Thousands of people rallied in Melbourne on Friday to protest the potential closure of up to 150 Australian aboriginal communities, according to reports. The government of Western Australia has said it cannot continue to provide services to all of the 274 “remote communities” under its supervision and that many of them are affected by social ills including sexual abuse. (Public figures who oppose the plan suggest that the abuse issue is being used manipulatively as cover for a financial decision.) Australia’s notoriously insensitive/gaffe-prone prime minister, Tony Abbott, has described native peoples’ decision to live in the communities as a “lifestyle choice.”
The previous shuttering of a Western Australian community called Oombulgurri illustrates what might happen on a large scale if the government goes forward with closures, which wouldn’t begin until 2016:
… many of the people living in Oombulgurri didn’t want to leave, says Amnesty International’s Australian Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Manager, Tammy Solonec.
As the government gradually closed vital facilities such as the health clinic, school and police station, and eventually shut off the town’s power and water, people were left with no choice but to move out, says Ms Solonec.
An estimated 69,665 “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples” live in Western Australia.