In Yolngu law, which most of my electorate remains subject to, men are not to interfere with the governance of pregnancy.
Pregnancy is the symbolic power faced by women in my society, (inaudible) and political equality. Men and women decision makers meet at a level of a (inaudible). That is why I have engaged an (inaudible) to consult around this matter.
With the short time frame pursued for this bill I have only been able to receive formal feedback from one women’s (inaudible). They met independently in February. Before I talk about their position I must tell you a little about Yolngu society.
To us, sex is like a ritual or relational commitment. Traditional marriage happens with agreement between families and with consummation. This is a mutual agreement and consummation is by consent only. It is not by force.
This connection between sex and a committed relationships means sex cannot be a free thing without education and discipline.
Yolngu relationships also do not support promiscuous behaviour often represented in Anglo or western culture. Promiscuity is a behaviour introduced into Yolngu society and it badly affects our otherwise closed and caring kinship structure.
I believe this structure, this cultural outlook is the background to the women’s forum’s resistance to medical abortion. The women do not want more availability of abortion. They do not want to encourage the philosophy of free sex. They want to promote the knowledge that sex needs to be respectful, caring and responsible to the closed relationship it promotes.
Plainly sex should also be treated with respect because it is also by nature about human reproduction. Yolgnu leadership takes this matter seriously. The integrity of our society depends on it. Dhuwa and Yirritja and Yothu Yindi, separations of governing powers depend on restrictions on the people we can have sexual relationships with.
The strength of our Marrauen Rringgit alliance connecting Yalpa Mari with the related clan alliances that protect the territorial and governing integrity of our estates also depend on good marriages. Even our genetic integrity depends on our proper flow of genes which depends on marriage between proper kin. There is an advantage for a child who is born through the right skin, right kinship and clan relationships. He or she will be endowed with spiritual marr or power. They will be strong in their integrity and have the world open to them in terms of clear rights.
The women’s forum did not want to expand the availability of abortion because it could promote promiscuity and wreck our good marriage culture. More strongly, the women’s forum did not support abortion at all. Abortion is not really required in our society; this is because a child born in any circumstances can be adopted into an appropriate family, even in cases where people have a sexual relationship with the wrong kin. Shame is not on the child. Instead, they are placed into a family with the right kin relationships.
For example, a dhuwa has a sexual relationship with another dhuwa person, which is incest and illegal. In the past the man might have been judicially killed, leaving the child to be adopted by a yirritja man, which is correct. Today we do not judicially kill; the children continue to be adopted into right kin relationships.
Nonetheless, it was identified by a women’s group that some situations might arise where abortion is used by some. In those cases they prefer this happens away from community, prying eyes and potential offensive situations where a person is recovering from the process within a crowded family housing situation.
The forum also identified concerns about supervision of medical abortion, which was not an issue with surgical abortion. The Yolngu experience of surgical abortion is that it happens in a hospital with recovery also happening in the hospital. Medical abortion, as so far discussed, is being presented as happening around community medical clinics, and the miscarriage and recovery happening at home. The forum was also concerned that children might be able to access an abortion without parental consent. The expectation of Yolngu leadership is that they are involved in such decision-making for a juvenile.
Here I will quote the independent consultation notes.
For young people in this situation in Yolngu culture, any female relatives are able and should be involved in providing care and guidance.
There was discussion about the way the family members’ responsibility for their children are important and involve providing support and encouragement, talking to them about these issues and providing education, care and looking after one another.
For issues such as pregnancy and childbirth, or how many children a couple will have, we have a responsibility within our family to talk about this. These responsibilities do not end when someone reaches 16 or 18 years old. This involvement continues in adult children’s lives.
Motives for the medical abortion technology was also raised as a concern. Is it an attempt to lower Indigenous birth rates? If it is not, will it be used in this way by individual hospital or clinic staff? This probably sounds excessive to an outsider but since the intervention we have heard and experienced all sorts of racist things. The women’s forum ended with an agreed suggestion that it would be better to give a group like the independent group of female elders funds to run a program with a reproductive education and discipline focus to prevent young people getting pregnant.
These were results from one community’s (inaudible) women’s forum in my electorate. I will not feel informed until another (inaudible) could also provide feedback in this respect. I have received no other formal communication from my electorate. The bill was not raised by members of my electorate at the community forum in Nhulunbuy two weeks ago. There has been some weary and non-committal feedback towards to bill from individual health workers but nothing formal to me.
The end point is that I require more time to properly consult my electorate. I will vote no if the decision is voiced during this sitting period based on the formal feedback I have received.
Bill was carried 20 Ayes 4 Noes
Debates 16/03/17 https://parliament.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/407008/DEBATES-DAY-3-16-MARCH-2017.pdf
Mr GUYULA (Nhulunbuy):
I stand here not as a member from the government or opposition; I am here as an independent member from the Yolngu Nations Assembly. Things that I hear and things I want to say—I want to try to attract to the ears of government and the law to try to get a better communication between us and my people, with our law that we live by.
Whilst I understand the perspective of other members who will support this bill, I do not support it, because, once again, I fear that we are making laws to suit non-Indigenous society. That is the point I am trying to make.
Most of the people in Northern Territory gaols and remand are Indigenous. Many Indigenous people are in gaol because NT law lacks the idea of legitimacy. The other central reason Indigenous are in gaol is due to severe communication failure by the parliament when it creates law, police in their enforcement of these laws, and courts in their judgments of these laws. This is particularly true for people in my electorate.
The ability to electronically monitor people will not assist legitimacy or communication. I predict it will make these issues worse. It will increase fear and dislike of the police. For example, if a police officer wants to find someone skipping bail, they can ask a man or woman clan leader. If we want a solution, it is not with greater enforcement powers, which de-humanises justice. Justice dependency must be dealt with.
In our community we want police discretion handed back to elders. We want a sovereign right to punish and rehabilitate our people ourselves.
I know it is a little hard, but, from my perspective in the culture I come from, in this parliament we want the clear message that we have a system where we can punish [,rehabilitate] and go through justice. Through this system it is a bit hard, but I need this government to understand that I have views that not many people would understand. As I said, I am not standing on either side of government, but as an Independent member, and this is my view, which leaders in the community would understand and see as achievable.
Note: Bill was introduced and passed within a single week of parliamentary sittings.
Mr GUYULA to MINISTER for HOUSING
How is the government incorporating the independent Indigenous housing advocacy group, Aboriginal Housing NT, into its decision making about the Indigenous housing?
Madam Speaker, I thank the Member for Nhulunbuy for his question.
It was an honour to meet with the PEAK body in terms of representing Aboriginal housing on Monday. Their questions were very pertinent. One question was how this government plans on incorporating their advice and advocacy. We are serious about good advocacy, commentary on our policy and open and transparent processes. I said to the group at the meeting that we are keen to continue that group.
One of their concerns was that we could be like the previous CLP government and flip flop from reactionary politics and create a new body. I assured that group we are not like that. We value their advocacy. It is a good cross-section, as you would know, between remote communities, homelands and outstations.
They are requesting the funds for another meeting and we will be looking closely at that in support of their continuation. They ask if they would be the Peak body in terms of remote Indigenous housing to make commentary on our policy and to guide us. I agreed with that. They are interested in individual models which reflect the government’s place based approach around design and innovation for Indigenous housing.
There was an interesting discussion that came from the Laynhapuy Homelands who are keen on construction and innovation in homeland housing. They are interested in new housing on homelands and our government cofounding opportunities.
Member for Nhulunbuy they are completely in the sight of government. We will continue to meet, take advice and develop our local decision making principles. It was great to hear the Chief Minister talk in the House at these sittings about how that do not just relate to housing. We have been working on that extensively in terms of Room to Breathe package. It talks about education, health, justice and local government.
I am honoured to meet with that group. That was the second meeting as a new minister in this portfolio. I look forward to the continuation. I am sure you would also accept an invitation. It would be great to sit with you and discuss those important matters around advocacy and policy with the new Michael Gunner Labor government.
Mr GUYULA to MINISTER for INFRASTRUCTURE, PLANNING and LOGISTICS
The Central Arnhem Highway is a major connective road for my electorate and the Arnhem electorate. Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala, Laynhapuy homelands, Marthakal homelands, Ramingining, Milingimbi are dependent on this road enterprise, governance and relational connectivity to an essential infrastructure. With particular interest in Nhulunbuy into Ramingining end of the road, what points are expected to be made available in future progress to the Central Arnhem Highway so our region can be further informed of relational and economic development?
Madam Speaker, I thank the Member for Nhulunbuy for his question. It is an excellent question in regards to road infrastructure. We know investment in road right across the Northern Territory delivers import important transport corridors for us socially and creates new economic avenue. There is no doubt we want to see sound investments into roads across the Northern Territory.
We have one of the biggest challenges with one of the greatest unsealed networks of roads infrastructure in this country. We have some horrendous road conditions in the Northern Territory which makes life difficult for people in the bush. We need to invest more in roads.
Part of the work we are doing as a new government is making sure we target road investments strategically as possible through our economic summit process and working on our 10 year infrastructure plan. We will be overlaying our infrastructure plan with logistics master plan. Part of that is looking at targeting those road upgrades to find sections that need to be sealed and where the greatest priority lies. Arnhem Highway is a road we must look at and continue to work on.
We have other challenging roads. The Member for Stuart is very passionate about the Tanami which is an important road. The Member for Daly is one of the strongest advocates for roads infrastructure. He brings forward his issues with his constituents. It is an important matter.
Unfortunately the reality is that roads do no come cheaply. To seal small sections of roads can cost in the millions. It is about making sure we prioritise the expenditure to maximise the return. Roads is a good investment particularly when it comes to jobs in the civil construction sector. It ensures we are supporting those local jobs on the ground.
Across the Territory we are seeing more communities developing and building up a capacity to do more works in that space. That is something we want to see and another reason this 10 year infrastructure plan is important. It is about helping people gear up and look at the opportunities ahead and where the priorities are. It helps when it comes to lobbying the Commonwealth. They are an important player we need to bring to the table. We can see what infrastructure investment they are willing to make in the North since we have a federal government committed to a Northern Australian development agenda.
As infrastructure minister I will be doing everything I can to pursue that.
Mr GUYULA to MINISTER for INFRASTRUCTURE, PLANNING and LOGISTICS
Since last year Airnorth has not been able to operate daily services to Milingimbi. I am told that this has occurred because the Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia airplane used for this service has now been deemed too large for the current airstrip by CASA. For the service to be reinstated the airstrip must be widened by five metres. Is there any plans by the government to fulfil this need?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I will get back to you with the details about that situation. Last year, yes, it was a real concern when we saw that CASA had said there were issues with landing the aircraft that was used there. A great deal of work happened at that point in sitting down with CASA and the airline to make sure they worked through the matter. I believe an alternative aircraft had been arranged at that time to go in there. However, there were questions about the aircraft suitability and the width of the landing strip.
Yes, remote access by plane is extremely important to your electorate. I was at Gunbalanya and was speaking to some of your board from ALPA at that point and I was receiving very strong advocacy from those gentlemen as well.
I will get you an update straight after Question Time about where that matter is presently at because I do not have the latest advice in front of me. It was something that when it was raised last year we made sure we had the parties sitting at the table working through that. The most important thing was making sure air services were continuing. Thank you, Member for Nhulunbuy.
Debate Here: https://parliament.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/405535/DEBATES-DAY-1-14-MARCH-2017.pdf
Mr GUYULA (Nhulunbuy):
I welcome the statement from the Minister for Education, which is something I have been looking forward to. I came into this parliament to raise issues about education in Indigenous communities, especially in my electorate. I was not quite prepared to say something; I was not expecting this. I wanted to keep carrying my interest in education and wanting to see it go. So thank you for the report.
Especially in my electorate, I have been around Nhulunbuy area school and the primary schools and listened to what they have been doing. As the Member for Nhulunbuy last year - or was it this year? – the boarding school opened in Nhulunbuy to give a choice of going to boarding school in Nhulunbuy or Galiwinku Shepherdson College.
Schools in the electorate, as well as the Nhulunbuy High School, have invited me to presentations and through that I am learning what is being achieved in those communities and Nhulunbuy and on the homelands. I am very happy to hear names mentioned by the minister, especially the communities and schools in my area. I would like to—not push, but ask her again to consider homeland schools as well, as we worked together to achieve homeland schools. Some have been defunded and policies have come and gone and changed. Some homeland schools have been defunded and people in the homeland centres are wanting to get it reopened, and would like to see (inaudible).
Families and children in the communities can have control over education on country and on teaching before they come into mainstream education and learn better that way, with equal opportunities in everything.
An announcement I have made is I would like to keep working further on homeland schools. In my electorate we have three bilingual education centres at Yirrkala, Sheparton’s College and Milingimbi. I would like to see them going again. That is all I wanted to say because education is one of my reasons for being here in this parliament, to try to raise issues and get support from this government.
MATTER OF PRIVILEGE
Freedom of Speech
Mr GUYULA (Nulunbuy): Madam Speaker, I move that the committee of privileges inquire into and report to the Assembly on any limitations of a member’s freedom of speech in this Assembly with specific regard to the operation of the Standing Order 31. I move that the power of the proceedings officer to expunge words considered highly disorderly from the parliamentary records as occurred by a ruling of the Deputy Speaker and confirmed by the Speaker in relation to words I spoke in my adjournment speech on the evening of 16 February 2017.
I move my motion today at the earliest opportunity following the sensor of my adjournment speech on the final sitting day of February. In research I have since learnt these matters are best dealt with at the time of the event by dissent; however, at that time I did not hear the Deputy Speaker’s ruling on them, then left before the Speaker confirmed the decision. Nevertheless, as a new member of the parliament, I would not have known to move dissent of the motion at the time. I would also have been shocked if I had heard the ruling. Indeed, I was shocked or rather perplexed when I learned of the ruling.
On the following day when my staff quizzed me about the matter, comically I confirmed to my staff member that he needed to follow up the Hansard and provide the speech to them, presumably to ensure the right spellings of the children’s names I had listed. Obviously, some confusion followed that directive of mine.
The Deputy Speaker had censored the names in my speech with this ruling:
Thank you, Member for Nhulunbuy, the names of the children will not be recorded in the Hansard as they are in the care of the department.
At the end of the evening, the ruling was confirmed by the Speaker.
It never crossed my mind that something like this could have happened. I have taken serious consideration of my action and resolve to do so because of my responsibility to the vulnerable in my electorate. I was aware of the Care and Protection of Children Act, section 301, which makes it illegal to publish material that may identify a child in the CEO’s care, but I was also aware that this restriction does not apply to a member speaking in the parliamentary Chamber, with the limitations of the Chamber.
I was aware of my right to freedom of speech. I understand this right as being a special privilege granted to me through Westminister tradition so the parliament could not be overcome by the King or Queen. In the modern view of members, freedom of speech is a pillar of democracy granted to ensure a last line of defence for citizens over the state. To me, a member’s privilege is to protect the vulnerable - when government supposedly exists to serve them - to build them up and give them strength instead of oppress them.
Before I made my speech on 16 February, I had gained details of the cases of these children from witnesses and had consulted with the affected families. On top of this, I am an expert on custom, culture and world view of the people group affected, the Yirawirung. I am a clan leader in custom and law of these people. Moreover, I am an authority of Ŋärra’ Rom, which is the institution of nationhood of our people. This institution is responsible for overseeing our law that protects the weak and vulnerable.
My point is that in considering the use of my discretion, as a member of this Chamber, I was likely the best informed about the children’s situation. My discretion of the member argued with the authority of Westminster tradition and the tradition of my own people. I had decided that these children had been wrongly removed from their parents and family by the state, resulting in injustice and unjustifiable trauma.
In the face of this I wanted to do something about it. I did not act maliciously. I did not use words that were disorderly or offensive. Instead I honoured the children of my people. I left information for them that would make them feel loved, respected and wanted. I acted to try to give them hope in the future when they might only feel alone.
Unfortunately this plan relied upon the Hansard record. The failure I am trying to highlight is that because of this ruling the Department has been allowed to traumatise these children. This is not debatable while there is no opportunity for redress, no opportunity for healing and justice.
Yet another way under this ruling the secretary invoked by the Care and Protection of Children Act has become a tool of injustice rather than a tool of safety. My speech was balanced, instead of the system protecting itself. My speech was the system correcting itself. This is what a member’s freedom of speech is for. It is not outside influence like the courts, or like the government or Territory Families that should get in the way of us doing our job and correcting the systems when it has strayed.
Outside powers should not get in the way of this Chamber providing hope for our people. This is why I find it difficult to accept a ruling to censor a member’s freedom of speech justified by the Care and Protection of Children Act. It is not a justification and by itself our powers and the privileges determine that.
Secondly I cannot understand how I in my actions on 16 February breached the limitations of the Chamber. I understand that Standing Order 31 has been described as a limitation in this instance. I fail to see by what interpretation the use of Standing Order 31 is feasible. This I believe requires attention by the Parliamentary Privileges Committee.
Standing Order 31 protects the respect of the judiciary together with the Parliaments of Australia and their members. My speech was not addressing any of these institutions or authorities.
Finally I strongly believe this instance of the Speaker’s discretion provides the Chamber with a good opportunity to review one of its foundational parameters of operation: freedom of speech. As I have alluded a member’s freedom of speech is a pillar of the Westminster system style democracy.
Every shave removed from this might well lead us to failure. There have been a few incidents in this Chamber in the past where words have been censored from the Hansard. Those examples are potentially justifiable in terms of the protection and safety of individuals and protecting the privacy of individuals. They were not challenged; however, the precedents we know of were also arguable malicious in each instance.
This is in contrast to my own circumstances. My speech cannot be argued to be malicious. Furthermore, today I have provided the Chamber with the rationale that I acted on the interests of the individual’s safety and in the reasonable interests of my electorate. I cannot argue that I acted to protect the individual’s privacy; however, this is overcome by the likelihood that privacy only existed since the day of parting.
I understand that on face value this matter may seem clear cut; however, as one digs deeper and gains perspective I believe this is an issue of importance to each member. Each of our privileges is at stake. This is not selfish; this is a call to remember where we come from and who we are for the purpose we are here.
Members, when your freedom of speech is at stake, the rights of your electorates to be properly represented are also threatened. The right to protect your people is removed. I ask all members to consider this situation seriously and pass this motion.
I commend my motion to the Chamber.
See Hansard for remainder of the debate. Motion was voted down by the Labor Majority.
Mr GUYULA to ATTORNEY-GENERAL and JUSTICE
What is the NT Government doing to improve legal aid for Territorians, particularly Indigenous Territorians, especially in locations away from Darwin like my electorate, Nhulunbuy.
Madam Speaker, I thank the Member for Nhulunbuy for his question, following on from his questions yesterday about acknowledging the high rates of Indigenous incarceration.
The question the member has asked fits with the federal government. It provides the funding for legal aid. Over the last couple of years we have seen lobbying from all quarters on the cuts to legal aid at a national level. We need to make sure that when people are, sadly, involved in the justice system, they have representation so the system can work.
It has been very disappointing. The last federal Labor government, under Mark Dreyfus, ensured there was funding, but we have seen significant cuts. It is concerning. When I attended the Police and Attorney-Generals’ Ministerial Council Meeting in Melbourne last year it was on the agenda. The states and territories are very concerned about funding agreements that will come to an end in July this year. It is an issue that will have an impact in the Northern Territory because we rely on our community-based legal representation sector to provide that work for many Territorians.
This government is concerned about it, and we have spoken about it at the national level. The funding comes from the federal government, which has flagged changes to the funding agreement that was put in place about five or six years. That is concerning.
I would be happy to provide the member with a briefing, and I suggest he contacts the federal representatives about this important issue.
When we Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 14 times more likely to be incarcerated—we are concerned. Legal aid services provide vital representation, not just in our urban centres but across the Northern Territory. These organisations travel to provide that important service to people in remote communities. The government, along with other states and territories, is highly concerned about and has been lobbying the government about. I thank the honourable member for the question.
See connecting Questions on 15/02/17
Debate: DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE (RECOGNITION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ORDERS) (NATIONAL UNIFORM LAW) AMENDMENT BILL (Serial 3)
Mr GUYULA (Nhulunbuy): Madam Speaker, I support this bill.
This bill is an improvement on existing law; it supports victim rights in existing laws. I cannot, however, accept DVOs as a solution for my people. DVOs, by the colonial nature of the system, make more violence and conflict than what they assist in. DVOs impinge upon the ability of Yolngu clan leadership in dealing properly with violence in our community and domestic conflict.
Our people are struggling with lateral violence directly caused by the colonial movement that started with the landing of the first fleet in 1788. For the Yolngu people colonial takeover is not an issue of the past but a current ongoing conflict. It is a conflict through tools like DVOs disempower my people and make our justice dependent on the very people who caused the violence in the first place.
The answer to lowering domestic violence in rural communities is taking control of the issue. This means we must have the power to intervene in these issues, return Yolngu authorities and not be threatened by the intervention of Northern Territory police and non-Indigenous law like domestic violence orders.
Mr GUYULA to MINISTER for HOUSING and COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
The Chief Minister has committed government to better local decision-making for Indigenous Territorians, why then does your $1.1bn housing investment have no avenue for expenditure in the homeland centres?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his question. Let us first go to local decision-making because that was a strong election commitment that has been received well across the Northern Territory. We are putting a lot of energy into that space through the local government sector immediately and in terms of the local authorities.
Aligned with that and improvements in governance, train for local authority members and councillors and administration we have aligned significant infrastructure as well. Local authorities will have the opportunity to dialog, very directly, with the regional councils and be directly involved in improvements to their own community.
You ask a very interesting question about the link with the $1.1b program across 10 years in terms of housing. The homelands program is one that deals directly with Aboriginal land; it has some significant elements to that support for homeland residents. The program relates to improving and maintaining housing, it delivers municipal and essential services. It has the opportunity under a new policy directive around improving homeland housing, in terms of new construction, where we are looking at cofounding models.
I am very pleased to see that a significant investment from ABA, $40m has come to government to be worked in partnership. They are looking at innovation. This is a very important first step. We are saying to homeland residents; let us see where we can work together in partnership. Let us work up this cofounded model
Member for Nhulunbuy, we have not walked away from homelands. The previous CLP government cashed up, with the Commonwealth , a cheque, took the money, appropriated most of it and has left us with a significant challenge. You can point exactly to the previous government over this deal done with the Commonwealth.
We will continue to support homelands. The Minister for Education is always proud to talk about the infrastructure investment from Education into homelands schools. We will continue to work with homelands residents, and we look forward to the opportunities of working on co-funded models. I am sure, with your standing and ability in the community, you represent a very important partner in this. I look forward to your advice.