Stop knocking the Northern Territory, easterners told

By David Donaldson

Thursday October 22, 2015

There’s a stereotype of the Northern Territory as a frontier stuck in the past — populated by crocs, political machinations and indigenous poverty — far removed from the lives of most Australians.

But the number of myths circulating about the NT is “actually a bit outrageous”, thinks the deputy CEO of the NT’s Department of the Chief Minister.

Rachel Bacon, who spent 15 years as a Commonwealth public servant and is now a “proud” NT bureaucrat, told the IPAA national conference she was “absolutely gobsmacked at the number of myths that circulate about the Northern Territory. They’re just wrong.”

“I’m really pleased at how our colleagues in those forums are open minded, want to listen and are interested,” she explained.

Rachel Bacon
Rachel Bacon

Ensuring nobody was left behind in federation reform was important, she said. Asking how the federation has served indigenous Australians, and federation impacts services on the ground, should be part of this.

Often three layers of government are responsible for developing policy and delivering services for remote indigenous communities in particular, leading to “quite a lot of task confusion”. She stated it’s necessary to consider how market-based reforms such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme will play out in communities “where there is no market”.

Adding that strengthening the representation of women in government helped increase a diversity of perspectives in decisionmaking, Bacon said that “listening to more voices leads to more durable outcomes”.

David Smith, deputy director-general of the West Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet, offered his own advice on changing the relationship between the Commonwealth and the states. When someone new starts working in the area of federation reform, Smith tells them the almost inevitable lack of short-term outcomes is no reason for disillusionment.

“Federation reform is a long game, and perhaps it doesn’t even have an end,” he said.

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