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Issue #1671      February 4, 2015

Noongar Native Title under cloud

In the lead up to Invasion Day (January 26), the Western Australian government announced that it was seeking settlement of the nine year old Noongar Native Title Claim with the South West Land and Sea Council.

While the government and the South West Land and Sea Council – which was responsible for negotiating the original claim in 2006, are quietly confident that the settlement will be accepted, Noongar elders representing the six clan groups of the Noongar people which make up the claim accuse the proponents of the group of selling out on their culture and heritage.

Protester and elder Richard Wilkes labelled the proposal a “sham”, which would not benefit the majority. Another respected Elder Ben Taylor said that Mr Kelly wanted to give away too much and that “The land is our mother. We don’t want money when there isn’t any money. They just want to give us back our reserves when what we want is access to land.”

The SW Land and Sea council’s chief executive officer disagreed saying there had been strong interest from the community with many people pre-registering for the vote.

Over the next few weeks there will be a road show travelling to the major regional south west centres within the area of the Noongar Native claim to explain the significance of the settlement and giving people the opportunity to vote on the deal.

The Noongar opponents of the Native Title Claim see the settlement as an attempt to extinguish Aboriginal claim to their land through the payment of $1.3 billion over 12 years into a Noongar Future Fund.

While the then ALP government of Premier Geoff Gallop in 2006 appealed the decision they were never entirely successful in knocking off the very comprehensive and extensively researched Native Title Claim.

In 2014, the Liberal government of Premier Colin Barnett decided to protect its interests and that of the capitalist state, and made the deal with the SW Land and Sea Council which would have the effect of extinguishing any native title claims over the south west into perpetuity.

The money from the $1.3 billion deal would in theory be used to run “cultural programs to reinvigorate connection to country through songs, ceremonies, engaging elders as teachers and supporting people to get onto country – country which would then be no longer recognised as being that of the Noongar people”.

However, elders representing the six clan groups of the Noongar people claim that up to 80 percent of their people oppose the land title deal which the SW Land and Sea Council and WA state government had put together.

It is believed by this group that the actual value of the resources which remain locked up in the south west in the form of various minerals and hydrocarbons such as shale gas is worth a lot more to the Liberal state government, resource mining and large agricultural land use interests than the value of the deal being put to the Noongar people.

The Noongar people which the opposing elders represent know once the money runs out they will have nothing and the Noongar people will collectively be nothing to the white Australian state.

While the proponents of the land deal say that the alternative to the deal is ongoing litigation, it is also argued that a negotiated settlement is possible and one which would be in the majority of the interests of the Noongar people of the south west.

Next article – Manus reprisals continue

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