The naming of the Child Protection Minister to oversee the withdrawal of services from many Aboriginal communities is a poor start to State Government consultation with Aboriginal people.
Premier Colin Barnett today revealed Child Protection Minister Helen Morton and Regional Development Minister Terry Redman would lead the process, reporting to the Aboriginal Affairs Cabinet Sub-Committee.
Aboriginal Health Council of WA Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox said the linking of service withdrawal to the welfare of children was a slur on all Aboriginal people.
“The original justification Colin Barnett used for withdrawing services from Aboriginal communities was the cost of providing these services,” Ms Nelson-Cox said.
“Following the very strong reaction he got to this policy here in WA, as well as around the country and around the world, he belatedly introduced the issue of child protection to try to justify his attempts to save money.
“None of the fact sheets released today by Mr Barnett provide any evidence that children are at greater risk in remote Aboriginal communities. The fact sheets almost exclusively talk about money.
“Our experience is that the health and wellbeing of many Aboriginal people is far better in Aboriginal communities than in cities and towns, where exposure to drugs and alcohol is higher, with associated higher levels of incarceration and youth suicide.
“Aboriginal communities are vitally important to the health, wellbeing and continuing culture of Aboriginal people, and it is a shame that Mr Barnett didn’t acknowledge that today.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said that AHCWA would work with its member services in the Kimberley and Pilbara to ensure they were represented in the State Government’s consultation process.
“It is vital that the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people are considered in any decisions around the provision of services to Aboriginal communities.
“I wrote to the Premier in December, asking for the Aboriginal Health Sector to be consulted and included in any discussions within government about this policy. To date, we have not been consulted.
“The key thing Mr Barnett and the State Government need to understand is that connection to country is vital to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people.
“If you remove services from communities and make it difficult for people to live there, then you will be making it difficult for Aboriginal people to maintain connection to country, with the permanent loss of culture the inevitable result.
“In recent history, we have experienced the disastrous affects on the health and wellbeing of the Stolen Generation, following removal from country and the loss of identity and culture that resulted.”