A movement for Aboriginal sovereignty has galvanised around the February 12 formation of the Nyoongar Tent Embassy in Perth. The embassy was directly inspired by two developments: the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, which promoted a national push for Aboriginal sovereignty, and the February 8 report about negotiations between the state government and the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) about Nyoongar native title.
An Aboriginal protest march is being planned for March 28 to take up issues such as the government’s miserly stolen wages offer and the proposed deal that would extinguish Nyoongar native title in south west Western Australia. The WA government made an offer on March 6 to pay up to $2000 to Aboriginal people who were forced to work for rations in previous decades. It is an insulting offer that has been slammed by Aboriginal organisations.
Green Left Weekly’s Keith Westbrook visited Matagarup (Heirrison Island) in Perth on March 13 to talk to the Aboriginal protesters at the Nyoongar Tent Embassy about their fight for sovereignty and their campaign against the state Coalition government’s plan to extinguish native title rights in the southwest of Western Australia. Tent Embassy spokesperson Greg Martin’s comments are below. * * *
More than 50 people rallied outside the Perth headquarters of British multinational corporation Serco on March 9 to protest against the company's ongoing push to privatise and take over public services. Serco runs Australia’s immigration detention centres and is responsible for implementing the oppressive government policy of mandatory detention. In addition, the company has contracts to run prisons and hospitals and other public services. The protest was calling for all of these privatised enterprises to be returned to public hands.
About 50 people attended a forum addressed by Michael Anderson at the Curtin University Aboriginal Studies Centre on March 5. Anderson is a Gamilaroi man from New South Wales and is one of the four original founders of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra in 1972. The forum was organised by the Nyoongar Tent Embassy. Two days before, Anderson had addressed the WA Tent Embassy.
Perth-based women's health doctor Kamala Emanuel has hit out at the "dangerous implications" of a "foetal homicide" law proposed by the Western Australian state government. The law if passed would, for the first time, recognise an "unborn baby" as a human life. The stated intent of the law would be to be create legal sanctions against people who assault a pregnant woman. People could face life imprisonment under these laws -- "the same as a murder charge" – if an "unborn baby" dies. The law would also apply in situations where a foetus was hurt due to negligent driving.
The Mark McGowan-led Western Australian ALP opposition has promised it will support the Colin Barnett government’s controversial anti-association laws. The laws were debated in parliament on February 28. Barnett has said the law will “crack down on outlaw bikie gangs”. However, the words “bikie”, “motorcycle” or “gang” do not appear once in the bill.
Despite heavy police intimidation and media racism, the Nyoongar Tent Embassy at Matagarup, otherwise known as Heirisson Island in Perth, is still standing strong. The Tent Embassy was founded by local Aboriginal people to voice dissent against a proposed deal with the state government that would include giving up native title rights. The embassy is also about asserting Aboriginal sovereignty. Embassy participant Iva Hayward-Jackson told Green Left Weekly the embassy is about asserting Nyoongar sovereignty and protecting sacredness of Aboriginal culture.
Forty members and supporters of the Nyoongar Tent Embassy marched on Government House early on February 21. The march was an important public statement for the embassy after an February 19 operation by more than 50 armed police cleared tents and vehicles from the embassy site at Matagarup (Heirrison Island). Some media reports have falsely given the impression that that was the end of the embassy. In fact, the embassy remains strong.
Aboriginal rights activist Marianne Mackay urged people to come down to support the Nyoongar Tent Embassy on February 17. For more background on the protest, see Alex Bainbridge's article WA government deal to extinguish native title provokes protest