"Pay the Rent" - say Nyoongars - "Stronger Futures can go straight to hell"
With the Stronger Futures debacle in the Australian Senate the following could not be more timely. Nyoongar rights advocate and CEO of Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation, Robert Eggington has gathered together with several prominent Nyoongars, and a large number of the Nyoongar community, to announce their own Native Title proposals for the state government to consider.
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Mr Eggington will call for the 'rent to paid' to the Nyoongar peoples for the use of their land - 5% of the Gross Domestic Product of the south west and a suite of other priorities. The 5% must be in perpetuity.
Mr Eggington said that the Native Title offer by the state government through the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Corporation (SWALSC) must be rejected. "It is an offer that will cost our sovereignty, our rights in perpetuity. They are offering only half a billion dollars and the rest is a value placed on lands and that's it. This will not address the trauma our people have suffered, the displacement, the impoverishment, the horrific youth suicide rates we endure. This pittance on offer will not allow us to adequately assist our youth to go forwards."
"What they want from us is to lose our identity, to waive all our rights, and to assimilate and in the process they want to revise history and in effect have the opportunity of washing the blood off their hands, and pretend everything they did to our peoples is now sorted," he said.
Mr Eggington said Nyoongars like himself have to stand up, the grassroot Nyoongars, because there are many Nyoongars he said who have sold themselves out to either greed or to a suite of honorary academic titles or the pursuit of the non-Aboriginal person's dreams and aspirations, and along the way they have tragically made the choice to neglect their peoples.
On March 28, at a Stolen Wages rally organised by Western Australia's Aboriginal peoples, will feature Mr Eggington as one of the keynote speakers and he and others alongside him see it as the rightful forum to launch a proposal in challenging the state government to finally 'do the right thing'.
"If the SWALSC offer is accepted we betray our people, our history, our present hopes and we betray the future. Many have tried to rush our Nyoongar people into this betrayal, the academics, the lawyers, those who have sold themselves out to the Wadjela (the white man), and we have had non-Nyoongar people telling Nyoongars what to do - when Ben Wyatt, who has Yamatji heritage and conducts himself as a Wadjela, when he comments to Nyoongars about what we should do he should be ashamed. He is not a Nyoongar and we do not comment about his peoples although he lives and acts as a Wadjela - he should show some respect and stay quiet and understand our ways."
Some Aboriginal peoples in other countries, for instance in Alaska and Canada have secured up to 2% of the profits of resources from their soils and waters returned directly to the Aboriginal peoples to address their needs and aspirations and through the context of Aboriginal advancement by Aboriginal peoples.
"The state government needs to pay the rent to Nyoongar peoples. This is the proposal. I am not talking about royalties, I am talking about a percentage from the the total gross domestic product of the entire south west of Western Australia, of Nyoongar country," said Mr Eggington.
"This means minerals extracted, ores extracted, petroleum, gases and it means tourism, industries, infrastructure - give us 5% of the GDP and we will work with with our youth, we will reduce the incarceration rates from Wadjela prisons and from the addictions they have been afflicted with."
Dumbartung does work with youth and has a number of successful youth suicide prevention programs. However Mr Eggington is not speaking for Dumbartung and rather on behalf of a collective of like-minded Nyoongars.
"In addition to the 5%, we want certain laws removed and certain discriminatory policies against our people to be abandoned. The three-strike rule and you are in jail must go. The law where if someone lays a finger on a police officer and that's it there is a mandatory 12 month prison sentence must go - when police confront our people it is traumatic for them and a finger laid on someone or a shove should not finish them up in prison. We need to get our men out of prisons, it is not just they who are impacted, however the women and children who depend on them, they break down and hence the breakdown of the family," said Mr Eggington.
"For every one black man who is imprisoned, ten white men get rich off that," he said.
"This is our proposal, 5% for the rent, and change the laws, and let us help our people. Aboriginal advancement by Aboriginal peoples. Anything else is betrayal."
In 2010-11, Western Australia’s gross state product (GSP) was $193 billion (14.6% of Australia's gross domestic product). The south west of WA, Nyoongar country, stand alone is at least 20 billion dollars of the GSP - Mr Eggington's 5% pay the rent proposal would provide Nyoongar peoples with a billion dollars each year, not just the one off payment proposed by the state government and with restrictions as to its disbursements. Hence, Mr Eggington's proposal would wipe out poverty amongst Nyoongars.
Human Rights Alliance Indigenous spokeswoman Natalie Flower said, "If this pay the rent proposal was followed Australia-wide by state, territory and federal governments to all Aboriginal nations then Aboriginal disadvantage would end - Australia is the world's 13th largest economy with 1.6 trillion GDP for 2012, and the 5% pay the rent concept would dedicate 80 billion each year to the descendants of the original peoples of this continent. Ten years ago, the HRA suggested a 2.7% quotient of the national GDP, the proportion of Aboriginal peoples to the population, however no-one picked up on it but that too would be acceptable - in WA it would have to be 3% at least, in the NT 32% in terms of Aboriginal population to GSP."
Broome-based Nikyina rights advocate and economics graduate, Sofie Mirniyinna said, "This is the best proposal I am yet to hear, and it would certainly address the economic and social health disadvantages that our peoples endure. Western Australia is the nation's largest exporter, 43% of the nation's total exports and yet our people are in third-word conditions. This is an opportunity for self-determination in being able to advance all our peoples. It is an opportunity for the NT Intervention and Stronger Futures to go straight to hell."
Nyoongar academic Associate Professor Len Collard said, "The percentage concept provides perpetuity, addresses the problems at large and does not extinguish our rights as the state government's strictly limited proposal to SWALSC does (extinguish)."
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