Fourteen Traditional Owners blocked the entrance gate to Yakka Munga Station today in protest of the unauthorised land clearing that has been undertaken by Shanghai CRED for almost two weeks.
Workers from Charles Hull Contracting hired by Shanghai Zenith, the Australian branch of Shanghai CRED, were turned away by Traditional Owners at around 5am on Wednesday June 19.
“We’re here as angry Traditional Owners … that’s why we’re standing strong here,” said Nyikina Traditional Owner Rosita Shaw.
“This company never consulted with us.”
Ms Shaw organised her family to protest and travelled from Fitzroy and Jarlmadangah community to camp overnight at Yakka Munga to be ready for the workers the next morning.
“This land is very important, it has a lot of meaning in the Dreamtime,” Ms Shaw said.
“We’ve got trees they’ve knocked down, shrubs we use for bush medicine, trees we use to collect and make artefacts, bush fruits, all in a pile of rubble. This is our supermarket; we’ve got to teach our children. What are we going to show them?”
Ms Shaw’s son-in-law Waney Nona, a descendant of Eddie Mabo, said native title is really important for Traditional Owners.
“Native title was given to us to recognise our land … We have our control of our land,” Mr Nona said.
“It is very, very sad to see that they can’t even negotiate a proper heritage land clearance or negotiations with the Traditional Owners of this place.”
Shanghai Zenith has allegedly breached the Yakka Munga Station and Nyikina Mangala Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) by not entering into good faith negotiations with Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation the body representing Traditional Owners before beginning any pastoral activities that may impact significant areas.
Since being made aware of the clearing, Walalakoo has sent notice to Shanghai Zenith to immediately stop excavation activities.
However, that clearing has continued since Ms Shaw last visited the station and the company has now started to dig out channels for what they said will be irrigation.
“[I’m] very devastated. They still haven’t stopped, we met with [Shanghai Zenith] at the Kimberley Land Council office [but] they still kept [operating],” Ms Shaw said.
Ms Shaw said the extent of the clearing she has seen is devastating.
Seeing the clearing for the first time today, Traditional Owner Kimberley Watson was shattered.
“It feels like all these machines have just run over me, doing this on my country, my people’s country,” Mr Watson said.
“It’s just a disgrace to us.”
Ms Shaw called on the WA State Government to put a stop to the clearing on the station.
“[Premier] Mark McGowan needs to stop this.”
Mr Watson said he and his fellow Traditional Owners would fight until the excavations stop.
“We’re the ones who are going to show the way,” Mr Watson said.
Traditional Owner Martina Watson also said Shanghai Zenith never considered or followed proper procedure of the Nyikina native title rights.
“The main reason we’re here today is to protect our country, to protect our assets on the ground that feed us and provide for us. It’s being destroyed,” Ms Watson said.
“Stripping country like that – what’s going to be left for our generation, my children?”
In estimates yesterday, WA’s Minister for Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan said she shared her concern for what was going on at Yakka Munga and that the clearing appears to have occurred without any authorisation.
The Traditional Owners are ready to continue the fight until significant action is taken.
“This is the ripple effect,” Ms Shaw said.
“And the wave will come later,” Mr Watson added.
By Hannah Cross