22. A part of the local economy: Junjuwa Community/Bunuba Inc., Western Australia

Rowena Mouda

In the Kimberley, we practice our law and culture right through the year. Our elders are very well respected and play a big part in decision making in the Fitzroy Valley.

Junjuwa Community receives funding from ATSIC for two programs. One is the Community Housing and Infrastructure program, and the other is CDEP. Junjuwa is further supported by the collection of contributions from the participants, or 'chuck-ins' as we call them. For example all CDEP participants have to chuck in from their CDEP wages for fuel and stores for their outstations, to help develop their communities. This is necessary because the money that we get from ATSIC is not enough to fund us right through the year. Therefore, because communities want to get their outstations developed, the community members chuck in for their fuel to get to and from their outstations.

In addition to looking after Junjuwa Community, Junjuwa looks after six outstations with the funding it receives from ATSIC. One of these is town-based, and there are five others out between 50 and 100 kilometres from Fitzroy Crossing, on dirt tracks that get closed during the wet season.

There are over 1000 CDEP positions in Fitzroy Crossing and outlying communities. This means that CDEP alone brings in just under $14 million each year to Fitzroy Valley. It is estimated that a total of $20 million in government funding is directed towards the Aboriginal communities in the area, so CDEP funding is a huge contribution to the economy of the area. Fitzroy Valley is very dependent on CDEP: if it were not for the 1000 CDEP positions, the official unemployment rate of Fitzroy Crossing would easily exceed 50 per cent.

As a community, Junjuwa has been in existence for 25 years. Its main purpose has been to provide housing and accommodation to Aboriginal people who have been relocated to the Fitzroy Crossing area. At Junjuwa, CDEP is used to deliver social services in the community. It provides services to youth and the old age pensioners, money management, construction training, office skills development, meals on wheels, and community administration. It also provides housing maintenance and construction to the community infrastructure. Some of our projects would be defined as self motivated or self supporting community service enterprises. Examples of such enterprises are the occasional care program—that is a CDEP-supported project that the women have asked for in our community—the housing and accommodation service, and meals on wheels.

CDEP gives the push needed to establish and maintain these programs, generating a high employment level that would be impossible otherwise. There is a social benefit from CDEP in communities like Junjuwa. Work projects in the community enhance the community, and there is also support for the administration of the community.

- 204 -Participation in the CDEP is voluntary, but Junjuwa has set minimum hours that must be performed to obtain the full CDEP wage. CDEP encourages people to work together. Whereas social security payments are made to individuals, CDEP on-cost payments are made to groups. This encourages people to join together in family groups, to work together. Some family groups are in the process of establishing outstations, which takes some pressure off our town community housing, as well as giving people the opportunity to develop on their homelands. These smaller groups can join together under an umbrella group like Junjuwa, which creates the optimum size for achieving the best economies of scale. Pooling resources in this way allows for major capital projects to be undertaken.

It is not intended that CDEP be used to develop subsidised enterprises to compete with existing mainstream businesses. This goes against the CDEP spirit. However, where CDEP can be used to enhance an individual's skills, so that they may obtain unsubsidised employment, that is another matter. There is a potential for businesses to enter partnerships with Junjuwa, so that Junjuwa provides subsidy wages for the businesses, and the businesses provide skills, work experience and employment for the participants. For example we have a company called Leedal which has ownership of the local pub in Fitzroy Crossing, and the local supermarket. Junjuwa owns 40 per cent of Leedal. Indeed the long-term survival of the community hinges on developing partnerships with small businesses, industries, and government organisations, which will lead to a greater participation by Aboriginal people in the non-welfare sectors of the local economy. These partnerships can extend beyond wage subsidy to joint ventures in major projects.

Junjuwa has recently undertaken a major restructuring process, to establish a more stable community management structure. This will result in an emphasis on extended family groups as the foundation of the Bunuba language group. The community itself, as a place, is still known as Junjuwa, but from November 2000 our administrative and economic arm has been known as Bunuba Inc., that is by the name of the language group. Each family group will have permanent representation on the Bunuba Inc. Council. The long-term ambition for this community is, essentially, to establish a long-term economy, with sustainable social and commercial enterprises. Bunuba Inc. has the potential to achieve a high degree of economic independence. The community is aware of the many hurdles that it needs to overcome to achieve this, and initiatives have commenced to address some of these.

We see the health and success of Bunuba Inc. as being totally linked with the health and success of the economy of the wider Fitzroy Valley community. So we believe that it is in our interests to work together and support each other for our mutual benefit. With open communication, mutual encouragement and support we, as a united community, can achieve a more sustainable future for the Fitzroy Crossing area.