This week, the Kimberley Land Council celebrated its 40th anniversary.

I regretfully could not attend the occasion.

I send my regards to all the members and traditional owners, particularly our old people and the many who have passed on.

The event took place at Ngumpan, 100km from Fitzroy Crossing, where one of the first ever Kimberley cultural festivals was held in the late 1980’s. It is great to see the tradition of bush meetings continue to take place.

I acknowledge the Ngumpan community, the Tiya Tiya PBC and the Wangkatjungka Community for allowing the meeting to be held on their land. 

I also acknowledge the many staff and volunteers who worked around the clock to ensure the needs of all members were met and the smooth running of the event.

The KLC has come a long way since the first meeting at Noonkanbah in 1978, where over 30 groups gathered to form the land council we know today.

Soon after that first meeting, the KLC faced one of the greatest fights in its history – the Noonkanbah protest, where people united to take on the West Australian Government and an international mining company who wanted to drill on sacred land.

As part of the 40th-anniversary celebrations, the Noonkanbah protest walk was re-created. Elders and youth marched together as they did 40 years ago - united in their calls for justice, for land rights, for a voice.

The recreation was a powerful statement, demonstrating that the Kimberley Land Council remains guided by the intention that was set four decades ago, continuing to represent its members in the spirit of unity. 

I am proud to be part of the rich history and culture of the Kimberley Land Council.

I recall the event 20 years ago when the KLC celebrated its 20th anniversary at Noonkanbah.

We were reminded then as now that Kimberley Aboriginal people have a proud history of standing up, seeking justice celebrating our culture with each other.

The 40th anniversary is a chance to honour the fine heritage of the exceptional leaders of our past. The men and women who have fought hard to in the struggle, to get land back for people, to make sure their communities were safe and to create the opportunity to build on the rights our people justly deserve.

It is through their hard work that we now celebrate the Kimberley Land Council we have today.

We celebrate the great history, great legacy and great achievements for First Nations people in the Kimberley.

There is still much to achieve, and many challenges remain before us.

First Nations people across the nation are still fighting for recognition as the First Peoples of this country.

They have called for a Voice to Parliament and a Makarrata process to oversee truth-telling and agreement making.

While the Liberal Government have not demonstrated the political will to enact these calls, Labor honours the voice of the people and is determined to give First Nations people a say in the matters that affect them – including through a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.

Labor is committed to writing the wrongs of the past and will push forward a Makarrata commission to oversee truth-telling and agreement-making.

The Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition, of which I am a co-chair, is continuing to build wider consensus on these matters.

But in the absence of cross-party support necessary to achieve constitutional change Labor has promised in government to legislate for a voice to honour the aspirations held in the Uluru statement, while not losing sight of the need for constitutional guarantee. We will work to build support for a referendum.

For First Nations people, it is sometimes hard to keep up the struggle on the long road to justice.

But it is through honouring and celebrating our unity as a people, the unity that our old people gave to us that First Nations people can take on these new challenges of a Voice to Parliament, truth-telling and just recognition as the first people of this land.

The 40th Anniversary of the KLC is a reminder of our strength in respecting our diversity and coming together as one voice.

It is an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come and consolidate our collective effort to the challenges ahead.

Congratulations, Kimberley Land Council.

Senator Patrick Dodson.


Header image credit to Kimbelrey Land Council

Stay up to date by subscribing to my newsletter.