Real solutions already exist, but not within the same conventional, mainstream mindset that has created the plethora of problems that Aboriginal people have suffered and endured since the mission days. Einstein stated that a problem cannot be solved within the same paradigm that created the problem. The solution to all of the above problems, as well as other related issues, is obvious. Simply stated, remote Aboriginal settlements need to become more functional, nurturing, autonomous, sustainable, empowered communities.
There are crucial differences between a town, a settlement and a community. Normally, a town is constructed as a place of commerce, for people to ply their trade. Towns are generally located in places to optimise trade, near resources, main roads, ports etc, and are relatively open to people arriving, staying and leaving at their own convenience. They are expected to be compatible with and supportive of the mainstream commercial ethic, and willing to interact commercially with other townspeople. Towns become places to live by dint of being places where work and trade exists. Close proximity neighbours, can be far greater strangers compared to likeminded working associates. In towns, people live to work, and when the work is not there, their lives are empty, unfulfilling and impoverished. Aboriginal settlements have none of the location benefits of a town, and are more likely to have been located on marginal land, where there is no resources, main roads ports, etc.
Sustainable living and community living are each long-existing fields of knowledge, understanding and application that are widely studied and practised by many varied groups of people from many cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and from all socioeconomic strata around the world. Each field has its own unique understandings, values and known, well-tested principles, and when practised together, will always lead to the good functioning of a community and to the wellbeing and fulfilment of its people.
A sustainable community is created primarily as a place to live, and is sited to optimise living, near clean water, suitable soil and vegetation. Where these are not available, they can often be created over time. A community is relatively closed, and people may join and participate only with permission of community members, or their representatives, who consider lifestyle and relationship compatibility as very important, to preserve community functioning and integrity. People are expected to interact with other community members in mutually supportive ways. Communities become places to work by dint of being places to live. All community members are committed friends. In communities, people work to live, and there is always work to do to improve one’s living, like growing your own food, etc. Many only have time to do part-time paid work, and can live very well on the proceeds. And when there is no paid work, their lives are still busy, fulfilling and abundant.
Sustainability solves imbalance problems at both ends of the economic/consumption spectrum – impoverishment and scarcity, as well as gluttony and waste. Sustainability provides abundance without gluttony and waste, and frugality without scarcity and impoverishment, bringing all extremes into a balanced, integrated, optimally functioning, frugally abundant whole system. It is about frugal abundance, because frugality drives all resources further.
The immediate sustainable solution is to supply only well-selected, appropriate resources combined with smart infrastructure that will enable sustainable community solutions that are durable and essentially self-maintaining. All resources and all infrastructures on a remote community need to be very well suited to the task, well placed, and highly functional when in place. All stakeholders’ diverse contributions need to dovetail and harmonise with each other, be mutually supportive, and work together, functioning as a complete, integrated, well tuned system, offering abundance and fulfilment to all members, and have economic and social resilience at all times. Everything about sustainable community living is about getting better and greater outcomes for a given unit of input, be it money, time, effort, materials, etc.