The City of Perth Elders have contributed a panel session on day two of the 2021 Danjoo Koorliny Social Impact Summit, where they spoke about a new agreement that they’ve now signed with the city.
The panel started with opening words from Dr Margaret Culbong.
“This is my country, this is Whadjuk country, and my ancestors - we're not going to go away. This is our land, and our law, our culture. And one of our laws and culture is about sharing and caring. And this is what we do - we share and care for each other,” Margaret said.
“We signed the document that's what we did...This one - maybe this is going to make a difference in the way we live together. So we won't walk in single file anymore. We will walk side by side. This is our country: we invited you here, and we will share with you. And we've done that for many years.” Dr Noel Nannup then spoke further about the new agreement.
“One of the things that we did, as a group - and of course Auntie Margaret, Uncle Albert, Auntie Muriel, and Auntie Irene, we're on the City of Perth Advisory Group as Elders; and, Farley Garlett is with us, Uncle Ben Taylor, and also Auntie Doolan Eatts, and Walter Eatts. And we've lost one of our ten Elders - may she rest in peace. And she's going to be represented as a signatory now through her son Trevor Walley,” Noel said.
“So we all signed a document with the City of Perth...You can call it an MOU - a memorandum of understanding - or a set of rules and regulations of how we're going to treat each other...So, it's a momentous occasion with the City of Perth. We've worked on it for what? Two years? Two years going on three, and we finally got to sign it the other day, which is awesome.”
Albert McNamara spoke about the intent of the agreement, and how we can continue working together moving forward.
“It's a two-way learning - let's work together and make the change together,” Albert said. “Because that's the way things have got to be done by now. And there's no such thing, really, as a treaty, so I call it agreement. Because treaty is controlled by government, and government always has the final say on what Aboriginal people do, and government always comes up with policy and guidelines to control Aboriginal people. “So I'll call it an agreement where we work together and make a difference in this country, because I want to see a better future for my kids, my grannies and my great great grannies. I've got 19 grandchildren, 17 grannies and I’ve got four great great grannies - we care for one of them. So I want to see a better future for my grannies, and that's why I'm on a few other committees as well. But we’ve got to learn to work together. Colour’s only skin deep, so let’s work together and make the change together.” Muriel Bowie elaborated on the work that has been happening as part of the City of Perth Elder’s Advisory Group.
“We’ve been opening many doors at the Perth City Council for our Noongar people. So, at the moment we've done a lot,” she said.
“Especially Wellington Square, we’ve done all that up. Riverside Drive is now called the Birdiya Drive. I’m like Albert - I’ve got six great grandsons and I want them to have a better future.”
Irene McNamara spoke about some of the history behind the new document.
“We signed this document - it's more like agreement. We did talk about treaties all the way through, but then we remembered about over in America, with the American Indians, when they signed a treaty the treaty was broken,” she said.
“So we thought we’ll just have it as an agreement...It started off with reconciliation, and we were there as the reconciliation group to talk, to make changes in the City of Perth, to change things around and go through the steps. So for some of you, if you don't know, it was an agreement, including agreement to change names of streets to Aboriginal names. “And we did have one for our dear friend, it's in honour of her. And it’s a laneway along the City of Perth. And it will be Walley - the name will be Walley.”