LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – I am an Alyawarr traditional custodian and I am calling for a treaty on the back of Dr Dennis Jensen MP’s controversial speech in Parliament last week regarding Aborigines.
Dr Jensen said: “I recall going on a trip to Broome, where we were driven around by the local Chamber of Commerce. We were driven past a region where there were lean-tos and a whole lot of smashed beer bottle, alcohol bottles and so on. And the leader of the delegation said ‘you know, the indigenous elders are extremely disgusted with this’.
“And he said ‘we can’t do anything about it because it’s native title land; we can only do something about it with caravanning and camping legislation, so after three days, we can get them to move on but they just cross to the other side of the road which is also native title land’.
“Now here was the problem and here was the question that I asked: if the indigenous elders are disgusted by this, and it is their land, it’s native title land, why aren’t they doing something about it? I mean one hand we’re saying we shouldn’t be paternalistic, but on the other hand, we are trying to be paternalistic by saying ‘we will fix it; we will get the council to do it rather than the owners of that land to do something about it’.”
Dr Jensen had identified the essence problem in many remote Aboriginal communities. He is right when he says that Aboriginal elders should be playing a greater role in restoring social order. But this can only be achieved if governments recognise the authority of the elders that is associated with native title. We can’t continue to have elder authority undermined by government paternalism.
The traditional lands of the Alyawarr people extend over 50,000 square kilometres of the Barkly region in the Northern Territory. Much of this land pastoral lease, which is covered by native title. I led a protest following the introduction of the Northern Territory Emergency Response into the Ampilatwatja community from 2008.
The Northern Territory Emergency Response and the Closing The Gap measures have been an abject failure and it’s time to give us our land back so that we can become more self-sufficient and entrepreneurial.
The Canadian and British Columbian governments have been entering into modern treaties with some of its First Nations peoples and its time that the Australian government did so with us.
Dr Jensen needs to understand that the problem is caused by governments through their policies and systems at all levels by their own bureaucrats, public servants and advisors.
He needs to realise the NTER measures were brought on by the governments and Aboriginal people, which created a migration of our people from remote areas into townships. Across NT and WA under these government measures people are now worse off.
The current discussion and proposal by the Prime Minister to Close the Gap is another sham, which will only create jobs for government bureaucrats, public servants, NGOs.
The Remote Job Creation Program TAFE Training programs has been another sham; our trainees are given certificate at the end of their programs, but they remain largely unemployable. We have been patient for far too long now and I feel we need to take more control and involvement within our Alyawarr region.
Greater autonomy within Aboriginal communities is necessary to address these issues and the way to achieve this is through treaties, and I call for one between the Commonwealth Government and the Alyawarr people.
Richard Downs (pictured)
Alyawarr region north of Alice Springs
Restoring social order? Treaty with Alyawarr people first!
LETTER TO THE EDITOR