Scenes from the Walkoff

About a month ago I posted some news stories relating to the Ampilatwatja protest walkoff camp at Arurrnga Soak. Included was a photograph of the Ampilatwatja mob gathered in front of the new community house that they built with the help of several major Australia unions. Now there’s footage available on YouTube in six short videos of the speeches and ceremonies that took place on February 14, 2010 to mark the second anniversary of the Rudd Apology and the opening of the Protest House. 

The first video, “Fighting for Something We Believe In,” opens with a shot of a family in their van proclaiming “We’ve come from Alice Springs” that sets the mood for the day’s demonstration of unity. Richard Ningel Reid from the APY lands in South Australia was among the first speakers; Geoff Scott, CEO of the NSW Land Council presented the Declaration Bell to the Alyawarr people in recognition of their fight and with the hope that it will “ring for justice and change.” In the second video in the series, Barbara Shaw, a longtime community leader and organizer, reminded the crowd of Vincent Lingiari’s historic walkoff, while Paul Mcaleer of the Maritime Union of Australia pledged the continuing support of the unions, not just to the Ampilatwatja walkoff, but to the creation of work and opportunity for Aboriginal people across the Territory.

Other distinguished visitors included Harry Jakamrra Nelson and Walerie Napaljarri Martin from Yuendumu. Murray George from South Africa pledged his support, and later in the day, danced the Seven Sisters Dreaming for the assembled crowd. Larissa Behrendt promised to continue the fight among lawyers at the national level and leader Richard Downs, in “Ways Forward,” urged the crowd to both keep their culture strong and educate themselves to keep them fight strong.

After the mob assembled for the group photo shoot, there were traditional dances by men and women to round out the day’s activities. 

These videos are well worth watching. The speeches are all brief, and there’s not a lot of high drama. Instead, there is simply a quiet determination expressive of a people’s will not to be dominated by a government that does not respect them. The echoes of the Gurindji Walkoff sound softly throughout to remind us that we may well be watching a moment of real self-determination that may prove to be just as historic and as far-reaching as that earlier protest. 

Part 1: Fighting for Something we Believe In

Part 2: Speeches by Barb Shaw and Paul Mcaleer

Part 3: Support from the Warlpiri and APY Lands

Part 4: Ways Forward

Part 5: Men’s Corroboree: Emu and Seven Sisters

Part 6: Women’s Dances

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