The ‘Uluru Statement From The Heart‘ is a very powerful document. It re-affirms Indigenous spiritual connection to land and nature, and explains how Indigenous people possessed this continent under their own laws and customs.
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs.
This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.”
The Yaroomba Beach Sekisui Development Site has many hectares of vacant land which are currently tied up in a Development Application proposal to Sunshine Coast Regional Council. Eventually there will be a public consultation process and Council will ultimately vote to accept or reject the proposal.
Under non-Indigenous Australian Law, Sekisui (Japanese development giant) has every right to submit a proposal, Council has every right to assess that proposal, and the local Yaroomba Community, in their droves, has every right to stand firm against any modification to the current Planning Scheme.
But there is another set of Laws pertaining to that largely vacant Sekisui owned plot of land at Yaroomba isn’t there? There is another group of people, First Nations’ People, who also just happen to have the right of vacant possession under their own laws and customs, don’t they?
Modern Australian law is a very nimble thing and it generally precludes First Nations’ People from submitting any sort of Native Title claim over freehold land.
Because of all that the Kabi Kabi First Nation’s Native Title Claim QC2013/003, which covers a reasonably large area and includes Yaroomba, seeks to claw back some rights but does not seek to throw anybody out into the street. Our ancestors may have pinched the land, and we might be the beneficiaries of that pinching, but the Claim does not seek to wind the clock back. The Native Titles Act ensures that, except in exceptional cases, freehold land remains immune from claim.
Which brings us back to the Sekisui Development Site at Yaroomba. The land is just sitting there patiently waiting for a bureaucratic planning mill to go through certain motions, make certain decisions, and ultimately say yay or nay to the possible ingress of tsunami waves of high-rise concrete over that beautiful largely vacant plot of land.
And that brings us back to the Uluru Statement From The Heart, and that notion of a sovereignty that was never ceded or extinguished. It is Makarrata time.
“Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.”
I feel very uncomfortable with the notion that this land – this land currently owned by Sekisui, and all of the living things that it contains – is seen as no more than an exploitable product by wealthy people seeking to increase their own wealth even further. It borders on the obscene.
This particular area of land has endured a chequered history of being horse-traded, bequeathed, sold and re-sold, and generally being treated as a plaything of one too many groups simply seeking to profit from it. It is nothing short of amazing that this land has survived all that and largely remains intact and pristine.
I believe that this land represents one of those rare exceptions allowed under the Native Titles Act. Returning it will not place any of the rest of us, or our property, at risk.
Sekisui is a very large and wealthy firm. The return of this land under the spirit of the Uluru Statement From The Heart would not be too hurtful financially for them. It would allow Sekisui to exit Yaroomba with some grace and dignity.
In my view this block of land, this exceptional block of land, should be returned by Sekisui on our behalf to the Traditional Owners so that they can exercise their own historical rights and interests over it.
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