Holmes a Court and sons on wild river trip

By: Tony Koch

AFTER being roped in by Russell Crowe to save NRL club the Rabbitohs, businessman Peter Holmes a Court has been enlisted by Noel Pearson for his wild rivers campaign.
But the Geelong Grammar-educated Holmes a Court has a greater affinity with indigenous affairs than with the South Sydney rugby league club, given his family's history of working with Aboriginal people.
So at Pearson's invitation, Holmes a Court has taken his twin sons, Robert and George, 10, on a driving trip though the Cape York communities. ``To find out for myself what local indigenous people feel about legislation that threatens their future development,'' he said yesterday.
Almost all waterways on Cape York are declared wild rivers or catchments, and are controlled by state legislation restricting development or building proposals, including those by local traditional owners.
But the legislation exempts mining companies with existing leases.
Holmes a Court said yesterday he could not see why anyone was anti-mining, but that did not mean it was good in every area.
``Another reason for coming here is I don't like fighting with friends, and in this case that means Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and Terri Irwin from Australia Zoo,'' he said. ``We are all people who want the same outcomes regarding the environment and Aboriginal people, but my reading is that this wild rivers legislation is dividing too many people.
``It's a massive irony that what's going on up here is because the original stewards of this land were really good managers of the land, so the rights they have only recently had returned through native title are now being taken away.
``That would be funny if it did not mean there were negative social consequences -- consequences that reduce the employment prospects of Aboriginal people.''
Holmes a Court, who has worked with Pearson on several projects, said there was an enormous challenge for his friend ``just to get a small group of people up to the Australian average''.
``Noel's is a relatively modest goal concerning a relatively small number of people, and to achieve a real lift in their lives, three elements are required,'' he said.
``They are appropriate land tenure, education and employment. I have been working and travelling in outback Australia for 20 years, and in that time there has been something in the order of 500 million people lifted out of poverty around the world.
``Yet a tiny number of Aboriginal people living in outback and remote Australia have remained in deep poverty.
``There is no doubt the wild rivers legislation is an affront to the tenure system that we have set up for only a short while with native title. We are still in the teething stages of this system, and Australia should be very proud of the native title system.''