Threatened budget cuts by the Australian government has left indigenous Aboriginal communities facing the prospect of being shut down and displaced, a move that has been condemned by Amnesty International.
Around 150 Aboriginal communities in Western Australia are under threat after authorities warned they may not be able to afford to supply power, water or road services to the remote populations. Arguments over whether the federal or state government should be paying for similar services in Southern Australia leaves a further 60 communities facing the threat of closure.
Tammy Solonec of Amnesty International Australia compared the situation to that of when white settlers forced the Aboriginal people from their land after a court ruled that the indigenous people must be paid a minimum wage.
“The pastoralists couldn’t afford to pay the basic wage and many indigenous people were uprooted from their land,” said Solonec. “This was a disaster for communities and has led to a lot of the dysfunction — alcohol and drug abuse — that affects communities today.”
Commenting on the prospect of communities being displaced, Solonec went on to say,
“Forcing aboriginal people to move from their communities is a form of cultural genocide”.
For the past 50 years some 16,000 Aboriginal people have received funding from the Australian government. With a looming A$48.5bn budget deficit, the federal government announces a A$500m cut in aboriginal programmes, alongside attempts to shift responsibilty for payments to state governments. Though a final decision is yet to be taken regarding the move, Colin Barnett, Western Australia’s premier said "he reality is that WA [Western Australia] will struggle to afford subsidies".
See more from the Financial Times here.
The announcement comes after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot vowed to hold a referendum on the constitutional recognition of the country's indigenous people as the nation's first people in 2017, stating he would “sweat blood” to ensure it takes place.
See our earlier post: Abbott vows to 'sweat blood' for indigenous referendum (12 Dec 2014)