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WA Aboriginal community closures will create “thousands of refugees” say activists

Saturday, 21 March, 2015

The WA Barnett government’s plan to close 150 Aboriginal communities has caused outrage and sparked nationwide protests, with Aboriginal community leaders warning that 20,000 Aboriginal people from remote communities will become homeless as a result.

Speaking at the “Black Friday” rally outside the National Gallery of Victoria on the 13th of March, local Aboriginal activist Meriki Onus asked: “What are we going to do with 20000 Aboriginal refugees? They can’t even go to the Aboriginal Embassy, because they’re getting shut down by the police in Perth.”

“It’s disgusting. These people have nowhere to go within this society. Nothing. You can’t live homeless on the streets in Perth – you know what they do to blackfullas on the streets in Perth? They lock ‘em up, and they kill ‘em!”

A crowd of around 500 protesters opposed to the plan gathered for the rally outside the National Gallery of Victoria, where Tony Abbott was reported to be attending an official dinner on the night.

Abbott sparked outrage earlier in the week when he described the affected communities’ opposition to leaving their ancestral homelands as a ‘lifestyle choice’.

Last month WA Premier Colin Barnett stated that Aboriginal people would not be forced from their traditional lands, but that the WA government allegedly cannot afford to keep “subsidising” essential services such as electricity and water to remote communities.

It is understood that the plan will lead to the closure of the communities, as residents will be forced to leave without access to basic amenities.

This week during question time, the premier declined to say whether or when the WA government planned to shut off these services.

An “anti-Abbott” student rally was also organised for March 13th, but student organisers said they postponed it out of respect for the seriousness of the situation facing the WA Indigenous communities.