Saturday, May 9, 2015

Campaign against community closures forces government response

The latest round of national mobilisations against the forced closure of Aboriginal communities is making the government feel the pressure. This is revealed by the comments by WA premier Colin Barnett on the day of the rallies which took place in over 90 locations around Australia and around the world.

On May 1, Barnett said again that "no person will be forced from their land, no person will be forced from their community" and that not as many communities would need to close as had previously been advised. The media interpreted this as a partial retreat.

Then on May 7, the government released a plan "abandoning projections that 150 [communities] will close" according to The West Australian and promising consultation with Aboriginal people.

To top it off, on May 8 the Aboriginal Affairs minister Peter Collier explicitly called for future protests to be called off.

This proves that the protests which not only blocked city streets in Melbourne and occupied the town hall in Brisbane, but more importantly have proven capable of mobilising large and growing numbers of people, are having an impact.

It is not the time to call off the protests but to continue the momentum until the WA government is forced to fully withdraw from any community closures and the federal government is forced to not only restore but increase the funding to these communities.

[Comment by Alex Bainbridge.]