Closure Of Aboriginal Settlements In Australia To Spark More Protests

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Trees grow in a dried-up river bed in the Pilbara region of Western Australia December 2, 2013.
IN PHOTO: Trees grow in a dried-up river bed in the Pilbara region of Western Australia December 2, 2013. Western Australia's Pilbara region, which is the size of Spain, has the world's largest known deposits of iron ore and supplies nearly 45 percent of global trade in the mineral. Picture taken December 2. REUTERS/David Gray

Australia is moving to close its remote Aboriginal communities since the government believes they are no longer sustainable. A new wave of protests is being planned for next week across the country.

Western Australia had previously said it can no longer afford to support basic services for communities in remote areas. The government said indigenous communities are hampered by social problems like drug and alcohol abuse. Reports of child sexual abuse and low school attendance rates were also cited as reasons for closure.

The government has already closed one remote community, Oombulgurri, with a population of 100. In November, its lone shop, school and hospital were shut down as the settlement was flattened by a bulldozer after all the residents have gone.

Aboriginal groups in Australia believe they have spiritual connection with the land of their ancestors. They said the government should pay to eliminate the social problems rather than shut down communities.

The indigenous communities argue that the government is planning to evict more Aboriginals to pave the way for coal and uranium mining. “This is white man’s greed,” said aboriginal community leader Jenny Monroe. She accused the government of creating “victims of trauma” and reiterated that the indigenous law is the law of the land.

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett said more than 100 remote communities will be closed resulting in a resettlement of thousands of residents. Mr Abbott had backed the move and declared it was not the job of taxpayers to subsidize “lifestyle choices.”

The prime minister’s comments had angered the Aborginal leaders, prompting rallies in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Earlier in the month, more than 10,000 Australians marched in Melbourne in protest of the government’s plans. More protests are expected in the coming weeks, reports The Guardian.

Following the protests, the government has backed away from its earlier plans of shutting down several communities. “This is no longer a story about a potential hit list of 150 communities to close,” said Michael Tetlow, a spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier. He added that it was a long-term project, which would take years with “no end point.”

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