STATEMENT FROM Dr GAWIRRIN GUMANA AO*
Thursday 21 May 2009
My name is Dr Gawirrin Gumana AO of Gangan, and I am one of the old people who fought for our Land Rights.
Government, I would like to pass this on to you, my words now.
If you are looking for people to move out, if you want to move us around like cattle, like others who have already gone to the cities and towns, I tell you, I don't want to play these games.
Government, if you don't help our Homelands, and try to starve me from my land, I tell you, you can kill me first. You will have to shoot me.
Listen to me.
I don't want to move again like my father moved from Gangan to other places like Yirrkala or Groote. I don't want my children to move. I don't want my family to move.
I will not lose my culture and my tribe to your games like a bird moving from place to place, looking for it's camp or to sleep in other places, on other people's land that is not our land.
I do not want my people will move from here and die in other places. I don't want this. We don't want this.
I am an Aboriginal from mud, red mud.
I am black, I am red, I am yellow, and I will not take my people from here to be in these other places.
We want to stay on our own land. We have our culture, we have our law, we have our land rights, we have our painting and carving, we have our stories from our old people, not only my people, but everyone, all Dhuwa and Yirritja, we are not making this up.
I want you to listen to me Government.
I know you have got the money to help our Homelands. But you also know there is money to be made from Aboriginal land.
You should trust me, and you should help us to live here, on our land, for my people.
I am talking for all Yolngu now.
So if you can't trust me Government, if you can't help me Government, come and shoot me, because I will die here before I let this happen.
* Born in the 1930's, Gawirrin Gumana is a leader of the Dhalwangu clan. He is one of the most senior Yolngu alive today and is renowned for his artwork and knowledge of traditional culture and law. Gawirrin was a contributor to the Yirrkala church panels that are a statement by clan groups regarding their equal authority with the church and in 1992 he was ordained as a Minister of the Uniting Church. He was a major litigant in the 2005 Federal Court Blue Mud Bay decision that granted inter-tidal rights to traditional owners.
Following the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, Gawirrin led his clan back to its traditional country at Gangan, about150 kilometers southwest of Nhulunbuy. Gangan, with a population of around 80 people, has been acknowledged as one of the notable success stories of the homelands movement.