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"No, Prime Minister, being Indigenous is NOT a 'lifestyle choice'."

Amy Maree is an Indigenous Woman of the Wiradjuri people in NSW. She writes here on why Tony Abbott is “racist and out of touch” by describing remote Aboriginal communities as a “lifestyle choice”.

Yesterday, Tony Abbott made a mistake. He has made a few, but I believe it was one of his biggest yet.

Yesterday this man, made yet another ‘captain’s call’ in a statement that I can only describe as disgusting and embarrassing for all Australians. He thought it was appropriate to minimise our remote Aboriginal communities and over 40,000 years of history to “a lifestyle choice.”

Aboriginal children who have made the “lifestyle choice” to live in an Indigenous community.

It was a statement made in relation to the WA Governments decision to close up to 150 of the state’s remote Aboriginal communities after the Federal Government, announced in September it was transitioning the responsibility of the communities over to the States.

He said, the decision to close communities was not unreasonable.

“If people choose to live miles away from where there’s a school, if people choose not to access the school of the area, if people choose to live where there’s no jobs, obviously it’s very, very difficult to close the gap.

“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… 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,” he said.

Read more: Tony Abbott calls living in Indigenous communities a ‘lifestyle choice’.

As I sat and took in what Mr Abbott was saying I realised that never have I been more embarrassed to call myself Australian.

Yesterday our self-appointed (but hugely unwanted) ‘Prime Minister for Indigenous affairs’ showed once again how racist and out of touch he really is with his lack of understanding about our traditional ways.

The cultures that are very alive within this Country are the oldest remaining in the world, they are something that need to be embraced and supported, but yesterday he declared he supported nothing more than the attempted destruction of these cultures.

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Aboriginal culture is alive and well in Australia and should be celebrated not dismissed as Abbott has done. Image via Getty.
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What you are effectively doing to these communities is modern-day colonisation and forced assimilation. This should not be allowed to continue, not at any level of government, on either side.

“We cultivated our land, but in a way different from the white man. We endeavoured to live with the land; they seemed to live off it. I was taught to preserve, never to destroy.” – Tom Dystra Aboriginal Elder.

Aboriginal Law and life originates in and is governed by the land. Connection to land gives Aboriginal people their identity and a sense of belonging. It is a spiritual, physical, social and cultural connection.

To dismiss this affinity as a ‘lifestyle choice’ is extremely disrespectful to the elders past and present, our traditional ways, and all Aboriginal people. It is our responsibility to maintain the culture we have and remain connected to our land and it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that services are provided to make this possible for our people.

Tony Abbott has proved yet again he is out of touch.

‘Assimilation policies’ don’t work. He has forgotten that Australia has tried to implement ‘assimilation policies’ for our Indigenous communities in the past and they failed in every possible way. They caused generations of trauma and loss that continues to affect Indigenous communities, families and individuals today.

People often like to counter with ridiculous statements like “it happened 200 years ago, get over it” or “no-one alive today did those things.”

The truth is, it’s still happening today, it never stopped.

Reviving outdated policies that have failed previously and cutting funding to essential services will only result in forced removal from traditional lands and loss of important cultural connections.

Amy recommends visiting the ‘Blackfulla Revolution‘ Facebook that looks at the real issues affecting Aboriginal people.

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