Aborigines appeal to UN indigenous forum over homelands closure plans

Stop the forced closure of Aboriginal communities

Aboriginal people from Western Australia will travel to New York for the 20 April meeting of the permanent forum on Indigenous issues to appeal for UN intervention and condemnation of plans to shut down 150 traditional remote settlements of Aboriginal people. Delegates of the Kimberley Land Council, a political Aboriginal land rights organisation, will also complain about proposed changes to the Aboriginal Heritage Act, alleging that both actions breach the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous people, to which Australia has signed up.


Pushing Aboriginal people off their land for mining interests is nothing new in Western Australia, but the plans to close 150 communities and gut the Aboriginal Heritage Act takes it to a new level, commented Mia Pepper, a long time anti-uranium campaigner with a strong focus on Indigenous rights.

“You’d be forgiven for thinking West Australia was the Wild West. The announcement from the WA government to close 150 Aboriginal remote communities comes hot on the heels of plans to gut the Aboriginal Heritage Act.”


The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has hit out at the 'paternalistic' approach of the West Australian and federal governments.


Prominent Aboriginal journalist, Amy McQuire, argued that the closure plans reflect the positions of big miners like Gina Reinhart and Andrew Forrest.


“But the plans to close up to 150 remote communities have been savaged by Australians all across the country,”

The US-based Epoch Times, which specialises in coverage of China and publishes in 35 countries and 21 languages, sees Indigenous affairs going backwards in Australia.


"The Australian government’s handling of Indigenous affairs has received fair criticism over the years, but plans to close 150 remote Indigenous communities in Western Australia (WA), and the Prime Minister’s comments, [that living in remote traditional communities] highlight concerns that things are getting worse not better for Aboriginal people in Australia.

"It’s worse now I think, than it has been at any time in the modern policy era going back to the 1970s," said Professor Jon Altman, a specialist in Aboriginal policy and sustainable economic development.


"Indigenous affairs in this country at the moment are in chaos, absolute chaos."

Snap protests were held across Australia on “Black Friday”, 13 March, including a rally of more than 1,000 people in Melbourne. On 10 April more than 13,000 people shut down central Melbourne, outraged by the closure plans.

Meriki Onus, protest organiser from the youth group Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, spoke about the need to resist the community closures and the broader agenda of assimilation.

People in Melbourne were disgusted by [conservative] Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments, Onus said. “It’s so clear that these are attempts to destroy our culture. It is just a further attempt at assimilation and genocide.”

Aboriginal activists in Perth have re-established the Nyoongar Tent Embassy as a refugee camp for people being pushed off their communities. They are estimating that 20,000 people will be made homeless.

“We know that WA has a terrible track record with the treatment of Aboriginal people. It is a police state [with one of the highest incarceration rates for black people in the world]. There are horrific welfare practices with forced child removal, terrible suicide rates, I can only imagine the terrible social impact that making so many people homeless will have in WA.

“We know more than anyone in Victoria what dispossession does to a people. We have people working on learning language now, but it is a very small group. I don’t think there are any fluent speakers of Aboriginal language anywhere in Victoria. That’s from dispossession, from the mission days, the stolen generation, those attempts to destroy the cultures of Indigenous peoples. This is exactly what our brothers and sisters in remote areas, in the NT and WA, are facing today.”

The federal government’s decision to stop funding communities is happening right across Australia.

Koori man and Northern Territory Chief Minister, Adam Giles, has said he expects a potential migration of people from remote Indigenous communities in Western Australia into the Northern Territory if those communities are closed.

"There's definitely a risk of population movement from WA across to the NT," Giles told National Indigenous TV.


The Inverell Times, serving a district population of 18,000 in rural New South Wales 600 km north of Sydney, reported “an initial well-supported Inverell march on Saturday 4 April” and added that a second protest march over closing WA Aboriginal communities is planned for 1 May, to match similar actions across Australia.

“People in cities across the country will join in local efforts for the March to stop the forced closure of Aboriginal communities in Australia."


New Zealand’s Maori people were also urged to back the 1 May actions in Australia. One rally has already taken place in Auckland, the country’s largest city and the one with the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world.


As the federal and state governments withdraw funding from indigenous communities in Western Australia, many lives are stuck in limbo, Aboriginal people from the homelands told nationally broadcast SBS television.


The deputy NSW Labor Party leader, Aboriginal woman Linda Burney, told NITV that the proposed closures of remote communities in Western Australia - and possibly South Australia – are “reminiscent of Australia’s past annihilation policies of the 1950s and 1960s, such as the 1961 policy of assimilation adopted by federal and state governments which intended Indigenous people to practice the same living manner as non-Indigenous Australians”.


South Australian Indigenous figures fear the funding dispute could lead to 'cultural genocide'. "Indigenous communities facing closure in South Australia have accused the federal and state governments of not consulting Aboriginal people over funding issues, as fears grow that a standoff could spark "cultural genocide" in the state.


The funding cuts will destroy Aboriginal life, warns the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. The organisation’s Sister Michele Madigan, has worked closely with Aboriginal communities in South Australia over many years, is deeply concerned that the federal government's funding cut backs will make many remote communities unsustainable, and force Aboriginal families from their ancestral lands."


However, remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia, which shares a long border and similar remoteness with Western Australia, have been assured that they will stay open in face of national funding cuts.


Hundreds of people protested at SA's parliament as part of a national day of action and a crisis meeting was held by Aboriginal leaders from across the state. The Aboriginal Lands Trust (ABL) said it had spoken with state and federal Indigenous affairs ministers and had been assured that no communities would close.


But it's still not clear where funding for the communities will come from.

Surprisingly, news.com.au, which feeds the worldwide empire of ultra-conservative Australian-born, American media baron, Rupert Murdoch, who’s hardly ever empathetic to Aboriginal positions, carried a long personal success story by an Aboriginal woman from a Western Australian remote community.


Samantha Martin wrote: “It’s more than just a 'lifestyle choice', it’s my home. I was raised in East Kimberley, northern Western Australia, in a small community called Doon Doon Station, population about 50. There was one dirt road in, cold running water and electricity most of the time.


“We lived in a very basic three-bedroom house with a concrete floor and corrugated iron roof. There were usually between 15 and 20 of us - family, foster kids and a blind uncle who needed caring for. It was a struggle sometimes to feed everyone, but it was beautiful growing up with family all around.” 


National Indigenous Radio had coverage accessible in audio:




For other Aboriginal themes see

Aborigines stirring for national recognition of their frontier wars dead

White and black deceit, corruption and looting over land against autonomous Aboriginal people in South Australia

Aborigines appeal to UN indigenous forum over homelands closure plans

Prime minister "shameless, insensitive, outrageous, incredibly racist, lacking humanity, disconnected from reality"

Aboriginal Australian communities call for global action

For the record: First People's sovereignty never ceded

South Australian Aboriginal communities hold emergency summit to fight 'cultural genocide' 
Aboriginal communities send a powerful message to government

Aboriginal protesters come face-to-face with politicians during Canberra 'sit-in'

In defence of our land and our freedoms

Maori solidarity with the Nyoongar people at Matargarup, Perth  

Maori politicians support Aboriginal protest over proposed closure of indigenous communities


WGAR: Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (Australia)


WGAR Background (last updated 16 April 2015)
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