The Department of Defence has moved to quell rumours that the Australian Army is being used to move Aboriginal people out of remote communities in Western Australia.
The rumour, which gathered momentum on Sunday and showed no signs of abating by today, is false.
A spokesperson for the Australian Defence Force said the Army could not comment on "rumours", however New Matilda has confirmed that the West Australian Government cannot task the Army to do anything, let alone remove Aboriginal people from their communities.
The rumour appears to based on true revelations that the West Australian Barnett Government is planning to axe funding to remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.
It followed a $90 million deal struck by the Abbott Government earlier this year, which saw the transfer of responsibilities for remote Aboriginal communities from the Commonwealth to the states and territories.
In turn, the West Australian government announced it would no longer fund around 150 remote outstation communities.
Barnett’s move comes despite widespread evidence that Aboriginal people are healthier, happier and safer living in remote communities.
A study in 2006 by the Menzies School of Health Research found that in the Utopia region in the Northern Territory, morbidity rates were as much as 50 per cent lower in Utopia than for the rest of the Territory.
Utopia has a population of around 2,500, and is a region of small outstation communities, serviced by a hub in a small town called Arlparra, 350kms north east of Alice Springs. The study put the outcome down to Aboriginal people living healthier, semi-traditional lifestyles, away from the trouble of larger centres.
Of course, the Australian Army has been used to ‘invade’ Aboriginal communities before – in 2007, the Army was brought in during the launch of the Howard Government’s Northern Territory intervention.
That policy, enacted by the Liberals with the support of Labor – and then run for five years and extended by Labor – has seen a more than quadrupling of attempted suicide and self harm rates in NT Aboriginal communities, a substantial increase in alcohol consumption, drops in school attendance numbers and a massive increase in Aboriginal unemployment.
When it was introduced, the NT intervention also resulted in widespread reports of starvation among Aboriginal people, after their basic welfare entitlements were ‘quarantined’ by the government.
The NT intervention, launched on the back of sensationalist reporting by ABC’s Lateline program, has been branded ‘racist’ by the United Nations, and widely condemned by Aboriginal leaders around the country.
Liberal Party documents leaked at the time revealed the Howard government – staring down the barrel of electoral defeat – was advised that its best hope of re-election was to ‘intervene’ in the affairs of state and territory governments, all of which were Labor, and try and depict them as incompetent.
The NT intervention was launched within 24 hours of the government receiving that advice.
The policy continues today under the guise of legislation titled, ‘Stronger Futures’, which was extended for a further 10 years under the Gillard government.
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