Aboriginal corporation ‘demands $2.5 million’, halting tree planting in Western Australia

Aboriginal corporation ‘demands $2.5 million’, halting tree planting in Western Australia. By Frank Chung.

Amid ongoing confusion over the implementation of Western Australia’s controversial new cultural heritage laws, two major tree planting events in the state were cancelled this weekend after an Aboriginal corporation demanded $2.5 million for approval …

The planting of 5500 shrubs and trees along Perth’s Canning River by 120 volunteers was called off, after a demand from the newly formed Whadjuk Aboriginal Corporation that any planting at sites of cultural significance along the river cease.

Government power:

Under the new rules, penalties for damaging a cultural heritage site range from $25,000 to $1 million for individuals and $250,000 to $10 million for corporations, as well as jail time — although the state government late last month announced a 12-month “education-first” approach.

Now pay up:

According to Seven News, Whadjuk Aboriginal Corporation chief executive David Collard told land care groups they could not proceed with the weekend’s events until a demand for $2.5 million from a $10 million river restoration fund was resolved.

That’ll be $2.5m thanks. UPDATE: Since sacked (for bringing the Aboriginal industry into disrepute, no doubt).

These people might be rethinking support for the Voice (even though they are very careful not to breathe a critical word about aboriginal anything in public):

According to the broadcaster, the demand stunned the mayors of four councils and two major land care groups on the Canning River.

“We’re standing here today in solidarity with some of these environmental groups saying, somebody needs to clarify this legislation — it has become somewhat of a mess,” City of Canning Mayor Patrick Hall said.

Stephen Johnston from South East Regional Land Care said the seedlings were now at risk of dying.

“We’ve got to get them into the ground to make the most of the wet soil,” he said. …

The Aboriginal Heritage Act only came into effect at the beginning of this month, but this is the third scandal already:

Another tree planting event in Geraldton was shut down by an Aboriginal elder.

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn claimed in a Facebook post last Sunday that the tree planting event at Wonthella Bushland Reserve had been called off after a “respected local knowledge holder shut down proceedings on the basis of ground disturbance and the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act and the ‘significance’ of the site to the family”. …

But on Monday, Nhanhagardi and Wajarri woman Donna Ronan revealed that her family stepped in to shut down the event because it honoured the late Queen Elizabeth II, denying the new cultural heritage laws were to blame.

Whose land?

The last furore comes after a week after the opening of the $232million Mitchell Freeway extension spiralled into chaos when two Aboriginal elders clashed over who had the right to conduct the smoking ceremony.

Deputy Minister Rita Saffioti was seen at the launch hurriedly turning away to consult with an official while Whadjak Noongar man Steve Jacobs bickered with another Indigenous man over who had the right to conduct the ceremony.

Whadjuk? Celebrated every night on the Perth ABC News as the “owners” of our land:

Three weeks into the Aboriginal Heritage Act, and already it is being used to extort. Way to go, guys! No restraint or subterfuge there. All so obvious how this would go.

Of course, Western Australia is doing the rest of Australia a favor, letting us know what the Voice will be like. No wonder the Voice advocates are asking WA to retract and postpone the Aboriginal Heritage Act until the end of this year.

hat-tip Stephen Neil