• Yule River Meeting, 2017. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Attendees at a meeting of Traditional Owners from the Pilbara region of Western Australia have categorically rejected the trial of a Welfare Debit card in the area.
By
Craig Quartermaine

Source:
NITV News
27 Sep 2017 - 1:30 PM  UPDATED 27 Sep 2017 - 1:34 PM

The participants of this year's Yule River meeting let visiting politicians Ben Wyatt, the first WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister to ever attend the meeting while in office, and Senator Pat Dodson know they rejected the trial, after having heard about the experiences of similar cards so far in the Kimberley, South Australia and the recent rollout in Bundaberg, QLD.

Traditional Owner and Yule River Meeting Co-Facilitator, Danny Brown, told NITV News the intention of the meeting was to present a united front.

"We don't have a voice through the Commonwealth and State Government … so through this meeting place we bring our people together throughout the Pilbara, unite us and hopefully create an advisory group," he said.

"It’s very important that people bring local issues to the region and we bring it to this meeting place and we unpack it, how we are going to present that to government and whether we'll be able to influence in change," he added.

The fear surrounding proposed Federal trials of a Welfare Debit card in the area added tension to the meeting.

After hearing the concerns, Senator Pat Dodson told NITV News: “The Labor policy for this is that it's a matter for the communities, but you have to work out how is that free, prior and informed consent given to the kind of controls and the measures that go with such a draconian system?"

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While nationally, the focus on the Pilbara has been on the recent arrests in Roebourne relating to child sex offences, and the proposed alcohol bans in the town of Port Hedland, local Traditional Owners used the meeting as a platform to voice their concerns on issues impacting them directly, such as hunting, Treaty, Heritage protection, and language preservation throughout the region.

Pardu Traditional Owner Jeffery Brown said, "The hope is to talk to Wyatt about this license business and if they get rid of the licence the kangaroos will come back. They’re going out further and further, wider and wider from here."

A man called Patrick took the microphone to say, “All I want to ask people to consider is a voice, how we stand in the groups as corporations as representative voices and those types of representations as a voice."

A woman also stood up to talk about the importance of being heard.

“If you want an Aboriginal voice, you keep it independent and inclusive," she demanded.

The ultimate outcome of the meeting was the establishment of an Advisory Leadership Group which can now take these concerns to the top levels of Government; forming the most comprehensive representation of the community the Pilbara has ever had.

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