NEWS CENTRE

Closure of Homelands

In November 2014, WA Premier Colin Barnett announced he would close up to 150 remote communities after agreeing to hand over responsibility for infrastructure and municipal services in these areas to the Federal Government. The move has been met with widespread criticism, including a strong statement from the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), who cautioned that the dispossession of “another generation of our people will deal a further blow to health, education and living standard disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.” The agreement between the WA Government and the Federal Government will have widespread ramifications throughout Aboriginal communities in WA, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania – with thousands of people dispossessed.

Only seven years ago, on the 13th of February 2008, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said “Sorry” to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders for generations of systemic exclusion. His speech that day was a petition for justice and reconciliation. It was an acknowledgement of the wrongs of the past, and a reminder that the grief of the First Peoples of this nation was something that we must all recognise and address. The National Apology was not about guilt: it was an opportunity for all Australians to unite in the acknowledgement that the wrongs committed against the First Peoples did not represent the ‘ideal’ Australia – the nation we hope to be.

Justice, however, cannot be achieved until Aboriginal rights are placed front and centre of policy making, rather than being merely an adjunct to mainstream legislative or policy decisions. Reconciliation and peace will continue to elude our nation until responsibility is taken for the legacy of our colonial past and the flawed, abusive and paternalistic policies that have contributed to the breakdown of Aboriginal families and communities for over 200 years. Our Chapter Statement speaks to this truth with the reminder that “Mercy impels us to extravagant hospitality, compassion and justice in the earth community, being shattered by displacement.”

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, has indicated that the WA Government would begin formal consultation with Aboriginal communities in June. ISMAPNG will continue to work in partnership with those engaged with the impacted communities to offer support and to seek justice through partnership and genuine consultation.

You can learn more about Aboriginal homelands and their importance to the maintenance of culture HERE.

“What Choice” – the statement from the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) can be READ HERE.

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Messages to: Siobhan Marren – Resource Officer Institute Mission Team