By ERWIN CHLANDA
Senior Warlpiri man Robin Granites (pictured), a prominent elder of Yuendumu, says that the practice of paying part of mining royalties to the land councils should be stopped: That money should also go to the people on whose land the mines are located.
“Why should they get a fee? They don’t lift a finger for us,” he says.
In a letter to Francis Jupurrurla Kelly, chairman of the Central Land Council (CLC), who also lives in Yuendumu, Mr Granites says: “Aboriginal Society is suffering from ever increasing control and marginalisation. We are no longer in charge of our own land, communities and future. We feel we no longer own our land.
“The land councils have to some extent been complicit in this disempowerment.
“We are the ones who know about our own country, our communities and our needs and aspirations.”
Mr Granites says that letter has not received due attention by the CLC. Request from the authors, “about 10” people, to raise issues at meetings at Tennant Creek and Ross River of the 90 directors have been denied.
He says “white fellers” at the CLC – lawyers, anthropologists, administration – “they think they are the bosses”.
Says Mr Granites: “They can go out any time they like, pick up anyone they like for meetings.
“They get about $300, $400 for a two day trip.
“People out there at Yuendumu want to do their business as well.”
Mining applications are amongst the issues dealt with in that way but they should be discussed by the full CLC council of 90 elected delegates, he says: “They are the bosses” and are the right people to give or deny approvals.
The Newmont gold mine at The Granites (pictured) is north-west of Yuendumu and a major source of royalties.
These general council meetings should be a forum for “problems out in the communities. It can’t be brought out because they keep it for themselves.
“We want to ask them, what do you know about what’s going on? They don’t tell us anything.”
The group wanted CLC director David Ross to read out their letter at the full meetings at Ross River and Tennant Creek.
“Yes, I have the letter but it is in the office back in Alice Springs,” is what Mr Granites said the group was told by Mr Ross. All they are getting are excuses, he says. “We don’t really know what’s happening.”
The letter says: “We wish to discuss these matters with Council members to seek ways in which we can be better informed on CLC financial and operational matters, and also have a greater meaningful input in land council matters which affect our lives.”
The CLC says on its website: “Under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act the CLC deposits all income from the use of Aboriginal land, for example from mining, pastoralism and community leasing, as well as compensation and other payments in the Land Use Trust Account and distributes it to Aboriginal associations.
“The CLC is not allowed to use any money from this account for its operations and can only spend it after the council or executive committee [elected from the 90 members] have passed a resolution.
“After the CLC transfers money from the Land Use Trust Account to Aboriginal associations it no longer controls the money. However, it continues to play an important support role. It administers many associations and helps them to distribute their money to individuals or to invest it in community driven projects.”
The Alice Springs News Online is requesting comment from the CLC.
By ERWIN CHLANDA