Against many odds
: documenting the journey of Irrkerlantye: a capacity building model for Eastern and Central Arrernte families known as Ngkarte Mikwekenhe Community

  • Nicole Marie Traves

    Student thesis: Professional Doctorate - CDU


    This paper is primarily about documenting the development of the Irrkerlantye Community Development Centre and the capacity building model that operates as per the Irrkerlantye Strategic Plan 2004–2008. It documents the development of the model from 1996, when the program began as an alternative education program for teenagers not attending school, until 2002, by which time the program had developed into a community development centre. In this paper, I document the structure, programs and funding sources in each of these years along with the successes and barriers faced by the centre. Although a major part of the historical recount is a personal account, many people who were involved at Irrkerlantye during that time provided input into the details of the study. In order to provide the historical context of the centre and its participants, I also provide a brief historical description of the movement of Eastern and Central Arrernte families since the 1800s and their association with the Catholic Church.

    Key themes that have been put forward as barriers to progress for Indigenous Australians include lack of sovereignty and self-governance, the difficulties with western applications in configuring Indigenous communities since white colonisation, ineffective government policy, bureaucratic blockages and uncoordinated service provision.

    This paper also explores possible ways forward and begins by outlining a number of capacity building and community development models and their useful characteristics. The positive attributes of successful programs are discussed in relation to the Irrkerlantye capacity building model.

    An analysis of the Irrkerlantye capacity building model concludes that it could be effective for the Ngkarte Mikwekenhe Community because of the following characteristics it contains, including:

    • It is holistic in that it is open to working with all of the members within the extended kinship-based family groups in a number of aspects of life, including strategic planning, education, health, language and culture maintenance and the development of real work options.

    • It is intergenerational, as it works across, and encourages interaction with, all age groups.

    • The centre works with individuals and small kinship-based family groups and therefore avoids the complexities of other organisations, where some people’s vision sometimes becomes blurred in the midst of power and resource acquisition. 10 Difficulties which have hampered the centre in reaching its full potential include:

    • The lack of a substantial funding base.

    • The Ngkarte Mikwekenhe Committee is not necessarily representative of all family groups. Therefore, it is in danger of being driven by the interests of one or more controlling groups or individuals, rather than being a true representation of each of the family groups it services.

    • It has complex and time-consuming reporting requirements to funding bodies.

    • It lacks sufficient resources for implementing all the programs identified in the Ngkarte Mikwekenhe Strategic Plan, 2004 -2008.

    • The physical facilities are extremely poor.

    This paper has provided a sense of what it has been like to be involved in the centre and the benefits and shortcomings of the centre, through the personal reflections of those involved in the process. In addition, it has recounted the history of the model and explored critical issues impeding progress for some of the most marginalised people in Australia at present.
    Date of AwardMar 2005
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMerridy Malin (Supervisor)

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