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Monday, 22 August 2011

Seeking Security over Assetts Built on Aboriginal Land Trust lands

The Bana Yarralji vision is to see Nyungalwarra lore restored, and Nyungalwarra living and working on Aboriginal freehold lands that are promised to be transferred to an Aboriginal Land Trust (Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Land Trust)  as part of a local native title settlement

Key to the way Marilyn Wallace, Peter Wallace and Bana Yarralji have chosen to promote and achieve this vision of Nyungalwarra living, making a living, and working on country, is to lead by example, establishing an effective, viable enterprise on country applying business principles to generate the income and the means necessary to actually see Nyungkalwarra living, making a living, and working on country.

Initially Marilyn and Peter Wallace simply moved onto country setting up home, and setting up their proposed base on Aboriginal land.   They drew on extensive networks of relationships to procure water tanks, water pumps, assistance digging pit toilets, assembling used corrugated tin, and Lutheran church group assistance to cut Cooktown iron wood logs and build a shed to live in and operate from

Unfortunately, while Marilyn Wallace and family may have had every right under local Aboriginal lore, through her father, to set up home and base on the selected land  - in Australian law - everything Marilyn and co. put onto that Aboriginal freehold land automatically becomes the property of the Aboriginal land trust holding the land; and there is no formally recognised 'right' by Marilyn and co. to control and maintain the home and the base they built.

After setting up on country -  Marilyn Wallace, Peter Wallace, and Bana Yarralji, with the support and assistance of the Centre for Appropriate Technology, all worked to increase infrastructure on the block of land - starting with proper toilet blocks, warm showers, electricity, telephones, office, caravan parks etc.   (See previous posting on the building of tiolet blocks as the beginning of community development)

Again, unfortunately, while working to show the way, and working to increase quality of life plus infrastructure on Aboriginal freehold lands held by an Aboriginal Land Trust  .. all that they built onto the land automatically became the property of the Aboriginal land trust, with NO certainty or security for those who worked so hard for so long to see this infrastructure put onto this land. 

It turns out Bana Yarralji couldn't even themselves directly apply to the local council for necessary development approvals to put in the infrastructure; nor submit vegetation management plans clearing the way for infrastructure put in; nor apply for caravan and camping permits over the area.   In every instance Bana Yarralji was required to go to the Aboriginal Land Trust some distance away with fingers crossed in the hope that Land Trust would make all the necessary applications on Bana Yarralji's behalf

Hanging around Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, there is a story that the Treasurer of a prominent Bank (Westpac?) visited Cape York to cast specialist eyes over some of the Aboriginal economic development issues,  and, within 5 minutes of touching down quickly concluded that ".. unless and until leases are able to be issued, nothings  going to happen.."

Whether the story is true or not, it seems the only cure to the whole problem of obtaining security and control over assetts and infrastructure necessary to run an enterprise is for the likes of Bana Yarralji to take the approach of businesses across Australian and approach the landholders to obtain a lease!

It turns out that while it is theorectically possible for Aboriginal Land Trusts under Queensland's Aboriginal Land Act to grant leases .. after more than three years of constant requests by Marilyn Wallace and co seeking a lease   .. and after an accumulating body of increasingly complex legal opinion has been collected .. the lesson being learnt is that;

i.   obtaining a lease from an Aboriginal Land Trust under the Aboriginal Land Act is not a simple matter of entering in to a business relationship for the conduct of business (there are almost no such commercial leases for Aboriginal Land Trust lands in the Cape)

ii.  obtaining a lease would seem to effectively establish exclusive private property rights for a few over lands that are held communally for the many ..  in a way that seems to challenge and run counter to the way most people conceive of native title plus associated tradition and lore

Very frustrated and running short of options,  Bana Yarralji's Marilyn Wallace now;

i.   wishes to 'host' an event at which relevant specialists plus land trust directors and elders are assembled, in the hope of bringing about some open discussion about the relative value, difficulty and need for families wishing to move onto country to be able to lease lands from their land trust.

ii.   wishes to 'host' such an event to coincide and occur together with a planned official opening of the newly constructed Bana Yarralji ranger base in a few weeks  (being a ranger base over which no lease has yet been obtained).   

There is also a bit of a wish that participants in such an 'event' might see that there need not be any necessary contradiction between:

-   the granting of private commercial property rights to a cultural enterprise like Bana Yarralji, and
-   the general promotion of the interests of a community of people who share a vision with that cultural enterprise

There is bit of a wish that it will be seen that support for a private, commercial lease may be one way for all Nyungalwarra to move closer, together, to seeing more people living and making a living working on their ancestoral lands (in their garden of eden)??

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Cultural entreprenuers moving onto country, building a base on country, working on country; caring for country, and hosting guests on country