Starving Aboriginal communities of essential services will effectively force families to abandon their traditional land and move into larger towns and cities.

Amnesty International accuses the federal and Northern Territory governments of policies that echo Australia’s failed assimilation era by stripping traditional Indigenous communities - ‘homelands’ - of funds.

The criticisms are made in a new Amnesty International research report ‘The land holds us’: Aboriginal peoples’ rights to traditional homelands in the Northern Territory released in Canberra today.

The report documents how Aboriginal peoples’ rights to traditional lands, culture, informed consent and adequate housing are being undermined.

“In essence, government is abandoning one third of the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal population, and leaving 500 communities to wither,” said Claire Mallinson, National Director, Amnesty International Australia.

“Over twenty years of research confirm Aboriginal people living on homelands are healthier and live longer. With basic services like health, education, water and housing, people can lead more fulfilling lives on homelands, says Claire Mallinson.

“Aboriginal people have a right to live on their traditional lands.”

The report outlines the ongoing struggle of those living on their Utopia homelands about 260km north-east of Alice Springs - a community left behind by a government push to resource just 21 ‘Growth Towns’ in the Northern Territory. It focuses on the toll of underinvestment in housing on these homelands, predicting the situation is set to get worse.

“We must stop this, and we must remain on our country,” said Rosalie Kunoth-Monks Alyawarr/Anmatyerr elder, Utopia homelands.

“It’s not attachment to the land, it’s survival of a cultural practice that is still alive in spite of what has been thrown at it,” said Rosalie Kunoth-Monks.

In addition, the organisation calls for the full and equal participation in government policy of those directly affected – the Aboriginal people living on their homelands.

“These moves are part of a chain of policy and legal changes that have undermined Indigenous rights. The Aboriginal people’s strong desire to sustain communities on their traditional lands must be supported by the federal and Northern Territory governments,” said Claire Mallinson.

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