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Serious concern over Federal plans to hand off responsibility for services in Aboriginal communities

The Australian Greens have expressed serious concerns that services for Aboriginal communities will be compromised by a deal which will see the Federal Government move responsibility for their municipal and essential services to the states.

"The Federal Government has made a point of emphasising its successful ‘historic agreement' to hand responsibility for municipal and essential services in remote Aboriginal communities to the states, but it is clear that this deal is far from perfect," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues said today.

"The handover of responsibility of these services has been on the Commonwealth's agenda for a long time and communities have had serious concerns about this handover and what it means for their communities. While the Minister seems to think he has achieved a long term solution I don't think that is likely."

"Comments published today indicated that the WA Government is a long way from being in step with the Federal Government, with concerns over a shortfall in funding and the impacts on residents of those communities. The WA Government is suggesting that around 180 remote Aboriginal communities will be affected, and that the money offered by the Federal Government will cover only two years of services.

"I am concerned that while governments bicker between themselves, communities who are crying out for better investments in critical services will be forgotten. The financial pressure of this transition could lead to the States making cuts to services or looking to close remote communities.

"The Federal Government cannot jepoardise the delivery of essential services to remote community by hurriedly handing this responsibility off to the states. Doing so has the potential to serious undermine efforts to close the gap and can lead to a range of health and community concerns.

"I am calling on the Federal Government to ensure that any move to transition the provision of these services to the states guarantees adequate funding into the long term and robust, transparent monitoring processes to ensure communities do not lose out," Senator Siewert concluded.

Greens Robin Chapple WA State Parliament spokesperson for Aboriginal affairs was also highly critical of the move.

"WA is already failing to service remote Aboriginal communities and has already closed some and as Minister Marmion has pointed out this may mean more closures into the future," Mr Chapple said today.

"There seems to be a predilection with governments at both the federal and state level to dump on those who can least afford it.

"There are massive social and economic costs in closing communities as have been experienced by the closure of Oombulgurri and its pending demolition, heavily criticised by Amnesty International Australia.

"We don't go around closing small rural towns half the size of many of these communities, so why shouldn't Aboriginal communities by nurtured on their lands and in their towns places they have lived for thousands of years.

"This is just another short term bean counting exercise that will undo the good work of the last 40 years and provide a cost explosion in relocation and social breakdown into the future," Mr Chapple concluded.

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