Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WA: Camp members vow to fight on after court rejects racism claim

AAP General News (Australia)
WA: Camp members vow to fight on after court rejects racism claim

By Adam Gartrell

PERTH, April 13 AAP - Former members of a troubled Perth Aboriginal camp have vowed
to fight a Federal Court ruling that they were not racially discriminated against when
forced from their homes by the camp's closure.

The Swan Valley Noongar camp, led by high-profile elder Robert Bropho, was shut down
by the West Australian government in 2003 after an inquiry found child sex abuse was rife
at the site.

Mr Bropho's daughter, Bella Bropho, launched legal action, claiming the legislation
which forced them from the camp - the Reserves Act 2003 - was inconsistent with commonwealth
racial discrimination laws, and therefore invalid.

Ms Bropho wants the former inhabitants of the community - about 40 people, half of
them children - to be allowed to return to the camp, as well as damages from the state

But Federal Court Justice Robert Nicholson today rejected the action, saying the Reserves
Act was "reasonable, proportional and legitimate in the circumstances".

"The alternatives, such as a memorandum of understanding or utilisation of the criminal
law, had been proven to be impracticable," a written summary of the judgment said.

The Reserves Act was in the public interest and consistent with racial discrimination
law, Justice Nicholson found.

Mr Bropho, himself convicted of molesting a teenager at the camp, said the legal fight
would go on until they were allowed to "go home".

"We're looking at going to the High Court of Australia and I'm starting to move over
the ocean to the United Nations," Mr Bropho told reporters.

Bella Bropho, who lived in the camp for over 20 years, described the decision as a
"slap in the face".

"It's very heartbreaking for us," she said.

"I'm really angry about the decision and it seems the government always get what they want.

"(But) we're never going to stop fighting."

Vested to the Noongar people in 1994, the camp was repeatedly the subject of rape,
child sex, violence and substance abuse allegations.

It also was allegedly the site of suspicious deaths, including that of 15-year-old
Susan Taylor, who was found hanging in a toilet block in February 1999.

A coroner found she had likely taken her life after years of sexual abuse and sniffing solvents.

Former WA premier, Geoff Gallop, labelled the community "a place of ruination and despair",
and said the closure was to prevent more people dying there.

AAP ag/mss/mn


2007 AAP Information Services Pty Limited (AAP) or its Licensors.

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