Barry Bonthuys East Arnhem Regional Council
East Arnhem Regional Council provides services to 9000 residents in nine communities across northeast Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. Five of the communities are located on islands which presents unique challenges in service delivery.
The role of Council’s Director Commercial and Agency Services and Acting Chief Financial and Operations Officer, Barry Bonthuys, is to ensure services are delivered in a way that meets the needs and expectations of the communities in this remote and isolated environment.
The success of his achievement while working with very limited resources, and subject to external factors outside his control including changes in government, legislation, policies and funding, has moved East Arnhem Councillor, Jason Mirritjawuy, to nominated Mr Bonthuys as Local Government Focus High Achiever.
“I believe I can make a difference for the communities and I get great satisfaction from seeing that Council’s services do improve the lives of residents.”
Originally from South Africa, Bonthuys’ career in local government began straight after graduating from high school in 1981.
“It was always my career choice to work in finance and I achieved this through my work in local government in South Africa and later in Australia.”
An executive management professional with 38 years’ experience in local government, and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Potchefstroom, South Africa, Bonthuys has held several executive positions in councils across Queensland, including Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Aramac Shire Council, Chief Financial Officer at Aurukun Shire Council, Manager Corporate Services at Nebo Shire Council and Finance Manager at Quilpie Shire Council.
“I established my career in local government in South Africa, rising to the positions of Chief Accountant and Area Manager Revenue Services at Ekhurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, East Rand near Johannesburg, prior to emigrating to Australia in 2005.
After working for a number of rural and regional councils in Queensland, he commenced as Director of Commercial and Agency Services at East Arnhem Regional Council in October 2014.
Bonthuys has shown himself to be capable and versatile currently holding dual roles as Director of Commercial and Agency Services and, since February 2018, acting Chief Financial Officer.
“From December 2017 until May 2019 I also stepped up to act as Chief Executive Officer. During this time, as you can imagine, I was very busy but supported by an amazing team at East Arnhem.”
Bonthuys’ strength lies in providing strong leadership and guidance in delivering programs and projects on time and within budget. Ensuring Council’s ongoing financially sustainability is his priority.
“In those two years I oversaw the successful roll out of the National Disability Scheme in East Arnhem, and the transitioning of child care services and youth, sport and recreation services to the new Federal Government funding models.”
“I am proud to have been involved in several initiatives and projects that have resulted in improved infrastructure for Council, education, public safety and incentives for new businesses in Queensland and the Northern Territory. These have included negotiating $600,000 from the Traditional Owners in Galiwin’ku (NT) to deliver youth diversion initiatives to reduce the number of Aboriginal youths facing the justice system and securing East Arnhem’s involvement in the NDIS as a service provider at an estimated annual funding commitment of $3 million.
“I was also successful in securing $9.8 million for Aurukun Shire Council for a new aged care facility, a new barge landing for commercial and recreational use, and construction of a business precinct to accommodate five retail outlets and office space.
“These projects have helped improve the standard of living in those communities through job creation, improved facilities, education and training opportunities, increased business development, and revenue raising.
“I am currently working with East Arnhem communities, government departments and other stakeholders in delivering services to communities under the new Local Decision Making policy of the Northern Territory Government.
“I am also working with the newly appointed Learning and Development Coordinator on the development and training of Council staff in all areas of operation.
Bonthuys concluded, “I am committed to remaining in local government for the rest of my career. I want to continue to ensure that East Arnhem Regional Council remains financially sustainable, and continues to deliver a high standard of services to its remote communities.”