Barnett plan fudges closure of remote communities

July 15, 2016

The WA government released its plan for remote Aboriginal communities on July 14. The spin is all about “better living conditions”, “supporting families” and “more opportunities”. However the substance is still entirely about penny pinching and withdrawing resources. Communities will close if it is implemented.

When WA premier Colin Barnett first announced that up to 150 communities would be forced to close, people responded with a massive, international protest movement to save the communities.

Disingenuously, on releasing the report, regional development minister Terry Redman said no one will be forced to leave their homelands.

However, services and funding will be withdrawn from 129 communities in favour of ten communities that will receive increased support.

As recently as May, Barnett said that he would like to see fewer remote communities.

SOSblakAustralia says “this report signals the start of forced closures — to withdraw services until it is untenable to live on country”.

They say this is “an attack on basic human rights” and a “breach of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People”.

“This is being done without free, prior and informed consent. This is genocide.”

“We know that this process has been non-consultative. We know that this is a massive land grab for the Northern Expansion of Australia ...”

“We do not accept this report.”

Greens parliamentarian Robin Chapple has highlighted that the UNDRIP 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.”

Diesel fuel subsidies have been highlighted as one of the services that will be withdrawn. However, nobody is talking about removing the diesel fuel rebate that boosts mining company profits by billions of dollars per year.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been cut from Aboriginal legal, health and other services in recent years by the federal government, yet they are willing to spend tens of millions foisting the “Recognise” campaign which has been largely rejected by Aboriginal people.

This report is yet one more example of how government resources are misdirected. Funding for programs that help ordinary people are constantly under threat. Yet subsidies for big business and their imperialist wars seem to be never ending.

SOSblakaustralia says that, in the face of this latest report, “it's time to come back together” and we could not agree more. People power has already achieved a lot in this campaign, but is needed again today.

Green Left Weekly has consistently supported this campaign and we pledge our ongoing support until justice is achieved.

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