Aboriginal elder hits out at Locke Estate lease

An elder and custodian of the Wardandi and Bibbulman Tribe is “disgusted” with the City of Busselton’s decision to lease land which holds cultural significance to many generations of Aboriginal people.

Last week councillors voted unanimously to give Lot 14 of Locke Estate to a non-Aboriginal organisation.

Before the vote was made ex-Roelands Mission children pleaded with councillors to recognise their Woolkabunning Kiaka Inc submission.

Elder and custodian of the Wardandi and Bibbulman tribe Dr Robert Isaacs said he was outraged and disgusted by the city’s decision.

“We feel our application was treated unfairly,” Dr Isaacs said.

 “The officer’s comment on our submission did not outline the main interest of our submission, nor did it mention the support we had from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, Western Australian Aboriginal Tourism Operators Council and many others.”  

Dr Isaacs said the city only gave councillors eight lines of information to read about the Woolkabunning Kiaka Inc submission, compared to over 50 lines for the recommended applicant.

“We, will vigorously oppose this outrageous decision by the council, who are supposed to represent community interest, we are rate payers too,” he said. 

“We the Aboriginal people have been left behind with this decision, is this truly reconciliation?”

City of Busselton Director of Corporate and Finance Services Matthew Smith said the city had undertaken a completely transparent process in relation to the leasing of lot 14 and all other lots at Locke Estate.

Dr Isaacs said the city in the past had prided itself in promoting and supporting Aboriginal culture within its region by using images from their events to promote their new strategic community plan.

“I consider this a slur and mistrust to our cultural heritage, and our people,” Dr Isaacs said.

“The Aboriginal people have maintained a strong interest and presence on the lot and it must stay with them.”

Mr Smith said councillors and city officers valued aboriginal heritage and culture and were more than willing to work with Aboriginal groups to promote harmony and provide advice and assistance.

“However, we must always work within the confines of the Local Government Act.”  

Mr Smith said the organisation awarded the lease for Lot 14 was not given preferential treatment over the Woolkabunning Kiaka group.  

 “Woolkabunning Kiaka is a completely separate entity from the previous lease holder and their submission was assessed entirely on its own merit,” Mr Smith said.  

“All of the submissions received by the city were assessed and ranked against the selection criteria outlined in the EOI.”  

Mr Smith also said environmental requirements associated with the lot were assessed.

A group of stolen generation women visited one of the Locke Estate sites last week for a healing camp.

Healing camp member Sharon Andrews said she was disappointed Lot 14 was not available for the group to camp at.

“It would have been nice to camp with the Wardandi people and share some stories,” Ms Andrews said.

“We are very supportive of their rights to get the land back and it is sad to hear history repeating itself.” 

To read more about the City of Busselton’s decision to lease land which holds cultural significance to many generations of Aboriginal people click here.