By ERWIN CHLANDA
Concerns that Aborigines are being pushed from their bush communities into fringe camps around major towns so that their land can be used for gas and oil production has emerged as a major issue in the national meeting of black activists in Alice Springs.
There is also a push for a new ATSIC, and tension over the sacking of Central Land Council chairman Maurie Ryan, who said he would be taking the CLC to court for unfair dismissal.
The meeting – variously said to have a sovereignty and a freedom focus – was smaller than expected, with some 60 people attending.
The CLC supported the event by providing shelters and food donated by the three Aboriginal-owned IGA supermarkets, and CAAMA provided audio equipment.
MLA for Namatjira, Alison Anderson, who missed a day in Parliament to attend the meeting, gave a fiery defence of the CLC, telling people not to “rubbish our peak bodies”.
The CLC is “saving our land rights. Stop mucking around.
“If you mob getting on this committee so you mob can start rubbishing the land council we’ll get you off. You are walking into the trap the white man has set you.”
Maurie Ryan supporter Russell Bray said he wasn’t “rubbishing our people [but] the white bureaucrats in the land council … the white anthropologists who think they know everything.”
He then referred to “what they did to the chairperson” Mr Ryan.
Mr Ryan told the Alice Springs News Online that he will take the CLC to court for unfair dismissal.
Former ATSIC head Geoff Clark said the meeting had elected a committee, and been a forum for “lots of trauma … a healing process where people shared each other’s pain”.
He said there was a move to “close 180 communities in Western Australia” and an attack on the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act.
“If they shut down the communities there would need to be just compensation,” Mr Clark said.
“What they are doing is actually cutting the services” which means “the communities will slowly strangle and die on the ground unless they are very resilient.
“This is a very clever way of removing communities. There has been discussion about the enormous mineral wealth under these communities.
“Obviously [these people] will gravitate to towns like Darwin and Alice Springs and start living in fringe camps. It’s a vicious cycle.
“It’s happening in the Territory. People are feeling very fearful about their very existence and their future.”
Mr Clark said the meeting “is all self-funded. People are paying their own airfares, their own way. [They] are trying to raise resources to continue the struggle. All the services here have been donated.”
Is the ALP funding the meeting? “No, no, [they’re] certainly no friends of mine.”
By ERWIN CHLANDA