The First Nation Swan Valley community was closed down amid allegations of violence and abuse, but many residents want to return because they don't feel safe in government housing ... not to mention the cultural wealth and self determination value.
Sophie Gabrielle & Karen Valenti
The Advocate 26 March 2014
NAOMI Bropho is among many Aboriginal people who still want to return to the Swan Valley Nyungah Community in Caversham.
She was one of a group of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who rallied on the steps of Parliament House to try to convince politicians to re-open the fenced and locked site on March 11.
But her hopes were dashed when 23 buildings at the property were bulldozed under a State Government order last Tuesday.
The indigenous community was closed down by the government in 2003 amid allegations of violence, child abuse and suspicious deaths.
Indigenous people were evicted after then Labor premier Geoff Gallop passed an Act of Parliament.
Members of the Nyungah community unsuccessfully appealed against their eviction in the Federal Court in 2007 and have continually protested against its closure since.
The buildings on the site were pulled down to make way for a conservation reserve and Aboriginal meeting place.
Ms Bropho (33) said she was unhappy living in a Department of Housing home. “I’m not safe there,” she said.
Ms Bropho, who is the daughter of local Aboriginal spokeswoman Bella Bropho, said her children would feel a whole lot safer at the Caversham community.
She said the community had always been a special place for her family and friends.
Police cars surrounded the Swan Valley Nyungah Community on March 18 while the buildings were destroyed.
Bella Bropho said that by the time she arrived all the buildings on the Lord Street property had been bulldozed, with a number of security personnel guarding the fence.
One man was issued with a move-on notice and Bella said police were at the site to see if any other protesters would cause any problems.
She said the property had earlier been under the control of the WA Planning Commission when it was badly vandalised and materials stolen.
Bella said the site still has significant cultural significance to Swan Valley Nyongars and the Bropho family.
“My mother died here, I lost a baby here,” she said.
Family members were not told about the planned demolition, with most of the community only learning about it for the first time earlier that day.
Department of Planning director general Duncan Ord confirmed the government had made the decision to remove the buildings “some time ago”.
He said there had been extensive consultation with the Aboriginal community about the future of the site.
“The majority of people supported the demolition of the houses and the area being returned to its natural state to form part of an extensive conservation corridor linking the Pyrton land area to Whiteman Park via Bennett Brook – all areas of significance to the Aboriginal community and significance in terms of their environmental values,” he said.
It was “well known” that the land could be cleared but the fact that the work would begin in the early hours was not made public because of safety concerns about people coming on to the site, he said.
Bella Bropho said the destruction of the houses was not the end and protesters intended to stage a rally against the demolition at Forrest Place soon.