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ROEBUCK Plains, a cattle station purchased amid controversy by the Indigenous Land Corporation before becoming a $30million jewel in the Kimberley pastoral industry, is to be handed back to Aboriginal traditional owners reports Stuart Rintoul in the Australian of 19 May 2009. [REDWatch Note – While this article does not directly relate to Redfern Waterloo our decision to post this article is because it raises concerns about how the ILC works and consults with another Aboriginal Community which has also been a concern raised in Redfern Waterloo.]

The station, on the outskirts of Broome, in Western Australia, has been owned and managed for the past 10 years by the ILC, which was established by the Keating government to buy land for Aboriginal people through a self-sustaining land account that has grown to $1.7 billion. 

ILC chairwoman Shirley McPherson told The Australian the handover to the Yawuru people had been delayed only by the "time-consuming and emotional process" of proving native title, which had now been done. 

The Yawuru, who include two of Australia's best-known indigenous leaders, Patrick Dodson and Peter Yu, will begin the process of requesting the deeds this week. 

Asked whether the ILC would also hand over management control, Ms McPherson said: "Let's get two things straight: we're talking about the transfer of the property, which is totally different to transfer of the business." 

She thought the ILC would remain in management control "in the short term". 

The handover of Roebuck Plains raises the possibility of a regional strategy for struggling Aboriginal cattle properties being brought back to life. The strategy was ditched by the ILC in 2001 on the grounds that it was "commercially unviable". 

While the ILC has become a major player in the pastoral industry and Roebuck Plains has made an operating profit since 2000 of $9.4 million, many other Aboriginal properties in the Kimberley are close to insolvency. 

Mr Yu, one of the architects of the abandoned regional strategy, told The Australian the ILC had treated traditional owners with "complete contempt", shown "absolutely no acknowledgment or recognition of our native title rights" and left Aboriginal stations throughout the Kimberley in a perilous state. 

He said the ILC had shown "a lack of initiative, energy, vision and a lack of duty of care, fundamentally, in terms of letting these (Aboriginal community-owned) properties continue to run down". 

Mr Dodson last month refused to attend the opening of an indigenous training centre at Roebuck Plains, saying the ILC "has not engaged or consulted with the Yawuru native title holders in respect to any matters impacting Roebuck Plains station to date". 

Industry figures responded cautiously to the looming handover of the highly valued station. 

West Australian Pastoralists and Graziers Asociation president Rob Gillam said Roebuck Plains, under the ILC, had been "at the high end of good management", while other Aboriginal stations had "gone feral" in community ownership. 

Meat and Livestock Australia northern production research manager Wayne Hall said Roebuck Plains was "a showcase property" in terms of infrastructure and management. He was optimistic about the ILC's training program for young Aboriginal stockmen at Roebuck Plains. 

While the program has produced only a handful of graduates so far, it has recently been given the blessing of Australia's biggest pastoral company, the Australian Agricultural Company, which has offered to employ graduates and allow trainees to spend a month on its properties for work experience. 

Source: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25504319-5013404,00.html

Thanks to the National Tenant Support Network (National TSN) Coorabin for alerting us to this story. TSN provides a free email service on articles on housing and Aboriginal Issues Australia wide – for more information contact the Coordinator, Garry Mallard, on (02) 6492 0355, Mob: 0412 249 218, email: gmallard@thenexus.org.au