Western Australian government demolishes Aboriginal homes without consultation


The Swan Valley Nyungah Community (SVNC) has lost eleven homes and its community living after the Western Australian Government ordered the demolition of the dwellings on March 18. There was no notice or consultation with the SVNC prior to the crack of dawn demolition. The twenty hectares of land had been their home and their connection to a slice of their Country. The land is now destined for a park.

Many who had lived at the community are now homeless, several have died on the streets, including two sisters in consecutive winters. Many remain on the streets.

They were evicted by Government because of hysteria that alleged sexual abuses were rife. There was no natural justice, but the media and the Government went into overdrive and without substantial evidence other than mostly the Gordon Inquiry report the community was closed down.

“These were our homes,” said SVNC Elder Bella Bropho.

But Ms Bropho said that the community is upset to this day that they have never been heard by Government, by any formal inquiry, by any sort of natural justice. Premier Geoff Gallop refused to meet with the women and children from the SVNC. Instead he rushed through an Act of Parliament and they were relocated into State Housing or made homeless.

To this day the SVNC smarts at the injustice of never being heard.

Every Monday for eleven years they have held a Monday breakfast vigil outside their former homes.

“There has been a perpetuation of a lie, that Sue Gordon in her report stated it was rife with sexual abuse and violence and that is should be closed down. This is not true, that is not what was stated,” said Ms Bropho.

But this is what the Government and the media ran with, that sexual abuse was rife and that the report stated what it did not. The inquiry was WA-wide and referred only to the SVNC. Sue Gordon was Western Australia’s first Aboriginal magistrate. As a child she was removed from her parents as part of the Stolen Generations.

“There were 197 findings and recommendations in the report and there were no findings that the Swan Valley Nyungah Community should be closed down,” said Ms Bropho.

Ms Bropho’s brother Herbert said that it was just “white man’s rule over Black people, say and do what they want.”

“They take from us everything they can but I will not give up, not till my dying breath.”

The only recommendation in the Gordon Inquiry in reference to the SVNC stated, “The inquiry recommends that urgent steps be taken to develop memoranda of understanding (MOU) between the Swan Valley Nyungah Community and those Government agencies, which may reasonably seek access to the community.”

Only two recommendations of the 197 were rejected by the State Government and this was one of them and instead Premier Gallop pushed on with the denial of natural justice and procedural fairness and “took our Land and homes away.”

Ms Bropho said that to “say the Gordon Report stated the SVNC be closed down is a lie.”

Ms Bropho was backed up by a multi-party parliamentary select committee inquiry report, chaired by former Attorney-General, Peter Foss, which found, “The decision to act rapidly, bypassed all normal processes, was justified on false information.”

The select committee found there was “no proper basis” for the Premier to act as he did and further found that Director-Generals of the Departments of Communities and Indigenous Affairs “had no proper basis for providing advice to the Premier and his Minister (Alan Carpenter) who publicly favoured the closure of the Lord Street camp.”

The multi-party report was rejected by the Gallop Government.

“My sisters died on the streets. A mother of five children who was made homeless died on the streets. Recently we lost another soul to the streets,” said Ms Bropho.

The SVNC members want the public record corrected and for newspapers to “correct their misreporting.”

What happened to them would soon happen to the whole of the Northern Territory following the Little Children Are Sacred report.

The WA State Government has a knack of closing down First Nations communities and with the evictees nowhere to go.

To the north of the State, a couple of years ago, the State Government ordered the closure of the Kimberley Oombulgarri community because it was considered unviable. But the evictees finished up homeless on the outskirts of the township, living in the marshes, and others were relocated by the Government to the outskirts of Wyndham, where they live homeless in tents. This year there have been two suicides of those living homeless on Wyndham’s outskirts. The State Government intends to demolish the 62 homes of Ombulgarri in December.

The SVNC fought a century long battle to retain this little slice of Country, and in the 1950s bought several lots of lands in the area, building shanties but on the land that would become the SVNC. In the 1970s they protested for housing rights instead of being forced to live in humpies and shanties without electricity and water. In 1977 there were pronounced protests led by the late SVNC Elder Robert Bropho. In the 1990s the land was vested back to them by the State Governor, Michael Jeffries, and in 1997 then Premier Richard Court assisted the SVNC with the facilitating of the building of eleven rammed earth dwellings, infrastructure and facilities. They even built a school which had among the State’s highest student participation rates for First Nations children.

But it all came unstuck with allegations of rife substance and sexual abuses at the Community. The late Mr Bropho was convicted as a sex offender. His guilt is indeed in question but the Community paid an offensively disproportionate price, with the 2003 Geoff Gallop Government evicting all the residents and closing down the community. Then Premier Gallop based his judgments on the rack of media hysteria and tenuous associations to the Gordon Inquiry report into Western Australian child sexual abuse in First Nation communities. This report would become the pro forma for the Little Children Are Sacred Report.

SVNC Elder Bella Bropho said that “this is our land and we will not give up on having it returned.”

“We, the Swan Valley Nyungah Community family members are the Traditional Owners of our Land at Lockridge since Time began.”

“Our houses that we designed and built, from 1998 to 2002, to be warm and safe on our Sacred Land were bulldozed by the Government in March. It was wanton destruction when so many of our People are still homeless, sick and suffering.”

Ms Bropho said that the SVNC stands in solidarity with the people of Oombulgarri.

“We have heard that the State Government will bulldoze the homes of another community – Oombulgarri. Do they know what they are doing? We of the Swan Valley and the Oombulgarri people are human beings too…”

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by The Stringer August 10th, 2014


The Western Australian Government will convene a bringing together of people to find solutions for the State's most impoverished peoples - First Nations people. The Western Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council Summit (WAAAC) will have a shot at coalescing voices and ways forward in order to address Aboriginal disadvantage.


Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier said the event provided an opportunity for Aboriginal and  non-Aboriginal people to discuss ideas that might improve the effectiveness of investment in Aboriginal affairs.


"We have seen some positive results since 2006 in the areas of reading, numeracy and early childhood education, plus a 70 per cent improvement in full-time employment and a 20 per cent reduction in the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal mortality rates," Mr Collier said.


"But despite improved planning and significant investment, we're still seeing significant gaps in areas like juvenile justice, mental health and rates of suicide.


"We announced the creation of the Aboriginal Affairs Cabinet Sub-Committee, and this Government will work in an ongoing partnership with Aboriginals to support them to have stable and healthy homes and families, a good education and meaningful employment.”


Full story at http://thestringer.com.au/summit-to-find-solutions-to-aboriginal-disadvantage/#.U-f1N3h1X1I