Water for Whitegate, protest rally to target Bess Price


p2148-Felicity-Hayes-3 By ERWIN CHLANDA
The embattled Whitegate camp will have a guaranteed supply of water for a year, and on Monday there will be a rally outside the office of MLA Bess Price who is supporting a government move to evict the residents whose families have occupied the land on the eastern fringe of Alice Springs for decades.
The government front bencher, the Minister for Community Services and Women’s Policy, has consented, or ordered that the water supply to the camp be cut.
Artist and author Rod Moss, a supporter and friend of the “Whitegate mob” and author of two books about them,  says the town’s native title organisation, Lhere Artepe, has arranged the water supply with the Aboriginal-owned service organisation, Ingerreke, which is clearly doing the work at mates’ rates – $250 a pop for filling the overhead tank once a fortnight.
p2146-Whitegate-rallyMr Moss also says Ingerreke will be fitting spring-loaded taps so that no water is wasted.
He says seeking legal advice to have the eviction decision overturned is “logically” the next move.
The protest meeting on Monday will be attended by MLA for Namatjira, Alison Anderson, according to Mr Moss.
PHOTO TOP RIGHT: Elder Felicity Hayes and the water tank at Whitegate.


  1. I see that the Lhere Artepe Deputy Chairman, Michael Liddle, announced yesterday that – as the NT government won’t do it – the Alice Springs Native Title holders’ organisation (the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, aka LAAC), will supply water to Irrkerlantye community at the Alice Springs camp known as Whitegate.
    They will do so for the next 12 months, while a permanent solution is sought.
    Congratulations Lhere Artepe, taking responsible action to support your members where others failed in their duty of care! Tangentyere also played a responsible role by carting water to the camp over the past month, following the disconection of the piped supply by the NT government.
    It’s good to see that the various factions of the LAAC – unlike the NT government and the CLP – have been able finally to overcome internal rivalries and disagreements, and act to resolve the immediate problem of the water supply. (LAAC appears to have reached some kind of consensus about helping the Irrkerlantye group, which is a key family in one of their component clan groups).
    LAAC is not legally bound to assist, but like the NT and Commonwealth governments, they could be said to have a moral “duty of care” type of responsibility to do so.
    The NT government also appears to have been negligent by ordering the removal of the water supply in the absence of an alternative arrangement being in place. Common sense would have indicated they have a social and political obligation to ensure the wellbeing of a key group of traditional owners who have been camping on their own land according to Native Title rights for decades as well.
    As I understand it, the Irrkerlantye group is on “vacant crown land”, administered by the NT government.
    LAAC and its members (the Alice Springs Native Title holders of the three estates owned in Arrernte tradition by several separate clan groups, each of whom are the traditional owners of separate sections of the land within the town planning and municipal boundaries) only have a relatively minor power over the use and ownership of any of this vacant crown land, such as the Whitegate camp area.
    (The Irrkerlantye group previously applied for this land at least twice in the late eighties, before the Native Title law was passed, seeking a special purpose leasehold title from the NT government for its incorporated housing association).
    As I understand it, a successful Native Title claim does not constitute “real estate” style ownership of land, and LAAC does not have administrative control of the land over which its Native Title is recognised.
    However, the NT government has to gain consent from recognised Native Title holders when it allocates use of vacant crown land, or risk being ordered by the courts to pay compensation for destroying the residual rights of the Native Title holders to make use and have enjoyment of the land for their traditional purposes (camping, hunting, gathering food and wood, enacting ceremony, visiting and protecting sacred and significant sites etc).
    On another technicality: the Whitegate camp falls within the Alice Springs town planning boundary, but I think it is just outside the municipal, or services, boundary.
    I don’t think it has ever been part of the Undoolya Station pastoral lease, the boundary of which lies a couple of kilometres east of the present Whitegate camp.
    The contemporary town camps have never been “gazetted”, as such, by Territory government administrations. Except for Little Sisters (which was originally leased by the Cross Cultures Foundation in the early 1970s) and the five original houses at Charles Creek Village (built and administered by the Native Welfare Department, or its successor, in the late 60s), they are entirely the creation of their own occupants.
    Nineteen town camp groups were listed as members of the Tangentyere federation of town camp housing associations in its revised constitution (circa 1990).
    All 19 had sought the assistance of the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS) to become incorporated, some of them as early as 1973; and most were assisted in making an application for their own separate leases by the IAD Cross Cultural Group and the national Aboriginal Housing Panel originally, before Tangentyere was first funded in 1978.
    After 1978, the town camp housing associations were assisted by Tangentyere’s architects (who were transferred from the Aboriginal Housing Panel when Ian Viner, Malcolm Fraser’s first Aboriginal Affairs Minister, wound it up after it strongly criticised funding cuts and other Aboriginal policy changes of the Fraser government).
    I hope that clarifies things a bit for those confused about the evolution of the present system of town camps.
    For those wondering about why there is water and power at the gun club, just 400m away from Whitegate, on the south side of Undoolya road before the “jump-up”, but not at the Whitegate camp: remember that these are NT government, not municipal, services provided to an NT government approved lease.
    (There are also are some other private residential properties off Undoolya Rd, a little back towards town from the gun club. The power and water for at least one of these were supplied by the NT government).
    The gun club, the block granted in the 80s to the former Centralian Advocate cartoonist (the late Mr Peverill) on the north of Undoolya Road, and the Mort Conway group’s block with several houses near the drain were special purpose leases seemingly granted by the CLP governments of the day for political reasons.

  2. For decades the Central Land Council and Land Trusts were obstructive, refusing to provide reasonable conventional leases within communities upon their lands.
    Such obstruction means so little progress.
    Now feigned surprise with NTG perhaps adopting similar strategy, requiring someone, or some incorporated entity, obtain the lease for Lot 8106 from NTG before they undertake development.
    The solution to Whitegums problems is clear, obtain a lease for Lot 8106, then do your developments according to standard planning rules.

  3. At present there is a push to “recognise” indigenous people in the constitution. Is that just a token gesture? What’s the point if we can’t recognise them in their own homes?

  4. Stop worrying about native title and start worrying about the people. Does anyone in Australia have a right to force people to do without water and sewage. I just call the Aboriginals people because basically thats what we all are – red, yellow, black and white – we all come under the classification of human beings.
    Maybe Tony Abbott should go to Whitegate instead and stay there for a week – within sight of others who have services he has not got. Damien Ryan should have to go with him instead of up the mountain.

  5. Good post Bev. And where’s David Ross and the CLC in all this?
    Defending Whitegate residents?
    Lending CLC in house legal eagles to help them?
    Throwing them some small change from their CentreCorp millions to get their water supply up to standard?
    Well no. They are far too busy chasing the royalty millions from locating a uranium dump to throw their considerable weight behind a powerless group of Aboriginal people defending occupancy of their poverty stricken camp and have a tap with running water.

  6. Who is Rod Moss? Has he been elected? There are ways to solve problem like this such as writing letters and holding proper meetings, but I strongly object to Mr Rod Moss’ bullying tactics of an Indigenous lady who has been legally elected to represent people.
    Only the LABOR Party holds these bullying sessions that are called “Protests”. I just call them for what they are – BULLYING!

  7. I’ve been labelled a “racist misogynist” and part of a “little gang” for objecting to Minister Bess Price cutting off the water to the people at Whitegate and now its Rod Moss’s turn.
    By all accounts a gentlemanly supporter of the embattled people, Rod is accused of using bullying tactics against an “Indigenous lady”.
    Bess may be legally elected to represent people but no one voted for her heartless actions against the Whitegate people.
    For that matter, i don’t read any convincing defence of her actions, and that’s understandable.
    How could anyone defend depriving a people of water?

  8. “Say NO to bullying”, (Posted September 14, 2014 at 4:27 pm). You ask, who is Rod Moss?
    Well, for a start, apart from being a noted and successful central Australian artist who depicts both landscape and everyday life, he has written two very successful books about his experiences over the past 30 years of knowing, sharing time and working with his friends at the Whitegate camp.
    He is a friend of the Irrkerlantye families, and a close observer of the situation at Whitegate. He is eminently qualified to comment on their plight. Rod has a trusted relationship with the members of these families. He consults them closely before he makes public statements about their predicament or needs.
    You seem to be saying that Rod and others have no right to assist these people to get their messages out to the wider public.
    “Proper” meetings, letter writings and other normal processes have been employed by the Irrkerlantye group and their supporters for close to thirty years in attempts to get some just outcomes for them as disinherited traditional owners of the country on which their families have lived for eons.
    Now it has come to the crunch, and the NT government is trying to deny their claim and force them to leave the area they have been trying to claim under the NT land tenure system.
    It is way out of line to imply that people like Rod should not agitate on behalf of such groups under these circumstances. They are simply endeavouring to practise what is commonly referred to as “holding elected governments accountable to their electorates”.

  9. Observer (Posted September 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm), you are jumping to unwarranted conclusions, and defaming a good man. The CLC’s Native Title Unit has a very good reputation for responding positively to Whitegate’s requests for advice in the past. However the requests for assistance were apparently withdrawn late last year.
    You also have to remember that the CLC is circumscribed by clauses of the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act as to what role it can play within town boundaries.

  10. Bob. Difficult to believe that the people at Whitegate would withdraw requests to the CLC for assistance or that they wouldn’t welcome any assistance they could get.
    Perhaps the CLC or Rod Moss can throw some light on this.
    Interesting that you point out that the CLC is limited in the role it can play.
    As a major shareholder of CentreCorp, which is not accountable to the Land Rights legislation, I am sure my suggestion that it could provide material assistance to the Whitegate community is not unwarranted.

  11. Observer (Posted September 15, 2014 at 4:43 pm): TYhe reasons for the withdrawal seemed to relate to sensitive political issues within the native title holding community. Nothing to do with either CLC or Rod Moss, so I doubt whether either would wish to comment on it.
    Now that there is movement towards resumption of activities which may resolve the Whitegate group’s problems, it is probably in everybody’s interest to get on with it and leave past disputes aside.
    The only reason I brought it up is that I get heartily sick of unjustified aspersions being cast against an organisation which is generally doing its best in very difficult circumstances.

  12. Bob. The CLC and David Ross in particular, often speak out about serious injustice towards Aboriginal people and that is clearly part of their role.
    Whatever the bickering within the native title community, cutting off the water to Whitetree residents is an action that demands vocal CLC opposition.
    The silence is even more deafening because, at this very time, David Ross is speaking out about the unfairness of the uranium dump nomination process. He’s doing so because there is a group of Aboriginal people who are eyeing the millions of dollars of royalties but want more information.
    So the CLC is silent on the issue of a group being deprived of water and vocal in support of a group standing to make millions.
    This is not a good look.


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