Abbott in Arnhem

The Herald reports:

, Australia’s Prime Minister, has moved into a tent in a far-flung stretch of Outback bushland to govern the nation for a week from a tiny Aboriginal community.

In an unprecedented move by an Australian leader, whose usual residence is a stately 1920s house in Canberra, Abbott has shifted the seat of government to the outskirts of Yirrkala, a remote Aboriginal township in Arnhem Land, northern Australia with a population of 843.

He will govern from a canvas tent – complete with secure phone and video lines for Cabinet meetings and calls to international leaders – and has brought with him some of the nation’s top civil servants, who are also staying in tents. …

The visit is also part of Abbott’s attempt to address the plight of the nation’s Aborigines, who have far higher rates of infant mortality, disease, imprisonment and poverty.

As an MP, Abbott frequently stayed in Aboriginal communities and he promised that if elected he would spend a week each year ruling from a remote indigenous township.

“For an entire week, Aboriginal people will have my full focus and attention as prime minister,” he said.

Abbott will also hold discussions this week on his plan for a nationwide referendum to change the constitution to recognise Aborigines as the nation’s first peoples.

But he has indicated that any such symbolic gestures of reconciliation should be accompanied by moves to improve the economic well-being of Australia’s 700,000-odd Aborigines.

What a smart way to get the media to focus on the plight of Australia’s Aborigines, and to stay grounded in the community.

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