The remote Northern Territory Aboriginal community of Amoonguna said on August 23 that it wants its power back and refused to renew a five-year government lease, which expired on August 17.
Amoonguna, 15 kilometres south of Alice Springs, has also started legal action to remove all government workers from its land.
Community Council President Marie Ellis told ABC News on August 23: "We, as a community, want the government to give us back complete control. That way we can start looking at positive strategy, working towards employment and the improvement of our community lifestyle."
Amoonguna residents say that community assets like the football field and the arts centre have languished under government control.
The lease system was set up as part of the 2007 NT intervention and forced remote Aboriginal communities to lease their land to government.
The federal ALP government has since made the plan “non-compulsory”. But it denies vital housing improvements to communities that do not sign new leases.
Money from the lease agreements is paid to communities, not from general federal revenue but from the Aboriginal Benefits Account. The ABA is a NT fund that comes from mining royalty money and is supposed to redistribute mining royalties to communities without mining projects.
The lease system was one aspect of the NT intervention that has most frustrated Aboriginal people because it undermined Aboriginal community control over their lands.
Supposedly an emergency response to high levels of child neglect and abuse on remote Aboriginal communities, the NT intervention launched a raft of oppressive laws and increased police powers.
The government appointed General Business Managers to run communities and very quickly built accommodation for them. Funds for Aboriginal housing came much slower, even though chronic overcrowding was identified as a key factor in child abuse and neglect.
Central Land Council Director David Ross said he supports the Amoonguna community’s move.
He told ABC News on August 24: "I'm not surprised that they've taken this track and they want to do these things themselves. They were doing these things perfectly well before government intervention at both levels.
"If Amoonguna makes good with this, and I would hope that they did, then it leaves the door open for other people to look at those possibilities in the future.”