Indigenous AFL players speak out against closure of remote Aboriginal communities
Indigenous AFL players have joined an online campaign to stop remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia from being closed.
The WA government intends to close about 150 remote communities after responsibility for delivering their essential services moved from the federal government to the states.
The plan has been criticised by Aboriginal leaders and sparked widespread anger, with about 700 people attending an at-times rowdy protest in Perth on Thursday.
Hawthorn player Shaun Burgoyne posted a photo on Twitter on Thursday showing the midfielder alongside fellow indigenous teammates Bradley Hill, Cyril Rioli and Jed Anderson with a sign saying: "Stop the forced closure of Aboriginal communities".
Indigenous Melbourne players Jeff Garlett, Neville Jetta and Jay Kennedy-Harris have also appeared on social media holding the sign, as has non-Indigenous Melbourne player Heritier Lumumba.
Former Essendon player Nathan Lovett-Murray has appeared with the same message.
There has been a large social media campaign against the closures, which has drawn support from high-profile figures including Australian Hollywood star Hugh Jackman.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott sparked a storm of criticism last week when he voiced support for the planned closures, commenting that taxpayers should not be expected to fund the "lifestyle choices" of Australians living in remote communities.
"If you or I chose to live in a very remote place, to what extent is the taxpayer obliged to subsidise our services and, I think, this is a very real question," Mr Abbott told Sydney radio station 2GB last Wednesday.
"It is incredibly difficult for the kids to go to school, if there’s only half a dozen of them, and getting teachers there is all but impossible.
"Similarly, it’s very difficult for the adults to get a proper job if there’s no employment within hundreds of miles and this is where we have to be a little bit realistic."
Mr Abbott’s own chief adviser on indigenous affairs, Warren Mundine, said the Prime Minister’s comments were " a complete misconception".
"It is not about a lifestyle? It is about thousands of years’ connection, their religious beliefs and the essence of who they are," Mr Mundine said.
The Prime Minister has arranged a meeting in coming weeks with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Indigenous leaders to address a number of issues, including remote communities, funding cuts to Indigenous programs and constitutional recognition.