THE chairman of the Rottnest Islands Death Group Aboriginal Corporation has slammed Fremantle council’s leasing of parts of Arthur Head for a tavern.
Iva Hayward-Jackson and prominent Noongar elder Bella Bropho told the Herald this week the historic reserve where Captain Fremantle first claimed possession of WA for the British crown was “sacred” to their people.
“This is our Anzac Cove, this is our Auschwitz, where horrific things happened to our ancestors,” Mr Hayward-Jackson said.
“The use of it as a bar and brewery is an insult to our historical connection to this sacred place.”
Sunset Events has a 20-year lease on a studio in the J-Shed which is due to kick in on July 1, and plans to apply for a 400-seat tavern on the site. It’s dropped plans for big outdoor concerts.
Mr Hayward-Jackson says it’s not just the Round House, where Aboriginal people were gaoled prior to be sent to Rottnest’s prison, that’s at issue.
“It’s not just the Round House, as important as it is, it’s the surrounding area because our ancestors were enslaved and executed at this site and were used to build buildings, roads and infrastructure; our ancestors were forced by British settlers to quarry this area and that brings up the area of this lease.
“Our oral history said Aboriginal women were killed at the Round House.”
Mr Hawyard-Jackson said it’s a little-acknowledged aspect of the colonial era that Aboriginal women and girls were traded as sex slaves, and he says they were bought to Fremantle before being shipoped east, particularly by sealers.
“Pedophilia was rampant,” he says, noting that Britain only outlawed slavery in 1830.
Mr Hayward-Jackson said his corporation was negotiating with the McGowan government to take control of the Quod on Rottnest and turn it into an education centre.
“If successful we will then be trying to get the Round House,” he says.
Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt took a big pause when told of Mr Hayward-Jackson’s plans, before saying it’s something he’d be prepared to discuss.
He told the Herald he’d only just received a letter from the Noongar elder requesting a meeting and was happy to talk.
“We understand the sensitivities around the Round House and one of the issues is what are the boundaries of that,” Dr Pettitt said.
“One of the interesting things the Round House could do is to talk about that history better.”
Ms Bropho said the council had failed in its Aboriginal consultation by not talking to RIDGAC, but Dr Pettitt said staff feedback was that they’d consulted a range of different groups over the tavern plan and got mixed feedback.
by STEVE GRANT