Aboriginal Affairs & Heritage

Aboriginal Issues

Greens MP warms of paternalistic approach to remote communities

Thursday 14 July

WA Greens Aboriginal Affairs spokesperson Robin Chapple MLC, who recently introduced his Prevention of Forced Closure of Remote Aboriginal Communities Bill 2016, has warned the state government could be heading down a historically treacherous policy path with today’s Resilient Families, Strong Communities roadmap announcement.

“In my view, this is a continuation of paternalistic policy approach towards Aboriginal people and I would question the level of real consultation that has occurred, given the lack of real solutions contained in this document,” Mr Chapple said.

“The roadmap refers extensively to building resilience, yet research has shown time and again that this is done by maintaining a connection to country, culture and language; it is top down, ignorant policy that has severed this connection in the past and I am concerned that history will repeat itself here.

“Hiding the truth behind rhetoric will only last so long; discontinuing services for up to 129 communities is an indirect way of saying those communities will be closed.

“There are, sadly, Aboriginal people in WA who are invisible to the system – young adults and the elderly - either because they are not enrolled to vote or because they are cared for by family. I will be questioning the roadmap’s classification of those 129 communities on that basis.

“Arbitrarily taking the 10 largest communities and turning them into gazetted towns to centralise services will introduce a host of new issues that I am concerned have not been considered in this policy approach.

“Queensland’s 18 remote communities – all much larger than those in WA – were cited as an example, yet one only has to look at the situation in Aurukun over the last 12 months to see some of the problems inherent in this approach.

“Whilst I agree with the principles informing this roadmap, Aboriginal communities living in different areas are unique and exist in their current form for this reason; we must work with those communities to enhance the deep cultural, spiritual and social relationship Aboriginal peoples have with the land.

“I will continue my strong relationship with SOS Blak Australia and other groups, as well as Elders and community representatives to fight for the best possible outcomes for Aboriginal people in Western Australia through my Home is Heritage campaign."

For comment please contact media liaison Tim Oliver on 08 9486 8255 or 0431 9696 25.

Greens MP introduces bill to protect remote communities

30 June 2016

Today WA Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple MLC gave his second reading speech of the Prevention of Forced Closure of Remote Aboriginal Communities Bill 2016.

The bill aims to provide surety to Aboriginal people living in established remote communities that they will not be forced to move off country, either directly or through a limitation of the municipal and essential services provided by the state government.

Municipal and essential services include, but are not limited to power, water, sewerage, infrastructure, education, health services, and waste disposal.

The bill also aims to enshrine in legislation the deep cultural, spiritual, familial and social relationship Aboriginal peoples have with the land, and would require decision makers to adhere to the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Mr Chapple said the bill was a reflection of the deep lack of trust felt by Aboriginal people over the Barnett government’s ambiguous, and disrespectful, rhetoric about remote communities.

“This legislation is important in that it acknowledges and enshrines the deep cultural, spiritual, and social relationship Aboriginal peoples have with the land,” Mr Chapple said.

“I have received extensive feedback from Aboriginal elders, community leaders and organisations since tabling a draft of this bill at the beginning of last month and the bulk of that feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Taking that feedback on board there have been no changes to the bill as it stands, however I would like to make it clear that this bill is for Aboriginal people and in that regard, I welcome ongoing feedback on the wording, scope and intention of this important piece of legislation.

“Aboriginal communities are absolutely crucial to ensuring that a reform process delivers on its promise of closing the gap, otherwise there is a very real danger of history repeating itself.

“Again, it is my sincere hope that this bill will pave the way for meaningful conversation and community-driven solutions to problems facing Aboriginal people in Western Australia.”

For comment please contact Media Liaison Tim Oliver on 0431 9696 25 or 9486 8255.

Contaminated water still an issue one year on

Monday, May 23

Every West Australian should have access to safe drinking water, including people living in remote areas, according to WA Greens MLC Robin Chapple.

“High levels of nitrates are not the only issue here; where uranium is also present, even in ‘safe’ levels, this forms a compound called ‘Uranyl Nitrate’ which is highly toxic to the kidneys,” Mr Chapple said.

“There are also places like Menzies, Laverton who have Arsenic filtration systems installed where other communities in the region have not been tested for that particular substance and they absolutely should be.

“This should be a black and white issue for the state government – fix the water in every community outlined in the Auditor General’s report as a matter of priority. This includes many regional towns as well as remote communities.

“The government’s reform process is too slow where people’s safety is concerned and its scope is too narrow; these water issues have been present for a long time and documented on the public record for over a year now.

“They should be fixed as a matter of priority, not ‘considered’ as part of a lengthy bureaucratic process that focuses on the Kimberley and Pilbara; every West Australian deserves access to clean drinking water, wherever they are.

“My ‘Prevention of Forced Closures of Remote Aboriginal Communities Bill’, a draft of which I tabled during the last sitting period, deals with the protection of, and right to access, essential and municipal services.”

A copy of the bill can be found here: http://bit.ly/rcbill16

For comment please contact media liaison Tim Oliver on 0431 9696 25 or 08 9486 8255.


Aboriginal heritage management clearly not a priority

Thursday, 12 May 2016

More than $1.3 million has been spent over the last two years upgrading online Aboriginal heritage lodgements yet Traditional owners are reporting the system is harder to use than ever, according to WA Greens MLC Robin Chapple.

“It is abundantly clear that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, in the interest of bureaucratic efficiency, has no interest in genuinely improving the Aboriginal heritage system,” Mr Chapple said.

“Spending this money to upgrade the lodgement system has achieved absolutely nothing because there is still a massive backlog of heritage sites waiting to be assessed – almost 16,000.

“What is the point in using this system if the site you wish to have protected will sit in an electronic waiting list for eternity, never to be assessed by the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee (ACMC)?

“If the Minister were serious about improving Aboriginal heritage then he would use his powers under the act to direct the ACMC to meet specifically to deal with the backlog of sites and provide assurance to Aboriginal Traditional Owners that their heritage is valued by the state.”

For comment please contact Tim Oliver on 0431 9696 25 or 08 9486 8255.


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