An angry crowd of about 800 people have shouted down the West Australian premier during a rally at Parliament House against plans to close up to 150 remote Indigenous communities.
The rally was part of a national day of action, which included protests outside Parliament House in both Canberra and Adelaide, and Kirribilli House in Sydney.
The movement gained momentum after Prime Minister Tony Abbott questioned whether taxpayers should subsidise people living in remote areas as a ‘lifestyle’ choice.
The WA government plan to review the viability of 274 communities sparked outrage when it emerged last year and was blamed on the commonwealth cutting funding for essential services, leaving a ‘parting gift’ of $90 million that would only last two to three years.
On Thursday, Colin Barnett tried in vain to placate the protesters, who shouted ‘close the gap, not communities’, ‘racist’ and ‘genocide’.
‘I just want to make a few comments if you wish to listen,’ he said.
‘First, can I acknowledge the struggle of Aboriginal people – I say that quite genuinely.
‘People will not be forced from their traditional lands. That will not happen.
‘But I want to tell you about the challenge that we face.’
Mr Barnett didn’t get much of a chance to speak of that challenge, with the protesters booing when he said: ‘If you want put yourself for just a minute in my shoes.’
The premier was also shoved by a woman after he addressed the crowd, but no complaint has been made to police.