Yawuru Traditional Owners take the reins at Roebuck Plains station

1 Feb 2022

Yawuru Traditional Owners will build on the legacy of their ancestors as they forge a new era for their people in taking over the pastoral operations at Roebuck Plains Station on Gumaranganyjal near Broome.

Roebuck Plains Station and Roebuck Export Depot were handed back to Nyamba Buru Yawuru (NBY) by the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) in 2014, with the ILSC managing the two operations since then via a lease agreement.

In 2006, the Yawuru people were granted native title over more than 530,000 hectares of traditional Yawuru country, the land and waters in and around Rubibi (the town of Broome), including the cattle station and depot.

During the ILSC’s management of the station, NBY has been engaged in capacity development and cultural and environmental protection, including management of the Indigenous Protected Area (IPA).

NBY CEO Nini Mills said taking over the station would herald a new era for Yawuru participation in the cattle and pastoral industries in the Kimberley.

“These industries were built on the back of our old people’s blood, sweat and tears, and for us to now be in the position to take control of the station is a tribute to their legacy and their sacrifice,” she said.

“We have been managing our buru (country) for millennia, it is part of us, and Roebuck has always been of important cultural significance for our people.

“To have control of our land will mean our cultural practices and language will be kept alive and can be handed down to our young people on country.

“We will balance the operations and management of the station with Yawuru cultural, social and environmental values, and we hope this will create a blueprint for other groups to follow in the future.

“Our young people will also get training and employment opportunities which will recognise and value their innate knowledge and understanding of country and foster their connection to culture.

“We want our people to feel empowered and we hope they will feel immense pride that we have created the opportunity to build on the legacy that our old people put in place.

“We are excited about creating a sustainable future as we continue to grow mabu liyan, mabu buru and mabu ngarrungunil.” (good wellbeing, healthy country, strong community/people).

Ms Mills said the training opportunities would follow the current successful training model which had seen 160 people graduate the program since 2008.

The operations of the station will officially be handed over to NBY on February 1, while the two organisations will continue to work together to transfer operations of the export depot in the future.

As part of the transfer of management of the station, NBY will purchase 15,000 head of cattle from the ILSC.

ILSC Group CEO Joe Morrison said the transition of operations was a significant step forward for the Traditional Owners, and for the ILSC.

“The ILSC and NBY have worked hand in hand over the past six years to ensure Roebuck is a viable business, and we are proud to have supported the Traditional Owners as they prepared to take over running the station,” he said.

“This also represents a step forward for the ILSC, which is transitioning out of operating agribusinesses to instead supporting Traditional Owners to realise their aspirations for their country and their people.

“This decision enables the ILSC to rebalance and focus on its core purpose of returning country to Indigenous Australians so that they enjoy the rightful entitlements, opportunities and benefits that the ownership and management of country brings.

“It’s a momentous occasion for Yawuru and represents the culmination of a long‐term relationship which has balanced protection of country, culture and social enhancement with the generation of economic benefits.

“We are very proud to have supported NBY and look forward to watching their journey of self-determination, which was so strongly fought for by their Elders, be carried forward by future generations.”

An official ceremony to hand over management will be held around the middle of the year.

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