The project sought help households in East Arnhem Land to increase energy efficiency in order to ensure that the power cards used for electricity payments would last longer. Problems such as leaking taps, broken stoves and leaving lights and appliances on were all identified as key areas where households could save money and power.
One of the central aims of the program was to engage with local people at every stage of the design and delivery. Ninety-one Yolngu Energy Efficiency Workers were employed over the two-year trial period from 2013 to 2015.
“We go from house to house to talk to the home-owners. We can do this well because we’re related to these families through our kinship system. Through these relationships, we can sit down and talk to each other, and explain this story to homeowners so that they understand… the story of how power gets created is new to them.”
The program was delivered in both Yolngu and English within the local communities. It is also known as Dharray Manymakkung Pawaw Ga Gapuw meaning ‘looking after our power and our water’ in the Yolngu Matha language of East Arnhem Land.
The program was rolled out in the Galiwin'ku, Gapuwiyak, Gunyangara, Milingimbi, Ramingining and Yirrkala communites.
The Manymak Energy Efficiency Project consisted of a variety of other practical initiatives to improve power usage. These included fitting 440 homes with energy efficient light bulbs and solar hot water systems. Timers that switch off stove-tops after one hour were also introduced to prevent wastage.
New technologies were adopted including interactive BEE-Boxes which calculate a daily power budget and indicate how much power the household has left for the day. Data loggers were also fitted to meter boxes to closely monitor energy usage in order to use the statistics produced to determine further developments.
The community support of the project was one of the key aspects of its success. Over eighty per cent of households participated in the project with over seventy percent of these receiving energy efficiency upgrades.
“This is a good thing because it helps us to save money for other things – for buying food, clothes, a car… this is new, this story, because no one has ever told Yolngu about it before,” said Bruce Wunungmurra, a Gapuwijak resident.
All participants in the program agreed that their knowledge about looking after power and water has improved.
“I like this idea… it’s teaching me how to look after my power and water properly and to teach my family to do the same.”
The project was led by Indigenous Essential Services, delivered through a partnership between researchers and public servants and funded through the Australian Government’s Low Income Energy Efficiency Program.
The Manymak Energy Efficiency Project is a great example of what can be achieved when passionate individuals, companies and government work with together with communities to share knowledge and provide solutions for long term, sustainable management of country.