Community program

Anniversary of the Army’s Indigenous Community Program celebrated in the Gapuwiyak community of North East Arnhem Land

The community of Gapuwiyak, northeast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, held a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Army’s Indigenous Community Assistance Programme.

AACAP aims to iimproving the quality of life in remote areas of Australia through a joint partnership between the Australian Army, the National Indigenous Australians Agency and a remote Aboriginal host community.

The program sees more than 100 Army personnel deploying months at a time to Indigenous communities to improve infrastructure, contribute to health programs, provide training and share cultural knowledge and experiences.

In 2022, more than 140 Gapuwiyak community members participated in training programs provided by the army, while army personnel also improved the infrastructure of the access road to the barges and built a new community center for young people.

Australian Army Soldiers Sappers Alex Chedzey and Sandra Macura from the 6th Engineer Support Regiment provide business training to trainees Glenda Mununggurr (right) and Cassandra Ganambarr (centre) as part of the aid program to the Army Aboriginal community in Gapuwiyak, Northwest Territories. Image: WO2 Kim Allen.

Professional engineers, trades people, project managers, training staff and health professionals also deploy to the host community.

Federal Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians Malarndirri McCarthy said AACAP

program was respected by the Aboriginal communities.

“Aboriginal communities in northern and central Australia really appreciate the practical improvements they are seeing with the AACAP project,” she said.

“It is a demonstration of the military’s proud service to all Australians, built on mutual respect for First Nations people, leaving a lasting legacy across the country.

“These are community-based projects, enabled by the National Indigenous Australians Agency and Defence, that are having lasting impacts and helping to close the gap in health, jobs and education.”

Chief of Army Lt. Gen. Simon Stuart, AO, DSC with the Australian Army AACAP contingent at Lake Evella during the 25th anniversary of the Army’s Indigenous Community Assistance Program at Gapuwiyak, NT. Image: Sergeant Nunu Campos

Federal Defense Personnel Minister Matt Keogh said the program has brought significant improvements to communities.

The Gapuwiyak project will continue in 2023 with the construction of a new arts center funded by a $2 million contribution from the Northern Territory Government.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said the programme’s success stemmed from a strong relationship between defence, government and indigenous communities.

“The Northern Territory has a long-standing relationship with the military, and AACAP is an opportunity for Defense to give back to the community,” she said.

“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 at Gapuwiyak are emblematic of the success of the program for 25 years.

AACAP is moving to the East Arnhem Land community of Baniyala in 2023, where a new community store will be built.