42. We didn't know Government helped us pay for power! (Eaturitj #3)

Podcast 3 of 7. Nikunu Yunupingu and Richard Trudgen discuss how understanding how power consumption works can help Yolngu save money, as many do not know that you pay for all the power you use and so end up in debt.

They talk about how stoves, air conditioners and hot water systems all use a lot of power and that turning off lights can help too. And that cooking outside on an open fire would be useful.

Richard mentions that power consumption and being unable to pay power bills is also an issue for many Balanda, with approx 30, 000 people in both NSW and Vic having their power cut off. He also explains that many Aboriginal communities run on a different billing system, where people have ‘power cards’ which turn the power off when the card runs out of credit.

Nikunu and Richard calculate that currently every one kilowatt hour should be cost $0.28. So, if you do the calculation on say a $20 power card and you divided by .28 that means you can use 71 kWh on a $20 card. They discuss that this will last for more than one day if you are careful with using stoves, hot water systems, aircons etc.

It’s noted that the cost of the electricity is actually more than $0.28 because of the costs of being in a remote place, but the NT Government subsidises the price so it’s the same as people pay in Darwin. Richard also points out some people in remote communities get their power paid for by their employer (eg Education or Health Department) as part of their employment package. But that private people, Balanda or Yolngu, need to pay for their own power. Businesses might also pay a lot for power because they use so much.

They look at a new company called Indigenous Essential Services (IES). A non-profit company connected to Power and Water Corporation that’s been set up to look after the electricity, water and sewerage for 36,000 people across the across the territory, including 20 towns, 52 remote communities, and 57 outstations (maybe including 2 outstations at Ramingining). IES will be helping out with subsidies for the communities so they have the same costs of power as  people in Darwin and the communities can grow and develop. Nikunu points out that Yolngu have no information about any of this, even good things the government does to help like the subsidy. This just leaves people confused and out of the loop.

There is a discussion about the solar panels being setup outside the Galiwin’ku community, and how this solar farm will produce electricity and reduce the cost of production. It currently creates 15% of the power used every day by the community. They explore how this solar farm is different to solar panels on the roofs of individual houses.  The residential solar panels are designed to receive energy from the sun to heat water and there is talk about how these work and how to turn off the hot water booster switch to save more money. Nikunu says that a lot of people around the community don’t know this is how their hot water heater works and have never received any information about it or about how electricity works.


There are 4 Stories in this podcast. Please see time stamps below:

  • Power saving ideas – cooking outside – 00:00
  • 28c per kWh subsidised by the government -8:51
  • Why are we not getting information about these power issues? – 18:40
  • Difference between solar panels for electricity (solar farm) & hot water solar panel – 27:35