A sign acknowledging Wirangu people as the first people of Streaky Bay has been defaced, following a 25-year native title dispute.

The welcome to country sign has been spray-painted to remove the mention of the region’s traditional owners.

Wirangu, Mirning and Kokatha man Brenz Saunders noticed the vandalised sign on an RAA charging station while on a walk with his parents last weekend in the western Eyre Peninsula town.

“It was a was a shock and a disappointment,” he said.

“We had to take a second look to actually see if it was indeed spray-painted and unfortunately it was.

“It was disappointing to see that in Streaky Bay.”

The vandalised sign on an RAA charger, with the acknowledgement of country blocked out.(Supplied: Brenz Saunders)

More work to be done

At the end of 2022, the Wirangu people were granted native title over part of their traditional lands on SA’s west coast, encompassing Streaky Bay.

It was a 25-year battle, with none of the original claimants still alive to see their community accept more than 5,000 kilometres of land.

Wirangu Aboriginal Corporation chair Keenan Smith said despite that formal acknowledgement, the defaced sign was a reminder that there was more work to be done between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Streaky Bay.

The Wirangu were granted native title to more than 5,000 square kilometres of land on South Australia’s west coast in 2022.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Bernadette Clarke)

“I’m saddened by it. but I’m also not surprised,” they said.

“For me and for many other Aboriginal people that have grown up on the Eyre Peninsula and on the West Coast, Streaky Bay to us has had a reputation of not being a safe space for First Nations people.

“I know that’s changing a bit more now. But that sign being defaced and especially being quite targeted around removing acknowledgement of country, it just reminds us that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in those communities.

At the last census, 1.9 per cent of Streaky Bay identified as Indigenous.

Wirangu man Keenan Smith speaking at the native title ceremony.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Bernadette Clarke)

Voice debate left divisive legacy

The national Voice referendum has left a divisive legacy in Streaky Bay, according to council chief executive Damian Carter, who was also not surprised by the vandalism.

“It’s disappointing from my perspective that it has been done and I can see the hurt that that would cause a lot of people. Obviously we’ve just gone through a pretty divisive referendum, which was disappointing within itself, because it should have been a mature discussion,” he said.

“So it doesn’t really surprise me, but it definitely does disappoint me.”

At the polling booth in Streaky Bay 78 per cent of locals voted against a federal Voice to Parliament at the referendum in 2023.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

The division of Grey voted overwhelmingly against the proposition for a federal Voice to Parliament, with 79.4 per cent voting No.

Mr Carter said acknowledging the Indigenous history of Streaky Bay was a priority for council and for reconciliation efforts among the community.

“It’s our history, and if you forget your history, you’re never going to really move forward with your future” he said.

“It’s really important that we acknowledge the history of Streaky Bay, which is tied to the Wirangu people.”

Chair of Far West Coast Investments, Wirangu man Brenz Saunders said he was shocked by the defaced plaque.(Supplied: Brenz Saunders)

Mr Carter said the council were working on building more signs acknowledging Wirangu traditional owners across the town.

Mr Saunders is the Chairperson of Far West Coast Investments.

He said from a financial perspective, displays of disunity could impact the perception of the community.

“When we display friction that makes it certainly harder to attract investment into our region,” he said.

“Encouraging that aspect of display of culture and history can only elevate stronger communities.”