Elders from the remote Northern Territory Aboriginal community of Ramingining, East Arnhem, released the statement below on November 28.
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Today, Elders of the remote NT Aboriginal community of Ramingining are shocked and angered by last week’s announcement that the fundamentally destructive measures of the intervention will be extended for another 10 years.
“We don’t want another decade of discrimination here in Ramingining,” said Matthew Dhulumburrk, a 67-year-old Gupapuyngu man. “The government is extending and strengthening laws designed to assimilate Aboriginal people. We will not sit back and watch these attacks on our lives, our future, our culture and our law.
“After five years, it feels like the water level has climbed up to our neck. Another ten years will bring it way over our heads. The government is drowning us slowly and wonders why twice as many of our young people are attempting suicide. There is no valid reason to discriminate against Yolngu in this way.”
The people of Ramingining are unhappy with the consultation process and expect better from a government that is supposed to work with them. They know that community empowerment is vital for tackling issues in the community, but the intervention leaves their hands tied.
“In the days of self-determination, senior elders of every community were asked what we wanted to do, they would ask for our ideas,” said Dhulumburrk. “Now they just come and tell us ‘This is it! Non-negotiable.’ Only community empowerment allows us to participate effectively, but our community councils have been destroyed.
Many people are feeling stigmatized by this blanket policy that brands all Aboriginal people as alcoholics, irresponsible parents and child molesters.
“The government is telling the world that we can’t look after our kids. This is lies! The government only looks at school attendance instead of looking at what and how our children are being taught. We need our bilingual education, we need more Yolngu teachers and we need elders involved in developing curriculum. We know what our kids need, but the government is ignoring us and punishing us if we don’t do what they say.
“In homelands in particular, and also in our larger remote communities, Yolngu are happy and safe. The intervention is pushing Yolngu into urban towns where they are on foreign country. CDEP wages have been cut for thousands of our people and no new jobs have been created.
“We watch contractors come in from outside earning top dollar, while the government tells us we must work for the dole! We could be doing a lot of that work and earning that money. This hopeless situation drives people to alcohol.
“The intervention has brought hatred. We know now for certain that the true enemy of our people is the government and the philosophy behind this new assimilation policy. They have declared war on us, but we will fight for self-determination.
“What happened to democracy in Australia? We don’t want to have to fight against government. We want to engage with government, we want to take control of our lives and we want to build our future, but these policies leave us penned like animals with nowhere to go.”
Elders backing the statement:
Matthew Dhulumburrk, Gupapuyngu Clan
Dhaykuli Garrawurra, Buyulkumirr Clan
Matjarra Garrawurra, Buyulkumirr Clan
Daphne Banyawarra, Ganalbingu Clan
Barry Malibirr, Ganalbingu Clan
Shirley Nulumburrpurr, Liyagalawumirr Clan
Gilbert Walkuli, Gupapuyngu Clan
Jane Miyatatawuy, Gupapuyngu Clan
Peter Gambung, Gupapuyngu Clan
Trevor Djarrakaykay, Gupapuyngu Clan
Valerie Munininy, Buyulkumirr Clan
Richard Bandalil, Ganalbingu Clan
Yambal Dhurrurrnga, Liyagalawumirr Clan
Martin Garrangunung, Gupapuyngu Clan
Doris Rangimula, Djambarrpuyngu Clan
Dorothy Wiliyawuy, Djambarrpuyngu Clan
Tommy Munyarryun, Wangurri Clan