Emergency summit held over SA Aboriginal community closures

The presiding member of South Australia Aboriginal Lands Trust, Haydyn Bromley.

Leaders from remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia have held an emergency summit to try to stop funding cuts that could force the closure of their communities - a move they've labelled cultural genocide.

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Leaders from remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia have held an emergency summit to try to stop funding cuts that could force the closure of their communities - a move they've labelled cultural genocide.

Representatives from every regional and remote community in the state are uniting to call for a long term bilateral funding agreement between federal and state governments.

Karen Ashford reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

Community closures have already begun in Western Australia and South Australian communities fear they'll be next.

It follows the federal government's decision to end Municipal services funding on June 30.

The presiding member of South Australia Aboriginal Lands Trust, Haydyn Bromley describes it as a crisis.

"This summit is calling together leaders from all Aboriginal communities, they're all coming down to Port Augusta. We're meeting for a day and a half to discuss the crisis that we have. It's not even an impending crisis. It is a crisis. We know that in a little over three months' time, people are going to lose jobs. Aboriginal people who are employed are going to lose jobs and communities are going to shrink."

Mr Bromley says the commonwealth's suggestion that essential services can be maintained by accessing alternative funding sources, such as Indigenous Advancement Strategy grants, is no solution.

"They've said well you can apply for IAS funding, which is indigenous funding, to cover the gap - communities went out and applied for funding, including ALT (Aboriginal Lands Trust) as the umbrella organisation - no communities in South Australia were funded.

Of the state's 30,000 Aboriginal citizens, about 10,000 live outside urban areas.

Without money for services such as water, sewerage, rubbish collection and electricity Mr Bromley fears people will be forced from their homes.

"Well you think about it - you've got a whole lot of people who are living on communities; all of a sudden they're lobbing on townships and wanting housing, they're wanting services. So we're going to end up with a new generation of displaced people, displaced Aboriginal South Australians and this will be a new generation of cultural genocide."

Leaders have staged a crisis meeting in Port Augusta to demand a bilateral funding guarantee from federal and state governments before the end of the financial year, just 12 weeks away.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher agrees the impact would be devastating

"It would have impacts right across remote communities - it's not just APY Lands, it's communities like on the far west coast, Koonibba, that relies on some of this Municipal Services Funding to provide not just services but they also employ local people in communities to provide those services.

However Mr Maher says it's not the state government's responsibility to replace funding that's been cut by the Commonwealth.

"It's somewhere between $6 and 7 million a year for the APY Lands for these municipal services, we're hopeful that the federal government will continue to, as they have for the last half a century, fund these services (Q: They're saying they're not going to though) Well, we're in discussions with the federal government, I don't, it would be difficult for them to walk away from half a century of funding these things.

Mr Bromley says communities see that governments seem to be able to find money for city projects, but not for them.

"The refurbishment of places like Tarndanyangga Victoria Square cost $30 million or thereabouts. We're wanting not much more than that to fund our Aboriginal communities across the state."

 

 

 

 

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