ARDS Aboriginal Corporation has been working with Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory for over four decades.
Where we came from and how we developed
The Methodist Overseas Mission (MOM) established the Aboriginal Advisory and Development Services (AADS) after a consultation process in Arnhem Land communities from Yirrkala to Croker Island to understand the views of Aboriginal people. MOM had been in Arnhem Land since 1916.
AADS was a community development organisation and was responsible for overseeing the transition occuring in communities from MoM to local community council control. There were community workers in a number of Arnhem Land communities and Darwin, including mechanics, builders, nurses, essential services, book-keeping etc.
The Uniting Church in Australia was established and its Northern Synod created, consisting of four geographic presbyteries: the Centre, Kimberley, Arnhem and Arafura presbyteries. The Arnhem presbytery consisted of Uniting Church congregations at Milingimbi, Ramingining, Galiwin’ku, Gapuwiyak, Yirrkala and Nhulunbuy. AADS was brought under the umbrella of the Northern Synod and initially worked in Arnhem Land.
AADS presence was established in areas of the Northen Territory outside of Arnhem Land, namely Apatula in Central Australia, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.
AADS presence was established at Oombulgurri in East Kimberley region, W.A.
The Northern Synod created an AADS Council, composed of community representatives and a selection of AADS employees. AADS had a combined total of 42 field staff based in East Arnhem, West Arnhem, Centre, Kimberley and Darwin regions.
AADS changed its name to Aboriginal Resource and Development Services Inc (ARDS) and continued to provide community development services to Arnhem Land and other communities in the Northern Territory.
The Northern Regional Council of Congress (NRCC) was formed within the Northern Synod, as a regional council of the Uniting Aboriginal & Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) (established in 1983-5).
ARDS became part of the NRCC, functioning as its ‘community development’ arm. The Aboriginal congregations in Arnhem Land, APY Lands and West Kimberley functioned collectively as the NRCC’s ‘ministry’ arm. ARDS governing body became a combined NRCC/ARDS Council.
Over the next decade, on-ground staff numbers declined for a range of reasons and the NRCC / ARDS Council focused on economic development and management of assets.
ARDS reestablished an ‘on-ground’ presence in Arnhem Land and revitalised its community development work. The NRCC/ARDS Council determined that community-based health education would become a priority of the organisation, which it continues to deliver, alongside community programs on economics, governance and law.
The NRCC / ARDS Council created an ARDS Management Committee (now Board) independent of the NRCC in response to changes to the NT Associations Act.
ARDS established a multimedia department to develop and publish DVDs and other resources in local languages.
Throughout the next decade, ARDS staff numbers expanded significantly, including the addition of many Aboriginal language and cultural consultants.
ARDS established Yolŋu (Yolngu) Radio, a community radio station broadcasting in Arnhem Land and Darwin in local languages, with the aim of using radio as a community development tool. Yolŋu Radio also broadcasts traditional song cycles, stories and contemporary music to support cultural and language maintenance.
ARDS Inc became ARDS Aboriginal Corporation under the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations. The ARDS Board consists of nine Directors, with eight appointed by NRCC from its four ministry regions and one appointed by the General Secretary, Northern Synod.