Problems and Solutions
Friday morning Patrick was thinking about the scraps he had written. Rachel was about to go off to the Gallery again, preparatory to writing a piece for the SMH, when the phone rang.
“Patrick, it’s for you!”
“Good morning, I’m calling on behalf of Sarah Mitchell...”
“The Minister was interested in learning whether she might speak with you.”
“The answer is certainly. But might you tell me what our conversation might concern?”
“She didn’t tell me exactly; but she has been reading about the Noongar legislation in Western Australia.”
“Oh. I think I understand. When is Mrs. Mitchell free?”
“Well, she’s flying west in the morning. Could you make a meeting this afternoon?”
“13:30? At which office?”
“Oh. How about Bridge Street?”
“No problem. Tell Mrs. Mitchell I’m looking forward to it.”
“What was that about?” Rachel asked.
“Sarah Mitchell want to talk to me in her role as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.”
“No mention of Olwen?”
“No, I don’t think Mitchell has connected me to her.”
“No. Well, I’m off. I can’t wait for your report.”
Patrick got out his copy of the Noongar Settlement Agreement. Actually, there were several agreements, bundled into six groups, to cover the different tribes:
“The Settlement is made up of six (6) individual Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs). Each of the following areas has a corresponding ILUA:
Yued People (Jurien, Moora, Lancelin, Gingin).
Gnaala Karla Boodja (Mandurah, Bunbury, Donnybrook).
South West Boojarah (Busselton, Dunsborough, Margaret River, Pemberton, Nannup).
Wagyl Kaip and Southern Noongar (Katanning, Gnowangerup, Albany).
Ballardong People (York, Northam, Hyden, Kondinin).
Whadjuk People (Perth Metropolitan area).”
But, Patrick had guessed, for the dealers, the “Cultural Advice” sections were the important ones.
Cultural Advice Policy
(a)This document sets out the policy for managing Cultural Advice to ensure the proper making of cultural decisions by the Aboriginal Corporation...
2.CULTURAL VALUES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
2.1 Customary Law
(a)We acknowledge, value, honour and respect our Noongar customary law and culture.
Our customary law designates us as the custodians of our country, which means we have responsibilities to our country which we need to meet.
Our customary law endows/bestows us with values of respect and reverence for the land and all that is in it.
2.2 Right People for Country
(a) While the lands of our families overlap and while there are no exclusive domains in Noongar country, we acknowledge and accept that through our traditions and culture, our families are connected to specific areas of land and have traditional ownership and custodianship of these lands.
(b) When seeking Cultural Advice and making cultural decisions, we will ensure that the people who are empowered to speak for an area of land through law and custom are also empowered through this policy.
2.3 Acknowledging Knowledge Holders
(a) We acknowledge that the people who possess direct knowledge of a place or area of country are of key importance in making cultural decisions.
We acknowledge that we need to incorporate all our cultural knowledge in our Cultural Advice and decisions. By including all knowledge holders we ensure that we meet our responsibilities to country in the best way possible.
As for the Ministry, who knew? He took his “Noongar (Koorah, Nitja, Boordahwan) (Past, Present, Future) Recognition Act 2016” (Western Australia, 16 May 2016) as well.
He put the whole mass of paper into his case, went into the bedroom, shed his clothes, washed and shaved, got dressed in a suit and tie, and left. After six months at the Ministry, he knew where he could park. And he knew where he could get a quick lunch, too – Mr. Wong also on Bridge St.
While he waited for his dim sum, Patrick re-read the beginning of the “Noongar Recognition Statement”:
All our Noongar people stand here on Noongar land.
Past, present and future.
We stand strong on our land.
The mungart tree symbolises our strength and survival.
All of our people stand firm on our land.
Our people are here to stay — we will always be.
We, the Noongar people, are the traditional owners of South West Western Australia, and have been since before time immemorial. As the First People of South West Western Australia, we continue to practise the laws and customs of our culture. Through this culture, we continue to hold rights, responsibilities and obligations in relation to our people, traditional lands and waters.
We, the Noongar people, are the largest single Aboriginal cultural bloc on the Australian continent. We belong to one of the oldest surviving living cultures on this earth. As a people, we have a common ancestral language, and a similar history and spirituality. We know that our traditional country is south and west of a line that stretches from Geraldton in the north to Cape Arid in the south-east, and that the spirit of this place can never be conquered.
It was moving. And it brought Josephine Flood to mind. But right now, he had to shed his snakeskin and don his gown and wig – at least psychologically. He’d have to see what Sarah Mitchell wanted. And somehow, over the clatter of the busy Chinese restaurant, he could hear a python laughing.
It took but five minutes to walk to the Ministry and another five to get in.
“Nothing, thank you. I’m quite curious as to why I’m here?”
“I suppose so. You weren’t given any background, were you?”
“No. Whoever phoned – your PA, perhaps – said it had something to do with the Noongar settlement. But that pertains to an area clear across Australia.”
“The vast majority of Aborigines live in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory. I think that NSW should be prepared. I spoke to Jason Ardler and he pointed to you. I spoke to the Land Council in Parramatta and – amazingly – they mentioned you. And yesterday I spoke to Commodore Perkins at Nowra and he mentioned you!” Patrick nodded.
“I find it very strange that three such separate sources would point to the same person.”
Patrick was amused. “I find it strange that you spoke to yet a different source, but you were unaware of it.”
“Are you mocking me?”
“Pulling your leg, perhaps; but not mocking you. Should I explain?”
“When I was an infant, my parents took me to a military wedding.”
“That couple became Olwen Evans’ parents. One of the junior officers at the wedding was Perkins. Perkins had been the unit commander when my father was shot by a Chinese illegal.” [The Minister gasped.]There is more of this chapter...