The following statement was written by Bree Blakeman (Djawulanganing) on behalf of the Gumatj clan nation, MataMata Homeland, North-East Arnhem Land.
There is a new wave of attacks on remote Indigenous communities.
The government is set to close down most remote schools. Because the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) and welfare are linked to school attendance, this is a retraction of any government support from these communities.
Schools will no longer teach in the local Indigenous languages either. English only.
They are also proposing to stop all funding to small remote communities, called homelands or outstations. These communities — like that we live in here at MataMata — are the cultural source of identity, pride and Indigenous religion and law. These are sacred homelands that the people will not leave.
There are also ominous signs the government wants to change the land tenure in these communally held estates (see "Northern Territory Government Outstation Policy Discussion Paper", section 3.2.2 Home Ownership on Indigenous Land).
These, among many other measures, suggest the government seeks to move remote community people into larger centres. This is exactly as [previous Indigenous affairs minister, Amanda] Vanstone suggested, but with more subtle rhetoric.
It may seem crude, but what would the response be if the government proposed to shut down all schools in white communities? If they proposed to shut down all service provision to white communities? If they started changing legal land tenure legislation in white communities?
People out here on the homelands are both saddened and angry. However, they are defiant that no matter what the government does, they will not leave their sacred lands and their law.
The government will be condemning them to a life of extreme poverty. Is this "closing the gap"? Is this "reconciliation"?
They call this a representative democracy. What a joke — what representation do families have out here? What say do they have in deciding on legislation that directly affects them and their children and their property?
For more information, visit these government discussion papers on the proposed legislation:
The two policies have to be read as working together. That is where the more sinister policy proposals lie.
For a great response to the government policy on CDEP and "increasing employment", visit CAEPR.
This gives a clear indication of some of the possible cultural effects of the new wave of government attacks.
The more people that are informed and active on this issue the better. Please talk to people about this down south! It is really so urgent we cannot stress it enough!