Stand up against community closures

April 24, 2015
A rally in Perth on April 24 protesting against the WA government’s forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities. Photo: Al

The Socialist Alliance stands in full solidarity with the burgeoning movement against the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities in WA.

This movement can win and if it does it will be a victory for all working people in Australia.

Without any consultation, the federal government announced in September that they would cut funding that, for more than 40 years, had been provided to support these communities. The state government, equally contemptuous in their lack of consultation, then announced that up to 150 communities would have to close.

This is despite the fact that convincing research has shown that health and cultural outcomes are better for Aboriginal people who are able to continue living in their communities and that the “savings” to the federal budget are only $45 million per year.

What's more, the latest cuts to communities’ funding comes on top of more than $500 million in other cuts to Aboriginal programs in last year's budget.

Prior to the election, Abbott had claimed that his government would “continue the current level of funding expended on Closing the Gap activities”.

His actions, however, reveal that Tony Abbott – the “prime minister for Aboriginal affairs” – is obviously not a friend of Aboriginal people.

However, the attacks on communities are not just a reflection of Abbott's racism. Neither is it simply a matter of attacking Aboriginal people to whip up racism that can help the government “divide and conquer” all the victims of their cutbacks. Though of course both of these factors are part of the explanation for the governments' moves.

The biggest beneficiaries of the community closures will be mining companies – in particular gas fracking companies – who want to expand their operations in the Kimberley where most of these communities are located.

Australian workers have every reason to support the campaign to defend Aboriginal communities.

Firstly – and most importantly – this cause is just. The attempt to close communities is just the latest phase of a 227-year genocide against Aboriginal people and their culture. For moral and humanitarian reasons, it is time to say “enough”.

Secondly, you can't expect justice for yourself if you're not prepared to support justice for other people. Racism is one of the most important means the capitalist elite uses to keep us divided and fighting amongst ourselves. Taking a strong stance against these community closures will help strike a blow against racism, which will help to win freedom for us all.

Thirdly, any defeat for Tony Abbott, Colin Barnett and the rest of corporate Australia will be a victory for the people. Instead of miserly cutbacks against Aboriginal communities (not to mention Medicare, welfare and other social services), we should be increasing taxes on corporations and the very highest income earners.

This campaign has already mobilised thousands of people who have been prepared to take a stand – including blocking traffic in Australia's major cities. Trade unions have come out against the forced closures. The Victorian construction union and the WA plumbers have resolved to put bans on work associated with closing the communities. Other unions should discuss similar moves.

The fact that the South Australian government has been forced to announce that Aboriginal communities in that state would not close is another sign that this campaign can win.

The next step is to build the May 1 rallies throughout Australia and around the world until the federal government is forced to restore – and indeed increase – the funding to remote communities. The pressure must be maintained also on the WA government, irrespective of federal funding, to reverse its decision to close the communites down.

[Details of the May 1 rallies are here ]

[Alex Bainbridge is a national co-convener of the Socialist Alliance.]

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