In May members of the Swan Valley Nyungah community reoccupied the Lockridge community camp and set up a tent embassy. They are demanding that their homes are returned so that they can re-establish their community.
In 2003 the then Labor State Government under Geoff Gallop evicted the community amid allegations of child abuse. The Swan Valley Nyungah community were long-time campaigners for Aboriginal rights in Western Australia. Most prominently they fought against plans to develop the old Swan Brewery site on sacred Aboriginal land.
By Socialist Party reporters
They also campaigned against a prison on sacred land next to their homes in Pyrton on the banks of the Swan River. The community was clearly a thorn in side of the government and of big business. This was the overriding reason why they wanted them removed and dispersed.
Speaking about the situation community leader Bella Bropho said “Because we all became homeless the government brought in the Housing Department who quickly split us up. We were sent out to Beldon, my sister was sent out to Clarkson, one of my brothers was sent out to Cannington, one brother was sent over to Balcatta and another sent over to Redcliffe. Those they didn’t house were left destitute and living on the streets of Perth since 2003.
“I lost two sisters from the harsh conditions of living as a homeless person. My sister that died had children. They were left with no mother. My youngest sister didn’t get a chance to see her grandchildren born. She died young and the kids are now living with relatives.
This is what the government did. I blame them because they took two young mothers and the children and left them to the mercy of the streets of Perth. Geoff Gallop should stand in our shoes and see how his decision affected us. He destroyed our lives.”
The Swan Valley tent embassy comes after a protest camp was set up by the Aboriginal community on Heirisson Island. The camp was set up in opposition to the State Government’s proposed $1 billion native title deal with the South West Aboriginal Sea and Land Council.
The land in this region is rich in natural resources. Both developers and big mining companies are keen to get their hands on it. Settling native title claims is the first step towards opening it up for big business to exploit.
The governments offer has been described as a “slap in the face” by local elders. In reality $1 billion is peanuts compared to what the community needs and compared to what the mining giants and big developers will make in profits.
Bella Bropho said her community wanted no part of any deal. “This is our home we just want it returned” she said.
The Socialist Party supports the campaign to have the Lockridge community camp retuned and for land rights for the Nyungah people. This will only be achieved on the basis of genuine collective ownership and community control. In this sense the fight for land rights and Aboriginal self determination is closely linked to the fight against the profit first system.