Aboriginal Regional Communities

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:21): I rise today to talk about closing the gap and closing the communities issue—the potential closure of Aboriginal regional communities in our country. I note that since 1973 the federal government has been responsible for funding municipal and essential services in remote Aboriginal communities and homelands.

In September 2014 the federal government struck deals with four states, being WA, Tasmania, Queensland and Victoria, which meant that the responsibility for funding those municipal and essential services was transferred to those states. In Western Australia the Premier has indicated that 150 remote communities are to be closed. South Australia has not yet entered into a deal with the federal government and it has stated that the funding of the provision of these services is the federal government's responsibility.

The one-off offer of $10 million was rejected by the South Australian government, but as we know—and anyone who is speaking to Aboriginal communities at the moment knows—crunch day is coming. July 1 is coming, but tomorrow is Close the Gap Day and it will also be a call to action on closing the communities.

The Prime Minister has done some unfortunate things recently, one of which was eating an onion with the skin still on which I still do not understand, but even more so I still do not understand his comment that it was a lifestyle choice that Aboriginal people live in remote communities and homelands. A lifestyle choice is moving to the beach. A lifestyle choice is a tree change when you retire. A lifestyle choice is choosing a green tie on St Patrick's Day rather than a blue tie as you would regularly wear. 'A lifestyle choice' completely redacts the black history of Australia as a nation, as a nation of hundreds of nations.

Aboriginal people are concerned. Certainly on the recent Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee trip to Port Lincoln and Ceduna, the Port Lincoln community was very concerned and wanted answers on what was going to happen come July 1 this year to their communities. Tomorrow there will be many people across the country who will be asking: what is going to happen if we force the closure of Aboriginal communities? One thing we do know is the gap will get wider. The gap is getting wider, to our shame, but if you force people off their land and from their connection with country their health outcomes and their mental health outcomes will be worse.

The Prime Minister pointed to a lack of job opportunities and educational opportunities as being one of the reasons why he thought perhaps it was unsustainable that Aboriginal people continue to live on community. I would say it is our responsibility as a state government, and as a federal government, to ensure that there are job opportunities and that we have the capacity to do that with the levers that we pull with state contracts. Here in South Australia we should be making


sure that there are these job opportunities with any state contract that undertakes work on Aboriginal land, be that APY, Anangu people's land, or other Aboriginal communities across this state. The roads project currently being rolled out on the APY is an absolutely prime example of this. Anangu should be employed in those projects. We should be ensuring that Anangu people can actually take the jobs and not shipping non-Anangu into those jobs.

Tomorrow on Parliament House steps, I am sure we will see some colourful protest. The protest will leave Victoria Square at 12 noon tomorrow lunchtime and then proceed down here to Parliament House to let this place know, as one of many dozens of protests across the country, that people are not going to accept this issue being steamrolled through. People do not see people living on Aboriginal communities, on their homelands in their home countries, as a lifestyle choice. A lifestyle choice that is probably not sustainable by the taxpayer is more akin to a situation where perhaps Prime Minister Tony Abbott should look at not having Kirribilli as the second prime ministerial residence. Surely that is a lifestyle choice that the taxpayer is currently funding that need not continue.

Tomorrow I will be standing on Parliament House steps. I will support South Australia's Aboriginal communities to have self determination, to have opportunity, to have real lifestyle choices of actually having their culture recognised and being able to maintain their connection to country. That is a lifestyle choice that I hope members of this place will come out and support on the steps of Parliament House tomorrow on Close the Gap Day.

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