Mr GUYULA to MINISTER for HOUSING and COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Of the $1.1bm investment in the remote housing over 10 years how much will be allocated to home lands? Will Indigenous leaders be able to decide where those houses are built or are we subject to decision from foreigners about what is best for our people?
Madam Speaker, I thank Member for Nhulunbuy for his question.
The $1.1bm over 10 years will be for Indigenous regional and remote housing on communities. The homeland program is a separate program.
This government provided more money for the homeland extra allowance to do repairs and maintenance on homeland housing. You have hit on a very important point: the Commonwealth cashed up a deal with the CLP in the last term around homelands. They gave the CLP a cash sum and then handed the responsibility to the Northern Territory Government; this is a major responsibility, as you would know. Now this government is working through a process of how we deal with new infrastructure on homelands. We have the plan to maintain existing infrastructure; it is about new infrastructure.
I was very privileged to attend a meeting of the ABA—a full meeting—along with my colleagues, the Members for Arafura and Stuart, where they had a $40m investment into homelands on the table. They have come to the table in terms of the Labor government’s policy around co-contribution. We have to get smart and think in terms of how we can generate these important funds for new infrastructure in homelands.
Going back to the $1.1bn, a record investment, do not forget that we want to take this to the table. I have had a letter from the federal minister, Mr Scullion, to meet. I am very pleased that he has made contact and I will do my best at that table. Member for Nhulunbuy, it is about leveraging the Commonwealth government to match that Northern Territory ,if not more, to create the next national partnership agreement into Indigenous housing and take it on over the next 10 years.
In parallel will be homelands and we are serious about working with homelands…
Ms LAMBLEY: A point of order, Madam Speaker! Standing Order 110: relevance. The member asked specifically how much will be spent on homelands housing.
Mr McCARTHY: Madam Speaker, the member was talking about the $1.1bn. It is into Indigenous remote housing and, as I was telling you, it is really important that we work out new ways of funding homelands and new infrastructure programs. We are serious about that and doing it in partnership with communities, not dictating, but in partnership, like our $1.1bn investment.
Mr GUYULA (Nhulunbuy): Mr Deputy Speaker, existing sovereign rights and Madayin law, Northern Land Council consultation practice, Gunyangara 99 year lease, Gove peninsula land ownership.
It is well known that I am an advocate for a treaty between Australian powers and my Yolngu nations, which makes up the majority of the Nhulunbuy electorate. A treaty to me means real law based recognition from Australian governments for my people’s sovereignty. The right to control our land and the right ot govern for ourselves.
Indigenous people in the Northern Territory have already had success in receiving recognition of sovereignty from the colonial powers. This was achieved through the federal parliaments Northern Territory Land Rights Act 1976. This act protects our right to land ownership and self-governance of the land, for example determination of land ownership and consultation towards land use agreements are a decision by traditional law; in our language this is called Madayin.
Madayin law is a complete system of law. Central to this system is the Ngarra institution. It is our institution of nationhood. Many now consider Ngarra to be analogous to a parliament. For example, one way or another, all senior governing leaders have their authority confirmed here, or decided from this space.
I have received the title of Djirrikay, judge, from this institution and am confirmed as a Liya-narra’mirr. Women may be acknowledged as Gon-ganmirr. Also, the reputation of Djungagaya, managers, both men and women, are proved here.
This means when Yolngu society meets to make decisions, our approach is conciliatory, aiming for general consent amongst the group, but with seniority taking effect. If we cannot make a decision all together in the citizen’s forum, called Garma, we might withdraw to the forum of elders, called Dhuni. If they cannot make a decision in Dhuni, the Ngarra authorities might need to meet separately to break the impasse.
Sometimes, according to our philosophy, we might just leave it until an answer develops and everyone is satisfied and in harmony. No decision can happen in absence of the consent of Ngarra authorities.
Another important element of the Madayin law is our groupings. We divide ourselves into Bapurru, clans, Ringgitj, alliances, and the moieties of Dhuwa and Yirritja. Our citizenship to these groupings are inherited through our fathers. The only exception to this rule is when a clan’s male line fails it converts its inheritance through the mother’s line (to the Gutharra) before reverting to the father’s line again. All of these groupings have associated rights to land. Bärpurru clans are the primary land ownership jurisdiction, with each clan bequeathed an estate from the beginning. They also have the right to open the Ngärrá institution. The Ringgitj alliances also have rights to land use along tracks between estates, and also over small plots within estates.
On another level the whole of Yolngu land is divided between Dhuwa and Yirritja. These groupings also claim jurisdiction over their citizens. For example, criminal behaviour is regulated with regard to these groupings.
I am a clear supporter of the Land Rights Act. It is moderate respect of the Yolngu Nations sovereignty. We do not want to lose it and see it watered down by amendment or practice. A bad amendment to the act is section 19A(3) which concerns 99-year township leases. It means that if the NLC fails to consult properly a 99-year lease cannot be challenged if it is already approved by the trust. One can easily imagine how this clause leaves Indigenous communities open to outside corruption deals procured by friends, not lawful process.
On a practice level for some years now it has been clear that the government entity established by the act to advocate for our will, the Northern Land Council, is not following it obligations to land rights law. For example, the NLC fails to follow Madayin law when it does not acknowledge the Ngärrá institution as a political entity. Instead, the NLC says Ngärrá is just religious. Instead, it pretends that leadership is somehow otherwise empowered, but cannot explain how. One can imagine the chaos that ensues. Who, for example, makes a meeting authoritative?
More, the NLC does not consider Ringitj-alliances in their consideration of land ownership. The NLC operates with a lazy approach to traditional Aboriginal ownership, working only with Bapurru clans, and they make their own law entirely, when they subdivide ownership into sub-clans.
Yolgnu jurisdictions do not work like that. The basic Yolgnu governance structure is Bapurru clan, not family based. Outsiders cannot divide a clan and say they have a land use agreement. The detail is that Ringitj groups own land rights under Madayin law. According to the Land Rights Act, that makes those Ringitj-alliance groups traditional Aboriginal owners. The NLC cannot just ignore this and make up their own terms.
However, ignore is what the NLC has done. According to media reports, the NLC board last week agreed to a 99-year lease at Gunyanara. Despite the media proclaiming this deal as some kind of success, it is in fact a case of top to bottom lawlessness.
For starters, the land in question is not Gumatj owned land. If Gumatj do have a claim it is as one clan amongst several.
Mr GUYULA (Nhulunbuy): Mr Deputy Speaker, I continue on from last week. According to media reports, the NLC board has now agreed to a 99 year lease at Gunyanara. Despite the media proclaiming this deal is some kind of success, it is in fact a case of top to bottom lawlessness.
For starters, the land in question is not Gumatj owned land. If Gumatj do have a claim it is as one clan amongst several within Ringitj-alliance. They cannot own it alone. It is possible that they are Djagamirr caretakers for this area but it is a certainty that under Madayin law there are clans with a higher priority claim to ownership. Lamamirri and Warramirri, by many accounts, top the list.
The consultation for Gunyangara 99-year lease is also revealing. To the best of my knowledge the NLC conducted affective community consultations in Galupa, Yirrkala, Galiwinku and Gapuwiyak, but not in Gunyangara itself.
At Galupa, Yirrkala and Galiwinku we have been informed that there was clear disagreement to the application. We do not know what happened at Gapuwiyak. Lamamirri and Warramirri also made themselves known during these meetings, and claimed their status as traditional Aboriginal owners, not just an affected community. The NLC ignored their status.
The consultation was then finalised over two days in Gunyangara. The meeting was Gumatj only. Some Lamamirri paid their own way to get to this consultation but were denied the right to speak and possibly even enter the meeting. Under instruction from members of the Gumatj Corporation, NLC restricted the meeting to the Gumatj clan only.
Lamamirri kin who approached the NLC to protest the exclusion of Lamamirri gutharra were told they were not TAOs by the NLC staff.
The whole consultation for the Gunyangara 99-year lease was finished with four weeks, not in 10 years like some media reported. The deal is so raw that there is not a constitution for the proposed entity that will take control of the lease.
In contrast, the 99-year township lease consultations with Gunbalanya’s TAOs lasted something like two years. I know this because I visited these people during the consultation.
The point seems to be that if the NLC wants something it will happen. It does not matter if you have the right TAOs or if you are following the law. It does not matter if everyone is confused or upset. The attitude of the Darwin-based NLC is that it knows best. When amendments like 19A(3) exist, the context is ripe for systems that fun on deals for mates.
We are now left to clean up the mess of the recent 99-year lease deal. The whole Gunyangara Island and the mainland sites of Wartjaba, Gorrkpuy, Galupa nd Ngarrariyal will now be held under a 99-year lease to a corporation currently without a constitution. This is not satisfactory.
The agreement sees the handover of land by people who do not own it. It sees the demolition of other people’s rights, refined over thousands of years and then earned again with many decades of struggle under colonial government.
This agreement sees the exchange of fair Madayin law for weak corporate law. The NLC needs to stop and to start listening. This matter, the Gunyangara 99-year lease is just a symptom. The whole Gove Peninsula remains under a cloud of NLC denial. Against repeated attempts to make corrections, the NLC has for decades maintained that Gumatj and Rirratjingu are the traditional Aboriginal owners of the bulk of the land on the Gove Peninsula.
This is wrong. The real traditional owners of the Gove Peninsula, bar pockets and tracks of Ringgitj alliance land, are the Lamamirri—inherited by their Gutharra—the Dhudi Djambarrpuyngu and the Dhurili.
Rirratjingu and Gumatj are not TAOs of Gove; they are part of the management of the land only. They are Djagamirr, caretakers. I am not saying this on my own. This is what the law says and it is the testament of all the clans involved, including Rirratjingu and Gumatj. We Yolngu people want to unite, not fight in courts like the NLC forces us to do.
This issue is very important. The NLC determination in Gove was precedent setting. It throws out all matters of land ownership in our region. For example, if Gumatj and Rirratjingu – who are Djagamirr caretakers by Madayin law – are determined by the NLC to be TAO’s in Gove, what stops other Djagamirr caretakers from being named traditional aboriginal owners elsewhere?
The only way forward for the majority of my electorate is protection under the Madayin law. We must have room to be ourselves and to decide for ourselves. Amendments like 19A (3) do not allow for the rule or law, they attract corruption instead. NLC deciding that a 99 year lease is right for us and pursuing it without pause for the law is not allowing us to decide for ourselves. It is also an attack on our sovereign rights and could create lawlessness for generations.
It is time for the NLC to get straight with the law; the Land Rights Act and our Madayin law. It is time for the NLC to accept the political status of our Ngarra institution and its authorities. It is time for the NLC to accept the jurisdictions of Ringgitj alliances. It is also time they acknowledge the proper land ownership of Gove peninsula without excuses, to acknowledge the Lamamirri Gutharra, the Dhudi Djambarrpunyngu and the Dhurili. I do not know what will happen with the Gunyangara 99 year lease. If the land trust has not signed it off, they should not. If there are legal processes available to challenge the decision to accept this proposal, they should be considered. If that is not possible, the constitution of the proposed corporation has to match the rights provided to our people under Madayin law; anything less is an act of contempt for Yolngu society. Thank you.
Bilingual Schooling Program
Mr GUYULA to MINISTER for ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS referred to MINISTER for EDUCATION
Last sittings I misfired this question and it landed on our Minister for Education, but I believe it lies within your portfolio. Over many years bilingual schooling programs have been the target of bad politics and various governments and the Northern Territory Education department. How will this government protect bilingual education options for Indigenous schools in line with Article 14 of the United Nations’ Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Nhulunbuy for his question. I am happy to answer it although the Minister for Education is the one who does the work on bilingual and homelands and other important areas of schooling in the Northern Territory.
Going into the last election, we said we would increase the amount of funding going towards education in the Northern Territory and go down the path of community-controlled schools and give them the ability to make the decisions that are important to them in their school context, around bilingual or other forms of education they might want to pursue. We would give them control of their school environment and make sure there was extra money going into their global school budgeting system to make sure they had the capacity to make those decisions.
I have had good conversations with the Minister for Education about making sure that has been put in place and schools get that control and decision making so we are supporting choice in schools and making sure all children who are going to our schools have their best opportunity to succeed. We all want the best for our children.
We recognise that from place to place in the Northern Territory there are different contexts, and different decisions need to be made for those schools. That is why we make decision-making as local as possible. It is not me dictating, from Darwin, the education context in that school. We are trying to provide community control to that school in their environment to make their own decisions around bilingual education and the timing of school terms, as some schools such as Gunbalanya have already done.
There is control at a local level over what is suitable at that local level, and there is money going into the system to provide the flexibility for that decision-making. I will ask the Minister for Education to add some more to that.
Ms LAWLER (Education): Madam Speaker, I would like to add that in the last week or so I have received a draft from the NT Board of Studies, a document called the Indigenous Language and Culture policy, as well as a working paper. That will give schools some very clear directions—schools that want to revitalise a language or teach a bilingual program. There will be some clear directions from the department on that, which will be able to be instigated in schools.
As the Chief Minister said, these decisions are school based; that is the way of this government. Rather than the department mandating or saying what needs to be done, it will be up to the work of those school communities.
A document will be released; we will make that announcement and make sure you receive copies of that, but there will be some clear directions for schools.
Mr GUYULA to MINISTER for ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS
[My question is for the Minister for Indigenous Affairs. In your address-in-reply to the administrator in the last sittings you committed to a sub-committee of Cabinet that will feature all the bush and Indigenous members of parliament. You said it would provide advice on a treaty with NT first nations on land and sea.” When do we start?]
Madam Speaker I appreciate the question for the member. I have had conversations with my department about getting the sub-committee set up. I have had conversations with my two co-chairs and the Members for Namatjira and Arnhem about the terms of reference for the committee. We have set the agenda around treaty land, sea and local decision making which is really important.
I expect the committee to be up and running in the New Year about how we handle these issues. I believe there has been a very strong message sent about treaty not just through yourself, Member for Nhulunbuy, though I have recognised and respect the work you have done in that space.
When I was at the full land council meeting for the Central and Northern Land Councils plus a representation from the Anindilyakwa Land Council at freedom day, they raised that at the end of all the speeches, on a very hot day. They said, ‘Will you, Leader of the Opposition’—as I was at the time—‘support us in a conversation around treaty and moving towards a treaty?’ and I said, ‘Yes. We will do that.’
We are creating that subcommittee of Cabinet which is placing it very seriously at the centre of government to make sure we are actively listening around what to do.
That is the stage I am at as Chief and as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. It is not for me to dictate terms of treaty or anything like that. It is a listening stage at the moment for the different forms of treaty that people around the Territory are advocating for listening on how to work together to advance.
Other people around the country are discussing treaty as well and there is also the debate around constitutional recognition. I have said very strongly that I see no reason why we cannot have two conversations; some people will be putting that it is one or the other; I think we can have a conversation around constitutional recognition and a conversation around treaty. One does not prevent the other in any way, shape or form.
Constitutional recognition is happening federally and supportive of that and then how can we advance treaty locally? I think that is something we can do as a jurisdiction rather than tying ourselves into a potential federal national debate about treaty. Let us lead by example; I think that is what we can do. In terms of that subcommittee up and running in the New Year and actively listening around how do we reach a treaty in the Northern Territory and I thank you for the question.
DEBATES – Tuesday 22 November 2016
Mr GUNNER (Chief Minister): Mr Deputy Speaker, tonight I would like to solemnly speak on the passing of a great Territorian, and Aboriginal man of high degree, Dr Gawirrin Gumana AO, who passed away at his homeland Gangan in North East Arnhem Land last Saturday 19 November.
Dr Gumana was a truly inspiring man, whose life history traverses a huge period of change for the Yolngu of East Arnhem Land. Born around 1930, his early childhood coincided with that period of our history marked by his kin assuming their right as traditional owners of land and seas and dealing with newcomers who came to occupy that same space and take resources from Yolngu lands and seas.
He was old enough to know the long history of negotiated exchange with the Makassar traders. He also lived at a time referred to by journalists in Darwin at the time as the period of the black wars of Arnhem Land – the time of a number of violent incidents involving Japanese and Europeans violating Aboriginal law and taking fish and trepang from the Gulf of Carpentaria.
It was also a time of other outrages, including his recollection of a historical massacre of up to 30 of his people around Gangan – his homeland.
Like many people in Arnhem Land at the time, Dr Gumana contracted Hansen’s Disease and as a teenager was sent to the Channel Island Leprosarium for treatment. While this institution has its own dark history, it is also a place where Dr Gumana learnt English and came to understand the things that are important to others, non-Indigenous people. It was here at Channel Island that Dr Gumana also met and married his wife and became interested in Christian beliefs. After nine years at Channel Island he returned to his homeland and lived a life of moral guidance and leadership for his family and wider Yolngu families.
He was a key participant in many moments in our history. In 1963 he was a signatory for the famous Yirrkala bark petitions that lead over time to recognition of Aboriginal land and sea rights. In 1968 his cross-cultural skills led him to be a key interpreter and advisor assisting the Supreme Court in considering the history-making land claims of the Yolngu people. In 1988 he was a contributing artist to the Barunga statement or treaty, presented to Prime Minister Hawke.
Most recently, he was a key witness in the Federal Court consideration of Aboriginal land rights to the inter-tidal zone – the Blue Mud Bay decision.
All these events were key moments in time when Yolngu people sought to help others understand their history and values, and to present a way forward in recognising Aboriginal land and seas rights, their moral and legal obligations as stewards of their ancestral lands.
Dr Gumana was also an accomplished master artist, contributing to the famous Yirrkala church panels awarded the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander award in 2002 and with his work represented in the Australian National Gallery and many other eminent collections here and overseas.
In 1992 he took his participation in the church to a new level, becoming ordained as a minister of the Uniting church. In 2003 his life work was recognised with the award of the Order of Australia. In 2007 he was an awarded an honorary doctorate from the Charles Darwin University in recognition of his scholarly contribution to the Northern Territory community.
While Dr Gumana lived in some violent times, he was a man of peace, goodwill and persuasion. As his friend and work colleague Will Stubbs has said, he unfailingly resisted bullies, but never became one.
A special and lasting legacy will be his lifelong advocacy for homelands living: Yolngu staying on country to fulfil obligations to their land and seas, and to ensure continuity of knowledge and culture among their families. In 2009 he was a strong and loud voice for that movement, publishing a profound statement of the rights of the Yolngu to stay connected to their country.
Dr Gumana was a great Territorian, and I place on the record my respect for him as a man and leader of his Yolngu families. He made a huge contribution to cross cultural understanding and recognition of Yolngu history, values and culture. He was a treasure and I express my deep condolences to his grieving family, friends and Yolngu more generally.
To conclude, I would like to record his own words from his 2009 homelands statement:
I am an Aboriginal from mud, red mud. I am black, I am red, I am yellow. I will not take my people from here to be in other places.
He stayed true to his word to the end.