East Arnhem and Groote Eylandt: Supporting the development of transitional economies

With the imminent closure of high-profile mining operations in East Arnhem and Groote Eylandt, Aboriginal land owners have a unique opportunity to plan for and shape a new economy, grounded in their own aspirations for their country and people.

The objective (icon)
The objective

SVA Consulting is supporting Aboriginal land owners in these regions to develop and implement their future strategies, and working with partners to negotiate governance and service delivery arrangements that empower local people to make decisions.

The roles we are playing

In East Arnhem, where Rio Tinto’s bauxite mine is expected to close in the next 10 years, we are working with Developing East Arnhem Limited (DEAL) and a working group of government and Yolŋu organisations to develop an East Arnhem Landowner Prospectus. DEAL is a non-profit economic development company. The goal of the Prospectus is to support Yolŋu landowners to make informed decisions about economic opportunities, and help potential partners to understand Yolŋu aspirations for development. The Prospectus will describe the industries and business opportunities in which Yolŋu are looking for investment and support. We are engaging with landowners and Aboriginal organisations across the East Arnhem region, as well as industry experts, to assess potential opportunities, in preparation for consultations across communities and homelands.

The Prospectus is a key initiative under DEAL’s 2020-25 Strategic Plan. SVA Consulting worked with DEAL to develop this plan, which has a goal of supporting Yolŋu to become leaders and partners in their economic life. We worked closely with DEAL’s staff, Board and its two members – Rio Tinto and the Northern Territory Government – to articulate a vision for the region’s future after mining, and to unpack the areas that need developing to realise this vision. We described five key areas of activity for DEAL, and tested them through interviews with critical stakeholders and workshops with the Regional Economic Development Committee and Nhulunbuy residents and business owners. We also developed a detailed implementation plan, and measurement tools to track changes in the regional economy and measure the economic benefits delivered by DEAL’s Economic Development Fund.

On nearby Groote Eylandt, we have supported the Anindilyakwa Land Council and other local organisations to develop and begin to implement the Future Groote Strategy: a plan to create an Anindilyakwa-led economy that will outlast manganese mining. To do this we worked with the ALC to understand the current economic and social situation on the island, and the community’s aspirations and economic opportunities. We then held a series of workshops with local people and organisations to develop a blueprint for a future economy, with emphasis on the roles of the services system and cultural enterprise in creating jobs and promoting wellbeing. This future direction supports the community’s long-term vision of protecting culture, becoming self-sufficient and creating pathways for youth to stand in both worlds.

In the Future Groote Strategy we identified initiatives to support community governance, workforce development and enterprise development, alongside actions in key sectors such as education, justice, food security and transport. We continue to support implementation of these initiatives through our role in coordinating and facilitating the Future Groote Committee. This process is open to all Traditional Owners, as well as representatives of the 26 Anindilyakwa organisations including the ALC. The Northern Territory Government, National Indigenous Australians Agency and South32 participate in Future Groote Committee meetings as observers.

To achieve this, SVA developed strong relationships, playing the role of trusted and independent advisors with knowledge of the local ecosystem.

Our impact (icon)
Project impact

The DEAL Strategic Plan was presented publicly in November 2019. With clarity about its role and strong buy-in from regional stakeholders, DEAL is now delivering against this plan, and has played a key role in the regional Covid-19 response. Work on the East Arnhem Landowner Prospectus is progressing in preparation for consultations in communities and homelands in 2021.

On Groote Eylandt, through our facilitation and broker role with the Future Groote Committee, we have supported the ALC and local organisations to improve access to foundational training, increase coordination among youth and education providers, and support local control of services under the NT Government’s Local Decision Making policy.