The Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Programme (AACAP) has celebrated 25 years of projects that improve liveability in remote Australia at a community event in the 2022 host community, Gapuwiyak, Northern Territory.
Each year, more than 100 Army personnel deploy for up to five months into a remote Aboriginal community to upgrade or deliver new infrastructure, contribute to local health programs, deliver training, create lasting job opportunities, and share knowledge and cultural experiences.
The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), Australian Army and host communities work closely together on projects to improve living standards and facilitate skills transfer. With a complement of engineers, trades people, project managers, training personnel and health professionals, AACAP takes a holistic approach to improving communities beyond just construction projects.
In 2022, the Army delivered training programs to more than 140 community members in Gapuwiyak. Army personnel also upgraded the Barge Access Road and constructed a new youth centre. The project will continue in 2023, with the construction of a new arts centre, made possible by a $2 million contribution from the Northern Territory government.
At the community event, the NIAA and Defence re-signed the Memorandum of Understanding, affirming approximately $8 million each year in funding from the NIAA and a similar level of in-kind support from Defence, which will allow AACAP to continue into the future. AACAP moves to Baniyala in 2023, where a new community store will be built.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Matt Keogh said: “The women and men of the Australian Army have a deep commitment to serve the Australian people in any way they can. AACAP provides an opportunity to use the resources and skills that only Defence can offer to make significant improvements to communities in line with their priorities. It is a program that builds a stronger legacy every year and is as enriching for our service members as it is for the communities they visit.”
Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians Malarndirri McCarthy said: “Aboriginal communities across northern and central Australia really value the practical improvements they see with the AACAP project. It is a demonstration of the Army’s proud service to all Australians, built on mutual respect for First Nations peoples, leaving a lasting legacy around the country. These are community driven projects, enabled by the National Indigenous Australians Agency and Defence, which provide lasting impacts and contribute to Closing the Gap in health, employment and education.”
Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Natasha Fyles said: “The Northern Territory enjoys a long-standing relationship with the military, and AACAP is an opportunity for Defence to give back to the community. One of the key elements of the program is the Army living in the community, to see and experience what life is like in the Territory. The achievements in Gapuwiyak are emblematic of why the program has been so successful over 25 years.”