Topic: Australia

Wangkatja elder concerned about mineral wealth of ancestral land

  • Australia

To Australia, there's no shortage of money in Kalgoorlie, a town 600km inland from Perth.

It's the hub of a number of mines but what do the traditional owners of the land think of their homelands being extracted for gold?

Kalgoorlie is the heart of the goldfields region, a mining goldfield, but beneath the super pit as it’s known, this Aboriginal community in Boulder resembles a field of rubbish.

Pastor Geoffrey Stokes says, “They get millions of dollars from the super pit every day.  Australia belongs to someone, Australia belongs to the aboriginal people.”

Stokes is angry at the planned closures of remote communities and like many others thinks there's another agenda at play such as accessing the land for its mineral wealth.

“We have gold here and Kimberley have diamonds, and the very place that they closed up, within months, they said we found diamonds out here,” says Stokes.

There are three Aboriginal communities on the outskirts of Kalgoorlie; Boulder, Kurrawang and Ninga Mia, which sits between two mines.

Pastor Geoffrey Stokes runs church mass here every Sunday.  His sister and other family members live here and he has concerns about its survival.

He says, “They want to dig it up, but if the people stay strong here my people, stay strong with one another and God and their relationship with him we'll win you know.”

The passionate church leader isn't shying away from standing up for his homelands either.

He's due in court next week for firing a rifle shot into the air at a mine site near the Mount Margaret Aboriginal community.

He says he was calling for a halt to unannounced mining activity in the area.

“So that place is a very sacred and significant site.  Our people lived there for a thousand of years that's why they built my Margaret there you know,” says Stokes.

While the government sees this place as a gold mine, the Wangkatja people just want to be seen.

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