Threats to Close Remote Aboriginal Communities

Aboriginal Australians are part of the oldest living culture in the world, and not only are homelands an irreplaceable part of that culture, but studies show that people experience better health outcomes while living there.

However in November 2014, 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. Then, in the last year of the Barnett government introduced the Regional Services Reform, identifying higher performing communities for funding – which 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 people have the right to belong to their own communities and to be supported to do so. This means that residents of remote communities have the right to Government cooperation and funding.

This is why I have been running the Home is Heritage campaign, have tabled a draft of my 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, but I can guarantee that we will continue to fight for the right of Indigenous people to live on country and be provided the proper services they need.

I am seeking feedback on the bill at mining-pastoral@mp.wa.gov.au

 

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

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