'White fella' manager faces reality

RETURNING to Central Australia after a 20-year break, Gordon Jacob says living conditions for the country's traditional owners have gone seriously backwards.

Well-known previously as the owner of Bellingen's only delicatessen, Mr Jacob now works as a manager on remote communities, dividing his time between home in the valley and the harsh desert environment.

Tomorrow he leaves for three months on the remote Tjuntjuntjurra community, home to 150 people, which is a two-hour light aircraft flight from Kalgoorlie.

He readily admits it is bizarre that after so many years of supposed self-determination, there are still well-paid jobs, lots of them, for the likes of him, 'a white fella', on the communities.

“Back in the eighties, the goal was for Aboriginal people to run their own communities and the idea was for people like me to be done out of a job,” Mr Jacob said.

“But the reality is many of the programs have fallen by the wayside and the obstacles of government bureaucracy and racism are as strong as ever.”

Only 40 years ago the Tjuntjuntjurra were leading a traditional nomadic life, spending their days hunting and gathering, busy and active.

“Now all the communities have stores and the activity of collecting food takes about five to 10 minutes a day - what are these people supposed to do with the other 23 hours?” he said.

What keeps him going back are the small wins, against government and the system, attempts to change things for the better.

“I'll be trying to get training programs happening - it really wouldn't take long to train staff to run the office and the shop. Achieving that would make my time worthwhile.”

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