10. Noongar Nation

Manuhuia Barcham

Table of Contents

Introduction
Historical context
‘All one family’
Native Title Representative Bodies in Western Australia
Noongar Land Council
Native title claims in the southwest under the Noongar Land Council
Problems with the working party system
The Noongar Land Council and the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia
The emergence of the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council
The Single Noongar Claim
Family meetings and the Single Noongar Claim
Promise and problems with the Single Noongar Claim
Where to from here?
Conclusion
References

Introduction

In the wake of the positive determination made in the case of the Perth metropolitan area in the Single Noongar (native title) Claim in late 2006, the idea of a Noongar Nation is gaining currency around Australia. The judgment made clear that Noongar constitute a single group—a Noongar Nation. Exploring how this came about is the aim of this chapter. The chapter begins with a discussion of the historical context of the southwest of Western Australia (WA), with its long history of European contact and the subsequent effects this contact had on Noongar language and culture. After looking at how Noongar historically constituted a discrete socio-cultural grouping, the chapter explores how Noongar socio-cultural forms adapted in the face of ongoing European contact and government interference. It then looks at the way in which the native title land claims have helped provide an organisational form that has enabled Noongar to speak as a single voice—as a Noongar Nation. Looking at the experiences of the Noongar Land Council and its successor, the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC), the chapter explores how, despite problems with administrative and governance issues, Noongar have been able to use the native title process to create an organisation that is not only representative of Noongar society, but that is able to articulate Noongar society’s aims and desires. Following the successful ruling on the Perth metropolitan area in 2006, the chapter ends by looking at some of the issues that the Noongar Nation will need to face in the coming years.