(This statement has been posted at Sydney Indymedia, but it is important that the voice of Aboriginal Territorians be heard in relation to the Intervention and to the appeal against the suspension of the Racial Discrimiantion Act in the Northern Territory that is now going to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.)
STATEMENT: My name is Yingiya Guyula from Liya-dhalinymirr clan of the Djambarrpuy?u People. I am a Yolngu Studies lecturer at University in Darwin
The intervention has only created problems in East Arnhemland communities as well remote homeland centres. The Intervention has made our people more frustrated and confused, the white man’s way of thinking is forced on us, and forcing us to abandon our culture. Government Ministers have flown into Arnhemland communities just for few hours on the ground to gather a little bit of information, then they fly back into cities thinking they know how to fix the problems in the communities, thinking they know what’s best for us. Governments only looked at the fringe camps and towns and wet areas where people drink alcohol in places such as Nhulunbuy, Katharine, Tenant creek, Jabiru Alice Spring and Darwin.
White people see Aboriginal people in these places and think that these people that don’t care about life, who don’t care about living. But who are they to judge them. They class all Aborigines the same, but they are wrong. These white people and those bureaucrats do not go out to the East Arnhemland communities, where my people live, where there has never been alcohol, and these is no child abuse. There are Aboriginal people living on remote communities of Arnhemland, in homeland centres, away from towns, away from the binge drinking areas, poker machine and gambling venues. These are people that are able to manage their funds and work, or want work, educate, discipline, and practice ceremonies.
Quarantining of centrelink payments should be optional and not compulsory. Quarantining might be ok for people living in town camps and cities, where alcohol and gambling is a problem, but it doesn’t work for my people living on remote Arnhemland homelands where there is no gambling, no alcohol and no child abuse. We are asking simply for understanding that in life, their needs to be an understanding between two cultures. There needs to be respect between cultures. Mapuru homeland has a Coop store which won a National award for selling healthy food. Centrelink won’t approve it to accept quarantined money. This means an aircraft charter fight from the mainland homeland at Mapuru to the closest shop on Elcho Island costs 560 dollars return. This means it’s costing $560 return flight just to buy 150 dollars worth of food, where’s the sense in that?
Arnhemland is like the European Union, made up of many different nations, each clan-nation with their own language, each with it own national estate. Bringing everybody in from the homeland centres into the major settlements is not the right thing to do because people do not feel secure or happy living in another mans land. Children are forced to go to school, but really they do not feel safe and unsecure on other peoples’ land. There are about 40 children who willingly run to school every day at Mapuru homeland because it’s their home and they feel secure. Yet the N.T. Government wants to close down the homeland schools and bring everyone in to the major communities. They think it’s not worth spending money on homeland schools who have 40 or more children freely, and with their own will attending school, but is providing internet services, facilities and technology to white schools with attendances as low as 5. The Education department provides computers and internet and distance learning for hundreds of cattle station and small schools, across the Northern Territory, but homeland schools are neglected.
Further more I would like say that these homelands are our homes. There is no violence in the remote homeland communities, no child abuse happens, no alcohol, no pornography, because out there in the bush is where the cultural ceremonial grounds are, and from it is where strong discipline comes through spirits of our fathers talking through the land.
Both the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory Governments hasn’t given equal opportunity to us the First Australians to be able to exercise our rights. Through the intervention white man police stations have been put in the major communities for dealing mostly with cultural conflict issues (problems that can only be solved through traditional cultural justice), but instead the white policeman force white man law onto us, disrespecting our black fella law. They think they’ve done the right thing. But often they’re only making it much worst by locking up senior leaders, the very ones who are wise and keeping our Indigenous Law strong.
This time we are taking the case further where it can be heard loud and clear by people whose ears, brains, feelings have a heart for Indigenous Australians. It is now being taken further where there is an ear that will listen. We are taking it further, to the United Nations and will talk about the intervention, about how income management in the Northern Territory has had a devastating and debilitating impact on remote communities in Arnhemland.
Finally, we need you to support us. We need you to tell governments that we want the same opportunities as white people, to live and enjoy our own cultural life, but they must stop trying to make us like whiteman, we have our own cultural identity. Let us be who we are, and together we will have hope for the future.