On Wednesday Graeme and I attended a forum held by ‘concerned Australians’. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear Utopia Elder Rosalie Kunoth-Monks speak about her concerns with 99 year leases and other challenges communities are facing. It was also an opportunity to hear expert legal and political analysis of the Federal Government’s proposed 99 year leases. Below is a letter that Michele Harris has sent out today regarding the forum.
Also attached is a letter from Rev. Dr Djiniyini Gondarra sent to the Australian newspaper Djiniyini and The Australian– referred to by Michele below. As Michele says this letter is of great educational value and I would recommend it to you.
I would like to thank all those who attended the conversation on the “Dismantling of the Aboriginal land Rights Act (NT) 1976″ yesterday [Wednesday 27th]. To those who were unable to attend I wanted to let you know that we will attempt to use the material from the event to make a couple of you tubes which we will be able to send to you sometime soon.
It is clear from the legal advice that was provided, from both Alastair Nicholson and Frank Vincent, that there is a great deal for NT communities to be concerned about as our new Government offers considerable sums of money in return for 99-year leases. The intent of the land right act was spelt out by Gough Whitlam when he spoke to Vincent Lingiari in 1975. He said:
Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people and I put into your hands part of the earth itself as a sign that this land will be the possession of you and your children forever.
We were very fortunate to have with us Malcolm Fraser whose government was in power when the Land Rights legislation was passed into law. He stated, “If the government is wanting 99-year leases, it goes a long way to making sure Aboriginals can no longer control their own land.”
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks from Utopia shared her concerns of the increasing trauma within her community. She said. “Right now we are again traumatised because that’s the last stable thing we feel under our feet: our earth, our ground, our home of thousands of years.”
There is little doubt that government is eager to regain control over land as part of its economic drive for business and mining development.
Dr Djiniyini Gondarra from Galiwin’ku posed questions to Alastair Nicholson, former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and answers to these and Rosalie’s questions will be circulated soon. Dr Djiniyini has been travelling around communities in Arnhem Land discussing the implications of the 99 -year leases. He has also been engaged in refuting claims made in The Australians regarding its misunderstanding of the meaning of a “Traditional Owner’ His letter, to which a clarification was made by the paper, is of great educational value and so I am attaching a copy for those who wish to read it.
Michele Harris ‘concerned Australians’