Thursday 7 May 2015
The Western Australian government has fleshed out its plan for remote Aboriginal communities but without immediate comfort for those anxious about their future.
Premier Colin Barnett sparked a furore in November when he said the state had no option but to consider cutting essential services to up to 150 of the communities after the Commonwealth removed its 50 per cent funding.
He's since backpedalled, saying the number was "a stab in the dark".
However, he maintains that in years to come, there will be significantly fewer communities than the current 274.
Mr Barnett said the funding issue only triggered a broader debate about their viability, citing social problems like lacking education levels and job opportunities, poor health, domestic violence, the neglect and sexual abuse of children and alcohol and drug abuse.
It emerged on Thursday that the WA government has been mulling over the complex matter for the past two years. It says it is now taking a courageous step in confronting difficult issues. "We are not going to simply say what is easy or nice," Mr Barnett told reporters.
"The time to turn a blind eye has gone."
Despite a multitude of well-intentioned but poorly-co-ordinated human services, the problems persisted, with some communities appearing "third world" - but not because of poverty, Mr Barnett said.
Making those services more effective was a major part of the emerging reform strategy, he said, and touched on Roebourne, where there are 63 commonwealth and not-for-profit agencies providing more than 200 services to a population of 1410.
"Imagine the situation for an Aboriginal family who must be almost every day (facing) someone knocking on their door saying `we're here to help you'," Mr Barnett said.
"That is inefficient, ineffective use of public money and totally confusing for the people in those communities."
Regional development minister Terry Redman said the plan would be finalised within six months or so and "visible change" in the communities would be seen in two years time.
"In five years time, we will see significant change ... and hopefully in a generation, we will see transformational change."
Addressing concerns displaced indigenous people could find themselves adrift on the fringes of larger regional centres, Mr Redman said any change to small communities was going to have an impact on nearby larger towns.
Better education was likely in bigger towns, so that may be where investment goes, he said.
Aboriginal affairs minister Peter Collier said there would be "enormous" consultation with indigenous leaders, starting within weeks.
"Aboriginal people will be part of the process," he said.
"They will be empowered."
Opposition Aboriginal affairs spokesman Ben Wyatt said the government was finally doing what the public expected - speaking to people.
"They should have done this a year ago - this is where they should have started," he said.
Monday 13 Apr 2015
A multi-million dollar deal between the Federal and South Australian governments has secured the future of remote Indigenous communities, but the fate of their Western Australian counterparts remains in limbo.
More than 1500 members of the remote Indigenous communities will be able to remain in their homes under the $15 million agreement, signed by the Federal and South Australian governments on Monday.
Under the deal, the South Australian Government will deliver municipal and essential services - including power, water, and sewage and rubbish collection - to the state’s remote Indigenous communities from July 1.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the funding would secure the future of communities outside theAnangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara region in the north west of the state.
Senator Scullion described the announcement as an historic and “positive move away from the ad hoc” service delivery provided to date.
A compromise announced this morning will also see the Federal Government continue to pay for services in the APY Lands, for now.
The funding announcement follows widespread protests against the closure of up to 150 remote communities in Western Australia.
The WA Government has cited cuts in federal funding as the reasons for the expected closures, which were initially flagged seven months ago.
Senator Scullion said an agreement had been reached with the WA Government, but further details on the funding costs and impacts are yet to be provided.
SBS has sought further comment.
Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues Senator Rachel Siewert has urged her Liberal counterpart to reinstate the funding, stating that “communities, the broader public and the Senate all oppose the forceful closures of these communities”.
“They deserve to remain,” Senator Siewert said.
“It is time for Senator Scullion to do the right thing”.
Her push follows that from former One Nation Party politician Pauline Hanson, who told NITV News that the choice by Indigenous people to stay in remote communities needed to be respected.
Friday 10 Apr 2015
A large protest opposing the closure of remote indigenous communities in WA has shut down streets in central Melbourne.
Several thousand people gathered outside the city's main railway station Flinders Street at 4pm.
"Enough is enough - where is the justice for Aboriginal people?" a speaker shouted to the crowd before the walk through CBD streets, flanked by police.
The rally forced the closure of Flinders and Elizabeth streets, where surrounding streets soon became clogged with cars and trams forced to stop.
Rally goers gathered again outside Flinders Street station, blocking the intersection, just on 5pm.
Police, on foot and on riot horses, followed the marchers all the way. Jason Maxwell, 31 of South East Dandenong Ranges, was among the protesters.
"I disagree, strongly disagree, in selling out on the aboriginal communities just for money," Mr Maxwell told AAP.
He said the WA and Federal governments should recognise the importance of the link between indigenous people and their lands, and it was wrong to describe this as a lifestyle choice.
"It is the worst thing that a modern government could ever say," Mr Maxwell said.
"It's a political tool to separate us, and I think it is wrong." The protesters did not enjoy universal support, with a heckler heard to shout "move over to WA".
A similar rally has also been held in Sydney at Belmore Park.