NZ MPs support Aboriginal protest over proposed closure of indigenous communities

By Heeni Brown

Plans to close more than 100 remote indigenous communities in Western Australia is being supported by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Late last year Aboriginal elders led a protest outside of state parliament against it and this week they're being backed by Māori politicians here in New Zealand.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is very familiar with remote Aboriginal communities, but his comments about them have got Aboriginal leaders asking for a retraction.

He was in Kalgoorlie this week and Abbott says he's backing the WA Government to close down around 150 communities.

Tony Abbott says, "What we can't do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices. If those lifestyle choices are not conclusive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have."

There are about 250 indigenous communities in Western Australia, home to about 15,000 people.  Some have as few as five people, others have as many as 500.

Most are in the Kimberley region in the far north of Western Australia where the Government there plans to close as many as 150 of the smallest communities.

Here in New Zealand, Tāmaki Makaurau MP says he's not surprised with the Australian government's motives.

Peeni Henare says, “If aboriginal communities are ripped from their communities, and look at us Māori, we're the example of people being ripped from their communities, they'll be lost.  That's what'll happen to those in Australia if the Prime Minister there goes through with it.”

Here in New Zealand, the Māori Party says Māori politicians need to stand together on this issue and support the Aboriginal communities affected.

Marama Fox says, “We're lucky we have the Treaty, they don't have a treaty, so they're relying on their relationships to help pursue what they want and need, but we're here, we're the backbone for them against the Government.”

While there is Māori support for Australia's First Nations who disagree with moves from their Prime Minister, Abbott says he knows what's best for the Aboriginal people of Australia. 

Abbott says, "I'm very comfortable with my credentials when it comes to doing the right thing by the Aboriginal people of Australia."