Yuw nhamirr bukmak?
February and March have been very busy months with 3 weeks spent in Darwin for Parliament sittings. The 13th of February marked the Anniversary to the Stolen Generations. I acknowledged this day in Darwin and called on the Government to support Yolngu families and Yolngu children and return Yolngu children in foster care in Darwin to kinship care in Arnhem Land. The Minister has been supportive and working to return children to their country. There is still more work to do in this area, as Yolngu communities need to be re empowered with the responsibilities of Yolngu child protection. Our vast kinship system allows for many carers of children if the mother or father are unable to provide care.
The AIATSIS Constitutional Recognition Forum was held in Darwin in February. The forum was weighted towards creating a pathway for Treaty, asking the question how far can we go and what are the steps for achieving genuine constitutional reform? We know that this is not easy. We spoke about making a key to open the Consitution to recognise Indigenous law and sovereignty. And asked how do we work towards getting all Australians to agree with constitutional change of this nature? The next forum will be held in Uluru with representatives of all States and Territories to discuss this further.
I visited with the Shepherdson College School Council on Elcho Island in February and in March I attended the Nhulunbuy Primary School Council. I attended to listen and understand and observe. For indigenous schools in the region – I firmly believe that properly resourced Bilingual Education is the only approach that will produce real outcomes. UNESCO’s "Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All" study shows that all across the world, many kids don't attend school because the language of instruction is a foreign language and their recommendation is for Multilingual Education.
Also in my visit to Elcho Island I listened to discussions about the proposed Women’s Shelter. I will continue to work with all levels of the community to support the process for a Women’s Shelter that is underpinned by Yolngu Rom. This article outlines the community’s commitment to address family violence: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-31/arnhem-land-community-devises-plan-for-family-violence/8406136
In Nhulunbuy we held our first General Public Meeting in March to discuss local and regional issues. I stated at this meeting that I want to represent the Electorate of Nhulunbuy both Yolngu and Balanda and I will do my best to do that. Some issues that were raised at the meeting for further investigation were: drug dealing in Nhulunbuy, high costs of living in town including council Rates and travel, and the conditions of the Cental Arnhem Road as well as support for bilingual education. Myself and members of my office are discussing these issues with various stakeholders including the relevant Ministers. I hope to have several public meetings each year for residents to come and discuss local issues.
The recent weeks at Parliament have seen debate around the Bail Amendment Bill and the Termination of Pregnancy Reform Bill. I did not support either of these bills because of my concern for their implementation in remote settings and the lack of time given for proper consultation with the Electorate. Both of these bills were passed through the parliament.
A few weeks ago I met with the UN Special Rappouter on Indigenous Rights, we spoke about Treaty and members of the Yolngu Nations Assembly presented her with the letterstick declaring Yolngu sovereignty and recognition of Yolngu law. We also discussed the justice system, child protection, and language rights. Part of the language rights dicussion also included the motion that I have put to the Parliament about the right of Members to speak in a language other than English.These changes will assist myself and other indigenous Members to participate equally in the chamber.
During the March sitting period the NT News stated that I said I did not represent all of my Electorate. This is not true and it is not what I said, when I said "I stand here not as a member from the Government or the opposition; I am here as an independent member from the Yolngu Nations Assembly". This means that I'm not in alliance with the Government in power, and I am not in alliance with the opposition or the other independent members, I am a member of this Parliament and will stand and represent my electorate as an Independent member. I come from and was supported by the Yolngu Nations Assembly but I am here to represent all my constituents in the electorate of Nhulunbuy, all clans and all people.
NT news also published that I am not interested in jobs for young people and that I have been heavily lobbied on this issue. As a person that had an opportunity to train and be apprenticed I understand the importance of this issue for young people. I want young people to have these opportunities and yet I have not been heavily lobbied on this issue. But I would like to be, as it is an area that I consider a priority and I do not feel that major industries are listening to me alone and we may have greater success if we work together. I am also concerned about claims in relation to tribal law. Many Yolngu (men and women) still live by our traditional system of law – it is this system of law that creates strong, powerful leaders, both men and women. Where it is compromised by assimilationist ideals, and men and women do not participate in ceremonies that build discipline and respect, Yolngu find ourselves in a weak place where we experience sickness and disempowerment. I want my grandchildren to grow up on country with the traditional law growing them strong as Yolngu individuals with strength to walk in both worlds.
My electorate office in Nhulunbuy is open and is welcome to everyone with questions, concerns etc. As my Electorate covers Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala and homelands, Gunyaŋara, Birritjimi, Galiwin’ku and homeland centres, Yurrwi and homeland centres, Ramingining and Homelands centres, I want to move around cover these places which means you won’t see me at the Nhulunbuy office all the time. But my Nhulunbuy office is open and my electorate officers and staff are there to assist anyone. Furthermore, if anyone wants to meet me concerning any matters, call or come to my office and make an appointment.
During this month I will be in Yurrwi, Ramingining, Galiwinku, Nhulunbuy and I hope to have a public meeting in Yirrkala before returning to Parliament for 2 weeks of sittings in May.
Happy Easter Wishes
Yingiya Mark Guyula
MLA Office - Upstairs Arnhem House - Nhulunbuy