'Refugee Camp' For Aboriginal People Moved Off Remote Communities Ordered To Close


An Aboriginal refugee camp set up off Perth as a place of sanctuary for people in remote communities who could be displaced off their homelands under proposals by the Barnett government is in danger of being torn down.

The City of Perth has extended a stay of execution until midday today, the ABC reports. The camp was originally told they had to move by Thursday 12 pm.

The camp is set up on Matagarup, also known as Heirisson Island, just off Perth and was the site of the Nyoongar Tent Embassy in 2012, established to protest the Barnett government’s billion dollar deal to settle the historic Single Nyoongar Claim over Perth. The Tent Embassy were protesting the extinguishment of this native title.

The Single Nyoongar Claim was significant because it was the first Native Title win over a capital city.The WA government immediately appealed the decision.

Those protesters were forced off the embassy by police in a showdown in 2012.  

The embassy was revived and turned into a refugee camp in protest of the Colin Barnett government’s plans to shut down an estimated 150 remote Aboriginal communities after the Commonwealth withdrew from funding infrastructure and municipal services.

The Barnett government is claiming these communities are unviable, and that a review will uncover instances of child abuse and domestic violence.

The plans have been condemned by many Aboriginal leaders across the country.

A spotlight was placed on Barnett’s proposed remote closures after Prime Minister Tony Abbott said earlier this week that the taxpayer shouldn’t be expected to fund “lifestyle choices”.

Nyoongar activist Marianne McKay told New Matilda last week “this is how we feel as Aboriginal people. We feel like refugees in our own country”.

A spokeswoman for the city of Perth told ABC that camping was not permitted under the island’s local laws.

But Ms McKay told New Matilda last week that the state’s heritage laws mean protesters have a right to be there to undertake traditional practices.

Despite the deadline, the City spokesperson said action might not be taken today, even if protesters don’t move off.

The threats of eviction follow the controversy over the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Redfern, which was ordered to move last month by the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC).

The embassy was set up to protest a controversial commercial development project by the AHC – the Pemulwuy Project. There is no word yet on whether the AHC will make good on its threats.

A Darumbul woman from central Queensland, Amy McQuire is the former editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine.