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Issue #1431      14 October 2009

Plea read out in Parliament

The cousin of Ngaanyatjarra Elder Mr Ward who died last year in prison custody in the Goldfields region of Western Australia has had a speech she gave on the steps of the WA Parliament read into the institution’s Hansard record.

Daisy Ward spoke on behalf of Mr Ward’s family at a rally outside Parliament last month where a petition signed by more than 5,000 people demanding the full implementation of the Coroner’s recommendations into his death was delivered. A fully transcribed copy of the speech was read into the Parliamentary record by Deputy Opposition Leader Roger Cook on September 22 at the conclusion of a debate about how the Parliament could make “positive changes” to the lives of Aboriginal people in WA.

After some discussion about the Royalties for Regions policy adopted by the Liberal and National Parties as part of the agreement to form government last year, Mr Cook said he wanted to read the speech “which went to the heart of the issues being discussed”.

At the start of her speech, Ms Ward gave a clear and detailed account of what happened to her cousin (his death in the van), the subsequent Coroner’s investigation and recommendations and the community’s frustration and anger at government inaction.

“My brother fought strongly for his family, his culture and his lands, the Ngaanyatjarra lands of the Gibson Desert,” she said.

“He wanted us to have the title for the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve, and he spoke up with our own Law men or Eiders, with our community leaders working out the future for our children.

“He spoke to non-Aboriginal staff and tried to educate them in our ways through cultural awareness. He encouraged the children to be proud of their culture, to stand tall. He checked up on the teenagers to help them respect themselves and their families.

“He guided them away from substance abuse and into their cultural inheritance.”

During her speech, Ms Ward also made some general demands on behalf of her people.

Demands

“I don’t want alcohol and leaded petrol to flow across the desert any more,” she said. “Please! And hospitals are sick of death, and so are we. For the sake of my brother I am demanding the right to live in the community on the lands where we have lived for thousands of years.

“The right to speak in our own language and be educated in our own language ... and that my people are treated fairly and respectfully with human dignity by the justice system.”

After reading the speech, Mr Cook said Ms Ward’s plea to the government must be heard and heeded if there was to be the “paradigm shift” needed for the government to engage effectively with communities.

The Koori Mail

Next articleWA government responds over Ward death

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