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Solar power allows Aboriginal community to live on country

Solar power allows Aboriginal community to live on country

Posted 01 June 2016

Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) and the Manungurra Aboriginal Corporation (Manungurra) have worked together to provide two Aboriginal communities in the Barkly with solar power.

The solar panels and batteries, supplied and installed by Aboriginal owned business Allgrid Pty Ltd have allowed the communities of Ngurrara and Kurnturlpara to shift to a renewable power source that is 50% cheaper than diesel generators – bringing power costs to an affordable level for families.

This shift has contributed to the Communities now being fully occupied – growing from two permanent adults to 30-40 adults and children who are now able to live more independently on their own country.

IBA CEO Chris Fry said the success of this project is fantastic, not only for the Ngurrara and Kurnturlpara communities, but for the potential of this to be replicated in other remote communities.

‘This transition was made possible through IBA’s Asset Leasing program which purchased the solar panels and batteries and leased them to Manungurra.

‘Manungurra, established when the Bootu Creek manganese mine opened, invested some of its royalties in IBA’s Indigenous Real Estate Investment Trust (IREIT).

‘Through the stable, well managed investment alongside IBA in the IREIT, Manungurra now has the income stability in order to pursue community development such as this solar leasing project.

‘I am looking forward to working with other Indigenous Corporations and Communities to achieve similar outcomes in the future’, Mr Fry said.

The installation of solar power at Ngurrara and Kurnturlpara provided power for air-conditioning to the local school building which has improved the education outcomes for 15 children via the School of Air program.

Employment opportunities have been generated for the local community through this project with potential for further employment and skills as part of the maintenance program.

Allgrid CEO Ray Pratt said that discussions are underway with training organisations and government bodies to create modified courses with regards to PV solar installations.

‘The creation of meaningful employment for our people in an emerging industry is a step in the right direction towards self-sufficiency’, said Mr Pratt.

This reliable affordable power source will also open up opportunities to develop and manage country – as there is now a local workforce living nearby – instead of living in Tennant Creek.

The communities have been actively involved in this project – helping to install concrete slabs and unloading the panels and batteries on site and they now have plans to develop primary industry on country with considerations given for development of a base for a ranger group.

Manungurra CEO Graeme Smith said that another of the flow on effects is securing the administration of NTG Office Local Government funding and Remote Jobs & Community Programs for our communities.

‘The School of the Air Program has also allowed us to bring in some community employment and economy to the community with such numbers.

‘This brings money, employment and less stress on Manungurra bottom line from community development assistance and member donations such as assistance with education, ceremony, health and funeral matters.

‘The shift to solar power has the potential to strengthen cultural ties to country and sites plus songlines and the ability to explore sustainable land use activities that bring jobs, training and an income – building a sustainable economy on homelands’, Mr Smith concluded.

Media contact:
Daniel Hughes 02 6110 2731 or daniel.hughes@iba.gov.au
Deborah Oberon 0429 088 593  or deborah@allgrid.energy