A dry creek bed in the middle of nowhere will set the scene for the latest chapter in an ugly spat between the State and Federal governments over funding for remote community housing.
Funding of remote services is set to be a touchy topic at the Yule River bush meeting on Wednesday and Thursday, where traditional owners from across the North West gather once a year to voice their opinions and concerns to government representatives.
WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt will be speaking at the meeting as usual, and Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion will attend for the first time. It is unclear whether they will cross paths.
The pair, as well as WA Housing Minister Peter Tinley, have locked horns publicly for the past month over the national partnership agreement on remote indigenous housing, which expired on June 30.
The Commonwealth has been accused by the State of putting a substandard offer on the table, while the State has been accused by the Commonwealth of failing to consult adequately.
Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation chairwoman Natalie Parker said the spat was leaving residents of remote communities uncertain about their future.
“Aboriginal people across WA, including in my community at Youngaleena, are looking over their shoulders, and face the trauma of being forced off their country again,” she said.
“It is 2018, and all Australians, and people around the world know, that forcing Aboriginal people off their country causes irreparable long-term trauma, social issues, degradation of land and culture, and is totally unacceptable.”
Mr Wyatt said the Commonwealth Government wanted to walk away from funding housing.
“No meeting is necessarily tense but suffice to say the first step is to get the Commonwealth Government to a position where it is not simply a payment for them to walk away,” he said.
“They need to engage and understand their commitment is ongoing. Once they get to that position we can then start talking about what the contributions are.”
WA Nationals Aboriginal affairs spokesman Terry Redman said Aboriginal people were being used as political cannon fodder.
“Negotiations aren’t always easy and I understand Mr Tinley is frustrated, but throwing the toys out of the cot just because you’re not getting it all your own way is an awful approach to such a serious matter,” he said.
“Meanwhile, people living in remote communities have no greater clarity as to what their future holds.”
Mr Scullion has accused the State Government of spitting the dummy over the remote housing deal.