Posted: September 26th, 2017
The 4th annual on-Country Bush Meeting at the Yule River meeting place was held on Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 September 2017. It was a great gathering of Traditional Owners, Members of Parliament (MPs) and government officials.
YMAC uses the on-Country bush meeting to focus on the priority concerns of the Pilbara Aboriginal people. The Yule River meeting brings together community members to discuss legislative changes that impact them, and to gives them the chance to speak directly to Members of Parliament (MP). For some who attend, it is the first time they are given this type of opportunity. Despite the hot (40 degrees), dry, dusty conditions, over 400 people attended both meeting days.
A presentation from Hon. Ben Wyatt MLA (Treasurer, Minister for Finance, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) was warmly received by all. Short presentations were also made by Hon. Stephen Dawson MLC (Minister for Environment; Disability Services, and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council), Senator Patrick Dodson and Hon. Robin Chapple MLC (Member for Mining and Pastoral Region). An open Q&A session followed the presentations from the MPs, with questions and comments from the crowd focused heavily on language preservation and the poor portrayal of Aboriginal people in the media.
The key resolution from this year’s meeting is that the Traditional Owners will form an independent representative group to give advice to the government on behalf of Pilbara Aboriginal people. This is an historic achievement because, for the first time, the Traditional Owners themselves have set aside their language groups and native title issues to act as a united Voice for the purposes of advancing their agenda with the Government. Other issues that were raised with the MPs were:
- language preservation;
- improving education in the Pilbara;
- improving health services – mental, renal and men’s health;
- supporting a treaty with the State Government;
- improving housing services for Aboriginal Pilbara people;
- strong opposition to the introduction of the Cashless Welfare Card; and
- Aboriginal heritage protection.
In addition to a State Treaty, the Traditional Owners also wholeheartedly endorse the Statement from the Heart. Collectively, they passed a resolution, “We historically made our voice strong in the Pilbara today. Now we historically join with other First Nations in calling on our WA State and Federal Government to fully commit to a process towards Voice, Treaty and Truth.”
The Annual On-Country Bush Meeting at Yule River is a forum that allows YMAC to drive outcomes from the momentum gained on the ground.
We have already started planning for next year. Please save the dates: 25-26 July 2018.