#1064 for broadcast on 2CH Sydney, 26 April 2015
Prime Minister Tony Abbott infamously called it endlessly subsidising “lifestyle choices,” while Noel Pearson likened it to the European invasion of the Australian continent in 1788: a plan by the Western Australian government to close hundreds of remote Aboriginal communities on the grounds that such communities are financially “unsustainable” in view of a projected shortfall in federal funding.
The proposal is arguably racist and ridiculous. Indigenous people have a deep connection to land. Forced displacement would result in trauma. Forcibly resettled people will face discrimination from existing residents in new locations, and the cost of providing housing and services may outweigh projected savings. It is not the business of a democratic government to shut communities against their will and without proper consultation.
The Barnett government needs to take a cold shower, and sit down with local Indigenous communities, seeking solutions that avoid forced displacement and identifying the best ways to deliver essential services.
I’m Rod Benson for the NSW Council of Churches.