Martu ask Cook Government to keep going on western desert reforms

Martu ask Cook Government to keep going on western desert reforms

Martu directors from Jamukurnu-Yapalikurnu Aboriginal Corporation (JYAC) met with Premier Roger Cook and WA government ministers this week, asking the government to stick to the path they have been walking together. 

JYAC Chairperson Simon Frank, together with Martu directors Milton Chapman, Bruce Booth and Bill Williams and independent director Tom Stephens asked the government for practical progress on major issues, including: 

  • Karlamilyi National Park – WA’s largest national park, established in 1977 against the wishes of Martu, is now waiting for a native title settlement and joint management agreement 
  • Town-blocks for the 3 Martu communities that have no land tenure 
  • Community housing and infrastructure development – implementing the state-funded community plans 
  • Social and economic development plans to make the Martu communities places that Martu families feel are safe and attractive places to live 

JYAC directors understand and support the state government focus on implementing the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act (ACHA) – but put their message that Martu should not be asked to wait any more to fix the 43-year-old injustice of having their lands taken away by Charlie Court. 

In meetings with the Premier, Minister Tony Buti (Aboriginal Affairs), Minister John Carey (Planning, Lands, Housing and Homelessness), and Minister Templeman (Local Government, Cultural Industries), the JYAC delegation confirmed their support for the national referendum on a Voice to Parliament, as well as the WA Government’s ACHA. 

The delegation made it clear that waiting any longer was adding to the injustice and hurt that Martu felt about the area they call Karlamilyi and Walla Walla. 

The Martu message was clear and direct – it’s time for the state government to make good on its promise to recognise Martu ownership of that country. 

The meetings this week follow on from ministerial meetings in parliament house and ministers’ offices with Hon Sue Ellery, Hon Stephen Dawson, Hon Reece Whitby, Hon Simone McGurk and Hon Bill Johnston. 

JYAC pressed their point on Karlamilyi and community development – and supported the state government’s Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy. It will be this Strategy that ensures all ministers contribute to the complex redevelopment plan and settlement with Martu. 

Comments attributable to Simon Frank, Chairperson, Jamukurnu-Yapalikurnu Aboriginal Corporation 

‘It’s important to all Martu that our communities are good places to live, work and play. 

‘We have a responsibility to care for our ngurra (country) and we need strong communities to be able to do that. 

‘The Western Desert needs Martu – and Martu need ngurra. 

‘Western Desert lands are remote from most Western Australians – but it’s our home. 

Western Desert lands are important for us for cultural, social and spiritual reasons. It’s also important to us for the environment, for economic opportunities, and because it’s beautiful country. 

‘This has been our ngurra since before time. 

‘We will always use our minds and hearts to care for the places that have been handed down to us. 

‘This Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act isn’t perfect – but with our strong culture and native title rights, we can work with it.  

‘The new law is at least better than what we had. 

‘This is a tool like any other – we will learn how to use it for our ngurra and culture.’ 

Comments attributable to Tony McRae, Chief Executive Officer, Jamukurnu-Yapalikurnu Aboriginal Corporation 

‘It’s 43 years since Charles Court’s Government established Rudall River National Park – against Martu wishes and with a white-fella name that already had a Martu name. 

‘It’s 30 years since Richard Court’s Government carved a uranium mine out of that Park, again without Martu agreement. 

‘Martu say that the government has put a sheet over the top of their country to block them out – and then governments have worked to close communities to cut ties to ngurra even more. 

‘Martu shouldn’t have to wait any more, indeed, won’t wait any more. Martu will seek to have this fixed by negotiation and if that doesn’t work, they will go to a different kind of court to fix it. 

‘Martu exclusive possession native title rights put Martu in a strong position to control access to their land – JYAC enforces that through binding agreements and we will add the ACHA to our tools to protect Martu ngurra.