Menang elder Oscar Colbung honoured by election as inaugural director of Wagyl Kaip Aboriginal Corporation

Headshot of Liam Croy
Liam CroyThe West Australian
Southern Aboriginal Corporation's Oscar Colbung.
Camera IconSouthern Aboriginal Corporation's Oscar Colbung. Credit: Laurie Benson

Albany elder Oscar Colbung has been elected as one of the four inaugural directors of the Wagyl Kaip Aboriginal Corporation — the body that will represent the Great Southern under the historic South West Native Title Settlement.

Noongar leaders campaigned for decades to negotiate the groundbreaking $1.3 billion settlement — the biggest in Australian history — which came into effect in February.

The settlement recognises that since time immemorial, Noongar people have maintained a living cultural, spiritual, familial and social relationship with the land.

As part of the settlement, all native title claims in the South West will be resolved in exchange for 320,000 hectares of development and cultural land to be owned and managed by the Noongar people.

The Noongar Boodja Trust will receive yearly instalments of $50 million for 12 years, with the six regional corporations and one Perth-based central services corporation to receive $10m in annual operational funding for 12 years.

The six regional corporations, including Wagyl Kaip, have been established to enable Noongar people to make decisions about culture, heritage and land within their own regions, while collaborating as a unified Noongar nation.

Mr Colbung was this month announced as one of four member-elected directors for Wagyl Kaip, along with fellow Great Southern Noongar leaders Mervyn Eades, Malcolm Williams and Jeanice Krakouer.

He described his election as an “honour” and paid tribute to the people who had fought to get the to this point — notably, his brother Glen, who first shared his vision for Noongar communities to combine their claims and bypass the native title legal system in the 1990s.

“The South West Native Title Settlement will provide significant social and economic opportunities for the Noongar community,” he said.

“The Noongar nation is the largest language group in Australia.

“This settlement has potential to deliver enduring economic, social and cultural benefits to the Noongar people for generations to come.”

Mr Colbung has worked in Indigenous affairs for more than 30 years, including serving on the board of the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council.

A past chairman of Albany-based Southern Aboriginal Corporation, he has managed SAC’s family violence prevention legal service since 2015.

He congratulated his fellow inaugural directors and said he was grateful to the community for showing trust in him.

The new regional corporations will hold their first general meetings in the coming months.

“This settlement provides Noongar people more opportunities than native title ever has offered,” Mr Colbung said.

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