LIA POOTAH delegates meet
Australian Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Mr Philip Ruddock.
From left Vicki Priest – Tereetee Lore/Kaye McPherson –
Philip Ruddock – Arthur Priest.
(Photo taken at Philip Ruddock's office in Canberra 11 February 2003.
A delegation from the Lia Pootah Community met with senior politicians and senior ATSIC officials recently in Canberra after a request from the Minister for Aboriginal and Torris Strait Islander Affairs Mr Philip Ruddock to meet with him concerning Aboriginal issues in Tasmania. The delegation took advantage of the opportunity to inform people of the plight of the Lia Pootah people and to offer recommendations for solutions to the current problems. The delegations meetings with senior members of both political parties including the Senior Advisors to the Leader of the Opposition Simon Creen, were fruitful and informative. The main submission for the delegation was the need for Tasmania to be brought into line with the rest of Australia on the definition of Aboriginality. Demands were made that all states and territories use the same Federal definition and that no single group or community be allowed to determine Aboriginality for people not of their community. At each meeting the delegation discussed ways of changing the practices in Tasmania which make a mockery of the current policies on Aboriginal issues.
Lia Pootah Elder, historical geographer and spokesperson, Kaye McPherson handed out a package of historical documents detailing the history of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people at each meeting. The package contained documentation of the historical discrimination instigated by the Palawa/TAC and how this discrimination appeared to be condoned by the Bacon Government through bureaucratic policies devised by the Palawa controlled Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The delegation was informed that it was an inappropriate for any government to force an Aboriginal community to conform to one line of descent, when this was contradicted by historical evidence. The delegation confirmed their belief in the sovereign right for Aboriginal communities to determine who is Aboriginal in their community, but requested that in Tasmania the historical truth of different lines of descent be officially recognised.
During the meeting with Mr Philip Ruddock the delegation were assured that he was fully aware of what was occurring in Tasmania. While acknowledging it was “not his style to become involved with state disputes”, Mr Ruddock offered advice on all issues.
Meetings with senior ATSIC officials were just as informative. The problems of Tasmania and the inappropriate interference of a government into Aboriginal affairs were discussed in detail. The problems concerning the difficulties of obtaining information from ATSIC Tasmania due to the entrenched employees having a biased alliance were another topic of discussion. The make-up of the Regional council and the undemocratic balance of representatives was also discussed in detail. Assistance was requested for strategies to enable the Lia Pootah to overcome problems of discrimination occurring against their people. Two members of the delegation met with representatives of the Tent Embassy for grass roots discussions on the problems facing Tasmania’s Lia Pootah people.