The following is abridged from a September 29 statement issued by a delegation of north Queensland Indigenous traditional owners in Canberra. They went to meet Opposition leader Tony Abbott to ask him to drop his move to overturn Queensland’s Wild Rivers legislation.
After the delegation's visit, the federal government referred the issue a parliamentary committee to report back no later than next March.
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We are a diverse group of Traditional Owners with rights and interests in seven declared Wild River Areas — Settlement Creek, Gregory River, Morning Inlet, Staten River, Archer River, Hinchinbrook Island Rivers and the Wenlock River…
We totally reject Tony Abbott's intervention on Wild Rivers. We support sustainable development and we are keen to see the creation of employment opportunities for Aboriginal people.
But Abbott's legislation of itself will do nothing to create employment, support improved livelihoods or economic independence and do nothing to protect our Heritage.
Abbott's intention to overturn Wild Rivers does not have our support and he should drop his crusade immediately.
We call on the Parliament to talk with the relevant Traditional Owners who have experience of this legislation and who have the right under Indigenous governance to speak on such matters, to find out the truth about Wild Rivers and oppose Abbott's bill.
We call on Tony Abbott to acknowledge that Noel Pearson does not speak for all Indigenous Australians — he is not our elected leader. Abbott needs to acknowledge that we have our own voices and can speak for ourselves, or elect our own representatives to do so.
We are determined to ensure that Abbott does not undermine our local Indigenous organisations, our efforts to participate in the Australian economy or our management plans for Wild Rivers declarations on our own lands. Wild Rivers is supporting the proper Indigenous management of country, including homelands-based initiatives and sustainable enterprise, and provides important employment training and capacity-building opportunities for our people.
Abbott says he is fighting for our property rights, self-determination and right to development. If he wants us to believe that he should support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and local Indigenous organisations, the real voice of Aboriginal people.
When Abbott stands up for our full set of rights, including the right to prevent destruction and exploitation of our land and rivers by others, we will take his new-found enthusiasm for our rights seriously.