WA remote communities closure: Heirisson Island Refugee camp given 24-hour reprieve

Heirisson Island camp given reprieve

security officers
Herbert Bropho (right) and fellow security officers stand at the entrance to a camp set up on Perth's Heirisson Island, set up in response to the WA Government's plan to close remote Aboriginal communities.

(ABC News: Rebecca Trigger)

Rebecca Trigger ABC News 12 March 2015

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A camp on Perth's Heirisson Island set up in response to the planned closure of remote Aboriginal communities has been granted a stay of execution, after the city extended the deadline on an order to tear it down.

The island camp, which lies just east of the city's CBD, was set up about 10 days ago.

Campers had been told to remove the tents, couches, tables and chairs by 12pm Thursday, but the City of Perth has now extended that deadline to 12pm Friday.

A spokeswoman for the city said camping was not permitted under local laws on the island, which has playground equipment, a toilet block and grassed areas which overlooks the Swan River.

The new deadline was to give people time to remove the tents, couches and tables and chairs that have mushroomed on the island.

The spokeswoman said the city did have the option to remove the campsite but they would not necessarily take it once Friday's deadline had passed.

The camp has been described by occupants as a "refugee camp" for people displaced by the Western Australian Government's planned closure of up to 150 of the state's 274 remote Indigenous communities.

The State Government flagged the withdrawal of services to remote Aboriginal communities last year, after the Commonwealth announced it was cutting off its own funding.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday backed the State Government's plan, saying "what we can't do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices".

Heirisson Island, also known as Matagarup, is a significant cultural site for the local Nyoongar people.

It was the scene of a major confrontation between police and Aboriginal activists in 2012, after a Nyoongar tent embassy was set up on the site to protest a $1.3 billion native title agreement over the state's south west.

That protest, which also saw people camping on the site for more than a month, was shut down after police removed tents and sleeping gear and moved people on.