Mining deal opens new chapter for Martu

My name is Doris Eaton, I am from the Pitjakarli tribe and I speak Nygangumarta.

Last week Martu from the western desert stood alongside Newcrest staff at Irramindi (Telfer) to announce an agreement that will benefit our people for many years.

The agreement will contribute $14m to an independent trust to fund community development, education and health initiatives whilst also providing financial certainty to our Prescribed Body Corporate, Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation (WDLAC), to manage our native title.

Most importantly, the deal puts Martu in a strong position to capture employment and contracting opportunities at Telfer.

Newcrest have walked alongside Martu on this journey, and we’re proud to have a deal with a company who respects Martu culture and our aspirations to have a meaningful stake in the Pilbara economy. 

Getting to this position has not been easy.

WDLAC, our peak body, has endured a long period of corporate instability marked by serious governance issues.

In the past six months the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) has worked with Martu to fix up WDLAC. As of this week, we have six new Martu directors, a highly-qualified independent director and changes to our rule book that improve our organisation’s transparency.

Martu have also engaged a professional, independent Trust (Myer Co) to manage monies from this agreement.

Like all large groups, some Martu think we should not engage with mining companies. Some people think the mining benefits should be paid directly to separate family groups.

I won’t be drawn into a public slanging match about the merits or otherwise of such propositions, instead I choose to focus on the future and the many positive stories my people are talking about.

Like the example of Daniel Toby, a Warralong man who has worked on site at Telfer for more than five years. It brought me great pride to see Daniel at the ceremony last week and to hear that he now mentors young Martu employees through the challenging transition to work.

This is an emerging story for many young Martu, a willingness to pursue secondary education and work opportunities on mine sites, particularly those close to home.

I look forward to sharing many more stories like Daniel’s, and to continue to celebrate Martu success.

Doris Eaton is a senior Pitjakarli Elder, Co-Chairwoman of Yamitji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation and sat on the WDLAC Advisory Committee for the past six months. In 2009 Doris was awarded NAIDOC’s Female Elder of the Year award.

This article first appeared in the National Indigenous Times:
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