The one thing we learn from history, is that we never learn from history.
Last week’s announcement that the state government plans to axe up to 150 remote communities has sent shockwaves through the Kimberley.
KRED’s CEO Wayne Bergmann says it’s a ‘knee jerk’ reaction and like ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water.’
“It’s really disappointing and I would have expected a bit more leadership from the Premier. It won’t be a pretty picture if this is followed through literally and it has the potential to create massive social chaos and dysfunction,” Mr Bergmann says.
The announcement also carries sinister echoes of previous government policies, which have been implemented with little forethought and with devastating consequences for Aboriginal people.
“One of our members of parliament, Josie Farrer, experienced this very thing as a child. At the closure of Moola Bulla she was chucked on the back of a truck and dumped at Halls Creek. Has the Premier consulted with one of our most senior Indigenous people in parliament about her experiences and the way to deal with these issues?” Mr Bergmann says.
It appears not.
However, with the Commonwealth soon to stop covering (half) the cost of power and water, WA Premier Colin Barnett says the state government can’t shoulder the full cost on its own.
The Premier is also concerned at the ‘unacceptably high rates of suicide’ in remote communities and says, ‘In remote, small, Aboriginal communities, are children being educated? No, probably not. There are issues of neglect. There are issues of health and there are issues of domestic violence . . . what chance is there for a young person to get a good education, to grow up healthy and to have an opportunity to go on and have a successful life?”
A more fitting question, would be what happens when the same issues are shifted to the towns and regional centres? These problems will not go away, but will rather be exacerbated, and the ensuing social chaos will end up costing a lot more for government in the long run.
There is a solution.
According to Mr Bergmann, “The solution isn’t in shutting down communities. The government has to empower Aboriginal leadership in the local organisations and in the local community to enable people to address these issues."