This NAIDOC week, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar is calling for more investment into remote housing and communities for First Nations people.
More and more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are returning to the safety of their homelands as a result of the ongoing threat of COVID-19.
But commissioner Oscar says a lack of government investment into critical infrastructure could threaten their return and result in the closure of First Nations communities.
She says the pandemic has once again exposed the severe underinvestment into our communities, despite their potential.
“This is across housing, roads, infrastructure, and in developing real and viable economies. There has been reports in various jurisdictions showing that this is true.”
“The recent Auditor-General’s Report in Western Australia, into the delivery of municipal services to remote communities stated that Western Australia cannot afford the cost of supporting remote communities since the Commonwealth cut funding to municipal services delivery.”
In 2018, the commonwealth’s remote housing agreement ended with Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland and so far, has not been replaced.
“The real cost of the commonwealth walking away from these agreements and all governments failing to respond to our needs has entrenched human suffering, abuse, and a deep scarring of this land,” Ms Oscar said.
“It shows the disregard of governments at all levels to invest effectively in the places where we live.”
The proud Bunaba woman is demanding action and a national response to supporting housing, not just in the cities and urban areas.
“We need a national response to supporting housing and communities wherever our peoples live, with an explicit intent to sustain the viability of our homeland communities on our journey to heal country. National frameworks, like Closing the Gap and the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Wiyi Yani U Thangani report show us how to take immediate action, so there’s no excuse,” Commissioner Oscar said.
“If this doesn’t happen, closure of communities will be inevitable and our homelands, emptied of people, will be left to ruin. This would be an indictment on Australia. First Nations’ occupation of country is not a lifestyle choice, it matters to the future health of this land and the health of this nation.”
The National Indigenous Radio Service recently sat down with Commissioner June Oscar to yarn about NAIDOC week, this year’s theme Heal Country, and the lack of government funding in First Nations communities.