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John Leemans - 15 March 2011

Speech by John Leemans to NSW Nurses Delegates meeting on 15 March 2011


My name is John Jungari Leemans. I am from the same clan as the late Mr Vincent Lingiari, which is Gurindji and Malngan. Mr Vincent Lingiari was the father of the Land Rights movement and he is the inspiration to my people. But I also represent Walpiri Mudbara Bilinari Ngaringman and I also have Dutch DNA ancestry.

I would like acknowledge the Traditional Owners, the Eora Nation and custodians of this land.

I'd also like to thank the Nurses Union for the opportunity to come here and deliver my message.

The Government is talking about "Closing the Gap" but the intervention is making things much worse. They talk about millions pouring into the community because of the $1.2 billion budget for the Intervention.

Where is the money really going? And how is it spent?

The money is going to the bureaucrats and the government agencies and senior public servants who are sitting in the communities, spying on our people, and are doing NOTHING but are telling us how we should live our lives.

- eg Yarralin $10 million police station.

This process of the income management system is costing even more.

My community Kalkaringi is currently not a hub-town, and is one of hundreds of across the NT that are being told we will not get new housing, or services.

15-20 years of hard work we've done with CDEP

We used run our own brickworks, bakery, gardening crew - horticulture to grow our own vegetables, shop enterprise, art enterprise, road crew. Close to a hundred people used to work in CDEP. Now just under 50 people working. Most of those community enterprises are now out of business. We've got minimum funding now to fix some of these - I don't know how long it will last.

Under the new CDEP people are working 12-13 weeks for the BasicsCard - the income management policy.

Under the new income management policy, to be able to get CDEP work or Shire work, unless there is a vacancy, you have to work 12-13 weeks for the BasicsCard.

This Intervention is designed to get people out of the communities and into the cities. My people have a connection to the land. There are already problems in the towns, people killing themselves with alcohol and drugs, and try to find a way to escape poverty and to escape the problem the Intervention has caused in the communities.

I have come to Sydney to deliver a message to Federal Government and Ms Julia Gillard:

Today what we the Indigenous people are facing is more serious that ever before.
Today in this world we must fight to stay alive.
To survive today in this world that we live in.
I am here today to give and pass a message to the Australian government.
It's simple because we have been saying it to you for a long time now and I don't know if you will listen or ignore it again and again. If you listen this time to us. If you agree to make proper consultation with us the proper and right way.
And if you also come to an understanding of where we stand in our Law and our Culture and finally if you want to really help us then these are our terms:

  1. We still want to practice our customary law and speak our language. Because it was developed and came to be our system that kept us alive going back as far as the Ice Age and for more than 60,000 years. Scientific evidence alone has proven that.
  2. We want our land back, and the compulsory leases and 5-year and 40-year leases to be scrapped.
  3. We want to be self-determination and local community government council to be returned. Because we have a brain to think and make our own decisions to run our communities.
  4. We want funding to start flowing back to the communities so we can start to look after our people and our families and get on with our lives.
  5. We want our sacred sites protected because it is very important to us.
  6. Stop accusing us of wrong doing all the time because crime rates in your world are way beyond repair.
  7. We want to be treated with dignity and respect like all other Australians
  8. We are who we are and we need to work together to help each other overcome problems
  9. We want proper wages and jobs not working for dole or BasicsCards anymore
  10. This Intervention law must be scrapped. Why? I'll tell you why. Because it is racist. Because it is going against human rights law. The churches are condemning it, the United Nations are condemning it, the Australian people are condemning it, and the world is certainly condemning it. Again why? Because it is wrong to treat another human being like this in this day and age.


Reproduced with the kind permission of John Leemans.