House debates

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Constituency Statements

Leichhardt Electorate: Wujal Wujal Community

4:10 pm

Photo of Warren EntschWarren Entsch (Leichhardt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise this evening to highlight an initiative that is achieving amazing results in Wujal Wujal, a small Indigenous community in my electorate. The 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, plays an important role in the security of northern Australia by conducting surveillance patrols in sparsely populated and remote regions of Far North Queensland. The 51st Battalion is tasked with reconnaissance and surveillance of approximately 680,000 square kilometres from Cardwell in the south, to Torres Strait, including Cape York and the Gulf Country, and west to the Northern Territory border. About 58 per cent of 51st Battalion's personnel are Torres Strait Islander or Aboriginal people. Wujal Wujal is a very small community that is prone to isolation due to a number of factors, including natural disasters. The community's isolation has also led to a rise in social issues. Sadly, it once had a relatively high rate of crime and was considered to be in the 10 worst communities in Cape York for domestic violence. Something had to give.

Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council approached the 51st Battalion to assist them with the social issues facing the community. Since engaging with the community in early 2017, approximately 10 per cent of eligible members within Wujal Wujal are now trained members of the 51st Battalion. The immediate results have been staggering. Crime has reduced significantly. Public nuisance rates have decreased by 60 per cent. Domestic violence rates have decreased by 31 per cent. Work participation rates have also increased in the community. The baseline work participation rate for the community is 35 per cent attendance. However, members who have completed training in the Army are now averaging 85 per cent attendance. The experience gained through working in the Army has supported generationally unemployed members to have credible work history that can be used to support subsequent job applications. This has also increased confidence in an attempt to build new things both individually and in the community. Positive momentum gained over the past 18 months has given the community the confidence to attempt more initiatives, develop resilience and grow sustainability. It's just been absolutely amazing.

I want to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of the 51st Battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Rutherford; Wujal Wujal mayor, Desmond Tayley; and Wujal Wujal's CEO, Eileen Deemal-Hall, who led by example and is a fully fledged member of the 51st Battalion. Let me tell you, there is now a reason for Wujal Wujal, driven by this program, and let me tell you, Wujal Wujal is so good that you have to say it twice!