Punished for the consecutive failures of government

We heard last week that the South Australian government would continue to provide municipal and essential services to remote Aboriginal communities in the face of federal funding cuts.

The state government in Western Australia is showing no such leadership. Barnett’s government is holding a position steeped in ideology, rather than grounded in sound economic policy.  

WA has been the engine room of Australia’s economy.

A joint bankwest/Curtin University study in 2014, reports that our GDP grew by 5.1% between 2012 and 2013, well above the national average of 2.6% during the same period. We have vast oil, gas and mineral resources.

Why then, do we have a state government, unable to provide even basic services to its people? 

It seems to us that the closure of remote Aboriginal communities is not about cost cutting—the fallout of community closures is likely to cost the government much more in the long-term—it’s about power.

We see it this way.

If we are moved out of communities, back to towns, this limits our ability to practise our native title rights. That is, the right to possess, occupy, use and enjoy the land and waters in our native title determination. Our ability to keep and maintain these rights, this power, is connected to our continued use of country. Prevent us from living on country and you start to erode these rights.

This government doesn’t want Aboriginal people in positions of power or control.

Through KRED Enterprises and the PBCs we represent, we are working hard to create a powerbase that will provide sustainable economic opportunities in remote communities. Our aim is to build businesses and jobs that mean our people can live on country, in remote communities, and continue to practise our culture and exercise our native title rights.

If the government was serious about addressing issues in communities, such as unemployment, they should look to investing in and supporting Aboriginal-run organisations and PBCs already on the ground. In numerous reports delivered to government, from the Crocodile Hole Report (1991) to the Elders’ Report into Preventing Self-Harm and Youth Suicide (2014), the message has always been the same. Consult with us. Listen to us. Fund the organisations our old people set up so we have the power of self-determination, so we have the capacity to tackle these issues ourselves.

But it falls on deaf ears.

And history repeats.

We’re being punished, again, for the consecutive failures of government.