Topic: Water for Remote First Nations Communities in Australia

March this year marked the 35th anniversary of the tabling of the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Return to Country: The Aboriginal Homelands Movement in Australia. This was also referred to as the Blanchard Report in the homage of Alan Blanchard MP, the committee chair of the enquiry.

The Blanchard inquiry was undertaken between 1985 and 1987 and made 58 recommendations which touched on statistics, policies, resourcing, community government, economies, art & craft industry, social security, economic independence, land tenure, infrastructure, water supplies, housing, transport, education services and health services.

As described by the Researcher Professor Jon Altman, author of the Land Rights News article43F[1]: “An Anniversary Remembered: When Homelands Were Celebrated”:

“I just note that its overall tenor was positive and progressive; it accurately predicted that homelands would be permanent fixtures on the Indigenous policy landscape, and that homelanders would require access to basic services despite often living in very remote inaccessible locations”.

When revisiting the final report, it appears that some key recommendations made 35 years ago are still very much relevant today.


Extracted from the report’s findings and recommendations:

“The Committee recommends that:”

“1. all agencies involved in developing policies and programs for homeland centres improve their collection of statistics on homeland centres to better determine their need for the provision of facilities and services. (Para. 2.22)” – extracted from page xvi

“2. the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs redraft its Program Guidelines to establish appropriate policies that take account of the aspirations of homeland groups^ including those on pastoral properties, and the parameters within which it is prepared to accept the aspirations of the homeland groups. (Para. 5.39)” – extracted from page xvii

“7. the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs co-ordinate the provision of services to homeland centre communities through the outstation resource organisations and endeavour to reduce the fragmentation in the delivery of services. (Para. 6.39)” – extracted from page xviii

“8. State and Territory governments provide funding to homeland centres for the ‘essential* facilities and services which they are obliged to provide to all their citizens. These ‘essential1 facilities and services include water supply and reticulation, roads and airstrips, other infrastructure items such as housing and shelter and education and health services. The level of this funding should be increased in response to the growth of the homelands movement and the increasing needs of homeland dwellers.(Para. 6.39)” – extracted from page xviii

“33. newly establishing homeland groups be provided with a basic water supply sufficient to allow them to demonstrate a commitment to their homeland centres. (Para. 10.23)” – extracted from page xxiv

“34. priority be given to providing all permanent homeland centres with adequate quantities of good quality water, with more extensive reticulation being undertaken where housing and ablution facilities are provided. (Para. 10.23) – extracted from page xxiv


The report covers a range of information including terminology, definitions, history of the homelands movement, government policies, locations, estimated population, funding arrangements as well as recommendations.

The report is available here:

This case study was published in the Closing the Water – for People and Communities – Gap report, a review on the management of drinking water supplies in First Nations remote communities around Australia, November, 2022. The full report can be found here.

[1] Altman J., Northern Land Council – Land Rights News, An Anniversary remembered: When Homelands Were Celebrated (April 2017), retrieved from: