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Indigenous elders furious after eviction letter from state

FORCED OFF: Tom Wilmott (second from right) pictured in a file photo last year with Wade Thompson (back) and Aboriginal elders at the former Deebing Creek Mission when they opposed a housing development on the site.
FORCED OFF: Tom Wilmott (second from right) pictured in a file photo last year with Wade Thompson (back) and Aboriginal elders at the former Deebing Creek Mission when they opposed a housing development on the site. David Nielsen

INDIGENOUS elders are threatening further protest marches after their cemetery caretaker at Deebing Creek Cemetery was served an eviction letter.

The Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships sent a letter to Tom Wilmott advising he was trespassing and had to vacate the site by April 12.

The Deebing Creek Cemetery Reserve is classified as an Aboriginal Reserve and DATSIP acts as trustee of the land.

The three Aboriginal tribes of Ipswich have all protested against housing development on what remains of the old mission site in recent months.

They are in negotiations with Frasers Property Australia, formerly Australand, about a housing estate proposed to be built over the foundations of the main mission buildings.

Spokesman for the Yuggera and Ugarapul people, Wade Thompson, said the nearby cemetery site had been looked after by a caretaker for decades, after vandalism, and Mr Wilmott was appointed as caretaker by the elders.

"It has been our tradition on this country to have a caretaker looking after the resting place of the old people because vandals and desecration of this site has happened before, so the elders chose a caretaker to protect it," Mr Thompson said.

"This is our tradition, and with the permission of the elders we expect this tradition to continue," he said.

"Once again our traditions are being neglected by DATSIP as they continue to treat the Yuggera/Ugarapul people with utter contempt."

Mr Thompson said elders were considering a protest march from Limestone Park to Deebing Creek to highlight opposition to the eviction notice.

DATSIP director-general Clare O'Connor was not aware of the arrangements for a caretaker on site and said the department was working with the Jagera Traditional Owners, as the recognised Aboriginal party for cultural heritage purposes, to help with the management of the grounds.

"The unsafe conditions in which the man has been living include no running water, no electricity and no toilet facilities," Ms O'Connor said.

"A number of unapproved structures have been erected, including sheds. There are abandoned car bodies. The makeshift accommodation and living conditions at the cemetery are unsafe," she said.

She said recent events on the site, including the arrest of another man living there, led her to act to ensure the safety and well-being of Mr Wilmott, and the department was trying to secure alternative accommodation for him.

Topics:  deebing creek mission eviction


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