Threats to Close Remote Aboriginal Communities

Aboriginal Australians are part of the oldest living culture in the world, and homelands an irreplaceable part of that culture. Studies show that better health outcomes are the direct result of residence in these homelands.

In November 2014(1), Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett announced that 150 remote Aboriginal communities would be closed by the Government, and in May 2016, Mr Barnett said again that he would like to see fewer of these communities(2). Then, in their final year, the Barnett government introduced the Regional Services Reform, identifying higher performing communities for funding. This will potentially leave the most vulnerable communities underfunded or closed altogether.

According to the Reform, residents from lower performing communities may have to relocate temporarily to access health services, education, and employment – or relocate permanently should their communities be closed altogether.

Despite all this, Australia has endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which states that Indigeous people have the right to belong to their own communities, and be supported in doing so. This means that residents of remote communities have the right to Government cooperation and funding.

This is why The Greens (WA) have been running the Home is Heritage campaign, and have tabled a draft of the Prevention of Forced Closures of Remote Aboriginal Communities Bill 2016. The campaign petitions Mr Barnett to abide by the UNDRIP, and the bill seeks to prevent closures and enable residents to contest closures which take place without their permission.

It is yet to be seen how the new Labor government will approach the closure of remote communities.

We guarantee that The Greens will continue to fight for the right of Indigenous people to live on country, and be provided the services they need.

The Greens are seeking feedback on the bill at mining-pastoral@mp.wa.gov.au

 

Close the gap, not communities. from Robin Chapple on Vimeo.


Citations

1) Kagi, Jacob. 2014. Plan to close more than 100 remote communities would have severe consequences, says WA Premier. ABC News, 12 November. www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-12/indigenous-communities-closures-'will-have-severe-consequences'/5886840

2) George, Sarah. 2016. Aboriginal communities are still threatened with closure. The Greens, 19 June.  https://greens.org.au/magazine/wa/aboriginal-communities-are-still-threatened-closure

 

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