- conservation lands

To: <>, "Birding-aus (E-mail)" <>
Subject: - conservation lands
From: "Scott O'Keeffe" <>
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000 18:45:39 +1000
Thanks, Hal.  Its good to have some constructive and informative discussion
on these issues, as opposed to the all too common cliches.

-----Original Message-----
From: Hal Wootten <>
To: Birding-aus (E-mail) <>
Date: Monday, 10 April 2000 12:06
Subject: - conservation lands

>Michael Hunter's remarks about Aboriginal land purchases cannot be allowed
>to go without comment, for they are the sort of misinformation that gets
>accepted as truth and passed on to feed redneck prejudices.
>His remarks relate to the Northern Land Council, which, like the Central
>Land Council, is regularly the subject of misleading attacks by the
>Territory Government and others who dislike the effective way it has stood
>up for Aboriginal interests.  Michael's account would leave the reader
>the impression that the Northern Land Council has $50 million a year to
>spend on land purchases, and has spent $11 million to purchase a 'pristine'
>pastoral property in Western Australia for 'grandiose' developments which
>the Aborigines concerned do not want.
>The Northern Land Council does not even operate in Western Australia, has
>funds to spend on the purchase of properties, is controlled by the
>Aborigines in its area of operation, and could not develop land except in
>accordance with the wishes of the traditional owners.  Far from carrying
>grandiose development plans, its main service to Aboriginal landowners is
>through a "Caring for Country Unit" which assists them to redress the
>environmental damage caused by previous white owners.  Only one cattle
>station in its area, Elsey, is even conducted on a commercial basis.  Both
>the Northern and Central Land Councils are heavily involved in
>including assisting the traditional owners of Kakadu and Uluru National
>Parks.  On a recent visit to the Central Land Council I was told of its
>pleasure in co-operating with Birds Australia over the proposal to buy
>The only body currently funded to purchase land for Aborigines is the
>Indigenous Land Corporation which at the present time has $28 million per
>year to buy back land for dispossessed Aborigines over the whole of
>Australia (see ).  This does not go very far to
>redress the taking of a whole continent and to suggest that some of it be
>diverted to buy the "sacred places" of birders seems to me to be
>mean-spirited, to say the least, particularly when it would mean stopping
>traditional owners from regaining the land in question.
>It is remarkable that with all the environmental damage and development
>by white landowners over the years, complaint should be levelled at a
>proposal that one property should pass from white to Aboriginal ownership.
>If the Indigenous Land Corporation is buying the property, it is buying it
>from white pastoralists to return it to traditional owners from whom it was
>taken without consultation or compensation, and with brutal disregard for
>the fact that their whole way of life was being destroyed.  If there is to
>be development, it will be because the traditional owners want it.
>Michael says that the real heritage of indigenous people is 'pristine
>That was the case before white settlement, but there is precious little
>pristine land left now, and pastoral stations are certainly not in that
>category.  Aboriginals certainly often display a desire to return to their
>traditional country and care for it in the way that allows Michael to
>it as pristine after 40,000 years.  But they have a number of problems,
>when they have been fortunate enough to get funding to buy it back.
>One is the constant pressure they are under from Governments and others,
>particularly funding sources, to engage in economic development and not
>leave land 'idle' - the opposite of Michael's criticism, showing they are
>damned if they do and damned if they don't.  Just think of Aboriginal
>resistance to Government pressure to allow uranium mining for example.
>Another is the simple fact that without resort to economic development they
>and their children must remain poverty stricken and underprivileged in
>isolated welfare-dependent communities.  Few of their properties have
>economic potential - those open to claim under land rights legislation are
>available only because no white person ever thought they were worth
>acquiring. Most Aboriginals do want education and opportunity for their
>kids, and are very conscious of the destructive effects of the prolonged
>welfare dependency in which they have been left since the great changes in
>the outback economy in the sixties and seventies destroyed their economic
>niches.  If they do happen to get land capable of development, they cannot
>afford to ignore the opportunities.  They tend to feel rather unsympathetic
>to whites who have destroyed most of the pristine character of the
>for economic gain but then think Aboriginals should forego their few
>opportunities so that wealthy white tourists can have a pristine
>There are ways around this, as the existence of Kakadu, Uluru and
>Mootawingee show.  The indications are that traditional owners are very
>amenable to conservation schemes that do not seek to deprive them of the
>control of their land and allow them to get some economic return or
>opportunities for employment.  There is room for some innovative thinking.
>I do not know Roebuck Plains pastoral station, but if it is being acquired
>for the traditional owners, and if it is the ornithological treasure house
>that Michael describes, one suggestion would be for Birds Australia to
>negotiate with the new owners to find ways to make it worth their while to
>protect key areas and make those areas accessible to birders, and to manage
>their whole property with an eye to the interests of bird conservation.
>Maybe it would be feasible to establish something like Cape York's Pajinka
>Lodge there, for example, and to find funds (eg through Environment
>Australia's Indigenous Protected Areas Program or a body like WWF) to
>some indigenous rangers to work with volunteers from birding groups.  I am
>sure the Kimberley Land Council (if that is the appropriate body for the
>area) would be amenable to approaches that are respectful of Aboriginal
>interests and ownership, and that propose genuine partnerships of mutual
>These suggestions are off the top of my head.  But for heaven's sake let us
>have no more embarrassing suggestions that the meagre funds available to
>restore some land to its dispossessed traditional owners should be raided
>give (often well-off) birders access to what are described with unpleasant
>sarcasm as their 'sacred places'.
>Hal Wootten
>PO Box 255 Glebe NSW 2037 Australia
>Phone 02 9692 9354  Fax 02 9660 1503
>E-mail <>
>To unsubscribe from this list, please send a message to
>Include ONLY "unsubscribe birding-aus"
>in the message body (without the quotes)

To unsubscribe from this list, please send a message to

Include ONLY "unsubscribe birding-aus"
in the message body (without the quotes)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU