Letter to the Editor
As a traditional owner of the Wimmera/Mallee region I wish to express my dismay, with regards to what I believe to be, current misleading correspondence sent to a range of parties such as local government, the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, individual consultants, local training institutions amongst others, in relation to the Barenjai Gadjin Land Council being the only entity recognized for indigenous matters in the area.
I believe that this does not take into account other indigenous stakeholder groups who work very hard in the community to provide programs and services to benefit others, at times in a voluntary capacity.
I think it also ignores the dysfunction of the BGLC in not being able to represent all indigenous families fairly and equitably. This is obviously OK to the State government as they only hear the one story through the BGLC. This is fine for the BGLC, but being excluded is not much fun at all for others concerned and stops us from knowing about decisions on country and being part of any work on country.
That is the power of exclusion. As a result of running our own activities and education/healing workshops through the Wurega Aboriginal Corporation, we are now more excluded, as the State government wishes to deny there are any issues with the BGLC.
I believe that enforcing such limited parameters as to which particular entity, organisations or businesses /agencies can deal with, defeats the purpose of respecting and valuing diverse groups. I feel it actually discriminates against groups like the Wurega Aboriginal Corporation as to restraint of trade and basic moral and human rights matters.
We would love to see tangible benefits from enterprises such as the previous Wimmera Malee pipeline funding, the locked BGLC properties such as the Billabong, the Mt Zero Olives Pink Lake project through Parks Victoria or know what is happening at Ebenezer Mission and why it is closed, but unfortunately especially in relation to the latter, we are not able to access the Mission which is an important burial ground for our people. This negatively impacts on everyone’s wellbeing in the community when a group is marginalised.
For my child’s sake, I have advocated for inclusive participation of different groups, especially if the BGLC is determined not to allow a Harradine representative on their board, as has been the case since 2010 and has failed in the extreme to treat all families equally. It is crucial to the wellbeing of Elders to allow all of us to express individual cultural rights of clans /extended family in the way we wish to express ourselves.
This is called Traditional lores and customs which is still of prime importance to my family to this day. This means that Native Title and Cultural Heritage legislation has no right to supersede the value of our Elder’s knowledge and our Elder’s creation stories as is occurring as they are apparently not “approved” by the BGLC.
Our family cultural rights/information/stories/history should not be used without permission and were not signed away with the BGLC Agreement at any stage.
All our family has ever asked for, as proud local traditional owners, is to be valued and included but this is now directly threatened by hard-line State government policy demands that say we cannot work on country (despite merit in employment principles) or express our culture unless it is through the BGLC.
Parks Victoria, WCMA, Department of Environment and Primary Industries and others now only work with the BGLC. I ask that organisations and individuals that may have received this correspondence to examine the importance of inclusion of families who are not allowed to have family representation on the BGLC despite their legislative requirement to represent all Native Title Holders. Despite such legislation, in my opinion our Elders are ignored and treated as nothing.
I believe it is a no-win situation with lateral violence; it is such an evil entity that it infiltrates our oppressed indigenous families with such rapidity and totally undermines all of us through gossip, innuendo, firing staff, bullying and threatening to take away jobs. It is disappointing that not all of us can be recognised as we are not of the families that are being supported within the BGLC.
Having grown up in Dimboola and being very connected to country and people, it is disheartening that we are starting to practice our culture in secret so it does not upset our government agencies. I hope that local politicians and local agencies start looking at the bigger picture of how awful it is to devalue families and what they contribute to the community.
After all, we should all be putting our children first and allowing them to grow up with their wonderful Elders, culture and be free to be able to mix with the broader community and not feel they are second class citizens.
Wotjobaluk/Jadawadjali/Djubagalk Traditional Owner