The four peak Aboriginal organisations in the Kimberley have called on the Australian and WA governments for change in key areas, from Constitutional recognition to the preservation of traditional languages.
In a statement released after a three-day gathering at the Lombadina-Djarindjin communities for their annual general meetings, the Kimberley Land Council, Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre, Kimberley Language Resource Centre and Aarnja said Aboriginal people were still failing to carve out a positive future for their children.
They said the Kimberley still had one of the worst suicide rates in the country — and the world — and government support for cultural practices only represented three quarters of a percent of the total Aboriginal budget.
The organisations said they were still waiting for a government to work with them on appropriate ways of reclaiming and maintaining languages that were at the core of their lands and cultures.
“The Federal and previous WA State Liberal and National Government said they wanted to work with us through Empowered Communities to deliver outcomes for our people on the ground,” they said.
“Instead they decided to prioritise matters for Aboriginal people according to Mr Andrew Forrest’s Creating Parity report, once again doing things to Aboriginal people rather than with them.
“The previous State Government failed to recognise our Native Title rights to make an income. They never acknowledged our rights to generate income from carbon trading. And they never recognised our rights to sustain our remote communities or protect our heritage.”
The organisations called on the new WA Labor Government to work with them.
“You have a unique opportunity to truly change the conversation about Aboriginal affairs in this state,” they said. “Time is of the essence.”
Among the issues cited as still unresolved were protection of the Fitzroy River and the divestment of Aboriginal Lands Trust land.
The meeting also endorsed the Uluru Statement and called on the Federal Government and Opposition to support a referendum on a voice in the Constitution.
The organisations said state funding and support needed to be prioritised for areas including Native Title, preservation of traditional languages and culture and economic development.
Urgent action needed to be taken to curb the high numbers of Aboriginal children being removed from families and placed in out-of-home care, they said.