Contrary to Geoff Honnor’s opinion, I have little respect for Dodson and I think that many of the endemic problems that beset ATSIC, are at least partly the fault of Dodson in his previous incarnation. His recent address is the same old same old; long on rhetoric, short on solutions.
Back in the early 90’s when I worked for AusIndustry, I wrote a paper of over 4000 words on my assessment of the reasons why indigenous enterprise development has not been successful. I circulated the paper widely throughout the NT government departments responsible for enterprise development and made a submission to the Senate Standing Sub Committee, but as has been the case with anything remotely suggesting practical solutions, it has disappeared into the abyss. Amongst other things I suggested that another legal entity, in addition to the incorporated association, be created to receive and account for enterprise development funding.
Ken summed up the situation, as is his wont, simply and succinctly; “This idleness, frustration and despair flows directly from the lack of employment opportunities in most Aboriginal communities, and a culturally-maintained reluctance to take up whatever opportunities do exist. A significant part of the reason for the lack of job opportunities lies in the failure of ATSIC’s enterprise development objectives.”
Between 1988 and 1991 approximately half of the resources of Aboriginal Employment Development Policy was directed toward ‘Community-Based Employment and Enterprise Strategies’. From a policy perspective, the community focus has failed to recognise fundamental problems in the delivery of economic programs.
Program delivery has been almost exclusively tied to ‘the incorporated body’, that is the legal entity established to receive and account for public funds. This tends to confuse the issues of enterprise development with those of community development. Thus the goal of maximising income normally associated with commercial enterprise becomes confused with the socially oriented goal of employment generation, more commonly associated with the phenomenon of community enterprise.
Enterprises funded with a weighting in favour of communities have not been successful. Loans have not been repaid; few jobs have been created; and the costs per permanent job created have been far in excess of budget estimates. Some of the reasons given for failure of enterprises included poor administration of the funding program itself, and the inadequate business skills of the recipients of the funds. Failure may also be attributed to uncertainty of the desired goals. When a community structure (e.g. an incorporated association) is also used for enterprise development there is a very real risk of confusing the task of supplying public services with the aims of enterprise development.
For the last 20 years there has been a tendency within government to view the community or larger group as the unit of Indigenous development and there is often considerable political pressure to establish businesses with some form of collective ownership. However, there is evidence to show that in some cases it is more appropriate for the owners of businesses to be smaller family groups. This can apply in rural areas, where people reside in discrete Indigenous communities, as well as in urban areas.
Non-indigenous community based businesses invariably have a strong philosophical base which includes the understanding that they may be not-for-profit or that benefits will accrue to all of those involved or be reinvested to produce long-term gains such as employment. This philosophy is not fully developed amongst Indigenous people and tensions are generated because of misunderstandings about who should and can have control of and share in resources.
I have all the refernces for this paper, some of which are probably available on the web. I wrote the paper before I learnt how to use Google, so haven’t got around to finding online links.