MASHABLE.COM – Australian actor Hugh Jackman has joined forces with Australian sportsmen to urge the government to reconsider closing down remote Indigenous communities.
Last week, Western Australia’s Premier Colin Barnett announced a plan to close 150 Indigenous communities in remote areas of the state and relocate more than 1,000 residents. The state government believes it is “not sustainable” to support the communities after the federal government cut funding to essential services.
On Mar. 10, Prime Minister Tony Abbott supported the Western Australian government’s proposal, stating the country can’t support “lifestyle choices.”
“What we can’t do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have,” Abbott told ABC Radio. “Fine, by all means live in a remote location, but there’s a limit to what you can expect the state to do for you if you want to live there.”
Critics were quick to slam Abbott’s remarks, with the chair of the government’s Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren Mundine, saying the comments angered many in the community.
“People are living in these communities not because of lifestyle choices but because of very strong cultural and religious reasons. People have got to understand that for indigenous people in Australia, their country is the essence of their being,” Mundine told BBC Australia.
Protests have been held across Western Australia, with more than 700 people protesting on the steps of State Parliament in Perth on Thursday.
On Friday, following a call from activists on Twitter, Jackman showed his support for Indigenous Australians with an Instagram post.
“While living in a remote community, I came to understand that “connection” to the land is a fundamental part of Indigenous identity,” he wrote. “Think about the past, have quality conversations.”
Jackman talked candidly in 2011 about the time he spent in a remote outback community as a student, helping build houses. He said the experience helped him “grow up” and it had a profound affect on him as a person. “I was inspired by the family, I was inspired by their community, I was inspired by their culture, their togetherness,” Jackman told George Stroumboulopoulos on his Canadian talk show.