The following letter appeared in The Australian, 21 May 2009, p.13
I read Stuart Rintoul’s articles (“Kimberley’s pastoral jewel to be returned”; “Promised land”, Features, 19/5) on the Indigenous Land Corporation-owned Roebuck Plains Station with interest. Firstly, I was pleased to see that industry experts agree Roebuck is a profitable business providing Indigenous youth in the Kimberley with accredited training and, with commitment and perseverance, jobs.
I was then surprised by the ill-informed comments of Peter Yu, who was the ILC deputy chairman when the ILC purchased Roebuck in 1999. This was the ILC board that approved a 15-year management agreement that locked out traditional owners, and the ILC, from the management of Roebuck and would have seen at least half of the $9.4 million profit going to non-Indigenous interests until 2014! Thankfully, that agreement was terminated in 2000 to instead maximise benefits for Indigenous people living in the Kimberley.
Yu claims that the ILC has not acknowledged or recognised Native Title rights. But, three years ago I wrote to the Kimberley Land Council congratulating the Yawuru on their successful determination and asking them to meet us about Roebuck. The KLC replied, asking that we not meet until their prescribed body corporate was established. That occurred earlier this year and the ILC remains ready to hold discussions.
Yu then alleges the ILC has lacked “initiative, energy, vision and a lack of duty of care” in dealing with other Indigenous-owned properties in the Kimberley. How is that so when the $6.5 million Kimberley Indigenous Management Support Service program, funded by the ILC and the West Australian Department of Agriculture, has been running for seven years and operates on 18 of the 25 Indigenous-held pastoral properties in the Kimberley? How is his allegation logical when cattle herds on these properties have increased by 174 per cent, with herd values jumping by over 200 per cent to $14.6 million? How is this possible when 85 people participated in training in 2008 alone and 17 full and 49 part-time jobs have been created?
Chairperson, Indigenous Land Corporation