         communities at the tip of Cape York, most of whom relocated here from their Saibai Island
         home in Torres Strait in the 1940s, after it was devastated by a tsunami caused by an
         earthquake.
        Miners at Weipa, a modern mining town of 2500 mainly non-indigenous people, where
         bauxite ore is mined in the world’s largest bauxite mine, washed, and then mostly shipped to
         Gladstone for refining into alumina before being converted to aluminium.
        Pastoralists, who graze tropical cattle (on large stations with poor quality natural pastures at
         low stocking rates—1 animal to 35 hectares) to sell to areas further south where they are
         fattened for the US hamburger meat market.
        A small community of tourism operators who provide services to about 60 000 visitors to
         Cooktown (population 1500) and 35 000 visitors to Cape York each year, who visit mainly for
         ecotourism, adventure travel and recreational fishing.

There are also small communities associated with commercial prawn trawling in the Gulf of
Carpentaria, and the growing of crops (including coffee, bananas, peanuts and cashews) and
aquaculture of pearl oysters near the tip of Cape York. There isn’t a lot of contact between the different
communities. For example, there is only limited employment of indigenous people in the other
communities on Cape York.

There is also a huge gap between the services enjoyed by the population of Weipa and the rest of the
Cape York Peninsula, and also between indigenous and non-indigenous people. The mining
community of Weipa has been imposed on Cape York. It is a modern town with a full range of services
and a regular air service to Cairns, all to overcome the impact of isolation and remoteness and attract
people to work at the mine. In contrast, the Aboriginal communities are some of the most depressed in
Australia, a matter of considerable concern to both state and federal governments. Currently, the largest
group of employed persons on the peninsula are those providing and developing services in indigenous
communities.

Balkanu

Balkanu, means ‘to make and build’ in the language of the Guugu Yalanji people from Wujal Wujal.
Balkanu is the Cape York Development Corporation, an organisation of traditional owners whose aim
is to assist Cape York Aboriginal people and communities achieve self-reliance and independence.
Founded in 1996, Balkanu works in partnership with all Cape York Aboriginal communities to:

        overcome limited access to education, health and justice services
        develop infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, schools, and water supplies
        encourage opportunities for Aboriginal people to participate in planning and management of
         their homelands.



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                                                                                                             Formatted: Heading 1
Australian Communities—Fact File 1


Terra nullius

The British regarded Australia as terra nullius, i.e. land belonging to no-one. Because there was no
sign of ownership they could recognise, the British claimed the land. Loss of land and community
meant many Aboriginal Australians lost their identity and suffered from discrimination, poverty,
unemployment, and substandard health, education, housing and other social services. They had no
rights—until 1967, for example, they could not vote or be counted in a census of Australian people.

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Australian Communities—Fact File 2


The Aramac Rural Transaction Centre

The Aramac Rural Transaction Centre (Aramac—68 km north of Barcaldine, 1280 km north-west of
Brisbane, town population 380, shire population 900) is typical of the one-stop transaction centres
being developed with federal government funding to provide the services that urban Australians take
for granted. Aramac RTC is a very busy local centre that provides vital support to small businesses and
local residents, and creates local employment. Its services include:

        full banking with the Pioneer Permanent Building Society based in Mackay
        Medicare ‘easyclaim’ system
        Centrelink
        Q-Gap, with over 400 state and federal government services like the Australian Taxation
         Office, Veterans’ Affairs, vehicle registration outlets and a births, deaths and marriages
         registry
        Telstra agency and sales
        internet, email and fax facilities
        general office and small business secretarial and photocopying services.

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ACTIVITIES
If you have not done so yet, read the Case Study Australian Communities.



             Australian Communities

1. 1. What is a community? What do all communities have in common?                                       Formatted: Indent: Left: 0", Hanging: 0.25",
                                                                                                         Space After: 6 pt
2. 2. What are the two main types of communities?                                                        Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
3. 3. What is the relationship between Aboriginal people and their community, and their traditional
    land?
4. 4. Why did the British regard Australia as terra nullius?


             1

5. 5. How can we belong to more than one community at the same time?                                     Formatted: Indent: Left: 0", Hanging: 0.25",
                                                                                                         Space After: 6 pt
6. 6. As a class, brainstorm a list of all the communities to which members of the class belong. Then,   Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
    working with a partner, describe why members belong to each of the communities listed.
6.7.What is a remote community?                                                                          Formatted: Font: 10 pt

7. 7. What is a remote community?

8. 8. What has happened to rural populations? Why? How has this affected rural
   communities?

9. Make a list of :

some of the problems experienced by rural and remote communities

a.8. What has happened to rural populations? Why? How has this affected rural communities?               Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

9. Make a list of :                                                                                      Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

    a.   some of the problems experienced by rural and remote communities
    b.   some of the services provided in an effort to overcome these problems.                          Formatted: Font: 10 pt
                                                                                                         Formatted: Font: 10 pt
9.10. 10. Go to the following link to answer the questions about Aramac.
                                                                                                         Formatted: Normal

This Link does not work—I reckon. I could get this website to open at www.aramac.qld.gov.au              Formatted: Bullets and Numbering


                                                                                                         Field Code Changed
                                                                                                         Formatted: Font: 10 pt, Font color: Custom
                          Aramac Shire Council
                                                                                                         Color(RGB(0,51,153))
     .a. Calculate the expected proportional decrease in population from 1991 to 2011.                    Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
    a.b. Why do you think the Rural Transaction Centre is vital to Aramac?

10.11. 11. Go to the following site and answer the questions below:                                       Formatted: Bullets and Numbering


                                                                                                          Formatted: Font: 10 pt, Font color: Custom
                                                                                                          Color(RGB(0,51,153))
                          Rural Transaction Centres
                                                                                                          Field Code Changed

     .a. How many Rural Transaction Centres were there in operation as at June 2002?                      Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
    a.b. Select one centre from each state and compare the services available.
    b.c. Go to the ‘General Information’ page. How many people are required to live in a town for it to
         be eligible for a Rural Transaction Centre?

12. 12. Explain in your own words what is meant by the quote from the report, Bush Talks. How do          Formatted: Indent: Left: 0", Hanging: 0.25",
    you feel about the selected issues listed here? Do you think that rural and remote communities        Space After: 6 pt
    should be expected to put up with these problems?                                                     Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

11. Why is Cape York remote?
12.13. 13. Why is Cape York remote?                                                                       Formatted: Bullets and Numbering




             Cape York

14. 14. Visit the link in question 13. What is a monsoon climate? How does it affect life on Cape         Formatted: Indent: Left: 0", Hanging: 0.25",
    York?                                                                                                 Space After: 6 pt
                                                                                                          Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
13. Visit the link in question 13. What is the difference between being remote due to:
15. 15. Visit the link in question 13. What is the difference between being remote due to:                Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

                                                                                                          Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
     .a. distance, and
    a.b. lack of access to services?

16. 16. What role should governments play in resolving issues of social justice and equity of access in   Formatted: Indent: Left: 0", Hanging: 0.25",
    Cape York Peninsula?                                                                                  Space After: 6 pt
                                                                                                          Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
14. Brainstorm a list of projects that Balkanu could undertake to achieve its aims.
17. 17. Brainstorm a list of projects that Balkanu could undertake to achieve its aims.                   Formatted: Bullets and Numbering




             Balkanu

15.18. 18. Select one project from your list for question 17, and write a proposal to develop it.         Formatted: Indent: Left: 0", Hanging: 0.25",
    Include your reasons behind the project, and practical strategies to ensure it is completed.          Space After: 6 pt
                                                                                                          Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
16.19. 19. Using the link from question 17, what role does an organisation such as Balkanu have in
    promoting and developing a socially just society on Cape York Peninsula?
17.20. 20. At some time in the future, a multi-million dollar natural gas pipeline may come across
    Torres Strait and down Cape York Peninsula, bringing natural gas from Papua New Guinea to
    Gladstone and other centres in Queensland. Working in groups, brainstorm your ideas about the
    likely impact of this development on the communities in Cape York Peninsula, and how this
    development could be used to overcome their issue of remoteness. Make sure your ideas are high-
    tech and futuristic. Develop a plan to show how you would put these ideas into practice. Share
    your group’s ideas with your class.
18.21. 21. How does the study of communities on Cape York Peninsula illustrate issues of social
    justice and equity of access, when comparing:
                                                                                                  Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
     .a. Cape York Peninsula with where you live?
    a.b. different communities on Cape York Peninsula?



            See these links for further research.
Cape York communities
We usually think of the arid and semi-arid lands of inland Australia as being remote and isolated. Cape
York Peninsula, however, which stretches north from the Daintree region of the Queensland Wet
Tropics World Heritage Area (latitude of about 16°S) to the tip of Cape York, is one the most remote
and isolated areas in Australia.

A remote environment

Cape York isn’t just remote because of its distance from Cairns, the closest large centre. It is mainly
remote from services, that is, most of the people who live on Cape York have difficulty obtaining
access to services. This is due to:

        the monsoon climate, and
        the lack of an all weather road network.

Cape York’s monsoon climate ensures that it’s warm to hot all year, with a distinct wet and dry season.
Without an all weather road, most Cape York communities need to get supplies before ‘the wet’
because they will be isolated by rain and raging rivers for four to five months. Even in ‘the dry’, the
condition of the road tends to limit movement. Life on Cape York is restricted by remote location and
the condition of the one main access road from the south.

To drive from Cairns to Bamaga (about 1000 km) or to Weipa (about 800 km) you really need to go in
‘the dry’ in a four-wheel drive vehicle. During ‘the wet’ the rivers are in full flood. There are few
bridges on the one gravel road through Cape York, and washouts and landslides are common. Even in
‘the dry’ every river crossing has to be approached with extreme care. Dust, corrugations, washouts,
unfenced cattle and wildlife make driving very hazardous.
Map of Cape York communities.

The communities

About 18 000 people live on Cape York Peninsula, including about 10 000 Aboriginal and 3000 Torres
Strait Islander peoples, mainly on or near the coast. There are five main social communities, which are
listed below.

       Aboriginal people who live in seventeen individual communities, the largest of which are
        Aurukun, Napranum and Kowanyama, each with more than 1000 individuals. As most people
        were forced off their traditional land by the government, pastoralists, and miners, communities
        are now a mixture of people from different parts of Cape York, who have had to develop their
        own identity.
       Torres Strait Islander people who live in Bamaga (population about 1100) and other small
        communities at the tip of Cape York, most of whom relocated here from their Saibai Island
        home in Torres Strait in the 1940s, after it was devastated by a tsunami caused by an
        earthquake.
       Miners at Weipa, a modern mining town of 2500 mainly non-indigenous people, where
        bauxite ore is mined in the world’s largest bauxite mine, washed, and then mostly shipped to
        Gladstone for refining into alumina before being converted to aluminium.
       Pastoralists, who graze tropical cattle (on large stations with poor quality natural pastures at
        low stocking rates—1 animal to 35 hectares) to sell to areas further south where they are
        fattened for the US hamburger meat market.
        A small community of tourism operators who provide services to about 60 000 visitors to
         Cooktown (population 1500) and 35 000 visitors to Cape York each year, who visit mainly for
         ecotourism, adventure travel and recreational fishing.

There are also small communities associated with commercial prawn trawling in the Gulf of
Carpentaria, and the growing of crops (including coffee, bananas, peanuts and cashews) and
aquaculture of pearl oysters near the tip of Cape York. There isn’t a lot of contact between the different
communities. For example, there is only limited employment of indigenous people in the other
communities on Cape York.

There is also a huge gap between the services enjoyed by the population of Weipa and the rest of the
Cape York Peninsula, and also between indigenous and non-indigenous people. The mining
community of Weipa has been imposed on Cape York. It is a modern town with a full range of services
and a regular air service to Cairns, all to overcome the impact of isolation and remoteness and attract
people to work at the mine. In contrast, the Aboriginal communities are some of the most depressed in
Australia, a matter of considerable concern to both state and federal governments. Currently, the largest
group of employed persons on the peninsula are those providing and developing services in indigenous
communities.

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Balkanu
Balkanu, means ‘to make and build’ in the language of the Guugu Yalanji people from Wujal Wujal.
Balkanu is the Cape York Development Corporation, an organisation of traditional owners whose aim
is to assist Cape York Aboriginal people and communities achieve self-reliance and independence.
Founded in 1996, Balkanu works in partnership with all Cape York Aboriginal communities to:

       overcome limited access to education, health and justice services
       develop infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, schools, and water supplies
       encourage opportunities for Aboriginal people to participate in planning and management of
        their homelands.

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                    Case Study                                            Activities


Australian Communities—Web Destinations

Useful websites for further research include:


Cape York Peninsula Development Association
http://www.cypda.com.au/
The Cape York Peninsula Development Association (CYPDA) was formed in 1987 with its mission to
‘enhance the quality of life of the people of Cape York Peninsula through economic and community
development’. This site provides an overview of the work of the CYPDA. Click on links to Cape York         Comment [MS1]:
and Tourism for information about Cape York.

Royal Flying Doctor Service
http://www.rfds.org.au/
This site gives you a good background to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, including a comprehensive
history. Look for information about travelling in Outback Australia. Visit the different online regional
centres for in-depth statistics and access to newsletters.

Regional Australia–Commonwealth Government
http://www.regionalaustralia.gov.au/index.cfm
This is the Commonwealth Government’s site, outlining programs and services for people living in
regional and rural Australia.

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