The West

About 60 people have gathered on Heirisson Island this morning for cultural talks and ceremony.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags festooned the island, along with signs proclaiming it as the Noongar Tent Embassy.

Noongar Tent Embassy member Helen Corbett said the group wanted to come to Matagarup, the traditional name for the island, to “celebrate their rights as sovereign people” and “educate people about the recognition of our sovereignty.”

“We’ve never surrendered our freedom and our tribal sovereignty to any government in the world, including Australia,” Ms Corbett said.

“We chose this day to define ourselves in our own way and not to the standards of the January 26th, the anniversary of white colonisation in this country.”

“The 25th was the last taste of freedom. That’s the theme of today’s gathering. The last taste of freedom before Europeans came and planted a stick in the ground with a piece of cloth and claimed it for a white king in a foreign country.”

Ms Corbett said the group was also calling for the causeway to be renamed to commemorate prominent Aboriginal elder Fanny Balbuk Yooreel who was born on the island in 1840.

Fanny Balbuk’s grandmother, Moojorngul, was said to be buried in the grounds of government house, and she was a traditional custodian of the area.

Heirisson Island is particularly sacred to Indigenous women because of its role as a former birthing place, Ms Corbett said.

This morning’s peaceful scenes of preparations for dance and cultural performances were in stark contrast to the violent clashes between police and protestors on the site last March when demonstrators ignored an order from the City of Perth to vacate the island.

Organiser Marianne Headland Mackay said the group had met with police and council representatives to notify them of their planned activities, but said the group were not seeking permission.

She welcomed the council’s response saying they had worked with the embassy group.

The council reopened the access way onto the island and provided extra bins, she said.

“They have been really good,” she said.

She said she didn’t think there were plans for the members of the group to camp on the island.

“The spirits and elders tell us it’s not the right time. The whole island needs to be smoked and cleared of negative energy,” she said.

Police would make their regular patrols and assist if there was any trouble from people outside the community, Ms Corbett said.

City of Perth spokesman Peter Jackson confirmed organisers met with new City of Perth CEO Gary Stevenson and notified him of what they had intended to do.

“There’s nothing stopping anyone going to Heirisson Island,” Mr Jackson said.

“The issue in the past was they camped there.”

The West Australian

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