Nyoongar tent embassy opposes native title deal

Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Representatives from the Nyoongar tent embassy gave a presentation forum on Nyoongar native title at Murdoch University on October 15, hosted by the Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre.

The focus of the forum was the ongoing negotiations between the Western Australian state government and the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) to extinguish native title in the Nyoongar territories of WA (roughly the region south of Geraldton and east to Esperance) in exchange for a $1.3 billion cash and land package.

SWALSC used the forum to continue to advocate for the proposed deal. Part of the case SWALSC made was to suggest that native title is no longer legally recognised for the Nyoongar people anyway, and that the deal meant getting something rather than nothing.

Activists from the tent embassy have consistently rejected the proposed deal, saying no amount of money compares with cultural and tribal ways, and recognition as a sovereign people.

They have called the $1.3 billion offer proposed by WA Premier Colin Barnett insulting.

When divided equally between all 35,000 Nyoongar people alive today, it is a tiny amount and would leave nothing to future generations to come.

SWALSC has also sought to minimise the significance of what extinguishment of native title would mean for sacred sites. The tent embassy's Marianne Mackay said sacred sites are already being threatened by the state government, using the example of police harassment last year at Matagarup, a traditional birthing place for Nyoongar women and meeting place for Nyoongar men.

During the forum, Herbert Bropho, a prominent Aboriginal activist gave a strong intervention in support of Aboriginal sovereignty. He outlined the ongoing issues faced by Aboriginal people living without sovereignty and within a white-dominated culture.

He spoke of the suicides within the family, his father's death, the issue of homelessness and other social expressions of the hardships experienced by Aboriginal people.

A vote of whether to accept Barnett’s deal will be held in May next year. With SWALSC actively promoting the deal, tent embassy representatives say there has not been an open and frank discussion that would allow for informed decision making.

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