A BOARD member from a long-standing Aboriginal group tasked with protecting the graves of ancestors who died on Rottnest Island has joined a growing chorus concerned about the island’s governance.
Rottnest Island Deaths Group Aboriginal Corporation board member Iva Hayward-Jackson’s attack on the Rottnest Island Authority follows the leak of a damning report this week which exposed widespread staff dissatisfaction and claims of corruption within the authority.
It also comes a month after the collapse of one of the island’s jetties which injured three people and exposed problems with ageing infrastructure.
Mr Hayward-Jackson has been quietly grumbling to the Herald about the authority for a couple of years, but this week went public with his claims his group was unfairly sidelined by the authority.
“They set up the Rottnest Island Foundation to dictate how and when moneys are spent on Aboriginal sacred sites on Wadjemup,” Mr Hayward-Jackson said this week.
“When this was deemed inappropriate by RIDGAC, the RIA set up their own hand-picked Aboriginal representation, the Aboriginal Reference Group, to override all decisions and issues from the 1994 state-wide law and culture meeting.”
Mr Hayward-Jackson called for the authority and its Aboriginal agencies to be overhauled.
“All focus has been on the tourism dollar and not on the cultural significance of the island.”
RIDGAC formed in 1993 to lobby against further development on top of their ancestors’ burial ground.
The RIA says it will still engage with RIDGAC “appropriately”.
“The RIA established an Aboriginal reference group on the advice of the Whadjuk Working Party (representing the traditional owners of the island) and in consultation with the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council,” an island spokesperson told the Herald.
“This has since become known as the Wadjemup Aboriginal Reference Group.
“The WARG has been established to assist the RIA to engage appropriately with all Aboriginal nations and groups across the state that have a connection to Aboriginal heritage sites associated with the former Aboriginal prison.”
Mr Hayward-Jackson has been a prominent opposition voice to SWALSC, believing it made an error signing a native title deal with the former Barnett government.
by STEVE GRANT