WA Aboriginal communities to be ‘shut down’

October 16, 2010
WA premier Colin Barnett.

Western Australian Liberal Premier Colin Barnett has said many of the 200 remote Aboriginal communities in WA will be shut down.

ABC Online reported on October 14 that Barnett said: "There's no doubt that under policies really initiated by the Federal Government, small, isolated Aboriginal communities were promoted.

"The reality is that there's no employment prospects in those areas, or very limited."

Barnett’s comments were in relation to the small community of Oombulgurri, where there are 50 residents and 14 public servants.

WA Department of Indigenous Affairs' director-general Patrick Walker supported removing government services and relocating residents.

”It's clear I think to all concerned, to community members and government agencies, that there's no future for Oombulgurri in its current form, given the number of people in the town.

"So, we think there is a much better future and a different use for Oombulgurri that could satisfy the requirements of everyone."

Some older residents have said they won’t be leaving despite health services being cut.

Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre chairperson Wes Morris said he welcomed the discussion about the future of the remote communities. But he said the relocation of Aboriginal people to places like Broome could be a disaster unless housing and services were improved.

"We've got great concerns in relation to the health and well-being of people if you just reduce the number of communities holus-bolus and pack everyone into the towns”, he said on October 15.

"What does that do in terms of your social networks and what does that do in terms of the actual health and well-being of people?"

Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory have been resisting government policy that pushes them off smaller homelands into “hub towns”, taking them away from their ancestral lands. Research has shown people living on homelands and outstations have better mental and physical health.

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