• File image of an election voting hall in Perth (AAP)Source: AAP
As West Australians go to the polls on Saturday, we look at the parties’ stances and promises regarding Indigenous issues.
Craig Quartermaine

11 Mar 2017 - 9:53 AM  UPDATED 11 Mar 2017 - 9:56 AM

If re-elected, Colin Barnett would become the longest serving Premier in the state’s history, but polls have suggested he has a slim chance of forming government, and point to Labor as the big winner.   

To avoid an embarrassing loss, Barnett made a preference deal with One Nation that could threaten the existence of an already weakened ‘de facto’ coalition with the Nationals. This week WA Today reported that internal leaked polls suggested that the deal with One Nation “was to blame”.

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During the campaign, Premier Barnett made few promises that held any significance to Indigenous voters, except for his commitment to have the rock art on the Burrup Peninsula heritage-listed, which compared to the policies and events of the past four years, makes for a meagre offering.

In the last couple of years, the Barnett government’s plans to close remote Aboriginal communities made headlines around the world. Protests and pressure from the public forced the Premier to back down on the policy, which had only come to light following a leaked document listing remote communities being assessed for closure.

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In the Kimberley, the trial of the Welfare benefits card has had a major impact on people on low incomes. The measure has restricted people’s access to already limited funds, in the same way the Ceduna trial did in South Australia.

The measure was implemented to reduce substance abuse, but so far, the West Australian government has provided no evidence to suggest the trial has yielded the desired results.

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In the southwest, the 1.3 billion dollar native title agreement offered to the Noongar people was meant to be the crown jewel of the Barnett government’s Indigenous agenda. That agreement was challenged in the Supreme Court. It was found to be unlawful and unbinding, due to the lack of signatures and participation of Noongar people. The proposal was left in the courts to be dealt with well after the election.

One of the biggest Indigenous issues Colin Barnett gets credit for was the handling of the coronial inquest into the death in custody of Ms Dhu, which began in the Pilbara, and was fast-tracked following a promise made to Ms Dhu’s family.

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While the coalition hasn’t offered much to Indigenous voters this election, WA Labor leader Mark McGowan hasn’t made any major commitments of interest to Indigenous communities either.

Brendon Grylls from the Nationals proposed a mining tax and is now fighting for his political life from the spectre of an increasing popular One Nation, a party that is reportedly suffering from in-fighting already, but still looks to make a dent in the election, due to widespread dissatisfaction with the major parties.

If the Labor wins, WA Deputy Leader, Ben Wyatt, is in the box seat to become the first Indigenous Treasurer and Deputy Premier.

The seat of the Kimberley will be contested for the first time by Indigenous candidates from both major parties. Current member for Labor, Josie Farrer, and Liberal newcomer, Warren Greatorex, are going head-to-head.

But if 2016 has taught us anything, no one really knows what will happen until the final vote is counted.