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Remote Aboriginal community of Scotdesco receives short-term water supply

By Leah MacLennan, Thursday November 21, 2019 - 17:19 EDT
ABC licensed image
Scotdesco has not been guaranteed subsidised water by the SA Government. - ABC licensed

A remote Aboriginal community on South Australia's west coast has been handed a lifeline, after its water reserves completely ran dry.

Scotdesco — on the eastern fringe of the Nullarbor Plain — relies on a large store of rainwater, .

Now, the South Australian Government has confirmed it will fund a water carting operation over summer while it looks for a long-term solution.

About 50 people, including 12 children, live in the town, and Scotdesco Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Robert Larking said while the water was welcome, it had taken a long time to get a response from the State Government.

"It was very stressful. [Premier Steven] Marshall has known since April [or] March," Mr Larking said.

"It's been a hard slog, being chased around and been told to go to SA Water and then going back to the environment and water mob and up and down.

"It's ridiculous really."

Mr Larking had just travelled to Adelaide to lobby for a solution when he got the news the State Government would step in.

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas criticised the timing.

"The fact that they've known about it since March, done absolutely nothing until the absolute 11th hour on the eve of a press conference, I really think speaks volumes," he said.

No commitment to ongoing subsidy

Scotdesco lies just 10 kilometres outside of the zone that would allow subsidised water carting through SA Water, and community leaders are calling for the boundary to be changed to include them.

"We just want to be treated like any other community," Mr Larking said.

"The easiest solution is to put us in that subsidy zone. It's only an extra 10km — I don't see the problem."

Mr Marshall said he was sympathetic to Scotdesco's plight, with the funding for water carting coming from the Department of Premier and Cabinet's budget.

But he would not commit to giving the community access to subsidised water.

"There are a huge number of communities right across remote South Australia which are not connected to SA Water," Mr Marshall said.

"This would be a very big decision to make and we'd rather deal with this issue immediately rather than wait for an overall review."

Scotdesco runs a farming operation, but has been forced to destock, reducing from 6,000 sheep to 200.

Mr Larking says it made employment opportunities difficult.

"When it's up and going, it could create heaps of jobs, but we just need the rain," he said.

The community was also growing saltbush for commercial harvest, but the lack of rain and water storage had forced it to stop that operation.

Earlier this month, the Adelaide Crows Football Club donated a tanker of water to the community, after the club's Indigenous players held a camp there in January.



© ABC 2019

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