Court ratifies Treaty candidate’s election

January 13, 2017
Yolngu leader Yingiya Guyula.

The Court of Disputed Returns has dismissed an application by the Northern Territory Electoral Commission to render void the election of Yingiya Guyula to the Northern Territory seat of Nhulumbuy.

Guyula is a Yolngu leader who ran on a platform of treaty and bicultural education for the Yolngu majority seat in the August 27 NT election. After preferences were distributed, Guyula toppled the sitting Labor member Lynne Walker by eight votes. Walker was the only Labor candidate to lose their seat in that election.

The NT Electoral Commission lodged an application on October 20 to void the election because Guyula was a member of the Milingimbi Local Authority, which is part of the East Arnhem Regional Council. NT law states that someone is ineligible to be a candidate if they hold “an office of appointment under a law of the Commonwealth or a law of a state or territory”.

Guyula maintained that he only attended meetings of the Regional Council as an elder and not as a member. Supporting affidavit evidence led the Electoral Commissioner Iain Loganathan to agree and dismiss the application on December 1.

“One member of the Milingimbi Local Authority has stated on affidavit that they had asked Mr Guyula to be a member but he had refused. Another member has stated on affidavit that she did not consider Mr Guyula to be a member,” Loganathan said.

Guyula said, “It was hard going for me; going through elections to a Parliament House that is run by another culture”, reported NT News on December 2.

“Whatever comes along to try to knock me back; I stand firm.”

“I stood for Parliament with the aim of helping to create harmony, understanding and mutual respect between Yolngu and Balanda people, laws and institutions. Today’s Court decision is one small but important step on the road to achieving that aim,” Guyula said on December 1. Although he won on the grounds of a technicality, Guyula used the court case to promote his vision of formally recognising Aboriginal governance structures and laws in “white man’s” parliament.

Guyula states his reason for running on his website on April 26: “The reason that I want to do this is the voices of my people, of Arnhem Land and Australia wide, our voices have never really got through to the parliament house in the way it was meant to be.

“Our voices and our cause have been misinterpreted and twisted around and the politicians we have voted in before have always thought of how Yolngu people should live. It’s always been said ‘I think this is what is good for you’, rather, I want to go in there and say ‘this is what we know we need for our children, this is what we know we need for our community’.”

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