Plea for cultural land at Locke Estate

Fresh Start Recovery Program CEO Jeff Claughton and Pastor Craig Rodger at Locke Estate.

Fresh Start Recovery Program CEO Jeff Claughton and Pastor Craig Rodger at Locke Estate.

EX-Roelands Mission children are making a desperate plea to the City of Busselton to not give away land which holds cultural significance.

The ex-mission children gathered at the city council chambers last week to make one last plea to keep Lot 14 of Locke Estate for Aboriginal use.

Locke Estate consists of 16 campsites managed and operated by various not-for-profit organisations.

When leases with the city expired in November 2011, 13 of the 16 lots were renewed for up to 21 years.

Lake Jasper was occupying Lot 14 but elected to relinquish the lease which forced the city to seek expressions of interest.

Five expressions of interest were received by the city, one made by Woolkabunning Kiaka Incorporated on behalf of the ex-Roelands Mission children. 

Roelands Mission Executive Officer and ex-Roelands Mission child Les Wallam said there was important Aboriginal history on Lot 14. He said there was an understanding between ex-Roelands Mission children and the city about exclusive use of the lot.

 “Ex-Roelands Mission children spent time on the campsite, it was their break from the mission, their happy place they could go to have fun, peace and serenity,” he said.

“Many of the children worked Lot 14 by clearing the area, digging holes by hand for septic tanks and they also helped put up buildings.”

“There were many tears shed about losing the lot as fond memories were had there.”

Mr Wallam said Woolkabunning Kiaka Incorporated hoped to provide projects that offered opportunity and involvement for all Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

“We hope it will bring generational change to Aboriginal people in the South West under new structure and management to the last lease holder,” Mr Wallam said.

“We are asking the city why they did not consult with the Aboriginal community before proposing to take away our right to use this land.”

City of Busselton Director of Finance and Corporate Services Matthew Smith said the City was not aware of any agreement guaranteeing exclusive use in perpetuity of any site within the Locke Estate to an Aboriginal group.

 “All the lots in Locke Estate are subject to the same lease conditions which determine the permitted use of the site,” Mr Smith said.

“In the event of a lot becoming vacant, not-for-profit groups, including Aboriginal groups, that submit an expression of interest and meet the selection criteria, will be assessed as a potential lessee.”

The submission recommended to councillors by Mr Smith was Perth based organisation Fresh Start Recovery Programme.

Fresh Start Recovery Programme Chief Executive Officer Jeff Claughton said their proposal for the lot offered respite and education services to families who were in recovery from alcohol and other drug addictions.

Mr Claughton said he would request at this week’s council meeting that the recommendation be deferred by councilors for two weeks.

“It would be great if we could attain an outcome with the Woolkabunning Kiaka Incorporated group which achieves both our goals for the site,” Mr Claughton said.

“We hope to meet with the group next week to work through the issues and come to some sort of arrangement.”

City of Busselton councilors will decide on the outcome at tonight’s council meeting.

Have your say, What do you think about the plan to retain this lot for Aboriginal people?