WA Protesters vow to remain at Heirisson Island Tent Embassy

Nyoongar Tent Embassy Bibbulman Tent Embassy Matagarup (Heirisson Island - Perth)
Noongar elder Ben Taylor

Cyril Yarran

Tent Embassy Location

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Rhianna King Sydney Morning Herald February 14, 2012

A group of Noongar activists who set up a tent embassy on Heirisson Island have vowed to stay "for as long as it takes" as they push for a better native title deal.

A campfire and several tents have been set up on the island, on the Swan River, and this morning about six people were at the site.

Spokeswoman Vanessa Culbong said many more people were coming and going, and last night about 50 people congregated there.

She said the site was chosen as it was a traditional Noongar camping ground, known as Matagarup in Noongar language.

The tent embassy was prompted by the ongoing dispute between the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council and local Aboriginal elders over how to settle native title claims with the state government.

Cyril Yarran, who has been at the camp since Sunday, said the protesters would remain there for "as long as it takes".

He said the group had received donations of food from local businesses.

Last week, a small tent embassy which was set up outside WA parliament was removed.

It followed protests in Kings Park which led to a security scare for Premier Colin Barnett in response to his proposed $1 billion deal to settle native title claims over the state's South West.

About 70 protesters confronted the Premier last Wednesday about the proposed deal, surrounding the restaurant where he was dining, and demanding he come out to speak to them.

The government is hoping to wrap up the deal by the end of the year, extinguishing all future native title claims for area, but benefit an estimated 35,000 Noongar descendants.

"For years the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council have misrepresented our people," she said.

"You can see from the crowds that we had today a lot of people don't agree with the deal that's been put on the table."

Aboriginal activists to determine Native Title demands

Todd Cardy PerthNow February 14, 2012

Protesters against a proposed native title deal covering WA's south-west set up a banner on Heirisson Island. Source: PerthNow

Noongar elder Ben Taylor at the Heirisson Island protest against the proposed $1b native title deal covering WA's south-west. Source: PerthNow

Aboriginal activists have erected a new "tent embassy" on Heirisson Island to protest against the state government's $1 billion Native Title settlement offer.

About a dozen people began gathering on the Swan River island on Sunday evening with more arriving yesterday and today. The group has erected tents, Aboriginal flags and signs, and say that they will remain on the site until the government offer is improved.

The protesters are angered by the native title deal announced last week that involves Noongars relinquishing their rights over Perth and the South-West in exchange for a package of cash injections and land transfers.

At the time, Premier Colin Barnett said he was extremely optimistic of reaching a deal with the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council that would extinguish all future native title claims for the area, but benefit an estimated 35,000 Noongar descendants.

Noongar elder Ben Taylor, who supports the new "tent embassy", said he would attend a meeting on Heirisson Island today that would focus on the group coming together and finalising its demands for the government.

"We are sick of governments dictating to us, and these so-called leaders and all these councils, we want sovereignty - sovereignty is what we want," he told PerthNow.

"We are gaining support. A lot of people have rung in asking for details -- it (the protest) has just started."

Asked how long the protest would continue, Mr Taylor said he didn't know.

Police spokesman Insp Bill Munnee said the protest was a matter for the City of Perth because the rules governing camping or gathering on public land fell under the council's by-laws.

"It's between the City of Perth and the people," Insp Munnee said. "It's not an offence, it's a local government issue so the police are not involved at all at this stage."

A City of Perth spokesman said council rangers had visited the site and spoken with the protesters. He said the council was considering the situation.

Tents down

Late today, the City of Perth issued a statement saying it had ordered protest organisers to take down tents and move their cars off the reserve within the next two days as part of a "reasonable compromise".

The order came after Frank Edwards, the council's chief executive, visited Heirisson Island this morning.

Mr Edwards said he had "a constructive conversation" with the protesters, but he "respectfully requested" they remove the three tents currently in place, as camping was not allowed on City of Perth reserves under a local law.

They were also requested to move their cars to the car park.

Mr Edwards said he told the group that they were welcome to remain in the area because the island's reserve was a public open space, and that there was no objection to the Aboriginal flag being hung between trees or signs being displayed.

Noongar elder Ben Taylor said he and the other protesters were prepared to stay on Heirisson Island for: "As long as it takes."

"We are going to be here for the long haul ... we've got to keep fighting this injustice so we can get somewhere," he said.

Protester Greg Martin confirmed Mr Edwards visited the site earlier today to speak with the protesters.

"We had a diplomatic meeting this morning, they brought up the fact that we are here and that we are camping here and there was a little request that we shouldn't camp here," Mr Martin said.

"We are saying to people this is our land ... we are here practising our culture, enjoying the benefits of our land.

"We reserve the right to be here."

Noongar activists told to pack up camp and leave
ABC News February 14, 2012

Noongar activists who are protesting against a potential native title deal have been given two days to take down their camp at Perth's Heirisson Island.

A tent embassy was set up on the island on Sunday.

Protesters say they were not consulted over a native title deal being negotiated between the State Government and the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council.

The deal, which would prevent any further claims, includes parcels of land and a trust fund believed to be worth a total of about one billion dollars.

The proposal would provide $600 million in funding and $400 million in land entitlements in return for giving up native title claims over Perth and the South West.

The City of Perth's CEO, Frank Edwards, met the activists on the island and told them they have to pack up the camp and leave within the next two days.

Mr Edwards says the group can still use the space during the day and the City has no objection to them displaying protest signs.

Last week, there were angry scenes in Kings Park when dozens of Aboriginal people protested outside a meeting held by the Aboriginal council at which the Premier Colin Barnett spoke.

One of the protesters, Noongar elder Richard Wilkes said the deal would not benefit the majority and they were being offered a pittance.

Protesters, who say it will sign away their native title rights, clashed with other Noongar people who support the deal.

Last week, SWALSC spokesman Glen Kelly said a lot of native title in the South West had been extinguished and the deal would ensure Noongar people secure customary rights to their country.

Noongar opponents say they will keep fighting and may take legal action over the deal.

Topics: indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, local-government, perth-6000

First posted February 14, 2012 16:51:21