Aboriginal body fights closure plan

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WA's peak Aboriginal health body has declared its opposition to the withdrawal of services from remote communities, saying it could worsen health outcomes for indigenous people.

The Aboriginal Health Council WA, representing 21 health services around the State, plans to co-ordinate a public advertising campaign opposing community closures, targeting Colin Barnett's Cottesloe electorate and regional centres including Port Hedland, Karratha, Carnarvon and Kalgoorlie.

The Premier has cited the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases in Aboriginal children in support of closing "unviable" communities.

In _The West Australian _ yesterday, Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan threw his weight behind the plan, saying the true extent of offending was under- reported by as much as 90 per cent in some communities.

AHCWA chairwoman Michelle Nelson-Cox said the organisation believed that withdrawing services would have a catastrophic impact on the health and well- being of many Aboriginal people.

"By withdrawing services from Aboriginal communities, Colin Barnett is going to force thousands of Aboriginal people into regional cities and towns where there are already thousands of people waiting for public housing," she said. "This will see homelessness in these cities and towns increase, with all the social problems that come from that.

"Further, our experience is that Aboriginal people living in cities and towns have a much higher exposure to alcohol and drugs, with higher rates of incarceration and suicide."

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier urged remote community leaders not to panic and pleaded for patience, promising they would be consulted.

"The framework for implementation with regard to service delivery in remote communities is being finalised at the moment," he said.

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