Aboriginal voices: ‘We have been manipulated, cheated and undermined’

Yalmay Yunupingu, Darwin, November 18. Photo: Peter Robson

Ninety people gathered on Larrakia land in Darwin on November 18 to launch the new book, Walk With Us. A moving welcome to country by June Mills was followed by speeches from Bagot resident Joy White, Yolngu educator Yalmay Yunupingu, journalist Jeff McMullen, Alana Eldridge from Larrakia Nation and young Aboriginal man Matthew Heffernan.

In a poem written for the occasion, Yunupingu said: “We have been manipulated, cheated and undermined because the white man thinks he has a superior way of thinking.”

The launch came after recent policy announcements from the federal government that outline what critics are calling the “second intervention”.

Yunupingu said: “Now the federal government is telling us we can’t have welfare payments to feed our children unless they go to school ... This is totally disrespectful towards us.

“Better to ask why the children don’t want to go to school. Is it because they can’t understand all the English because there are no bilingual programs? Is it because the white teachers don’t understand the children?”

Referring to the government’s lack support for Aboriginal homeland communities, McMullen said: “What government has the right to tell us some of our children will not get an education based on where they live? This is not about the children, it’s about forcing a policy on Aboriginal people that you and I would not put up with.”

In a very moving final speech, White said: “We are meant to be the first people of this nation, but we are not know. So I ask you, who are we? What do we tell our children?”

Darwin Aboriginal Rights Coalition organised the event, and sold out of books on the night. The crowd was also entertained with performances from Reggae Dave and Kris Pistofferson.