Yiŋiya Mark Guyula was elected to the Northern Territory Parliament in 2016. He is an Independent Member representing the seat of Nhulunbuy (soon to be renamed Mulka). This electorate covers most of the Yolŋu country of East Arnhem Land and the mining town of Nhulunbuy. During his time in Parliament, Yiŋiya has challenged the Government to create inclusive laws and policies that work towards acceptance and understanding of Aboriginal culture and authority and he has also worked hard to consistently scrutinise Government on issues affecting remote communities and homeland towns.
Yiŋiya is a Yolŋu man of the Djambarrpuyŋu clan and the Liya-Dhalinymirr people. He was born in Barrnyinŋur in Arnhem Land and as a child lived on his country with his family and extended kin learning a Yolŋu way of life. At the age of 10 he began a western education at Shepherdson College on Elcho Island and later went on to attend Dhulpuma College and the Nhulunbuy Area School. He then returned home to his family in Mirrngatja for a time before moving to Nhulunbuy to work with MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship), being trained in aircraft maintenance and engineering. Eventually he trained as a pilot in Victoria and became the first Yolŋu commercial pilot for the region in 1983.
Yiŋiya is a highly skilled cross-cultural educator working for many years as a Senior Lecturer with Charles Darwin University. He is also a skilled community facilitator which has been demonstrated through a lifetime of work in roles such as Resource Worker with the Northern Region Christian Congress (the Indigenous presbytery of the Uniting Church Northern Synod) and various roles with the Gunbalanya School, the Gapuwiyak Council, the Marthakal Homeland Resource Centre and as a NAATI accredited interpreter.
Yiŋiya has the title of Djirrikaymirr (a senior leader) amongst his people. This makes him an authority within the Yolŋu traditional system of law, called Maḏayin. His clan is also one of a number of groups responsible for oversight of the Yolŋu central governance institution of Ŋärra’ (a foundational institution of law). This is where Yiŋiya’s passion lies. Maḏayin law and the Ŋärra’ institution has maintained peace, justice, and harmony in Arnhem Land for millennia, yet today is being over-ridden and destabilised by dominant outside influences. There are moments of success but every day the gap for Yolŋu in gaining good health, economic independence, and strong, self-governing communities grows. There is no recognition of Yolŋu governance and authority by outside institutions and this is what Yiŋiya is striving for – a partnership and treaty that respects the authority of Aboriginal nations on their country.
Ian Mongunu Gumbula is a Gupapuyŋu man from Galiwin’ku and has been living in Ngukurr with his wife Mercy since 2007. Ian was born in Darwin and grew up on Elcho Island attending Shepherdson College and then later Kormilda College and Darwin High School.
He worked for over 20 years at Shepherdson College as an assistant teacher, senior teacher and assistant principal. He comes from a strong teaching family with four of his sisters also teachers. He attended Batchelor College and Deakin University to obtain his teaching qualifications.
Ian has also worked as a Retail Manager with ALPA covering the East Arnhem region; as Manager of CDEP with the Galiwin’ku Council working to establish local enterprises and creating real jobs including a market garden; fishing enterprises and brick manufacturing. In 2007 he went on to work as the CDEP Program Manager with the Yugul Mangi Council in Ngukurr. He was later appointed as the Indigenous Engagement Officer working for the Commonwealth Government and senior leaders across the clan groups providing an important link between government and local authorities. Since 2014 Ian has been working as Program Manager for the Stronger Communities for Children Program through the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and now the National Indigenous Australians Agency.
Ian wants to make a practical contribution to advancing the interests of local communities. He said, “My heart’s desire is to help people in communities and to create a stronger bridge between Yolngu culture and Balanda culture.
“I want to work with senior leaders and emerging leaders who have a strong foundation in Yolŋu law and culture and bring this combined knowledge and values to engage with Government and gain greater control over their futures.
“This is the real challenge, the guts of the problem, bringing those two systems together so they can both work in partnership.
“My approach is to work from a place of respect for all individuals and recognise the strength of where they are coming from.”