EXCLUSIVE: Some Indigenous residents of the Western Australian goldfields town of Kalgoorlie are not happy with The Goldfields Land and Sea Council with claims of local infighting and self-interest having taken root. True Crime News Weekly correspondent Gary Johnston gingerly wades into the troubles.
There can be little argument that, as far as mainstream Australia is concerned, the treatment of its Indigenous peoples has been shameful. In more recent times, however, a greater understanding of the complex issues concerning a group and culture whose undoubted connection to the land goes back many millennia has gradually evolved.
Whilst there is patently still some way to go, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people all over Australia are now exerting their right to be acknowledged as the true owners and custodians of country their ancestors lived, ruled and thrived in for centuries prior to European occupation.
Whilst this might be seen as a hopeful – if somewhat belated – development, it appears that in the well-known gold mining town of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, Indigenous people with a clear, legitimate ancestral claim to native title are currently being discriminated against and denied their connection to the land by rival families – aided and abetted by the forces of white Australia legislation and bureaucracy.
Speaking exclusively to True Crime News Weekly this week are life-long Kalgoorlie residents, Sharon Dimer and her cousin Peter, whose paternal descendants originate from the Kalaako “People of Fire” tribe, while Sharon’s grandmother is acknowledged as a direct progeny of King Jidu’s (RIP) bloodline.
The pair asserted that The Goldfields Land and Sea Council (GLSC) – known as “the principal voice for Aboriginal people from the Goldfields-Esperance region” – have consistently thwarted Ms Dimer’s family’s claims to the land, acquiescing instead to an alternative group with a significantly lesser ancestral connection.
The GLSC, which has responsibility on a number of issues concerning land and waters, governance, social and economic development, heritage and other matters of justice, is the local organisation established under Land Council legislation imposed by the Keating Labor government in the late 1970’s, with a view to ‘gaining native title and other forms of Aboriginal land rights’.
The purpose of Land Councils is to give Indigenous peoples a voice on issues affecting their lands, seas and communities, but Ms Dimer has told True Crime News Weekly that, despite her families recognised ancestral connection, local infighting and self-interest has led to her bloodline being denied an opportunity to contribute to the protection of the land, in accordance with the traditions and conventions of their forbears.
In an exclusive interview, Ms Dimer spoke of how another group who originate from the south west region have attempted to usurp the Dimer family’s identity and authority and that, following a well organised coup, the GLSC is now monopolised by three family groupings, none of whom can claim an authentic local connection.
These families, according to Ms Dimer, “have been in receipt of royalties for 25-30 years when they are not the true Traditional Owners. This is a fact, as they have consistently been unable to provide proof of their ownership, despite our numerous attempts to have them do so”.
Ms Dimer, supported by other concerned family members went on: “It’s my opinion that lawyers representing the GLSC have supported the falsification of the Determination Claims without accredited documentation and in fact, have taken no responsibility for the damage this has caused amongst family groups”.
In an attempt to have her family’s claim acknowledged, Ms Dimer has attempted to utilise the authority and powers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Native Title Tribunal and the Federal Court, but claims she has consistently been side-lined and ignored, whilst the dysfunction and – she asserts – incompetence of the GLSC is allowed to continue, with little or no regard for traditional mores or recognised cultural applications.
Significantly, Ms Dimer and her family have been told that they should engage a lawyer to assist them in their plight, but despite attempts, several law firms have refused to take her case.
“As the legitimate – and almost universally accepted – local traditional owners, we cannot understand why we have to go outside of our jurisdiction (boundary) to engage a paid lawyer,” she said.
“The firms we have approached have told us they are unable to help us to due to a ‘conflict of interest’ with the GLSC, yet lawyers, are, we believe, representing other family groups without a true local connection.”
In an effort to publicise her family’s situation and claim, Ms Dimer has made numerous efforts to contact the mainstream media without success; True Crime News Weekly believes this is because the story, complex and sensitive as it is, has been placed in the ‘too hard’ basket.
“What we need now,” Ms Dimer went on, “Is a lawyer and possibly even an anthropologist who is prepared to help us prepare our specified boundary claim through the Federal Court.”
In the first instance this will involve the legal composition of Form 1, documentation described in S61 (1) of the Native Title Act 1993 as being an application for a determination of native title in relation to an area where there is dispute over ownership. The form, which is complicated and described by legal experts as ‘tortuous’, must be accompanied by an affidavit by each applicant that address the matters set out in S62 (1) of the Act.
“This will be a long and difficult process,” Ms Dimer said, “But we’re not going anywhere. Our family have been connected to this land for thousands of years and – we hope – thousands more. We consider this is the beginning of a fight to get our cultural respect and identity back. It is truly history in the making.”
True Crime News Weekly intends to continue to address this story and will duly report back on the Dimer family’s plight.
Any legal firms interested in assisting can be supplied contacts details on request.