"Kimberley is our land and we want the right to work it"

So says an Aboriginal leader.

Aborigines have NO legal right to the many tracts of land they claim as theirs.  Various governments have GIVEN them title to some tracts in the hope that their claims on land will be satisfied by that.  But that is a joke of course.  "Give them an inch and they will take a mile" applies.  Nothing will ever be enough

So the sob story below is yet another grab for land.  They want to take over a productive station.

A line has to be drawn somewhere and it could surely be drawn in accordance with the best use of the land.  Farms and stations given to Aborigines in the past have been shockingly misused, going back to the Lake Tyers disaster.  Basically, what aborigines do is eat all the cattle and let the buildings go to rack and ruin.  A productive tract of land becomes a wilderness.

Greenies no doubt think that is a good thing but what might the heavily taxed average citizen think of all that waste?

Last year, when Kimberley traditional owners bought Myroodah Station off the Indigenous Land Corporation, I was elated and deeply moved. Many generations of our families had worked on Myroodah for white bosses — some were paid, some were slaves.

Quanbun and Jubilee stations are located on my country, on the mighty Martuwarra, the Fitzroy River, the lifeblood of our country and connected to Yi-martuwarra Ngurrara people; it was made when the world was still soft in the Dreamtime.

When the Aboriginal-owned Kimberley Agriculture and Pastoral Company purchased Myroodah, I thought that we had reached a turning point where Kimberley traditional owners were shaping our own destiny, closing the gap through creating our own economic development opportunities, and stepping up to manage and set the strategic direction for the pastoral stations our families once laboured on.

Last week has seen a terrible knockback for our people, with the purchase of Jubilee Downs cattle station, which contains the Quanbun Station lease, by mining and pastoral magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest. Traditional owners — represented by KAPCO, Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation and the Nature Conservancy — put in a $25m bid to buy one of these stations. It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to even get a foot in the door so we could negotiate further, bump up our bid. For us, this isn’t just an acquisition, just about money, just another asset to add to our portfolio. This is our country. We are trying to buy back our own country.

According to the ABC, Forrest spoke of “job creation for local communities”. Job creation isn’t sufficient. We do not wish to work for white bosses, like our mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers did. We wish to work for ourselves, under our own leadership, on our own traditional lands.

He spoke too, of continuing the legacy of the previous owners; that is, regenerative land management and a herd of quality cattle. What he didn’t mention, was the darker legacy — a legacy of trauma and dispossession still felt by Yi-martuwarra Ngurrara people, whose lands these stations occupy, today. Take Quanbun, for example. In the 1905 Royal Commission on the Condition of the Natives, commonly known as the Roth Report, evidence was heard that the white boss of Quanbun had an Aboriginal woman he kept, and the overseer had from eight to 10 Aboriginal women to choose from. History tells us that in many cases, on many stations, these women were stolen from their husbands and raped. In the case of the evidence gathered in the Roth Report, the women on Quanbun were whipped at night if they allowed the sheep to stray.

This is the legacy of white pastoralists we remember. And while it is, of course, true that Forrest has been generous to indigenous Australians and cannot be held accountable for the sins of past white men, whether his family or otherwise, it’s also true that Forrest’s family has a long and storied history in the Kimberley. His great, great uncle was Alexander Forrest, an explorer and politician, credited with opening up the Kimberley region for pastoral activity. Alexander had significant pastoral interests in the Kimberley, including ownership of Yeeda Station, where my great, great grandmother worked. In 1893, Alexander Forrest asked whether “the life of one European is not worth a thousand natives, as far as settlement of this country is concerned”. Within the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, within the context of the sale of this station to one “European”, one white owner, instead of to a collective worth “a thousand natives”, we’re asking ourselves, in almost 150 years, how much has really changed? Will the ill-starred history of Kimberley traditional owners continue repeating on us in terms of the ownership of our land?

Most critical is the position of these two stations on the Martuwarra, the Fitzroy River. The river is the lifeblood of Yi-martuwarra Ngurrara and Nykina country. Forrest has said that when it comes to plans for the properties nothing is off the table. This worries me, as large-scale irrigation projects have been floated by Gina Rinehart, and would threaten cultural sites, as well as barramundi, gummy sharks, sawfish and stingrays — a whole ecosystem. Our lifeblood. In the wake of this news, I’m especially disappointed for Kimberley traditional owners.

This is really not about Andrew Forrest. This is about justice for our people and getting our land back. He should relinquish the bid, right the wrongs of the past, and allow traditional owners to buy back our own lands.


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