Workers in the remote community of Amata install a street sign in the town. (Supplied: RASAC)
A project to put street signs in a remote South Australian community was years in the making, but members of the local community have torn them down weeks after being installed.
- Project to install street signs in Amata was three years in the making
- The signs have been taken down
- Having no addresses makes it difficult for emergency services
The ABC understands local Aboriginal elders were concerned about the signs installed in Amata in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, in the state’s far north-west.
They were installed as part of the former state government’s $272,000 APY Lands Addressing Project in 2016 to make it easier for emergency services to find homes and for people to register their cars and get drivers licences.
Project a long time in the making
When the signs were delivered to Amata, no-one was sent to install them.
For years the signs remained in the garage of Remote Anangu Services Aboriginal Corporation (RASAC) general manager Mark Jackman.
“I made sure that they were somewhere secure, so they wouldn’t get lost,” he said.
That was until RASAC started running the Community Development Program (CDP) earlier this year.
One of their first projects of the Work for the Dole scheme was to install the signs, and according to a newsletter put out by the Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations the project provided “meaningful” work.
Street signs quick to come down
APY Lands board member Tjutjana Susan Burton — who represents Amata and Tjurma — confirmed traditional owners were upset about the signs, but she was unclear why.
A spokesman for the South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) said the agency had “engaged with the APY executive board and community leaders in Amata to gain their ongoing support for existing street names in Amata” since 2015.
“Two weeks ago, DPTI was notified by a traditional owner in Amata that they were unhappy with the road names,” he said.
“We were unaware that the street signs had been erected and then removed.
“For property addressing to be effective, it is important that it has a level of permanency.
“We would however give positive consideration to a submission from the community if they have a strong desire to change some of the street names.”
The ABC has contacted other local community members for more detail about their concerns with the signs.
Streets named in local language
Most street signs throughout Australia follow a similar pattern with the name of a road followed by the type of road.
But the street signs at Amata are made up of just one Anangu word.
“That was all done through [Amata’s] local community council,” Mr Jackman said.
“Many years ago, they came up with street names and they’re a bit of a reference to the area.”
Street names included “Tjuratja”, meaning sweet foods such as nectar or honey ants, and “Inuntji”, meaning fresh plant growth.
Signs important for emergency and postal services
Mr Jackman had hoped the signs would be welcomed, with other APY Lands communities still without street signs.
With a population of about 500 people, Amata is big enough for locums to have trouble locating people. (Supplied: RASAC)
He said people living in major cities or towns took street signs for granted.
“You order things online, well, how do they get delivered if you haven’t really got an address?” he said.
“… They’d ask you for an address, otherwise the order couldn’t go through.
“Nine times out of 10, people would just invent a name like Airport Road or Shop Street or Main Road.
“[Before the signs were installed] it was a bit of a dog’s breakfast.”
A variety of services, including emergency services, are staffed by fly-in fly-out employees.
With 500 residents, Mr Jackman said Amata was a small enough community for locals to know where everyone lived, but it was not so easy for locums and paramedics.
“It’s not massive, but it’s big enough to make it difficult, if you’re not familiar [with Amata], to be able to find people,” he said.