Chinese real estate conglomerate accused of building dam and irrigation channels without Indigenous consent


Chinese super-company Shanghai CRED has allegedly breached the Yakka Munga Station and Nyikina Mangala Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) by clearing land on the station to make way for irrigation channels and a dam. Nyikina Mangala Traditional Owner Wayne Bergmann expressed his concern that activities were underway without native title approval. For the full story, please see National Indigenous Times:

Incredible young people represent ‘the future of our communities’

Leading Indigenous psychologist Dr Tracy Westerman has partnered with Curtin University to launch the Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship Program. Five Indigenous students received the inaugural scholarships at the official launch at Perth’s Government House last month. For the full story:

National Indigenous Times Dr Tracy Westerman

World Health Day

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Universal health coverage is the World Health Organization’s number one goal. Key to achieving it is ensuring that everyone can obtain the care they need, when they need it, right in the heart of the community.

Progress is being made in countries in all regions of the world.

But millions of people still have no access at all to health care. Millions more are forced to choose between health care and other daily expenses such as food, clothing and even a home.

This is why WHO is focusing on universal health coverage for this year’s World Health Day, on 7 April. You can read more details on WHO’s website.

Closing the Gap 2019

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told Parliament he "does not know" when Indigenous children will have the same opportunities as non-Indigenous Australians. The 11th annual Closing the Gap statement has shown just two of seven goals on track — one fewer than last year. Life expectancy, child mortality rates, employment, reading and numeracy and school attendance are all off track. The statement comes on the heels of the 11-year anniversary of Kevin Rudd's Apology to the Stolen Generation. You can read more here.

Media release: Aarnja calls for an urgent Kimberley Aboriginal-led response to coronial inquest

On Thursday 7th February, the WA coroner released the findings of an inquest into the tragic deaths of thirteen children and young people in the Kimberley. 

Coroner Ros Fogliani determined that twelve of the thirteen deaths were by suicide and found that crushing poverty and inter-generational trauma, not just on an individual but a community level, formed part of the broader circumstances around their deaths. 

She found that appropriate intervention or mental health services had no contact with these young children at risk and that in many cases, extended family placements were not fully assessed for suitability, with some of the children at risk of ongoing harm. 

This highlighted the fact that some families need support so they can better care for their children. 

Coroner Fogliani has made a series of forty-two recommendations, among which, is a call for the principles of self-determination and empowerment to be given emphasis in initiatives, policies and programs relating to Aboriginal people in Western Australia.

Aarnja, as the Kimberley Regional Authority, is charged with regional decision-making and influencing government policy. 

Aarnja’s CEO Maureen O’Meara is supportive of the recommendation for Aboriginal self-determination.

She said the issues or challenges we face in any strategy, project or in any campaign are rarely just one-dimensional issues or straightforward.

“We’ve seen millions of dollars thrown at programs in the Kimberley that are ostensibly set up to help our people. But families haven’t been consulted about the effectiveness of these programs on-the-ground—or consulted as to whether to programs are needed at all.” 

“This is because funding is not tied to place-based, demonstrated, measurable reduction in suicide and mental health risk factors. We view this as a major issue with service delivery in our region.”  

“In response, Aarnja has developed a framework that empowers families to decide on priorities for their regions, and to redesign or reconfigure services to achieve those priorities. Initially, the Family Empowerment Project is being rolled out on the Dampier Peninsula, and we’re working closely on this with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the state’s District Leadership Group.” 

“Kimberley Aboriginal people are ready to lead solutions, we have been for a long time, since we met at Crocodile Hole 20 years ago. It’s time for Kimberley Aboriginal people to be part of regional decision and policy-making,” Ms O’Meara said. 

Ms O’Meara also noted that there is a valid assessment tool for Aboriginal kids at risk, which is the WASC-Y developed by Dr Tracy Westerman. 

“If you get the assessment right, then the servicing, treatment and follow through is right. But despite the fact this tool has been around for 20 years, it’s never been implemented in the Kimberley.” 

Aarnja supports a number of the other recommendations, including the expansion of the Yiriman Project, consultation with Aboriginal communities, traditional cultural healing and mental health, training in suicide intervention and prevention and a mental health facility in the East Kimberley.

The government must now act swiftly in partnership with Aarnja and the key Kimberley Aboriginal organisations through our Kimberley Aboriginal Regional Authority to implement these recommendations and to ensure that no more of our young people are lost in this way. 

Aarnja’s staff and CEO wish to offer their condolences and support to the families of the deceased at this distressing time. 

Aarnja welcomes new CEO!

Maureen O'Meara

Aarnja’s delighted to welcome our new CEO, Maureen O’Meara. Maureen brings to Aarnja a true commitment to empowering Aboriginal people and communities to design their own future aspirations and goals.  

She worked for the Kimberley Land Council at the time of the Crocodile Hole Report and was profoundly moved by the recommendations and the principles set out in this report, which included calls for greater Aboriginal representation, advocacy of Aboriginal rights and concerns, and community empowerment. Maureen says these aspirations, set out by senior Traditional Owners, are being realised through Aarnja’s work.  

‘In the early days, the elders set out principles around self-empowerment and self-governance, and these really made sense to me. Now, all these years later we have Empowered Communities, which is about giving power back to Aboriginal people so we can make decisions for ourselves. I’m proud to be a part of this in my new role with Aarnja,’ Maureen says. 

Maureen has a wealth of experience. She’s worked for the Department of Health in Western Australia and the Department of Health and Communities in the Northern Territory, where she was part of ground-breaking reforms. She’s served as the regional co-ordinator in both the East and West Kimberley for the Department of Housing and the chief executive of Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation. At a board level, Maureen is a director of the Bardi and Jawi Niimidiman Aboriginal Corporation and serves as director and chair of Aboriginal Housing—Community Housing Limited.  

She’s looking forward to the challenge of ensuring that Aarnja and Empowered Communities are operating on a high strategic level, rather than a project-driven level. In the next six months, the biggest job will be assessing the  organisations that have received IAS grant funding and measuring the effectiveness of their projects in the community to ensure that the funding is properly addressing community needs.  

We’re thrilled to have Maureen onboard!

Aarnja staff recognised as powerful emerging leader

Divina D'Anna pictured second from left

Divina D'Anna pictured second from left

Aarnja’s Divina D’Anna is a strong Aboriginal woman who has worked extensively with Kimberley Aboriginal people, specialising in community consultations in the areas of native title, social impacts, self-empowerment and suicide prevention. Last year, she was nominated and then selected to be part of Jawun’s Emerging Leaders program. The program was first established in 2011 to support rising Indigenous leaders to understand and meet the opportunities and challenges of leadership roles. The program is part of Jawun’s broader vision to invest not only in established Indigenous leaders, but also in the next generation. Divina sees a clear path through the pitfalls that often await emerging leaders. “Although changes in generational leadership aren’t so simple in regions like ours, it’s about finding the balance between the old and the new. You can’t forget where the vision comes from. Good leadership involves keeping culture alive and letting it evolve in this new world we live in.” To read more about Jawun’s Emerging Leaders program click here.

Press release: Straight talking women in Broome

Click the image for our official media release. 

Click the image for our official media release. 

Aboriginal women will travel from far and wide across the vast Kimberley to converge in Broome next week for the region’s first ever Straight Talk, gaining skills to become powerful advocates and tackle the issues of importance to their communities.

Former senator, Olympic gold medallist and Straight Talk trailblazer Nova Peris, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Co-Chair Jackie Huggins and Kimberley MP Josie Farrer are among the highly respected and well-known Indigenous women who will take part in the event.

The three-day event, which starts on Monday 9 October, will be attended by about 40 participants from areas including Beagle Bay, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, Kununurra, Derby, Wyndham, Dampier Peninsula and Broome.

The gathering comes after lobbying by Kimberley women who have participated in previous national Straight Talk summits - and has been made possible by a unique partnership between Oxfam Australia and Kimberley Aboriginal membership organisation Aarnja.

Straight Talk facilitator Michelle Deshong, who has been involved in national and regional events that have brought together more than 600 women since Oxfam started the program eight years ago, said Aboriginal women had a powerful role in leading change.

“This regional meeting is about harnessing the capacity of really strong and connected women across the region,” said Ms Deshong, who is also a member of Oxfam’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander board advisory committee.

“The partnership between Oxfam and Aarnja also shows that if you think outside the box, you can achieve interesting things.”

Aarnja Executive Assistant Attika Edgar, who took part in last year’s national Straight Talk summit in Canberra, said she hoped women would leave the event with a greater level of confidence in their crucial roles as leaders in their communities.

“The program is about giving women stepping stones to build on their own skills and strategies that will help them engage with all levels of politics, government and their communities to bring about positive change,” Ms Edgar said.

Ms Peris, a proud Kimberley woman who has been involved in Straight Talk programs since 2010, said the program helped women build a shield of resilience and validated the phenomenal roles they already played in their communities.

“Straight Talk brings together strong, resilient Kimberley women who all have some leadership role within their community and this will further empower them through sharing their stories, their struggles and how they have overcome these challenges,” Ms Peris said.

Kathleen Cox, who will travel from the Dampier Peninsula to participate in the program, said women needed to be a strong voice for their communities, but rarely had the chance to come together and talk about their

shared issues and ideas.

“I hope to gain some knowledge, strategies and skills to help me understand political processes where I can confidently advocate for communities and satellite stations on the Dampier Peninsula,” Ms Cox said.

“There are so many issues in our region, but keeping in mind, the issues should not all be negative – we can choose to focus on positive issues and positive opportunities for growth, and we need a platform to be able to do this.

“I am looking forward to a feeling of empowerment – through everybody sharing dreams, sharing stories and sharing ideas for fixing our problems at the grass root level and supporting each other, particularly in women being involved in business and creating business opportunities for women.”

For interviews or further information, please contact Amanda Banks at Oxfam on 0411 449 653 or or Attika Edgar at Aarnja on 0499 332 020 or