Koonibba born whale dreamer, medicine man, song man, musician and Mirning Elder, Bunna Rupert Lawrie has been driving a petition since last week to stop a Native Title meeting from proceeding this Saturday in Ceduna. He said that the meeting could be the death knell for the whale dreaming Country of the Mirning people along South Australia’s Great Australian Bight.
Mr Lawrie is a well-known musician and visual artist, he is the lead singer of rock group, Coloured Stone. He has been outspoken about the Far West Coast Native Title claim, in regards which he said anthropologists and lawyers had combined six different groups together and at first many of the communities had been ignorant of the premises of the combined agreement and its implications.
“We did not expect to lose our voice as Mirning people, and to be outvoted on Mirning Country issues by non-Mirning peoples.”
Mr Lawrie was also a chairperson of Yirrkala Mining Trust Council, in 1996, and he was involved in Mirning Native Title claims throughout the 1990s.
Mirning Country tips over into Western Australia, but South Australia’s Mirning Country was tipped into a combined claim with five other groups in 2005. It is likely that on Saturday, the Ceduna meeting that Mr Lawrie is battling to stop or delay will go ahead, coordinated by the South Australian Native Title Services. It will be a step towards finalising the Indigenous Land Use Agreement for the combined claimants.
“The Far West Coast Native Title claim was never authorised by the Mirning, those who voted on it were only a small group. Only 26 people from one Mirning family were there, and they were only one family out of all the significant Mirning families present, and were used by the South Australian Native Title Services lawyers to authorise Mirning Country to be included in the Far West Coast claim,” said Mr Lawrie.
He said this was not democratic, nor even majority consultation, and therefore the inclusion of Mirning Country into the claim did not represent the will of the Mirning people.
“Elders are worried that we will not be able to speak for Mirning land and sea.”
Another Mirning Elder, Robbie Miller has been pursuing justice for the Mirning through the Federal Court, but there are yet no judgments. Mr Lawrie questioned how the Ceduna meeting could go ahead, and how the Native Title Services could allow it to proceed, while Mr Miller had matters before the Court. “The Mirning do not understand how with the Court yet to deal with the legal and ethical issues of this claim, yet to return any judgments, that the Native Title Services can proceed with this meeting.”
He also said it was unfair that the State Government is funding the South Australian Native Title Services lawyers, but not providing any funding to others parties such as the Mirning so as they are represented “equally and fairly.”
“Denying funding to other Aboriginal parties is unfair and protects only the rights and interests of some.”