There’s an extraordinary opinion piece in the Melbourne Age today (August 8). Entitled “Sit with us, Mr Howard. We will help you understand,” it presents a simple, forceful, and unapologetic refusal to accept changes to indigenous life that the Federal Government is proposing. It was written by Donald Gumurdul, Philip Mikginmikginj, and Jacob Nayinggul, traditional owners of Kunwinjku country at Gunbalanya in Arnhem Land. I find the publication of such a piece in a major newspaper almost as extraordinary as the piece itself. Are indigenous people finally breaking the Great Australian Silence in print?
Here is a brief statement of their thesis:
We have heard that Health Minister Tony Abbott wants us to cut ceremony time. They want to audit our Homelands (Outstations) and talk about closing them. We have heard that they want to remove the permit system to Aboriginal land. They want to change the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) where we work (especially our young people) – we are paid to work – for the community.
We ask the Government not to do these things. We ask them not to do these things so as to save our culture, our religion, our livelihood, our people.
In the few paragraphs that follow the men present an eloquent case for their culture, demonstrating throughout each of the four points the interrelatedness of work and ceremony, and how changes to current practice will disrupt “business” and damage culture.
Please, go read it for yourself, and for them.