Department of Finance

Korndin Kulluch: A Place of Reconciliation

Nyungar families and indigenous stakeholder groups culturally associated with the Pyrton and Lockridge Reserves were invited by site administrators, Building Management and Works (BMW) and the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) to assist in the preparation of a concept plan for this culturally significant area.

To ‘ask first’ recognises the strong cultural and historical connections of Nyungar people to this country and the importance of preserving and promoting these connections in order to provide a positive future for the area.

Through a process of cultural consultation, BMW and the WAPC have endeavoured to record the voice of the Nyungar people and their aspirations regarding the project study area.

The Korndin Kulluch – A Place of Reconciliation – Draft Bennett Brook Nyungar Cultural and Environmental Concept Plan is the outcome of this process. It is the first step on a path of wider community engagement that offers the opportunity for a substantial and meaningful act of reconciliation with indigenous people on land that is a vital element of their spiritual and ancestral heritage.

Background

Pyrton and Lockridge (also known as the former Swan Valley Nyungar Community camp site) Reserves are located north-east of Perth on Lord Street, Eden Hill.

It was recognised early in the consultation process that the Reserves form part of a broader culturally significant area that extends to the adjoining WAPC owned lands of Bennett Brook, Grogan Swamp and part of the Swan River foreshore. Discussions on the Pyrton and Lockridge Reserves therefore included this wider context or project study area.

The Pyrton Reserve was acquired by the State Government during the 1950s for mental health purposes and was developed during the 1960s as a residential facility for the intellectually disabled.

By 2000, the site was decommissioned by the Disability Services Commission and the existing buildings later demolished.

The WAPC purchased land on either side of Bennett Brook from the Swan River up to Whiteman Park over a number of years for its environmental values and reserved it for Parks and Recreation under the Metropolitan Region Scheme.

In the early 1980s a group calling themselves the Swan Valley Fringe Dwellers began the establishment of a permanent camp with built structures at the Lockridge Reserve. In I994 the Swan Valley Nyungar Community Aboriginal Corporation was granted a Management Order which provided exclusive possession of the site but not ownership, which remained with the State. The camp site was subsequently closed by an Act of Parliament in 2003 arising from a Coronial Inquiry and the Gordon Inquiry into child abuse in indigenous communities. The Management Order over the camp site was transferred to the WAPC, who placed a Planning Control Area over the camp site and the adjacent Pyrton Reserve, requiring special approval of the Commission for any development proposals.

A number of proposals have been considered for the Pyrton and Lockridge Reserves but have not progressed due to general community opposition and because the uses were not compatible with the cultural significance attributed to the project study area by indigenous people.

The significance of the area comes from its traditional role as a Nyungar meeting place and ‘kulluch’ or homeland. People would gather here to hunt, fish and access fresh water.

The waters of Bennett Brook were also believed to be the resting place of the ‘Waugal’, an important mythical being still thought to inhabit this part of the Swan River.

Colonial settlement saw the project study area become part of a property owned by the Hamersley family, and as townships expanded it became an important place of refuge for Nyungar people. This was largely due to the Hamersley family making part of their property available to Nyungar people who had been displaced from their traditional camping areas, continuing the long association of Nyungar people with this land and the heritage which connects them to the project study area today.

The area is also one of a number of significant sites located along the Swan River. It is centrally connected to Nyungar ‘Country’ and represents an opportunity to link Nyungar projects across the Perth metropolitan region.

Consultation process

The cultural consultation process involved Nyungar people with recognised connections to the project study area being invited to discuss the future use and management of the project study area. The South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC), as the native title representative body, identified the family groups and indigenous stakeholder groups to take part in the consultations. Over several months, each group was given the opportunity to share their stories, experiences and knowledge of the project study area, the direction any future use planning should take and spatially defi ne areas of interest and importance.

Following consultation with each group, areas that were continually mentioned for potential cultural uses and specific cultural value were collated onto an Indicative Opportunities and Directions plan (see link below).

BMW and the WAPC understood that for a successful cultural consultation process it was important that the Concept Plan was developed from Nyungar people’s expressed directions. Therefore the Opportunities and Directions plan was presented again at meeting of all family and stakeholder groups and at two meetings of Nyungar elders to allow for further discussion, input and to reach a consensus on what a concept plan may comprise. The outcomes from these discussions were then formalised into the Korndin Kulluch – A Place of Reconciliation – Draft Bennett Brook Nyungar Cultural and Environmental Concept Plan.

The concept plan

The concept plan illustrates the site uses and specific opportunities put forward by Nyungar representatives during the cultural consultation process. Overall, it suggests a significant opportunity to develop a sustainable cultural and environmental park that will be a positive asset for both Nyungar people and the wider community.

It demonstrates a strong emphasis on the rehabilitation and revegetation of much of the project study area and the provision of appropriate facilities for general cultural activities including teaching, learning, interpretation and celebration. The concept plan also identifies potential indigenous employment and training opportunities in the areas of tourism, land management and community services, and possible future building opportunities subject to detailed feasibility and further consultation.

Future funding sources and Nyungar management arrangements are to be determined.

Implementation of the concept plan is still subject to wider community consultation, final endorsement by government and ultimately heritage and planning approvals. BMW and the WAPC however, recognise the Concept Plan as a significant first step towards reconciliation, and as a positive outcome for the whole community and an important part of Western Australia’s cultural heritage.

Additional information and comments

 

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