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 Darwin & Palmerston Indigenous Itinerants


Principal AERC Staff:

Prof. Paul Memmott & Shaneen Fantin.
Refer Staff Profile for more details.


Background to This Project

Indigenous community organisations have been concerned for many years with issues related to Indigenous 'itinerants' living throughout the Northern Territory. In the Darwin and Palmerston areas there are a number of people, many of whom are Indigenous, that are from remote communities who are living an 'itinerant' lifestyle. There are concerns about their use of alcohol, health, wellbeing and social behaviour. Also of concern is the effect of this group's behaviour on the lives of their relatives and acquaintances residing in the Darwin and Palmerston area. Indigneous community organisations acknowledge the involvement and concerns of government and non-government agencies, and welcome the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders in addressing the above issues.

General Aim of This Project

The general aim of this project was to conduct a study of the issues facing both Indigneous 'itinerants' and service providers in the Darwin and Palmerston areas. Additionally, the AERC was expected to work in close association with the Traditional Owner Group of the Darwin/Palmerston area, the Larrakia Nation, in order to visit, inform, educate and consult with selected communities regarding the project.


Detailed Aims

  • Collate and analyse all of the existing documentation on the issue.
  • Consult widely with organisations that are providing services to Indigenous "itinerants".
  • Undertake consultation with other affected groups.
  • Consult widely with the "itinerant" population to collect information including:
    • The composition of various groups
    • Originating communities
    • Reasons for being in Darwin
    • Lifestyles adopted in Darwin -eg. income, food, daily patterns
    • Reasons for adopting the lifestyle
    • Alternative options and willingness to choose alternatives.
1.1 Collation and analysis of existing documentation.
The authors have gathered together a large body of published and unpublished government, agency, media, and consultancy reports on itinerant, displaced, homeless and visitor Indigenous groups in regional centres and capital cities. Problem-analysing and/or problem-solving strategies have been identified in such places as Alice Springs, Katherine, Cairns, Townsville, Mt Isa, Rockhampton, Brisbane, Redfern, Kalgoorlie, Port Hedland, and Halls Creek. Available Top End demographic statistics have also been gathered. This material has been analysed in terms of itinerant problem types, itinerant needs, and formulated strategies to enhance quality of lifestyle. It provided a range of models from other places on which to later discussion on the Darwin-based groups was based. It was not assumed that any of these models would be directly translatable to the Darwin context.

1.2 Wide Consultation with affected organisations and groups.
This work wascarried out during Field Trip No. 1. The field team was made up of the Principal, the Senior Research Assistant and an Indigenous Community consultant. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with (a) stakeholder (or affected) agencies and organizations, and (b) Indigenous Councils (or Co-ops) administrating the formal Town Camps. The standard interview forms that were utilised had several components, aimed at collecting data to fulfil the project aims. One interview focus was the perceptions held by Stakeholder and Town Camp organizations of itinerant group problems, group composition, places of origin, reasons for being in Darwin, lifestyle factors, stated needs, and interest in alternate options. The agency/ organisation interview also focused on past (known) problem definitions, policies, strategies and programs to address the problem, as well as potential services that could be offered by the agency/organisation in the future. Relevant written documents were collected where possible. During this field trip, preliminary contact was made with the informal itinerant Camper groups to familiarise with the scope of the problem. A preliminary census was carried out of numbers, location and group identity. Some interviews were conducted by way of piloting techniques for Field Trip No. 2. Local Larrakia Research Assistants assisted with this component of the field work. Several meetings occurred with Larrakia Nation representatives to review fieldwork proposals and findings and associated ethical issues.

1.3 Consolidation, analysis and provision of a preliminary report on the progress of the research and consultations.
A preliminary report of field findings was prepared and forwarded to the Management Committee. Profiles of agencies/organizations and their responses were individually forwarded to same for checking.

2.1 Undertake qualitative work with "itinerants" and other visitors in town in conjunction with Larrakia Nation.
A phone conference with the Management Committee was held, prior to a second round of fieldwork, to outline and discuss its detailed methodology. Guidance and/or instructions were sought from Larrakia Nation personnel. The 2nd field team was made up of the Principal Researcher (PM), Senior Research Assistants (a male and female team) and a Larrakia Research Assistant. Again, semi-structured interviews were carried out with Indigenous residential groups, both the formal Town Campers and informal itinerants. Two separate interviews were designed. The first was conducted with itinerant campers and focused on itinerant group composition, places of origin, reasons for being in Darwin, lifestyle factors, stated needs and interest in alternate options. In addition, an interview with a Councillor or Housing Officer in each of the formal Town Camps was conducted. These focused on housing management issues relating to Town Camp visitors, past strategies and programs to address such visitor problems and their relative success, as well as potential services that could be offered by the Town Camp's Council (or Co-op). The relation between Town Camp visitors and informal itinerant Town Campers was carefully explored. Follow-up work also occurred with the organizations and agencies experiencing the impacts of, and servicing the itinerant campers. This data supplemented and complemented that which was collected during Field Trip No. 1.

2.3 Consolidation of research from Stages 1 and 2.
Field findings will be written up and incorporated into the draft report.

A Final Report was produced at the end of 2001 and has been tabled in the Northern Territory Cabinet for action.