As people in Western Australia struggle for more information about plans to close up to 150 remote communities across the state, Living Black reporter Craig Quartermaine looks back at the past experience of a community being closed.
Craig Quartermaine

Living Black
25 May 2015 - 3:06 PM  UPDATED 29 Jun 2015 - 8:31 PM

The furore over Western Australia’s plans to close up to 150 remote communities is the latest episode in a history of Aboriginal people fighting against being removed from country, says Cissy Gore-Birch.

What's more, the former chairperson of the Balangarra Aboriginal Corporation in Oombulgurri, says it's a "wakeup call."

"It's a wake-up call for our people, for our communities ... Where are our representative bodies?"

While groups like SOS Blak Australia have been effective in uniting disparate groups over the issue of WA community closures, Gore-Birch says that these issues have been going on since the 1960s.

Oombulgurri – more than 3,000 kilometres north of Perth in the heart of the Kimberley region of West Australia – was closed almost four years ago. The final phase of demolition was completed last December.

Oombulgurri's 106 residents were forced to leave their homes and dispersed throughout the Kimberley. The impact of their displacement is still being felt – not only on the former residents themselves, but the other communities in which they are now trying to live.

Speaking to Living Black for a special episode about WA community closures, Gore-Birch talks about her efforts to adjust to her new life in Fitzroy Crossing.

"I had to leave," Gore-Birch said, referring to her position as chairperson of the Balangarra Aboriginal Corporation.

“… because it was making me angry at the government, because it's just been full on …

"[They just don't even care about Aboriginal people, just pushed away into the corner, swept under the carpet and it was like, 'when are you people gonna listen?'"

The issue of Aboriginal community closures in Western Australia has made national and international headlines since a WA Government document was leaked exposing the Barnett Government’s plan to close up to 150 remote Aboriginal communities across the state.

"What I have seen over the last 20 years, there has been a lot of funding issues there has been competiveness and duplication of service delivery ... I guess there have been a lot of leaders in there for themselves."

Watch Craig Quartermaine’s full report on Living Black | Tuesday on NITV at 9PM.