By CAITLIN SMART.
Today in Melbourne, thousands protested government plans to close West Australian Aboriginal communities. It was the city’s biggest rally for the cause yet, following another one last month. Marches also took place throughout Australia and here in Wellington.
Australia, land of the Stolen Generation and various human rights abuses against its indigenous peoples, has found itself once again in the international spotlight for its controversial decisions.
In 2014, the Australian Federal Government decided it was leaving the funding of aboriginal communities to state governments, shifting responsibility for something that should concern all Australians.
Earlier this year, the Western Australian government announced that it cannot support all 274 of its rural communities, and up to 150 will have to close in the next coming years.
The employment rate in remote communities in WA is only about 45%. However, remote communities provide traditional living and self-determination without the social problems of living in towns.
Tony Abbott later said that living in a remote community is a “lifestyle choice”. However, moving indigenous people off their land is a stark reminder of the government policies of the early 20th century, whereby thousands of Aboriginal children were taken away from their families and forced to live in white communities (the Stolen Generation).
Many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal leaders have come together to oppose the decisions, arguing that closing these communities will only increase social problems for indigenous Australians.
The Auckland University Students’ Association stands behind these remote communities. Over 100 people turned up to the AUSA rally on Wednesday the 22nd of March, where we officially passed a motion stating that we condemn the Australian government’s action.
Thousands of people marched against the proposed closures today, with rallies taking place all across Australia and here in Wellington.
As a young person, you too can get involved if you think this is an injustice. Look out for rallies on your FB page, sign petitions, and most importantly, contact your local politicians to make sure that they are having their say. Everyone has the right to live where they want to, especially close to their family and heritage. No-one can take those rights away.
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