Interview with Marianne McKay
Aboriginal activists in Perth organised a three day cultural event in June to mobilise opposition to the Barnett Government’s latest land grab. Over 150 people representing 14 tribes met on Matagarup (Herrison Island) to discuss the government’s attempt to take land from the Nyoongar people in South Western Australia.
This land is rich in natural resources. In order to facilitate the needs of big mining companies and developers the Barnett government is proposing a billion dollar offer to settle native title claims. While the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) supports the deal, the Nyoongar Tent Embassy has likened it to being offered peanuts.
Marianne McKay, a spokesperson for the Tent Embassy, spoke to The Socialist about some of the issues.
The Socialist: What do you think of Barnett’s offer?
Marianne McKay: It’s an insult and a slap in the face. We can not give up our land. Our culture comes from the land. Barnett says he will let us have pockets of land but most of that is in the national parks. Barnett is trying to dictate to us what we can and what we can’t have. Barnett can stick his offer. My people will not accept it.
The Socialist: What do you think of SWALSC? Do they have the right to sign off on the deal?
Marianne McKay: No. At the end of the day SWALSC are a statutory body set up by the government to handle and manage the native title. They don’t represent us. They represent the interests of the government. If they are going to say they represent the people then they need to do what the people want. We want sovereignty. If you want to represent the Nyoongar people then you need to fight for sovereignty.
The Socialist: Do you think the whole of the Nyoongar people should vote on this deal and not just the board of SWALSC?
Marianne McKay: Yes that’s right. The board of SWALSC was not elected by the people. They were elected by their membership which is a tiny minority of Nyoongars. There are 30,000–40,000 Nyoongars. Most people we have spoken to either don’t know about the offer or don’t know the details of it.
The Socialist: You’ve organised tours down to the South West, what has been the response of ordinary Nyoongars?
Marianne McKay: It has been overwhelming, they don’t want the offer. A lot of them who didn’t know about the offer were shocked. We did a tour down there with a $500 donation and got around to see about 500 people. In contrast SWALSC have about 5 or 6 people turn up to their meetings. What sort of consultation is that?
The Socialist: So your plan is to register people’s opposition to this deal? How are you going about this?
Marianne McKay: Originally we started with a petition but it’s not a petition anymore. We are declaring that we don’t agree with this deal. Colin Barnett thinks the majority of people support the offer. I don’t know who he’s been speaking to but the majority don’t support the offer. Barnett needs to pull back and stop with his capitalist attitude and mindset and start listening to the people.