PM’s “lifestyle choice” comments show lack of respect for Land Rights

11 March 2015

PM's "lifestyle choice" comments show lack of respect for Land Rights

The Prime Minister's description of Aboriginal people's rights to live on country as a "lifestyle choice" is regrettable and shows a lack of respect for the significance of land to Aboriginal people, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) said today.

NSWALC Chair Craig Cromelin said the comments indicated an ignorance of the critical importance of land to Aboriginal people and the ongoing impact of dispossession on the lives of people.

"Connection to country is everything to Aboriginal people - it defines Aboriginal people and sustains us in a cultural and spiritual sense and can play a vital role in building economic independence, self-determination and healing.

"The Land Rights network will be stunned that the Prime Minister, who says he is prepared to sweat blood to recognise Indigenous people in the nation's Constitution, could make these hurtful comments.

"Coupled with his declaration last year that our land was 'unsettled' prior to the arrival of the British, many will see the Prime Minister as a monarchist who doesn't believe in the rights of Aboriginal people."

Mr Cromelin said the fact that the comments were made in the context of a Western Australian Government policy to move Aboriginal people on from their traditional lands was a wake-up call to the Land Rights network.

He said the Prime Minister's support for West Australian Government's policy violated the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples signed by the Australia Government in 2009.

Article 10 of the Declaration states:

"Indigenous peoples shall not be removed from their lands by force. They shall not be relocated without their agreement. Where they agree, they should be provided compensation, and, where possible, have the possibility to return."

Mr Cromelin said the Prime Minister's support for the West Australian Government left him open to questions about his real agenda.

"The Prime Minister started the week displaying open contempt for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture over Australia's treatment of asylum seekers and is now riding roughshod over the rights of Aboriginal people to live on their own country."

"Aboriginal people were the first owners of the lands and waters of Australia and the rights of Aboriginal people to access land must be defended.

"Much of modern Australian history celebrates the exploits of people who have received government support to live a lifestyle in remote parts of Australia. In the process, Aboriginal people were dispossessed from their lands and left to live a lifestyle defined by discrimination, assimilation and a lower life expectancy."

Media contact: Andrew Williams 0429 585 291