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    A file photo taken on November 12, 2013, shows Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott holding his fighting boomerang while talking to an Aboriginal performer at the opening of the 44th Parliament in Canberra. Abbott faced a wave of criticism on March 11, 2015

    Abbott Infuriates Aboriginal Communities Over Lifestyle Choice Remark

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    Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's public support for a plan to shut down over 100 Aboriginal communities and relocate some 1,000 Aboriginal Australians disappointed indigenous people.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott raised eyebrows for saying indigenous people in the country's remote areas are making a lifestyle choice as opposed to preserving cultural heritage, the Australian Broadcasting Network (ABC) reported Wednesday.

    Abbott's comments came Tuesday as he voiced support for a plan to shut down over 100 Aboriginal communities and relocate some 1,000 Aboriginal Australians closer to more populated areas with more accessible public services.

    "I think it is a very disappointing and hopeless statement by the Prime Minister," Noel Pearson, an Aboriginal Australian lawyer and land rights activist, told the broadcaster.

    According to Pearson, the Australian government's proposal is part of a policy "thought bubble" that has not been expressed in writing and does not contain a sustainable plan for the community's future.

    "There was time in our history when they kicked us out of town and now they want to bring us back in just by a flick of the policy switch," Pearson said.

    Although Aboriginal Australians retain unique status in the country, they remain unacknowledged by the Australian constitution and Canberra does not recognize the legal force of the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.

    "What we can't do is endlessly subsidize lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have," Abbott said Tuesday.

    Meanwhile, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues member of Aboriginal descent, Megan Davis, told Sputnik late last month that Abbott's policy toward the indigenous peoples failed to close a longstanding gap in life expectancy and early childhood education.

    Moreover, Davis said, Canberra's approach is that Aboriginal Australians "should live the same life as other Australians… [which] has no regard for cultural choices."

    Known for numerous off-the-cuff remarks that landed him in hot water previously, Abbott has nonetheless survived a confidence vote early February, retaining his seat despite accusations of being unwilling to listen to other opinions in decision-making.

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    indigenous peoples, Tony Abbott, Australia
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