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Community to raise land tenure with PM

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 6 April 2005

The council at the Northern Territory's largest Indigenous community says it would like to hear Prime Minister John Howard's views on land ownership in communities.

Mr Howard will visit Wadeye, 250-kilometres south-west of Darwin, today, after signing a five-year agreement with the NT Government to improve the delivery of services to Indigenous communities.

Wadeye is plagued by high unemployment and poor services.

The agreement aims to strengthen links between the federal and territory governments and follows the demise of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC).

It also touches on shared responsibility agreements aimed at reducing dependency on welfare.

Council spokesman Dale Seaniger says while governments are making positive moves, his community wants improved economic opportunities and housing.

He says that is difficult when the land is not owned by individuals.

"We'd be looking at having long-term leases on our land here in the community and the outlying areas that would allow people to go the banks and secure loans," he said.

"As you know we, we've got an acute housing problem here as most Aboriginal communities do - we've got an occupancy rate of about 16 per house.

"Our people are Australians - I mean everybody likes to have their own patch of dirt and legally at the moment they don't have the right to do that," he said.

Mr Seaniger says there needs to be more focus on improving economic opportunities for Indigenous people.

"When governments often look at expenditure in Aboriginal communities, they look at it as an expenditure item only, rather than an investment in the future and we'd like to work with government in pursuing the investment in our people because the people are the greatest asset we've got in the Territory - not only in Port Keats but right across the Territory," he said.

The Federal Opposition says the Government's support for Wadeye has been disgraceful with the community of 3,500 having no resident doctor or dentist.

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