The East Kimberley Region is a unique area renowned for its natural beauty. It is also a place where Aboriginal people still have a strong connection to culture and Country and traditional language and practices have survived. Our youth are full of promise and many of our people have fervent aspiration to take control of their lives, to build a future without reliance on Government.
In the East Kimberley there are plenty of opportunities and our people have lots of ability but despite the levels of opportunity, Aboriginal people still remain in the grip of welfare dependency and are suffering from the damaging effects of entrenched poverty: poor health, substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, incarceration, FASD and suicide. We as leaders of our community cannot stand by and watch this continue. Being poor and dying young will no longer be the story of our people.
It is time for us, as a collective, to take ownership of the challenges facing our people and lead the way to a better way of life. Our goal is nothing short of securing the intergenerational social, cultural and economic development of our people and we know that to do this we need to invest in people. To advance Aboriginal Development and Regional Development in the East Kimberley funding needs to be redirected away from crisis responses and directed towards building human capability.
Since opting in to Empowered Communities in 2015, we have worked hard to develop our formal regional governance arrangements. In 2016, we established our backbone organisation Binarri-binyja yarrawoo (BBY) as a neutral facilitator of reform. Our membership base is strong, active and continues to grow. We have now brought together 25 Aboriginal organisations working for change across the East Kimberley and are proud to have worked together to:
- Establish and implement our first priorities
- Test and refine the Joint Decision Making framework
- Develop a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, Data Management Plan and Evaluation Toolbox
- Deliver a range of high value capability building opportunities for opt in organisations
- Facilitate community forums and co-design sessions where Aboriginal people input into regional development initiatives
- Publish our first and second iteration of the Empowered Communities East Kimberley Regional Development Agenda
- Develop sub-regional plans that are reflective of community needs and aspirations
Now that our reform leadership and governance is in place it is time for Government to work with us to co-design a Regional Partnership Table. This is the place where agreements will be made about regional reform and investment. It will consist of a group of high-level inter-governmental Reform Champions and a Partnership Delivery Unit to drive implementation. We know sustainable change must be Aboriginal led; Aboriginal people must be at the forefront of making decisions that drive this change and hold ourselves accountable for the outcomes. Now is the time for change, for Aboriginal people to shape and share in the future of this extraordinary place.
Our Vision: We want for our children the same opportunities and choices other Australians expect for their children. We want them to succeed in mainstream Australia, achieving educational success, prospering in the economy, and living long and healthy lives. We want them to retain their distinct cultures and identities as peoples and to be recognised as Indigenous Australians.
Image credits: Jawun and Louie Upton