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Willigan’s Fitzroy (2000)

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clip Thirty years education content clip 1, 2, 3

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Clip description

Over shots of the town of Fitzroy Crossing, Willigan tells us that the Indigenous population have been employed in the CDEP or working for the dole scheme for nearly 30 years. We see people working and collecting their payment. Then, at night, men and boys dancing by the light of parked cars. Willigan talks about a sense of place and maintaining the integrity of their language group.

Curator’s notes

There seems to be an ongoing negotiation by the people of Fitzroy Crossing to seek a way to continue to earn a living in their own country from the limited resources available to them.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows scenes of Indigenous communities in or near Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, including the Junjuwa Community Centre, men mowing grass and rubbish collection. Willigan, the local Aboriginal employment officer, describes the lack of employment opportunities, how the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) operates and the importance of maintaining Aboriginal cultures and languages. The clip ends with a night scene of men and boys dancing by the light of car headlights.

Educational value points

  • The clip reveals some of the challenges faced by Indigenous people in the Fitzroy Crossing area, such as achieving individual paid employment while at the same time maintaining their cultural protocols, the integrity of language groups and their communal lifestyle. In 1990 the area’s main employers were cattle stations and zinc and lead mines, but local Indigenous people had relatively little access to jobs in those industries.
  • Willigan provides a detailed description, supported by visuals, of the operation of CDEP, which was established in 1977 by the Australian Government to provide employment for Indigenous people in remote communities of WA, Queensland and Northern Territory where there are otherwise limited work opportunities. The scheme was created as an alternative to unemployment benefits, often called ‘sit-down money’ by Indigenous people.
  • As explained in the clip, in 1990 CDEP provided funding to community organisations such as Junjuwa Community Inc with the aim of creating employment opportunities for Indigenous people, improving infrastructure and community self-management, and developing skills to help people find employment in the labour market.
  • The CDEP scheme has attracted criticism from some Indigenous leaders, including Professor Marcia Langton who sees it as a ‘poverty trap’ for Aboriginal people that entrenches welfare dependency and does not lead to employment in the wider labour market. In 2004, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS) found that only 5 per cent of CDEP participants had moved to employment outside the scheme.
  • Because of its history as a place where many different language groups took refuge when they were forced from cattle stations in the late 1960s, there is significant linguistic and cultural diversity in Fitzroy Crossing. There are five major language groups in the town – Walmajarri, Wangkatjungka, Gooniyandi, Nyikina and Bunuba – and others such as Djaru and Mangala. Willigan points out the importance of maintaining these language groups.
  • Willigan’s Fitzroy (2000) was produced by the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), which was established in 1980 to promote Indigenous culture, language, dance and music and to provide training and employment opportunities for Indigenous people. CAAMA includes a film and television production company, radio network, recording studios and a record label, and is a major shareholder in the Alice Springs-based Imparja Television.

At Indigenous communities in or near Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, including the Junjuwa Community Centre, men mow grass. Willigan, the local Aboriginal employment officer, is interviewed.
Willigan (voice-over) The biggest disadvantage we have in places like Fitzroy Crossing, you’ve got a lot people in town that don’t have any jobs, and there’s not much industry here. We have mining industry close to us, but the only barrier we have there is a very low-skilled workforce. Schooling in Fitzroy Crossing only started in early ‘70s, proper schooling for people, so we have a very high illiteracy rate in our community. So it’s a bit ironic that in the last few years, the government has been developing work-for-the-dole schemes, and we’ve been doing work-for-the-dole schemes since nearly 30 years now.

A Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) worker is interviewed, sitting by the road.
Worker Well, I’ve been here, what, from ‘87, so that’s, what, 13 years gone on to 14 or something. Living around here, working around the station and all that. Now I’m CDP worker here, maintenance crew. Do up old houses and all that.

Willigan is interviewed, sitting by a river.
Willigan Early ‘70s, we were one of, like, the first lot of people off the rank communities that were nominated as CDP communities, and that acronym means Community Development Employment Program.

Men from Junjuwa community throw rubbish into a truck.
Willigan (voice-over) And this meant that the government, instead of giving us the dole, a large corporate entity like Junjuwa would be given a cheque each quarter for everybody.

Scenes of a busy office.
Willigan (voice-over) Like a work-for-the-dole scheme, but what’s helped us in this is that we receive the money, we pay through one office, we have the ability to do the rents, chuck in whatever people want, and also to look after the pensioners, old people, and also look after the young people in schooling and things like that.

Men and boys dance by the light of car headlights at night.
Willigan (voice-over) The real thing that keeps our community, Fitzroy Crossing, together, is we have very strong cultural protocol. We have a sense of pride of Fitzroy Crossing and a sense of place here, and something that is going to be the greatest challenge for us is maintaining that integrity in our language groups. That honesty in a communal way of life. And it’s a way that – it’s the real thing that made us survive so far.

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