As we embark on phase four easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Western Australia, we are cautiously approaching a new normal and I wish everybody the best during this transition. This new normal allows for a greater focus on community and environmental issues. I will continue doing all I can to represent the voices of the South West Region as we work towards a post-COVID recovery that rebuilds our future.
A major and ongoing issue in our South West forests relates to water rights, with the unfair and inequitable Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme rearing its ugly head once more in June. My thoughts remain with this already-long and painful community fight to save the Donnelly River. To stop the SFIS I need your help. You can read more about last month’s developments in this newsletter and sign up for our campaign to Stop The SFIS.
As I seek to remain connected to regional communities with upcoming regional visits and the continued fight to speak out for what matters, I’m delighted that my Regional Regeneration Facebook group continues to grow. At the time of writing, we have surpassed 300 members, coming together to discuss ideas about how to drive positive change in regional WA. If you haven’t yet joined, please feel welcome and invite your networks. This online community allows for an opportunity to share knowledge and I do hope you’ll join us as we hold important discussions about what affects us and work towards realising not just a new normal, but a better normal for our regional communities.
There are so many issues that affect us at global, national and local levels, such as environmental destruction, the need for new approaches to land management, impacts of housing stress, and the preservation of human rights. I am encouraged that so many people remain engaged with these matters and provide hopeful energy for parliamentarians like myself to represent them.
SOUTHERN FORESTS IRRIGATION SCHEME: Help Save the Donnelly
I have been painfully reminded in the past month of the inequity and unfairness motivating the community fight to stop the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme. This battle against the SFIS has already been long and painful, with the Donnelly River at risk from an inequitable water trading scheme that is 85 percent funded by taxpayers but locks out 85 percent of farming businesses. 302ha of good forest is going to be destroyed due to the SFIS, with 160ha inundated and 142ha cleared for pipelines.
My office became aware of approved drill testing occurring for this scheme during June, with significant community concern that these works were undertaken without the required hygiene controls to prevent the spread of dieback. I brought this matter to the attention of Environment Minister Stephen Dawson and the Regional Development Minister Allanah MacTiernan during parliament sitting weeks and called for the State Government to suspend such testing until the pending Environmental Protection Authority assessment is completed later this year. These current actions are akin to the previous government moving ahead with clearing land for Roe 8: unnecessary carnage for a road that was never built.
We need to ensure the public awareness and governmental pressure is increased. The SFIS must be stopped. We must not sell water from the Donnelly and we must protect catchment farmers. I encourage you to stay updated with our campaign to support impacted local communities and to help us Stop The SFIS.
FIGHT FOR OUR FORESTS: Email the Ministers
The current native forests logging regime is destroying our biodiversity hotspots in the middle of a climate and extinction crisis. Logging our native forests not only destroys critical ecosystems but also hampers the development of higher value, sustainable industries such as tourism and honey production, as well as ignoring the value in Noongar cultural and educational practices.
By continuing the operations of the Forest Products Commission, WA Labor and the Liberals are propping up an unprofitable and destructive native forestry industry, frustrating our transition to a truly sustainable timber industry.
This is why I am calling on the WA Labor Government to repeal the Forest Products Act and protect our native forests — and am calling on you to support me by emailing the Ministers for Forestry, Environment and Regional Development to demand an end to the destruction of our state’s remaining native forests.
HOUSING STRESS: Stimulus Steps Not Enough
Homelessness and housing stress in regional Western Australia is in a crisis, with the waiting list close to a decade in some places. While I welcomed the McGowan Government’s Social Housing Economic Recovery package as a necessary step for regional public housing and an increase in job creation, those measures did not go far enough to address long regional waitlists for accommodation.
I spoke in Parliament last month about homelessness in regional areas, something that concerns me greatly. In regional Western Australia, one in 10 women have experienced homelessness at some time in the past five years. This is unacceptable. Currently, there are 700 women on the public housing waitlist in the South West Region alone. In the Augusta-Margaret River area, there are 78 public housing dwellings, but, unfortunately, this is not enough.
In a region where there is up to a 10-year waitlist for public housing and housing is unaffordable for 63 per cent of residents, there are much-needed South West organisations such as Just Home Margaret River providing housing advocacy to vulnerable or disadvantaged members of the community, and they need support. I ask that in this wealthy state, the government does much more to help vulnerable people experiencing homelessness, particularly in the regions where social support services are often hard to come by.
INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS AND CIVIL RIGHTS: Community Rallies for First Nations Voices
Few issues are more important than the continuing racial injustice in our country. Tragically, cultural and civil rights have been entwined with environmental catastrophe as a consequence of the wanton destruction of two 46,000-year-old culturally significant caves at Juukan Gorge in late May. In response, during June I stood with our First Nations people to rally outside the Perth offices of Rio Tinto in protest against this cultural vandalism.
I also attended the Perth Black Lives Matter rally days later, which drew thousands to Langley Park to harness global energy to address issues that directly affect First Nations people here in Australia. My WA Greens colleagues and I have worked to ensure these matters are raised in State Parliament and First Nations voices are heard, as ongoing struggles with systematic abuse, incarceration, marginalisation, and disenfranchisement from their culture and histories continues.
Subsequently, in Parliament I have sought to ensure a simple truth of civil rights was placed on the record. Black and First Nations peoples’ lives matter and I support my WA Greens colleague Robin Chapple’s call for the prevention of further devastating destruction of First Nations People’s heritage in WA. Not a single Aboriginal Heritage Site has been protected since the early ’90s and the people of Western Australia have lost scores of caves, artefacts and sacred spiritual places in that time. Robin subsequently moved in Parliament during June that we debate the failure in Australia — including here in Western Australia — to protect some of the world’s oldest cultural heritage sites, despite efforts by traditional owners to prevent their loss.
PRESCRIBED BURNING: Prescribed Burning Practice Review Needed
The way we currently manage the bush through prescribed burns is not working. Burns that are conducted outside of scientifically guided best practice are damaging our unique and fragile ecosystems. Bart Lebbing of the Denmark Fire Study Group let me in on a letter they wrote to the Minister for the Environment with deep concerns around the current burning regime. I thought it was so reflective of many people in the South West that I read it in parliament for all to hear.
I’ve invited the Members of Parliament to come down to the South West, and visit these forests toexperience the value of what we need to protect. I truly hope they take up the invitation. You can join the call for a review into the practices used for prescribed burns in Western Australia by signing this petition.