Community investment

Article image - Community investment Santa Teresa (Ltyentye Apurte) accepts the Australian Sustainable Communities Tidy Towns Award.

The remote Aboriginal community of Santa Teresa (Ltyentye Apurte), Northern Territory (NT), has been named the 2019 winner of the Australian Sustainable Communities Tidy Town Award.

At the awards ceremony on 5 April, proud Santa Teresa representatives were called to the stage to receive firsts in the categories of: Litter Prevention; Environmental Communication and Engagement; Community Health, Wellbeing and Interest; and Young Legends – Group.

The town also received a highly commended for Resource Recovery and Waste Management and scored extremely high in the other five categories.

The awards evening concluded with a standing ovation when Santa Teresa was crowned the overall winner and Australia’s Tidiest Town.

Since its humble beginnings in 1968 the Keep Australia Beautiful Network has become an instrument for community engagement which, while based on environmental sustainability, now involves loftier concepts such as culture, education and identity.

Australian Sustainable Communities - Tidy Towns Awards Judge, Gail Langley, wrote, “The Keep Australia Beautiful Sustainable Communities - Tidy Towns Awards program offers a proven framework for councils and their communities to analyse their situation and target areas of need or create a niche for their town. Those councils that recognise and value community consultation and collaboration and who value their volunteers are creating successful ventures together.”

Keep Australia Beautiful Council (NT) CEO, Heimo Schober, said the town of Santa Teresa had been aiming for the Tidy Town trophy for several years and developed a strong culture of continuous improvement and community participation to get there.

“MacDonnell Council Staff, Community Elders, Key Stakeholders and residents of Santa Teresa demonstrated great community pride and leadership in community culture and heritage, local sustainability practices and education, and set a wonderful example for other remote Australian townships to follow.”

A shared commitment
MacDonnell Regional Council, Northern Territory’s Best Regional Council for five consecutive years, created a Regional Plan that aligned it with the values and vision of Keep Australia Beautiful – quality engagement across the entire community – the key to Santa Teresa’s stand out success at this year’s awards.

Chief Executive Officer, Jeff MacLeod, said, “It is important to commit to the process and involve everyone from those on the ground doing the hard work to the bosses in the offices and when you bring residents and stakeholders along with you it really makes it all worthwhile.”

Atyenhenge Atherre Aboriginal Corporation played a central role in winning the Community Health, Wellbeing and Interest category through the range of initiatives they developed including a men’s shed, a social enterprise hair salon and store precinct, a community-wide nutrition program to address the rise in type two diabetes and anaemia, a horse care program incentive for school attendance, a pregnant women and young mums’ incentive program, Melbourne Football Club cultural immersion trips, and campouts involving local youth and staff.

Get Grubby, dirty and scrappy
The work of the Ltyentye Apurte Catholic Education Centre was acknowledged in the Litter Prevention category win.

Traditional Owner and Assistant Teacher, Nora Hayes, said, “We have done a lot of things at school. The kids have designed posters that remind everyone to pick up rubbish and how to recycle. We also have regular working bees as part of Eco Schools Program.”

Council engaged the ABC television Get Grubby program featuring dirtgirl, scrapboy and Costa the Garden Gnome as part of the litter education initiative. The program, delivered at early learning centres across the region over the next two years, is an integral part of Council’s MacKids curriculum.

The program explores topics like reducing, reusing, recycling, composting, worm farming, saving water, saving energy, growing food as well as getting grubby.

Young Legends – Group winner
The Student Representative Council at the Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School was formed to spread the environmental message, ultimately taking on the town’s litter problem and educating the community – aiming for zero litter.

They partnered with MacYouth - MacDonnell Regional Council Youth Services, which delivers activities to young people aged 12-25 and aims to progress indigenous people into roles of leadership.

Langley praised the Student Representative Council and MacYouth as ‘an outstanding example of a successful partnership - working together to achieve a targeted outcome for a whole community’.
Santa Teresa won more than a trophy with its ambitious plan to claim the national Tidy Town award.

When MacDonnell Regional Council formed ten years ago many communities had no regular rubbish collection and households burned their waste in old fuel drums in the street.

The new Resource Recovery and Waste Management centre now established outside the town is best practice for Central Australia. It comprises the Council landfill compound and a public drop off area with eleven distinct separation bays for segregating recyclable materials with signage that is standardised across the Central Australian Region.

Community parks are now solar lit, and energy efficient technologies are planned for all facilities.

The Environmental sustainability – Water category saw the implementation of a smart water-metering project with significant savings, including identification and resolution of losses of 2000 litres per day, leak identification and accurate water consumer information for billing. One hundred and fifty smart water meters have been installed in Santa Teresa.

While the local Civil Works team of the MacDonnell Regional Council provided the backbone for getting things done, they were well supported by the efforts of the entire community.

CEO MacLeod, said, “We are now working to a new normal as we look forward to hosting next year’s Tidy Towns national finalists
in Santa Teresa.”