Some of you mob might not have heard the name ‘Murdi Paaki’ (it means ‘black man’s river’). It’s the name for the Western NSW region that the Murdi Paaki Regional Council looks after (it covers the Bourke ATSIC region), and is home to heaps of Indigenous families. There are 16 communities there: Bourke, Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Cobar, Coonamble, Collarenebri, Dareton/Wentworth, Engonia, Ivanhoe, Menindee, Lighting Ridge, Goodooga, Gulargambone, Walgett, Wilcannia and Weilmoringle.
When the Australian Government got together with the NSW Education Department and the Murdi Paaki Regional Council, they wanted to work together, with a minimum of ‘red tape’, to make a difference for local communities, especially for young people.
That’s why a whole group of Commonwealth departments – Education, Science & Training (DEST), Family & Community Services (FaCS), Employment & Workplace Relations (DEWR), Health & Aging and Transport & Regional Services (DOTARS) – got together, because they needed to work together to make a difference.
So they got together and called it a Council of Australian Government ‘trial’ because it’s never been done before. The communities are the ones deciding what needs to be fixed, and the government agencies are happy to work with them to get things done. These trials are also happening in seven other places around the country where there are other substantial Indigenous communities. These places are Wadeye in the Northern Territory, Cape York, northern Western Australia, the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, Shepparton, Tasmania and the ACT.
Back in Murdi Paaki, the locals who are working on the ground with their community brothers and sisters are Mark de Weerd (DEST) and Peter Gibbs (FaCS), based in Dubbo, Jason Garney (NSW DET) and Sam Jeffries, chairman of the Murdi Paaki Regional Council, based in Lightning Ridge. But they all get around a lot, visiting the 16 community working parties to talk about what is important and how to make it happen.
If you want to know more about the trial, check out the Indigenous Communities Coordination website at www.icc.gov.au/index.html.