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Indigenous community boycotts WA election

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 22 February 2005

A tiny Aboriginal community in Western Australia's Kimberley has boycotted the state election, claiming its needs have been ignored by both of the major parties for the past decade.

Electoral officers travelled to the Ngalingkadji community, near Fitzroy Crossing, to conduct mobile polling for the election.

But the community's eligible voters refused to vote, saying residents have been fighting for funding for housing maintenance for the past 10 years, without any success.

The community's chairwoman, Topsy Chestnut, says the state of housing is a disgrace and residents are disappointed with their treatment.

"We have voted for people before and they came and asked for support and we supported them. We voted for them, but when they get to the top, that's it. Goodbye to us. Never look back to us again you know," she said.

Labor's candidate for the seat of Central Kimberley-Pilbara, Tom Stephens, admits the community's housing is in desperate need of an upgrade.

But Mr Stephens says the State Government has recently allocated an additional $500,000 to the community to meet its maintenance backlog.

"As recently as last Friday they had available to them the architects that will be working on their housing upgrades to meet the needs of that community, despite the frustrating experience they've had at the hands of the federal funding source ATSIC [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission] and the decision makers at the ATSIC regional council," he said.

But the community says the funding is still not enough to repair each of its 14 houses and have vowed to continue their protest.

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