Many Yolngu once had jobs in their local communities in construction, when the building of houses was overseen by the Housing Association and delivered by councils and and members of the community. Then came changes from Canberra that defunded the local Housing Associations and gave all the construction work to outside contractors.
In the mainstream world, it was easy for Balanda contractors to take over this work. But for Yolngu it was impossible for them to compete. Price-wise the Yolngu builders were building houses at half the price but they did not know how to tender and network with government departments. So they lost all their work to outside contractors. This is complicated by the fact most Yolngu do not understand the rules around economics, so they think they’re being unfairly locked out of employment.
This was devastating not only to the workers themselves but also to their families and children. For the children the parents that used to have good jobs now had nothing. The children now lived in shame because their parent no longer had work and now had no money. Many of these children turned to sniffing petrol. T
Richard Trudgen and Djiniyini Gondarra discuss these issues, raising some of the real facts about the real economic system.
Produced by Aboriginal Resource and Development Services (ARDS) 2007