Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Senator Lidia Thorpe and the Indigenous-Aboriginal Party of Australia call upon NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty, David Harris MP, to hear the voices of Traditional Custodians

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Indigenous-Aboriginal Party of Australia, Media Release, 27 June 2023

Senator Lidia Thorpe and the Indigenous-Aboriginal Party of Australia (IAPA) have joined forces to call on the NSW State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty, David Harris MP, to listen to the voices of Traditional Custodians, the Guringai, regarding the devastatingly destructive development proposal, by the Local Aboriginal Land Council, for land on Woy Woy Rd Kariong NSW, in the area known as Kariong Sacred Lands.

Senator Thorpe said, “Land Councils should work as representatives of Traditional Custodians and as such be guided in their actions by them. It is only the Traditional Custodians directly who have local cultural knowledge, understanding of, and connection to, their land and sacred sites.

“In contrast, Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) executive and members can consist of ‘out of town mob’, resulting in the LALC being made up of individuals with no deep connection to the land they have claimed and are supposed to care for. It is therefore all the more important for LALCs to only work on the basis of Free, Prior and Informed Consent from the Traditional Custodians.”

Senator Thorpe goes on to say, “Despite LALC’s having a mandate to care for all First Nations people in their area, this does not always happen due to their executive having the authority to decide who can and can’t become a member of the Land Council and in fact, who is and isn’t Aboriginal.”

 “There are no guidelines in the Land Right Act as to who can sit on a LALC. This is extremely problematic,” says Senator Thorpe. “Land Council executive do not always understand local Indigenous lore. In addition, Local Land Councils have been turned into real estate offices by the previous Coalition State government!”

“This problem has been caused by the former Coalition government,” says a senior Guringai man and IAPA member from the Central Coast of NSW, “but a great opportunity now exists for the new Labor government to revisit this issue and to recognise the rights of Traditional Custodians over their own land.”

“This problem of disenfranchising the Traditional Custodians is happening all over New South Wales and is resulting in significant cultural losses,” says Gab McIntosh, Education Spokesperson for the Party. “Our members have raised this issue with us from all over Australia, including Blayney, in the Central West, where a huge gold mine is about be built. Hundreds of hectares in size, the proposed gold mine will trash the site of the Frontier Wars, where Indigenous people first took up arms, in a systematic way, against the non-Indigenous invaders. All the geological and cultural evidence regarding the Frontier Wars will be lost, forever! And yet, at Blaney the LALC have not opposed this proposed mine to the vehement dismay of the local Traditional Custodians. Another example of Traditional Custodians being ignored on their own land is in the case of the proposed ‘Lizard Rock ‘housing development by the LALC on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Hundreds of acres of natural habitat and culturally significant land is at risk.”

IAPA, with support from Senator Lidia Thorpe, call upon the NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty, Minister David Harris to do the right thing, the ethical thing, and protect the rights of Traditional Custodians from profit-driven Land Councils and let the Traditional Custodians be the caretakers of their lands for future generations of all Australians to enjoy.

On the 19th of May this year IAPA wrote to David Harris MP outlining their grave concerns over the schism that has developed in local Aboriginal communities between Traditional Custodians and the Local Aboriginal Land Councils. As David Harris is also Minister for the Central Coast NSW, IAPA requested a meeting with Harris to discuss how he might facilitate dialogue between the Traditional Custodians and Lands Councils on the Central Coast.

McIntosh IAPA says, “We believe there is much to be gained by reinstating the power of Traditional Custodians, within Land Councils or otherwise, but understand it may be a lengthy process, involving new legislation. The point is to begin the process.”

Aunty Colleen Fuller, a Darkinoong woman says, “The Traditional Custodians of what we now know as the Central Coast of NSW are the Guringai, Darkinoong and Awabakal. We want to be heard regarding what happens to the land we care so deeply about. Being the Minister for the Central Coast and the NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty, places David Harris in a perfect position to get the ball rolling on these talks. If the Government is so concerned with Indigenous voices now is the time to listen to the local Indigenous voices, not just the Land Councils who in many cases don’t represent the Traditional Custodians of their area. The Central Coast of NSW being one of these places.”

McIntosh IAPA, confirms, “In previous conversations David Harris has stated that he cannot listen to any Guringai or Darkinoong person as they do not have Native Title, and government policy states he can only recognises the voices of the Local Land Council as being representative of Indigenous voices on the Central Coast. Herein lies the problem.”

Senator Lidia Thorpe concludes,” So basically, David Harris is saying, a politician can only listen to the voice of an Aboriginal controlled organisation. And if those Aboriginal controlled organisations, such as a Local Aboriginal Land Councils (who in many cases memberships are made up of non-local First Nations people), can decide who can or can’t be in their membership, and who is or isn’t Aboriginal, it ensures local Traditional Custodians such as the Guringai on the Central Coast of NSW have no say at all. This is not good enough! Do we want to listen to First Nation’s voices or not? Or is First Nations input only relevant if it comes from a state sanctioned Aboriginal corporation?”

The IAPA is a national, Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) registered party, that holds governments to account and ran seven candidates in the last federal election. We represent a diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and families around Australia, as well as concerned non-Indigenous people, who are taking local action in local electorates to put important issues on the agenda.

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