You must recognise that we are in a process of taking back our power to care for our own communities: Bella Bropho, Matargarup

We have never been given the opportunity to live in our own ways ... since occupation of our lands in 1829, we have been forced, by successive policies, to be a reactive people.

Now we are trying to change to be proactive, but we need time to do that in our own way. We are in the process of re-piecing together our community with our own value system, starting here at Heirisson Island.

- Bella Bropho

Bella Bropho - Matargarup Refugee Camp
(Photo by Matthew Dwyer from The Perth Voice)

David Bell The Perth Voice 23 May 2015

First Nations elder and activist Bella Bropho still sleeps out at Matargarup Refugee Camp (Heirisson Island) despite Perth city council (PCC) and police repeatedly confiscating tents and bedrolls to stop camping.


(Photo Matthew Dwyer 'Perth Voice')
 
The Matargarup Refugee Camp will be the site of a Concert for Matargarup on May 30, with musicians heading down for a gig to oppose the closure of homelands in remote areas. About 35 bands are planned, along with food vans and a corroboree. The concert kicks off at 11 am.

Matargarup Refugee Camp Concert 30 May 2015
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In an open letter sent to the PCC this week, Ms Bropho accuses the council of having "extended the limitations of your authority under the laws of WA and the commonwealth" and describes the confiscations as "criminal actions".

She demands a return of taken property.

Ms Bropho says under the WA local government act, council by-laws are "overridden by state or federal laws such as the Aboriginal Heritage Act of 1922".

She argues people are entitled to camp at the registered Aboriginal site listed as a camp and meeting place because the federal law overrides bylaws.

It's a similar argument to that advanced by seasoned barrister Stephen Walker in legal missives directed at the council.

Power

"You must recognise that we, the Swan Valley Nyoonga/War-juk people, are in a process of taking back our power to care for our own communities as we should," Ms Bropho wrote.

"We have never been given the opportunity to live in our own ways ... since occupation of our lands in 1829, we have been forced, by successive policies, to be a reactive people.

"Now we are trying to change to be proactive, but we need time to do that in our own way. "We are in the process of re-piecing together our community with our own value system, starting here at Heirisson Island.

We know our values are the right way to go, because despite all the assaults on our people since the occupation of our lands, our values and our humanity has not led us to despise others or led to a hatred of the whites.

"We are aware that we represent a threat to the document culture, however it is our obligation to liberate ourselves from this system that is not working for us.

"We need to make an ideological shift, a first step to a new philosophical ideology. There is room for wadjellas (white people) to move with us, to develop a new system with us"

The Voice asked the PCC for a response to Ms Bropho's letter.

Its new media man Michael Holland says CEO Gary Stevenson has met with Ms Bropho but "we respectfully decline to comment on this occasion". Likerwise, he says, "the correspondence to Mr Walker is privileged and details will not be released".

Matargarup Refugee Camp
 
Bella and Herbert Bropho at Matargarup Refugee Camp
Bella Bropho (Centre) after the first raid of tents and personal belongings by the the Perth City Council with the assistance of the WA Police Force and a Private Security Agent.