When Wajuk, Balardung, Kija and Yulparitja man Clinton Pryor was 16 years old he promised his dying father he would dedicate his life to keeping his people’s culture alive and creating positive change.
Distraught by repeated police raids on the Matagarup First Nations Refugee Camp in Perth, Mr Pryor decided to traverse the songlines and highways of Australia’s vast landscape to meet with Governor General Peter Cosgrove, at Parliament House in Canberra.
“I had enough of seeing people’s property being taken away by police,” Mr Pryor said.
The island on the Swan River, near the Perth CBD, also known as Herrison Island, had become a place of peaceful protest against the proposed closures of communities, and had become a place of refuge for many made homeless by government evictions.
“People are now homeless, and they have no plans of where to move them,” the 26-year-old said.
“There’s no backup plan, and it’s the Western Australian government’s fault.
“They are removing us off the land because it gives them access to go onto the land and mine it,” he said.
Mr Pryor said Matagarup is seen by developers as prime real estate.
“We used it as a refugee camp, they moved people off because they want to develop it,” he said.”
His journey began in Perth nine months ago, and almost 5000 kilometres later Mr Pryor entered Djiringanj country along the Far South Coast, his accompanying vehicles covered in thousands of names of people he has met along the way – becoming almost like a moving petition in support of his cause.
On Wednesday, Mr Pryor had lunch in Bega, accompanied by his support crew, and former NRL player and Wiradjuri man Joe Williams, who will be visiting the region again next week for a series of mental health workshops.
While Mr Pryor said treaties with the British Crown are top of the list of necessary actions for his people, he said the recent events surrounding the sentencing of a man responsible for the death of 14-year-old Elijah Doughty in Kalgoorlie has shone a light on the nation’s dysfunction.
“We’re not America, we can be better than America,” he said.
“We need to start getting things right, because there’s so much wealth leaving this country and going overseas when the money could be used to improve the economy.
“They should also allow the people to vote on government money going to corporations, like the recent ADANI deal.”
“What we want is for things to improve for indigenous and non-indigenous people,” he said.
“The government running the country is a corporation, it’s part of the World Bank.”
Improving the civil rights of Australians, protecting superannuation, lowering housing prices, and increased funding for issues such as homelessness and rehabilitation, are all on Mr Pryor’s agenda.
“Seniors deserve to be treated more fairly,” he said.
“We also need the Constitution rewritten to include Indigenous laws.”
Wandarma Drug and Alcohol Service’s Dennis Scott, Ben Thomas and Col Langlo met up with Mr Pryor north of Eden to help his cause with $400 worth of supermarket vouchers.
“It came from our Men’s Group funding, because we wanted to show him support,” Mr Scott said.
“He’s been doing this on donations from each town he’s in, and we fully support what he’s doing and wanted to help out.
“It hasn’t really been in the media here in Australia, but a team from France and Germany are making a documentary on him that will be shown in Europe, so there’s media from Europe interested in his cause.”
During his visit to the Bega Valley, Mr Prior was given a tour of Biamanga National park in Djiringanj country, and Ngarigo country in the Snowy Mountains.
It was the first time Mr Pryor had ever seen snow.
“He loved it, he said it was really peaceful and calm,” Mr Pryor’s guide and Djiringanj and Ngarigo man David Dixon said.
The traveling film crew also stopped in to the Dixon household for dinner, and to document life on the Far South Coast.
“A lot of our people are feeling disempowered when it comes to standing in front of people and advocating for themselves,” Mr Dixon said.