NOONGAR elder Bella Bropho lodged an injunction in the Federal court to prevent Perth city council from evicting her and other homeless Noongars if they move back to Heirisson Island/Matagarup.
Located on the Swan River between East Perth and Victoria Park, the island is the main battlefield of an ongoing dispute between native title claimants, the Barnett government, and the council.
“It’s registered as a sacred site,” says Nyoongar man and activist Clinton Pryor.
The camp on Heirisson was originally set up as a protest against the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities, and gradually became a semi-permanent refuge for over 100 Perth homeless people.
Police and council rangers repeatedly raided the settlement earlier this year; dismantling tents, confiscating property, and issuing move-on notices.
Activists are up in arms about the raids, claiming federal native title laws supersede local government anti camping by-laws.
“They’re going around picking on the homeless people,” says Mr Pryor.
“The City of Perth is watching that island. If anyone camps there they get kicked out.
“In our culture it’s a woman’s birthing ground. Women have been having children there for 40,000 years.”
“There’s no need to spend millions of dollars to build a damn park,” he said in reference to a sculpture park the council intends to build there,
Ms Bropho and other senior elders told the council they were opposed to the sculpture park idea.
“At the end of the day if the Government wants something they’ll do it,” says Ms Bropho. “But we must have it in writing that we said no to it.”
“Our right to the land hasn’t been extinguished. There’s no paperwork to say our ancestors gave away their rights in their time.”
The City of Perth didn’t comment.
by TRILOKESH CHANMUGAM