World Bulletin/News Desk
More than half of Western Australia’s Aboriginal communities have been earmarked for closure, local media reported, in a policy that some have condemned as racist.
Up to 150 of the 274 remote communities are due to be shut down with the state government categorizing them as too expensive to run.
Robin Chapple, a Greens member of the state parliament, told ABC’s Lateline program the closures would take Aboriginal people away from their traditional land and exacerbate social problems.
“This is, in my view, broadly a very racist attitude," he said. “It's relegating people who actually have a desire and a need to live in their country to the scrap heap. I mean, that's so insensitive. It smacks of the assimilation policies over the early 1960s… it's horrendous.”
However, indigenous leaders are divided on the issue. Some say closing communities will have devastating consequences while others see greater opportunities for work and education.
Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett told ABC Thursday that funding cuts from central government was to blame.
“I don't think they [the communities] provide viability and I don't think they provide any opportunity for employment and for people to have a good education and good health,” he said.
Just over 12,000 people live in the 274 Aboriginal communities, according to the ABC report.
Figures from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs show 174 of the least populated communities have an average of less than eight people living in them, while 115 of those settlements are home to less than five people on average.
ABC reported claims that it costs an average of 83,000 Australian dollars ($72,000) per person to service them.
Aboriginal elders are also clashing with the Western Australia government over proposed changes to the Aboriginal Heritage Act, which they say will make it easier for mining companies and developers to exploit sacred Aboriginal sites.
More than 70 traditional owners marched on the state parliament Thursday to demand consultation on the changes. A petition of more than 1,600 signatures was presented to National Party lawmaker Brendon Grylls and the Labor Party’s Ben Wyatt.
Kimberley Land Council Chairman Anthony Watson said the proposals were discriminatory.
“The proposed changes lock Aboriginal people out of the process and put the decision-making power into the hands of a government bureaucrat, who will have the final say on the destruction of sites and our cultural heritage,’’ Watson said. “We will not let the government trample on our cultural heritage.”
The Anadolu Agency has learned that the proposals will be put before parliament next week.
Last Mod: 21 Kasım 2014, 15:15