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The Australian National University

Working Future: A critique of policy by numbers

Working Paper 72 / 2010

Abstract

This paper uses 2006 Census and Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey statistics to critique Working Future, a policy initiative of the Northern Territory Government announced in May 2009. It shows that the 20 proposed Territory Growth Towns (TGTs) in Working Future are geographically skewed towards the more densely settled, tropical savannah north of the Northern Territory and away from the southern arid zone. By focusing on some the Northern Territory’s more populous discrete Indigenous communities, Working Future has also, perhaps inadvertently, focused on the north of the Northern Territory. Indigenous people in the southern arid zone have reason to suggest that this policy does not reflect their interests or existing settlement patterns.

The paper also identifies the extent to which there is already a settlement hierarchy among discrete Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, in which 70 or 80 communities act as central-place service hubs for a more widely dispersed remote area population. It also notes that, small ‘open towns’ sometimes act as service hubs, and asks why many of these have been overlooked as potential TGTs. The final section of the paper suggests that Working Future reflects recent policy change in remote Indigenous housing which has been developed through collaborative federalism. This helps us understand and explain the strange mal-distribution of TGTs in Working Future.

Keywords: remote area development, government policy, Northern Territory, Territory Growth Towns, Indigenous housing.