Fleeting governments' policies have permanent consequences for Aboriginal homelands
Susan Chenery Sydney Morning Herald May 8, 2015
150 communities are threatened with closure by the federal government's decision to cut $30 million in funding, with disturbing consequences for Indigenous clans and their culture.
'Back in the 1970s there was movement on the land./Yolgnu people went back to their promised lands.' Yothu Yindi, Homeland Movement.
As a young man Djambawa Marawili returned with his father to their tribal land at Yilpara, three hours south of Nhulunbuy, Arnhemland. They had come from the Rose River Mission at Numbulwar as part of the homeland movement, in which clans seeking self-determination and a revival of their traditional culture went back to their ancestral country.
The land has everything it needs but it cannot speak. We exist to paint and sing and dance and express its true identity.
At Yilpara they built their own houses and have conducted their lives according to their own Yolnu [Aboriginal] law and customs.
Djambawa Marawili, artist and elder, with local Indigenous rangers and children from the Yilpara Homelands School,Arnhemland. Photo: Supplied
Marawili………spoke to The Herald to explain what the land means to him, and how the federal government's decision to discontinue $30 million in annual funding for essential services may lead to the closure of 150 communities.
He is the caretaker for the spiritual well-being of his people, an activist who has been involved in the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody and the formation of ATSIC, and is chairman of the Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Arts (ANKAA). He has served on numerous committees and boards and sits on the board of the Laynhapuy Homelands and the Northern Land Council, and is on the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council.
Art is at the centre of Marawili's advocacy, his seeking justice for his people. He draws on his culture not only for his art and its sacred designs, but to educate the wider public about the country we all live in and which has the oldest living culture on earth…………..
A major concern for Marawili in moving people away from their own communities and clans which have their own structure and leaders is that they will then be on another clan's country under other leadership and rules………….
On their own country they know who they are, where they belong and how to behave towards others. The elders are a source of knowledge that is handed down through the generations. When they are moved the structure can break down and a person's identity can be lost. In another person's country there is confusion and that can lead to trouble…………..
Even on his remote country, far away from the metropolises of the world, Marawili can see a bigger picture and an aerial view of the globe…………….
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