Punished for the consecutive failures of government

We heard last week that the South Australian government would continue to provide municipal and essential services to remote Aboriginal communities in the face of federal funding cuts.

The state government in Western Australia is showing no such leadership. Barnett’s government is holding a position steeped in ideology, rather than grounded in sound economic policy.  

WA has been the engine room of Australia’s economy.

A joint bankwest/Curtin University study in 2014, reports that our GDP grew by 5.1% between 2012 and 2013, well above the national average of 2.6% during the same period. We have vast oil, gas and mineral resources.

Why then, do we have a state government, unable to provide even basic services to its people? 

It seems to us that the closure of remote Aboriginal communities is not about cost cutting—the fallout of community closures is likely to cost the government much more in the long-term—it’s about power.

We see it this way.

If we are moved out of communities, back to towns, this limits our ability to practise our native title rights. That is, the right to possess, occupy, use and enjoy the land and waters in our native title determination. Our ability to keep and maintain these rights, this power, is connected to our continued use of country. Prevent us from living on country and you start to erode these rights.

This government doesn’t want Aboriginal people in positions of power or control.

Through KRED Enterprises and the PBCs we represent, we are working hard to create a powerbase that will provide sustainable economic opportunities in remote communities. Our aim is to build businesses and jobs that mean our people can live on country, in remote communities, and continue to practise our culture and exercise our native title rights.

If the government was serious about addressing issues in communities, such as unemployment, they should look to investing in and supporting Aboriginal-run organisations and PBCs already on the ground. In numerous reports delivered to government, from the Crocodile Hole Report (1991) to the Elders’ Report into Preventing Self-Harm and Youth Suicide (2014), the message has always been the same. Consult with us. Listen to us. Fund the organisations our old people set up so we have the power of self-determination, so we have the capacity to tackle these issues ourselves.

But it falls on deaf ears.

And history repeats.

We’re being punished, again, for the consecutive failures of government.

KRED welcomes new chairman

KRED Enterprises, a charitable trust committed to Aboriginal economic development, is proud to introduce its new chairman, Peter Murray.

Mr Murray is a Ngurrara Traditional Owner from the Great Sandy Desert and he brings to the role a wealth of experience, from enterprise development, to a deep understanding of the importance of cultural and heritage protection.  

Mr Murray says he’s thrilled at the opportunity to help grow and shape the vision for KRED Enterprises.

“KRED’s great strength lies in the fact that we—Traditional Owners—are standing together in a cultural block and making our own decisions about what happens on our traditional lands. With KRED’s work now directed by eight native title groups in the Kimberley, we represent people from the desert, through the river country and to the sea. By standing together, we are strong.

“KRED’s former chairman, Anthony Watson, did a wonderful job. He worked tirelessly, had a profound social conscience and I know he’ll be missed. I’m honoured and proud to be taking his place, and I look forward to engaging and listening to Traditional Owners to ensure that we continue to get the best outcomes for our mob,” Mr Murray says.

Currently, Mr Murray is the Chief Operations Officer of Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation, but in previous roles, he’s established the Kimberley Land Council’s Ngurrara ranger program, worked as the Ngurrara Indigenous Protected Area manager and served with the Western Australia Police.

Outgoing chairman Anthony Watson, who has been with KRED Enterprises since its establishment four years ago, has now resigned to take on a position as Chairman of the Kimberley Land Council.

“I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to serve our members and confident KRED will continue to negotiate strong agreements between resource companies and Traditional Owners. I’m also confident KRED will continue to grow its sharing bucket to be used for social support and community benefits for all our members,” Mr Watson says.