Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Barnett makes weak native title offer

The Nyoongar Tent Embassy has rejected an updated offer by the state government to extinguish native title, reiterating that recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty is the goal of their campaign.

The South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) and the state government had negotiated a $1 billion package. Premier Colin Barnett upped the offer to a $1.3 billion package on July 5.

The updated offer would include an indexed payment of $50 million a year for 12 years into a trust fund managed by SWALSC. The balance would be composed of land parcels that would be transferred into joint management by the government and Nyoongar representatives.

In exchange, Nyoongar people would be expected to renounce all claims to native title over land in the south-west of Western Australia.

Supporters of the plan say native title — which falls far short of genuine land rights — provides only limited rights to Aboriginal title holders. Pursuing native title through the courts would devour considerable resources with no certain outcome. They say the land and cash package would provide “benefits” to Aboriginal people.

Opponents say the value of the package is trivial when divided among the more than 35,000 Nyoongars.

“If what monies this deal offers were made available to every Nyoongar there would only be a few thousand to each Nyoongar,” Len Collard told The Stringer.

“As simplistic as this sounds, it goes to the heart of compensation. How can this address the myriad traumas from dispossession and oppression against our peoples, and the damage left today for us still to address?'”

More importantly, the extinguishing of native title would almost certainly be used by the government as an excuse to wash its hands of responsibility for dealing with Aboriginal issues.

SWALSC representatives have made much of the “more than 300” consultation sessions held about the deal. Gerry Georgatos wrote for The Stringer: “Reporting for the National Indigenous Times, I attended one of these meetings but no-one turned up other than SWALSC and myself.''

Nyoongar Tent Embassy’s Marianne Mackay told Georgatos the SWALSC was a sham. “They do not represent our people, they don’t consult with us, they did not send a delegation to meet with Nyoongar Tent Embassy.

“They are a great disappointment and this is reflected in the fact that Nyoongar people did not turn up to many of their public meetings. Some of their meetings had only zero or a couple of Noongars turn up to them. I know, I went to several of them.”

Tent Embassy representatives held an action on July 12 to oppose the plan.

[This article by Alex Bainbridge appeared in Green Left Weekly #973. Photos by Alex Bainbridge from Nyoongar Tent Embassy action on 12 July 2013 to oppose the SWALSC-Barnett deal.]