The Yolngu Nations Assembly, which represents 8000 Aboriginal people in the western, central and east Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, released the statement below on May 2.
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To the Leaders of the Australian federal and Northern Territory parliaments:
1. The Yolŋu Nations reject the Stronger Futures Bill (and those associated) and call on the Senate to discard these bills in full. We have clearly informed you that we do not support the legislation.
The Australian federal government can achieve all its aims through partnership in our communities. They have no need to grant themselves the continued and new powers contained within these bills.
2. Until the Stronger Futures Bill (and those associated) are thrown out of the Australian Federal Parliament, the Yolŋu Nations call on all traditional owners across the Northern Territory to refuse:
a) participation in land lease negotiations with the Australian federal government, and
b) approval for any exploration licenses
3. The traditional owners of prescribed community lands have been placed under extreme pressure from the Australian federal government to grant them head leases over these communities. Traditional owners want independently facilitated negotiations that can result in enhancing the interests of both the traditional owners and the Australian federal government.
4. The Land Councils are increasingly being pressured by government to act outside their roles and become agencies of government. We want our Land Councils to advocate for our needs and not have their independence curtailed by government funding arrangements and political interference.
The Yolŋu Nations call on the Australian federal parliament to ask the Auditor General for a review of the relationship between the Australian federal government and the Land Councils of the Northern Territory.
5. The Yolŋu Nations call on both the Australian federal and Northern Territory governments to end their interventionist policies and agendas, and return to a mindset of partnership based on the principles of self-determination.
6. The Yolŋu Nations call on the Northern Territory government to reform the structures of local government (the Shires) to better reflect Yolŋu and First People’s government structures which will provide a more locally based and accessible form of local government.
7. The Yolŋu Nations call for an end to the Northern Territory government’s Working Futures policy. For the sustainable social and economic development of our society, Homelands need to be considered equal to communities that were former mission and government settlements.
8. The Yolŋu Nations call for an end to the Northern Territory government’s compulsory teaching in English for the first four hours of each school day policy. To be successful we need education with instruction in our Yolŋu languages through all levels of schooling.