Starved of essential services, Aboriginal people living in traditional Indigenous communities in Australia’s Northern Territory will effectively be forced to abandon their homelands and move into larger towns.
The warning is made in a new Amnesty International research report, "The land holds us": Aboriginal peoples' rights to traditional homelands released today.
The report documents how Aboriginal peoples’ rights to traditional lands, culture, informed consent and adequate housing are being undermined in Australia.
“In essence, government is abandoning one third of the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal population, and leaving 500 communities to wither,” said Claire Mallinson, National Director Amnesty International Australia.
“Aboriginal people have a right to their traditional lands. With proper services like health, education, water and housing, people can lead healthier and more fulfilling lives on homelands,” said Claire Mallinson.
“While Indigenous populations in other parts of the world face bulldozers and violence, here in Australia it is paper clips and policy that offer the same threat and bring same potential for international shame,” said Claire Mallinson.
The report outlines the ongoing struggle of those living on their Utopia homelands about 260km north-east of Alice Springs - a community left behind by a government push to resource just 21 "Growth Towns" in the Northern Territory. It focuses on the toll of underinvestment in housing on these homelands, predicting the situation is set to get worse.
“We must stop this, and we must remain on our country. It’s not attachment to the land, it’s survival of a cultural practice that is still alive in spite of what has been thrown at it,” said Rosalie Kunoth-Monks Alyawarr/Anmatyerr elder, Utopia homelands.
“You are nothing unless you are on your country because that country actually owns you,” said Rosalie Kunoth-Monks.
In addition, the organisation calls for the full and equal participation in government policy of those directly affected – the Aboriginal people living on their homelands.
“These moves are part of a chain of policy and legal changes that have undermined Indigenous rights. The Aboriginal people’s strong desire to sustain communities on their traditional lands should, instead, be supported by the federal and Northern Territory governments,” said Claire Mallinson.