Greens MP warms of paternalistic approach to remote communities

Thursday 14 July

WA Greens Aboriginal Affairs spokesperson Robin Chapple MLC, who recently introduced his Prevention of Forced Closure of Remote Aboriginal Communities Bill 2016, has warned the state government could be heading down a historically treacherous policy path with today’s Resilient Families, Strong Communities roadmap announcement.

“In my view, this is a continuation of paternalistic policy approach towards Aboriginal people and I would question the level of real consultation that has occurred, given the lack of real solutions contained in this document,” Mr Chapple said.

“The roadmap refers extensively to building resilience, yet research has shown time and again that this is done by maintaining a connection to country, culture and language; it is top down, ignorant policy that has severed this connection in the past and I am concerned that history will repeat itself here.

“Hiding the truth behind rhetoric will only last so long; discontinuing services for up to 129 communities is an indirect way of saying those communities will be closed.

“There are, sadly, Aboriginal people in WA who are invisible to the system – young adults and the elderly - either because they are not enrolled to vote or because they are cared for by family. I will be questioning the roadmap’s classification of those 129 communities on that basis.

“Arbitrarily taking the 10 largest communities and turning them into gazetted towns to centralise services will introduce a host of new issues that I am concerned have not been considered in this policy approach.

“Queensland’s 18 remote communities – all much larger than those in WA – were cited as an example, yet one only has to look at the situation in Aurukun over the last 12 months to see some of the problems inherent in this approach.

“Whilst I agree with the principles informing this roadmap, Aboriginal communities living in different areas are unique and exist in their current form for this reason; we must work with those communities to enhance the deep cultural, spiritual and social relationship Aboriginal peoples have with the land.

“I will continue my strong relationship with SOS Blak Australia and other groups, as well as Elders and community representatives to fight for the best possible outcomes for Aboriginal people in Western Australia through my Home is Heritage campaign."

For comment please contact media liaison Tim Oliver on 08 9486 8255 or 0431 9696 25.

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