‘Stand with us to fight this racist legislation’

Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra is a traditional owner from Elcho Island, in Northeast Arnhem Land. This is an exert of his speech to a rally in Darwin on April 9 against the new Stronger Futures legislation, which will entrench Intervention measures for a further ten years.

❛ I am a Uniting Church Pastor. I grew up in the mission. I got my doctorate and also worked really hard with the community and got an Order of Australia.

I was around when the NT Emergency Response was launched by John Howard, and Minister Mal Brough said, I’m going to take 73 prescribed communities, and five of the communities I want to shape [as a model] to the Australian government and people that I can do a better job. One of them, Elcho island, Galiwinku, is where I grew up.

Today, the community is worse. I am sure that the other 73 communities in the NT is in turmoil because of the Intervention, [now] under a new name, Stronger Futures.

The former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said, I am opening up a new page, I will be the PM for Aboriginal people. But he just took a page from the previous PM John Howard, inscribed with the NT Emergency Response.

And the question that is asked by a lot of the elders right across the  communities is what wrong have we done? Why are our lives being controlled? Why is our community being controlled? Why are our jobs being taken away? Why has the Community Council been demolished and put [in place] the Shire Council in instead?

I travelled all the way to the UN in Geneva to talk about this government breaching international law and our human rights. I been working with a lot of different social justice groups and saying to Australian people, stand with us to fight this racist legislation. This government is establishing apartheid, that was once in South Africa.

Today, they panic because the five year leases are going to cease, the land is going to go back to Aboriginal people, in those 73 prescribed communities. They’re running around offering big money to sign leases. I have already made a statement saying to all Aboriginal people across those communities not to say yes to the new lease.

I represent eight nations in Arnhem land. When we met the Senate hearing in Maningrida, I flew in with a group from that eight nations and many people gave their evidence about homelands, work and everything else. In that Senate hearing we challenged those Senators who were there that this legislation is racist.

The minister is taking away powers from the community. What is happening today is a nightmare, a nightmare for Aboriginal people. A lot of people are standing with us, the former PM Malcolm Fraser, the former minister for aboriginal affairs from WA [Ian Viner], the retired family court judge Alistair Nicholson. The Anglican bishop from Melbourne and many others are now joining the fight.

Let’s fight this Intervention, everyone in Australia. There is no place for racism in this country, don’t create Australia as an apartheid country. ❜


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