Sunday, 6 December 2015

Changing Stations



At the beginning of October, I packed up my family and we made the move ‘home’.  

The house is fairly new, but the place is old.  It has a lot of history, and not all of it is good.  Lake Tyers is a former Aboriginal Reserve, started up in 1861 as a place to keep Aboriginal people separated and under strict control, but today, is freehold land that was returned in 1971 to the residents.  My paternal Grandfather, Charlie Carter, was a member of the group of residents who marched with Pastor Doug Nicholls on Melbourne in protest when the mission was threatened with closure at the end of the 60’s, and in his role as eventual Chairman of the Committee they formed, stood and received the deeds when they won their fight and the Governor General of the day, Rohan Delacombe, formally handed back the land to the people in a ceremony held just a short walk from where I sit right now.
On the day, my Grandfather was smiling and happy.  He told the people who gathered to witness the handover that “we won’t let you down”, and, for a long time, he was good to his word.  Ask any of the residents or former residents from that day who are still alive what they remember of life at Lake Tyers before he died, and you will be told that life out here was much, much better.  

My Grandfather was a smart man, a tough man, and a very determined man.  Sadly, he didn’t live for a long time after the land was handed back, but thought he had fought long enough, hard enough, and won the battle that would mean his children and grandchildren and the generations that came after them would always have this place.  A piece of security and a home for eternity, never again to be threatened or taken away.  That was his dream, and the dream of all the families who lived here - almost all of whom are related to me today through blood or marriage.  My Grandfather was a man who’d lived with the threat of being forced from the land he knew, that he was very much a part of, and it was an intolerable position that he wanted to ensure he protected his family against ever having to worry about. 

This was done in two ways.  First - the 4,000 acres went into a Trust, with shares given to every Man, Woman and Child who was a resident at the time.  My Grandfather received shares, as did all his children and so did many other members of my extended family.  Second – there were rules put in place around ownership and transfer of these shares.  Unlike NAB shares or BHP shares, they couldn’t be sold for money or any other kind of consideration, and those who had shares had strict limitations on who they could give their shares to. Only the original residents and shareholders or their bloodline descendants were eligible to receive them, a simple rule that meant it would always pass down to the rightful heirs.  I wasn’t born until two years after this all happened, so did not receive any shares from this initial handout myself.  A little over a decade ago though, my Aunt, who had received shares in the initial handout as a child in 1971, decided to transfer almost all of her shares to those of us in my generation, and as a result, I was the recipient of 100 of her shares.  Or so I thought.

The day I signed the lease for my property, I was also hoping to sign some paperwork to accept the nominations I had received and take a place on the Committee here.  Enter the first stumbling block.  After my paperwork was examined by a man from the Koori Justice Department purporting to hold authority on these matters, I was informed that the Land Council had ruled that the year of my share transfer (2003) deemed me ineligible and as such I was not a shareholder as I thought, and therefore could not take a Committee position. I am not the first, as story after story has been recounted to me by relatives, given the same spiel when they try to assert their rights, yet the Share Register is full of names that don’t belong and people that should never be eligible to hold shares.  There is no avenue of appeal offered for the decisions that have been made, and no opportunity for those who have been excluded to prove their rightful title to this land today.

So even with just two simple rules, and basic principles to underpin them, it all fell apart in less than 40 years.  We may not be able to sell the land, but that is not the only way to make a dollar out of a place like this.

4,000 acres is a lot of land, and not everyone can resist temptation.  Whitefellas and blackfellas alike are both susceptible to greed, and self-determination took a huge step back when the Government had to step in and take charge after one Chairman was caught with his hand in the till – years after they had received information about his misdeeds.  Perhaps they didn’t want to go in heavy handed and create another ‘wasted Aboriginal money scandal’ that they could ill afford at the time, perhaps they didn’t want to seem like they were meddling – whatever the reason for their delay, the end result of their apathy was a greater sum of taxpayer money lost ensuring that when action was taken, it was more severe and far-reaching in the lives of those people who were left behind.  The benefactor of the fraud was banished and no longer allowed to reside here, but the rest of the residents – who received no benefit from his actions nor had any power or control in the community to make the decisions – had to live with the daily consequences of his actions.  The Government stepped in and took power, appointing various people over the more than decade of their rule here to run the day-to-day affairs of the Trust and promised solutions if given power, money and control over an extended period of time to get it done.  

The media releases will tell you that the Government has poured money and effort into this place – millions of it in fact.  A ’10 year Renewal Project’ that was supposed to help improve the place and, as a priority, they would train the people to eventually take over and run this place themselves and attain ‘Self-Determination’.  Instead, the 10 years has ended, and things are not much better than they were a decade ago.  There will be no outcry at the waste of taxpayer money this time though, it was not stolen by a greedy black man but instead funnelled by stealth into wasted programs that provided not hope and change to the people here, but proved useful instead as a means to give kickbacks to the salaried army of contractors and bureaucrats who learnt to make the various schemes work for them instead.

Since coming ‘home’, I’ve seen the real face of racism.  It’s not a foul-mouthed or ill-behaved child at a football match -  as some would lead you to believe, but instead, it’s the disenfranchisement of a whole group of people based on their race, location and history - who have less education, less money and less support than their detractors.  I now see it all day, every day.  From the police officer who attended here and, instead of taking the complaint from the victim who was doused in petrol as I thought he would, gave advice consisting of “wash your clothes and forget about it” before leaving – to the graffiti some filth sprayed on our bus stop the other day that read ‘fucking coons’ – they never let you forget what you are living out here.  

We’re probably not what you’d imagine when you’d think of a remote Aboriginal community, but we are in many ways very isolated.  The term the Government folk were using at one point was ‘discrete community’ – though it hardly seems appropriate.  The closest well-populated town with services like supermarkets and a police station is Lakes Entrance, about a half an hours drive each way, or you can take the 17 kilometre drive to the closest general store - if you don’t mind paying $5 a loaf for your bread.  I use the word drive because that is your only option out.  There is no public transport within about 15 kilometres, the distance from the residential area of Lake Tyers out to the nearest bus stop (a limited service Vline route), with a State Park surrounding you and only the one road in and out.  There once was a community owned bus or two here that took residents out regularly that either couldn’t drive, didn’t have a license, or couldn’t afford a car.  Like the Cattle Enterprise though, you’re not allowed to ask about what happened to them, or where the money went from the sale of those assets.  There is no transparency, no accountability, and for now, that suits the status quo.  If the books were ever opened on this place, I assure you there would be scandal after scandal revealed and waste of taxpayer money in the millions.  If you set foot out here you'll see the beneficiaries are not the Aboriginal people who will be blamed and suffer the consequences when the losses are finally tallied, but instead, the real winners are the army of salaried contractors and government employees who drive in and out of here on weekdays and rely on this place not improving as their means of financial stability for themselves long term.

I don’t know what will become of this blog, or of my future here.  As far as the blog goes, I have very limited internet access for now, but my wish is to write more and post it up when I can.  Not only because people need to know what is going on in places like this, but also in the hope that by speaking up, some questions just might get asked. 

35 comments:

  1. How do you cope? The despair must be overwhelming-what can an ordinary citizen like me do to bring this situation to light in the mainstream media? And please keep blogging - we need your voice to bring us the truth!

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  2. You will not be cowed, you will not let us or ,more importantly, your family down. Your way forward is to express what you believe calmly and succinctly . The truth will prevale if enough good people hear it. Invite the outside world ,yes us your audience, to visit. Give us a reason ,no matter how frivolous ,to engage with you and yours. I am sure you are now in a beautiful locale and it is selfish of you not to invite us to your picnic. Take care and remember to smile ,your children deserve it.

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  3. I've lived here all my life and I've seen it at its worst, now is an improvement for 1 self management. And also if your familiar with the lands act you would also no that you don't need to be a shareholder to be on the elected commitee, and another thing I think it's derogetry and defamation of charter how you just move here and stereotype the people who been here all their lives we aren't less educated because I surley ain't and maybe the people that live here should see what's being wrote to.. Yeah their are politics and yeah wrongs have been done but cautions and wording need to be accounted and considered cause I aint a dumb black fella ... I'm only 24 i no and lived and experianced everything out Lake Tyers a stereotypical image governments and organisations paint this community and many others face. Also the influences and tatics to manipulate our own mobs to.. Shouldn't really talk unless your %100 sure respect n curtesy is considered . :)

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    Replies
    1. Natasha – You might think that it’s an improvement, but compared to what? 10 years ago? 20 years ago? 80 years ago? If you think this place is a 100% functional and healthy community, in need of no improvement, you are free to say so. I am free to instead acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do, and if you want to put your arms up and cheer halfway through the race, I won’t be holding pom-poms beside you and sounding off. I’ll be the guy reminding you where the finish line is and encouraging you to keep going until you get there. If it makes me a snob or a coconut or whatever stereotype you want to throw at me (I’ve heard em all, don’t be shy), I couldn’t care less. You can’t please all the people all the time, so don’t try – been my mantra since primary school.
      I’m going to keep on saying when I think a decision is a bad one –like how just today, the CEO told me that the guy she hired three weeks ago as the Youth Worker here still hasn’t had his police check come back. While I was out in the white world, they figured out that less kids would get raped and abused if they made it standard for people working with children and vulnerable people to undergo checks before being allowed around them. Maybe I’m being an uppity blackfella, but I’m not keen on any of my kids being raped or abused, so I agree with that idea and support it. I just wish our salaried CEO felt the same way. I’m outraged that a person in her position would make such a risky decision (I suppose its easy to overlook those things when its not your kids who have to be around the person), and insulted by the notion that we can’t do better than that.
      I’m not here to make friends, I’m here because it is my right to be and I want to be. I’m not sure if your presence in the comments is an effort to get me not to write about this place anymore, but if so you’ll be disappointed. I’m not here to control anything, or run anything – I wanted to accept my nominations so that someone from my Carter line would at least be represented and have a voice. They asked me if I would do it, not the other way around. All I want to do is keep the place something I’ll be proud to pass down to my kids, and at the same time, give a little extra incentive for those who are in power to be honest by watching what goes on and not being afraid to speak up and let others know when I think there is a problem.

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  4. Hi Natasha,

    I sense you discount Dallas' account of his experience in the new location as a 'newbie know nothing'. I think this is a little unfair.

    When you say he "shouldn't really talk unless your (sic) %100 sure respect n curtesy is considered" I kind of think he shouldn't be bothered trying to have a discussion with you either as your mind seems fairly closed and possibly poisoned toward
    victimhood.

    Dallas champions authenticity, responsibility and nationhood. He freely acknowledges his difficult early beginnings and praises interventions that enhanced his experience and life outcomes.

    How sad that you refuse to hear truth against your preferred narrative of victimhood.

    This kind of thinking is a cancer.



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  5. I hope you can make a go of it. You're a good man. And please keep the blog going if you can.

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  6. Blacksteamtrain ... great blog. It’s really heartening to hear well informed aboriginal opinion that doesn’t tow the mainstream welfare centric activist line.

    The heart of your problem may not be the parasites and rent seekers that invariable distort government service provision. Although such leaches are obviously pains in the arse, they may be more of a symptom rather than a cause.

    The problem may be much more fundamental, based on the detail outlined in your article it sounds like your grandfather secured some sort of quasi communal property rights to the land with restrictions on ownership and on transfer.

    Defining property in this way can cause major headaches. Full ownership ultimately needs to vest in the individual not the community. History quite clearly shows that societies based on communal property rights always fail (the one exception being religious cults). Nobody has ever been able to deliver well-functioning societal outcomes based on communal property rights, and I imagine aboriginal communities are no exception.

    How rights are defined has a big impact on economies. Especially in terms of incentives. If individuals are unable to capture the benefits associated with their property then they have no incentives to pursue these benefits, it is as simple as that.
    You may need to go back to the drawing board and revisit the form and function of the rights your grandfather obtained.

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  7. sounds like groote eylandt. Look after yourself and your family dallas

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Dallas you have hit on the crux of the problem with wasted money - Follow the beneficiaries and I bet it want be the community. This is replicated right across Australia where drive in/out contractors are the major receivers of taxpayer funds. Take care of yourself and your family Dallas as generally governments make noise without follow through. Sorry about previous delete as I had a couple of spelling errors.

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  10. Just want to acknowledge that I have read your interesting and sad piece. Dallas keep going, keep writing. Everyone in the country has travel and communication problems but your situation is a bit worse than the normal. Hope your contribution can make things better

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  11. You're a brave man. I can't even imagine how this fight could possibly be won.

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  12. Dallas I enjoy your blog and hope you are able to continue. In the area where I work and live there is a lot of work being done by a local Federal politician to improve mobile phone coverage and internet access for her electorate. I suggest you lobby your local Federal politician to do the same. Whilst I am sure there are many more important services that Tyers needs than high speed internet it is one thing that could be used to bring your community closer to the outside world. I for one, would like to continue to read your inciteful blogs.

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  13. If you ever leave just make sure to leave some kind of contact man. I wanna contact you at some point in the future on some serious stuff

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  14. Dallas, you have a great talent for writing and telling it like it is. I wish that you have a louder voice than this blog and would run for public office. You would shine like the brightest star in the universe, compared to the self serving rabble that currently sit in federal and state parliaments. You would have to put up with being called "Uncle Tom" and a million other derogatory names that that you would be called by white people who claim to have aboriginal blood, those that identify as being aboriginal and people who are making loads of money from their aboriginal welfare scamming. As I said before, you have the guts to tell it like it is and I am sure that you have the strength and intelligence to weather the storm.
    Please do all Australians a favour and run for public office. You would have my vote and the vote of many Australians who live in despair at the plight of aboriginals and the millions wasted on tokenistic programs that are counter productive to aboriginal welfare.

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  15. I'm so sorry this has happened Dallas. When will governments ever learn that they cause more harm than good when they interfere with something that wasn't broken.There are just too many of these hangers on in situations like your community and they have no shame that they are exploiting people for their own benefit.

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  16. Sadly, I've seen and heard this story many times before -- from Queensland and WA communities, that once supported and nurtured the people, and now... do not.
    The amount of money that has been poured into various schemes and plans by self-serving governments could make me cry. If we'd seen decent outcomes from it, it would have been money well-spent, but you and I both know, all that money has served only two purposes; one, to make governments and do-gooders feel great about themselves and give them a shiny gold trophy to point to at election time, and two, to line the pockets of those greedy and corrupt people, 'black' and white, who don't give a shit about anyone but themselves.
    If we can ever do anything to help, Dallas, say so.

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  17. I thought this kind of crap only happened up around these parts in the Northern Territory and W.A. Never thought it was happening so close to Melbourne where I grew up.

    You need to keep writing to expose this. Australians like me are 'used' to thinking in a way that accepts the 'typical abbo money wasting' (excuse the language and the offense, but thats often what white fellas think, and Im not going to lie to you and say that I use the correct term- Aboriginal- 100% of the time) false stereotype that they have come to 'know' as being all part of the industry up there in those remote parts. Perhaps if they knew better that just down the road from their favorite weekend getaways this theft was happening, perhaps the issue would get some traction?
    Id be hitting up Daniel Andrews, he's all over anything that's seen as helping minorities tight now.

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  18. I was going to second the remarks from Mark Fitzgibbon above, but then I thought: hang on, what Mr. Scott is describing basically sounds like a co-op, and if it were the case that communally-held property inevitably leads to corruption and mismanagement, then every strata-titled block of flats in the country would be reporting such problems - and they're not.

    Perhaps I'm ignorant of exactly how Aboriginal communities like this are arranged - actually, there's no "perhaps" about it, I'm definitely ignorant - but I can't understand why it should be so common that these communities end up ripped off and badly run. Is there some material, legal difference in the way they're set up compared to other communally-held properties? Is it because the government interferes? Is it something else?

    One other thing:
    ...[shares] couldn’t be sold for money or any other kind of consideration, and those who had shares had strict limitations on who they could give their shares to. Only the original residents and shareholders or their bloodline descendants were eligible to receive them, a simple rule that meant it would always pass down to the rightful heirs.

    With all due respect to your grandfather, that just may have been wishful thinking. Greed is pretty universal, and money has a way of finding its way through the thinnest of cracks. Perhaps Mr. Fitzgibbon is right, and you need to go back to the drawing board with regard to how the community is set up.

    Regardless, I've enjoyed your blog very much, and hope you'll keep keeping the bastards honest into the future.

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    Replies
    1. "Is there some material, legal difference in the way they're set up compared to other communally-held properties? Is it because the government interferes? Is it something else?"

      Native Title loopholes via Noel Pearson and his web of companies?

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    2. See, I don't know what that means, though

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  21. hey Dallas if you write here I will read it. Best of luck in your fight for your inheritance.

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  22. Hi Dallas, I am intrigued as to why you feel the need to return to live in the community of your grandfather?
    The concept of aboriginal "communities" are not in any sense a aboriginal idea but a white man/church idea as a means to control or corral blackfellas. Most started as church missions. I spent a lot of time in the Kimberley, communities out there can be as big as 1000 people. So you have 500-1000 people in a very remote place, with little or no services, no jobs, no power, water etc. These circumstances are dire for any race or color, they become cess pits of boredom, substance abuse, child abuse, financial struggle, ghettos etc. where weirdly selected white public servants rule like gods and kings. The concept is bizarre. prior to white settlement aboriginals never gathered in large numbers and lived in family groups trading wives with other family groups to maintain clean bloodlines. They were also nomadic (at least in the Kimberley)or at the very worst moved periodically with the food supply.
    The concept of the living museum relics in "traditional" lands is not a real truth at all but seems to have been bought by aboriginals themselves. To say you have freehold but cannot sell your shares means you don't really have freehold at all.
    My personal belief is that funding for communities should be abolished. Aboriginals should just live with the rest of us finding their way through life, loving, learning, winning, losing etc.. The concept of the community land should stay the same for your group but any improvements to the land should rest with you guys , not the taxpayer. It should be treated more like a weekender for fun and community than a remote unserviceable outpost for mainstream living jacking up the pockets of white do-gooders coming to fix the problem that need not exist.

    I am interested in your thoughts on this.

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  24. Dallas, we miss you and hope your reconnection to the land is progressing forward. Keep up the hope and struggle. David.

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  25. Dallas could please relieve our anxieties and post a comment. So many of us are interested in your ,and your families , wellbeing . Take care and God bless.

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  26. Hi Dallas think of you often and hope all is going well for you. Your writing I find very informative and uplifting. My warmest and best wishes to you and your family.

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  27. Great to see what a difference all the taxpayer money and big corporation 'diversity' advertising has made to aborigines.

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