Premier Colin Barnett announced Thursday his government would begin consulting with and reviewing remote Aboriginal communities, saying that he wants Aboriginal people to be part of the Regional Strategic Advisory Councils – the group that will review services in remote Kimberley and Pilbara communities.
"We will identify communities that are working well and will continue to invest in services that are effective and provide the best chance of positive outcomes," he told the media.
But the Premier did not back away from one of his controversial justifications for the planned defunding of many remote Aboriginal communities: child sexual abuse.
"The evidence is so strong and so compelling it cannot be ignored and I don't intend in any sense to demonise communities or families but I as a Premier, my ministers, as simple people in our community, cannot ignore or walk away from those issues."
The state’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Peter Collier, told NITV News that he backs the Premier on claims of sexual abuse.
“The Department of Health in particular and [the Department for] Child Protection have shown that there are issues with regard to child protection,” Mr Collier said.
But he did not want to name the communities in which the alleged abuse had occurred.
"The Department of Health keep very clear evidence of that. There is very clear evidence of the fact there are issues with regard to child care. I don’t want to taint those communities. I want to make that quite clear. What we’ve got to do is work with those communities."
There are approximately 12,000 Aboriginal people living in remote communities scattered throughout the state, some with populations of less than 10 people, according to the Government.
"We’ve got 274 Aboriginal communities in Western Australia at the moment. Personally, I think that’s too many. I think a number of those communities have a number of serious problems that exist within them," Mr Collier said.
But the Minister assures the wishes of Aboriginal people would be paramount.
"It is absolutely imperative that Aboriginal people have direct access to their ancestral lands. That is a key component of any decision making process," he said.
Even though the Premier and the Aboriginal Affairs Minister have both said some communities will certainly close, it’s a far cry from Colin Barnett’s comments last year that over 100 would be closed.
"In terms of a timeframe, there is no timeframe,".
The WA Government consultation process will look at employment, education, child safety and healthcare outcomes in the state’s Aboriginal communities.
The whole issue of community closures was forced by the Commonwealth government withdrawing funding to fund essential services in those communities, according to the Barnett Government.
The WA Labor Party’s Aboriginal Affairs spokesman, Ben Wyatt, said Colin Barnett had years to act on the issues he is now trying to address.
"This is nothing more than a Budget savings measure," he said.
"For six months, Aboriginal people have been told by Colin Barnett that they've failed in their communities, they are ridden with sexually transmitted diseases and not worthy of future Government investment."