Vision for groups to act as one
The Roebourne community has received a glimpse into a plan being formulated for non-government organisations’ operations and contributions to Pilbara towns.
At a community meeting on Sunday evening, consultancy Bank of I.D.E.A.S.’ director Peter Kenyon briefed attendees on his work to develop a 10-year plan to enhance NGO contributions and sustainability in the Pilbara.
Mr Kenyon said the overwhelming issue was a lack of collaboration and co-operation.
“Many NGOs can seem like a collection of warring tribes and Government tends to reinforce that through things like competitive tendering and so on, so everyone is forced into a position to compete for attention,” he said.
“I think a lot of decisions made affecting NGOs are made in Perth and Canberra and they don’t really understand Pilbara realities, it’s a different world here.
“I think what we are also discovering is there is a whole pile of things not well catered for — we saw tonight that mental health right across the Pilbara has come up as a major issue.” Mr Kenyon said declining financial and staffing resources were another issue that needed addressing in the Pilbara.
“A message we’ve heard is many are really struggling to find people to put up their hands to go on committees,” he said.
The 10-year plan was developed in response to a recommendation from a “map and gap” analysis of the NGO sector conducted in 2012 by Regional Development Australia Pilbara and the Pilbara Development Commission.
Yindjibarndi elder Tootsie Daniels said people and organisations coming to places such as Roebourne needed to learn how to approach Aboriginal people and communities.
“To come into a community, especially where Aboriginal people have never been included in anything, might be good for us because it is coming through Government and we can all have our say,” she said.
“Whoever is coming here always needs to work beside an elder and someone who is local, who knows
the language. If we are going to make changes it has to be something that needs to be changed.”
One positive Mr Kenyon noted was the formation of a community association to give Roebourne a stronger voice and leadership.
“It is particularly hard in a community like Roebourne because there are so many groups here — who do you speak to?” he said.
“It’s complex here … that’s why this association is so valuable.
“I can’t promise this will make a new world for Roebourne … but when we come together and simply listen to each other … I think things start to happen.”
Roebourne Community Association spokesman Michael Nikakis said the group was progressing “one step at a time”, but still had big obstacles to overcome.
“We have a very big bridge to overcome and that is people’s confidence because they’ve got a history of being asked, told and said they’re being listened to — but they haven’t been,” he said.
“It’s going to take a long time … but it’s a transition of people believing in themselves.
“With time maybe we can form a relationship with agencies and it becomes more equitable both ways.”
A draft report on NGO services in the Pilbara is expected to be completed in late April.
Pilbara District Police Superintendent Paul Coombes.