First Nations People are being ignored by current legislation according to South West MLC Diane Evers, after the State Government confirmed Lake Mullocullup will be gazetted for water-skiing.
The Greens (WA) spokesperson for wetlands Ms Evers expressed anger at the decision by the Department of Transport (DoT) for not taking into account the cultural and conservation values of the site.
Lake Mullocullup was added to the list of 41 registered sites under the Aboriginal Heritage Act last year and retains immense historical and spiritual values to Noongar people.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt told Ms Evers at the time that an application to the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee (ACMC) for consent under Section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act would be required prior to gazetting the lake for water-skiing.
When questioned by Ms Evers in parliament yesterday, Environment Minister Stephen Dawson – the minister representing Transport Minister Rita Saffioti – confirmed the gazette for March 22 as it became clear that ACMC approval would not be required until infrastructure changes such as signage or road works were needed.
Should this occur, in line with the State Government’s advice from the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, a Section 18 application would be required – meaning only then will First Nations People be considered.
Ms Evers said she was hopeful the rights of the Noongar community would be upheld as the State Government now has a legal responsibility to the health and safety of skiers, which it cannot uphold without ACMC consent.
The lake continues to be used regularly for cultural and spiritual activities for Noongar people, and has been both a birthing site and watering place on their near-500 kilometre treks from Albany to Esperance.
Illegal water-skiing and boat use has occurred at the lake for over 35 years but will now fall under the purview of DoT to ensure the site is safe and accessible.
COMMENTS ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:
“The State Government and Department of Transport have backed themselves into a corner on this issue, having been toothless in stopping the desecration of Lake Mullocullup to date.
“We now have a ridiculous scenario where an activity is deemed appropriate in spite of cultural considerations, and facilitating safe use may not be possible if those considerations are subsequently addressed.
“The decision highlights a moral deficiency in the box-ticking processes government departments abide by, where they do not have to consider their interconnection with other departments, and operate in silos.
“What is just as upsetting is the City of Albany escalating the matter to state level on the back of a split council decision after pitiful consultation took place with Noongar people.
“It was so bad that another consultant would later explain just how deficient the first consultation had been.
“Instead of taking responsibility and stopping water-skiing when the City had the authority to do so, those councillors who voted in favour of the gazette ignored our First Nations People in favour of an illegal activity normalised by 35 years of turning a blind eye.
“In fact, one councillor described consultation with First Nations People as a “waste of time” as “eight of the local Noongar families and their Elders objected to the gazettal”.
“When viewed in context of a recent State Administrative Tribunal decision to allow mining extraction in the Nullaki Peninsula conservation zone, despite two unanimous refusals from the City of Albany, it is clear something fundamentally broken in our bureaucracy.
“I want to say how important it is to have steps in place to make sure that the wrong decisions do not happen, because it will disturb not only cultural values, but environmental values also.
“Lake Mullocullup is one of the few remaining freshwater lakes in that area and it is too valuable to lose.
“This process has been blind to its perverse consequences, has caused mental anguish and is a waste of time and money.
“The mother of my friend Carol Pettersen, a Noongar woman who lives in Albany and a staunch defender of the site’s significance, was born at Lake Mullocullup 102 years ago.
“As Carol so eloquently put it, to be able to sit in reverence of the solitude and beautiful environment at Lake Mullocullup, only to be suddenly disturbed by the engine roar of a motorboat, would be akin to hearing a motorbike in a church.
“I remain hopeful that the rights of First Nations People will be upheld, but it should not take such a fight to get there.
GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070