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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 12556

Mr SIMPKINS (6:19 PM) —I welcome the opportunity to make some brief comments on the Native Title Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2009. I look forward to this bill enabling the government to put processes in place whereby private ownership of homes can be achieved. Obviously it is difficult to negotiate native title to achieve these aims. In any case, I hope that the government succeeds. I also hope that in the fullness of time—sooner rather than later—that the government’s investment achieves value for money and real change. I worry though, and the source of my concern comes from my experiences within the electorate of Cowan which, as members and advisers might not be aware, is an outer metropolitan area of Perth.

Within the electorate of Cowan there are a couple of what might be called town camps. Cullacabardee is one and the Sydney Road Nyoongar community is another. On 29 May last year, in response to the concerns of a lot of people of the Gnangara area of Cowan—a semirural area—I rose to make a speech in this very place to talk about the concerns of my local people regarding those that lived and operated out of the Sydney Road Nyoongar community. I think there was very little doubt that this was a centre of crime: stolen cars, damage to property, break and enters. Rivalling, if not more important than that, were my concerns that young people of that small community—I think there were only 30 to 40 people living there—were not being properly looked after and did not have access to education. The once proud school that had been built over successive parliaments, starting I think in the term of Gough Whitlam, had been ultimately trashed. There had been some financial mismanagement issues to do with the school causing its closure, followed by excessive vandalism by local people from that small community.

This is tragic and, when you look at the mismanagement followed by the attack on the school, it does not cause one to have great confidence in the ability of that camp to continue to run itself. I had some doubts so I called for it to be closed, but unfortunately, due to the arrangements for the ownership of the land, that was not possible. However, what was achieved was a series of police raids on the following day. Luckily, with the assistance of two West Australian journalists, Dawn Gibson and Flick Pryor, the cause of concern—the crime and concerns about the welfare of young people and children in the Sydney Road Nyoongar community—brought about almost immediate action. Police raids broke up a business based on car stealing and on-selling of stolen cars and parts. Some great progress was made. What resulted was that at the end of May and in June most of the families were moved out to areas where opportunities and access to schools close to the immediate area were possible and, in my view and that of most people in the Gnangara area, to a more positive environment for young people. I welcome that move as do the local people.

The community has not shut down completely. There are one or two houses left where some people live. From my most recent discussions with Senior Sergeant Matt Ray of the Wanneroo Police Station, I have heard that crime figures are hugely reduced. There might be one incident a month in Gnangara whereas there were considerably more in the past. There have been many upsides to it. The people in the Gnangara area are more comfortable now with their personal safety and the safety of their property within the area, including Landsdale where there were issues as well. Landsdale is the next suburb to the south. There are far fewer issues with regards to damage to local houses and property and the stealing of cars has reduced. Overall people have much better access to services because they are not in a closed-off, isolated community with negative influences around them. I think it has been an overwhelmingly positive effort.

I again record my thanks to Dawn Gibson and Flick Pryor of the West Australian. I also thank those people involved from the WA police for their services and for greatly improving the situation. Further, I thank the people of Cowan who brought this issue to me, including our former staff member Millie Rundle, a young Indigenous lady. I thank her, and a number of other people, for bringing this to my attention.

Like a lot of people in this place, I am one who believes in personal responsibility. If you provide people with the opportunities by which they may succeed, you expect them to do the right thing—to try to look after themselves and the property they have been given. So I certainly welcome the government’s move to create a real sense of ownership in communities. I do not profess to have any great experience in outback communities, only having visited several during my time in the Army. But I certainly welcome the government’s attempt to ensure that private ownership is made possible and that people can reach their aspiration of owning their own home. Given the provision of value-for-money assistance as required, I look forward to them accepting full responsibility in looking after the assets provided. I welcome what you are doing, Minister McClelland, and I wish you all the best.