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Abstract

Fieldwork in two remote Aboriginal communities in arid South Australia found diverse considerations for sustainability. For Nepabunna in the Flinders Ranges, the main resource and environmental concerns were less problematic than social issues such as population mobility and the small number of young people remaining in the community. Pukatja in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, on the other hand, contends with serious resource and environmental issues. Both communities had sustainability issues for young people that looked similar but which were very different. For Nepabunna, because the number of young people has decreased, there have been flow-on effects of services being threatened, a lack of companionship for those remaining, and concern about future leaders. Pukatja has many young people but without access to better secondary education and employment, boredom is reported to have detrimental effects. All these issues have implications for policy formulation, in particular, the lack of contextualising the evidence for policy has meant that solutions to sustainability issues have not worked. For Nepabunna, policy that is determined by resident population size fails to recognise a larger dependent community, not necessarily resident. Government support for involving relatives and the wider community — who are not necessarily resident in the community — is one possible way to promote community sustainability despite population fluctuations. The real problem, then, is that government laws and policy are typically formulated as general or abstract propositions designed to be implemented in the same way over very diverse contexts. A sustainable, appropriate policy system needs to allow for locally created, managed and implemented policies to ensure rapid and context-driven adaptations to whatever contingencies occur. Our research found that a context driven policy process is more appropriate for diverse, small, remote communities.

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