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Yingiya Mark Guyula, Djambarrpuyngu Nation,
Yolngu Nations Assembly Spokesperson

YingiyaTreaty Now

Introduction by MC

Yingiya Balyunmirr Ga

Declaration of the Yolŋu Nations Assembly

Ŋarra ga dhuwal dhayuŋanmirr ga ŋoy-mi
mi'thun bili ŋarra ga dhuwal ŋayatham ŋarrakal ŋayaŋuy ga iyay ga rumbalyu, nhä Waŋarryu gurrupar Djaŋkawuwal ga Baramawal. Waŋarryu ŋunhi ŋayi bokmanayŋu ga ŋula yol mimay' nhänhamiriw.

Ŋarra ga nhakun rulaŋdhun dhärukmirr'yaman nhanukal milma Waŋarrwal ŋunhi ŋayi mimay ŋula yol, ŋunhi ŋayi gurrupur limurruŋgal dhuwal wäŋa yolŋuwal, ga gurrupar ŋayi nhakun ma
ṉḏaŋgal Djaŋ'kawuwal ga gurrupar ŋayi djaŋkawuwal, nhä malany maayin rom? Nhämunha ga ŋayi mala yirritjaw gurrupar Baramawal.

Dhiyaŋ bala ŋarra ga djäma goŋ-ŋal'yun Dhuyu-djorralil Waŋarrwal milma ŋunhi limurr ga garrarrakthuna marrtjin. Garrarrakthuna limurr ga marrtjin yakan limurr dhu roŋiyirr bulu, ŋuli limurr dhu gärri nhälil marilil, gärri limurr dhu. Ŋunhi limurr dhu burakirr, limurr dhu burakirr dhiyaŋ bala limurr ga djäma nhanukal milma goŋ-ŋal'yun ŋarra ga nhanukal scripture-lil ŋunhi nhanŋu ga dhäruk ŋorra yuwalk yan. Ga märr-yuwalk ŋarra ga marrtjin gäman ŋarrakuwuy yolŋuny malany dhuwal gali'ŋur
uŋgurrmaŋur East ga central ga West Arnhem Land.

There is no more turning back.

We declare that we have not been conquered.

We declare that to this day we are a sovereign people.

We declare that we are subject to our Ma
ayin system of law constituted by the Unseen Creator of the Universe and revealed to the Givers of Law:- Djaŋ'kawu and Barama, and we continue to steward this system through our lawful authorities and government.

Our Ma
ayin system of law establishes Mägayamirr- peace, order, and good government; is dhapirrk consistant in its statutes; and is assented to by all Yolŋu citizens through the Waa Lupthun assent ceremony.

Our Maḏayin system of law is guarded by the Yothu Yindi separation of powers.

Our Maḏayin system of law is a rule of law not a rule of man.

Our Ma
ayin system of law is the equal of any other system of law.

                                                      [Film clip shown: Ŋärra’ Rom]

When Yolngu Nations Assembly speak about a treaty we want:
1.     A space of our own,………. free from interference from colonial governments,………. so that we have the freedom and scope to live, think, and develop in a way that suits ourselves.

We want the Australian Government to recognise our Maḏayin system of law.

The most practical way to achieve this is by declaring Arnhem Land a state within the Federation of Australia…..  under the jurisdiction of the Maḏayin system of law.

Australia can do this now, without constitutional change.

Since the Intervention was introduced in the Northern Territory in 2007 our Maḏayin law and governance is being pushed aside.

The result is that our leaders, the lawmen and lawwomen,……

the Djirrikaymirr, the Daḻkarramirr and the Goŋ-gaṉmirr….

are being disempowered…

We are being left to become dependent and weak, forced to accept the priorities of outsiders….

Our young are tempted to conform (becoming without souls) or to just fall away under the strain….

Since the Intervention we have experienced the highest rates of imprisonment and suicide ever!

Since the beginning of the Intervention in the Northern Territory:

  • Our people are now locked up at a rate of 6 times that of black men under apartheid South Africa.
  • The youth detention centre in Darwin is now 98% Indigenous.
  • Domestic and family violence has increased
  • Suicide and self harm has increased
  • Child malnutrition has increased
  •  And child removals are again destroying our communities

We actually have no choice. It is self-determination and self-governance…….. Or it is poverty, exile, chains and death - the life of convicts.

The process of colonialisation must be halted.

We need a treaty.

Yingiya Mark Guyula, Djambarrpuyngu Nation, Yolngu Nations Assembly Spokesperson

For Yingiya's speech (pdf): please click here



Tony McAvoy SC, Wiri Man, Barrister

Tony McAvoy

I pay my respects to the Gadigal People, their ancestors and their spirits.  I also pay my respects to the Elders present here tonight and my fellow panellists.

I have assumed that the vast majority of people here tonight are those that believe that Australia should enter into treaties with the First Nations of this country in order to rectify past injustices and to set the scene for a new and respectful future.  But I note though that some of you will be here because you are curious about what a treaty process and the potential outcomes might look like.

I am here tonight to say those of you who come with a desire to enter a treaty and move forward that it is my view that it is achievable.  It is achievable within the next few years that we will have set the framework for the treaties to be entered into by First Nations. 

The reason I say it is achievable is that there is without doubt a growing desire within the Australian populace for some resolution with Aboriginal Australia.  Although the politicians and those that advise the Executive Government and the political parties may very well be saying that it is not in the national interest to enter into any form of settlement with the First Nations of Australia, it is my belief that there is a significant portion of the population who would like it to be done.  We know this because of the polling that has been undertaken as part of the Recognise campaign.  We know this because the Victorian Government has said it is prepared to attempt to negotiate a State based treaty with the First Nations of Victoria.  We know this because John Pilger in his movie, Utopia, has pointed out to all those who would be interested throughout the world that Australia has remained in this colonial backwater of cultural and legal denial.  We also know that the time to push for a treaty is right now. 

The opening that has been created by our brothers and sisters in Victoria is one which hasn’t been seen for thirty years.  We must ensure that the Victorian process is successful and is consistent with a national process that enables the Yolngu National Assembly, my own Wiri people, Dr Chris Sarra’s Gurang Gurang people, the Noongar people and everybody in between to reach their own settlements.  However if we are to take advantage of the opportunity that has been presented to us we must organise ourselves.  We must create a national collective voice that allows us to harness all the power at our disposal to ensure that this treaty process results in as fair and as equitable an outcome as possible. 

I know, and I have seen it many times, when we as Aboriginal people stand on our land with our ancestors there is a truth in our existence and our condition which is undeniable. That is, we were here and we have been subjected to the worst forms of genocide and dispossession and we are still here.

When each of us comes together with a collective voice, it is my view that is when we are at our strongest.  That is the form that we need to take for the purpose of negotiating final settlements with those that have dispossessed and disenfranchised us.

In my view we need an Assembly of First Nations to achieve the outcome that we all seek and I call upon each First Nation to commit itself to the creation of an Assembly of First Nations and the pursuit of final settlement with the Governments of Australia though a treaty process.

Many people ask me what would a treaty or treaties look like and I say in reply, there must be at least four broad heads of agreement.  Firstly, there must be an acknowledgment that Australia was not settled and that by reason of that error, the assertions of sovereignty by the British Colonies, and now by the Commonwealth of Australia, are flawed.

The acknowledgment that the assertion of sovereignty by the British was and remains flawed is something that must be remedied.  The remedy is by agreement or treaty. That will mean for some areas regional government or regional autonomy should be entertained and be part of the negotiations should those people, those First Nations, wish to pursue that outcome.  That seems to me to be the high water mark.  I am not aware that anybody is seriously suggesting that First Nations should become totally independent states free from any relationship with the Australian Government. Beneath that high water mark there will be a range of circumstances and arrangements that should be able to be entered into which accommodate the extent of their self-determination that each particular First Nation or group of First Nations is able to achieve.

Secondly, there must be land reform to ensure that all First Nations have possession and ownership of such lands as may be available including acquisition processes over time to ensure that there are sufficient lands and resources for the prosperity of that First Nation into the future indefinitely.

Thirdly, there must be reparations, compensation and equitable benefit sharing. The benefit sharing arrangements should include guaranteed, and preferably statutory, entitlements to a proper royalty from all resource use going into the future. 

Fourthly, is the need for structural reform.  Structural reform will need to take place at many levels including. In my view, guaranteed representation in Parliament. There should be other Constitutional reform. For instance, when the throne passes from Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Charles there will be a concerted push by the Australian Republican Movement for the creation of an Australian Republic free from the colonial ties to Britain. It is at that point that substantial constitutional reform ought to occur in a way that acknowledges the contested sovereignty of Australia, or if agreement has been reached then recording and enabling the outcomes.

There must be changes to the land tenure arrangements so that we obtain a tenure which is the equal of the British notion of freehold and not the fragile lesser form of native title rights and interests which we are offered at present. 

Our views and decision making processes must be given a proper position in the environmental and planning assessment and decision making processes.  This includes our ability to protect our sites of importance and significance.

The aim from our point of view, in entering a final settlement with the Governments must be to put ourselves in a position where we can overcome the atrocity and justices of the past and as far as possible put ourselves into a position which is the modern day equivalent of where we might have been.  There is no sense in suggesting that we be enabled to return to that which existed prior to the British invasion because it cannot be done. Nor can we in all seriousness suggest that the British should now leave.  What we must do is figure out what we need in order to ensure our First Nations are able to prosper culturally and spiritually; that individuals in our First Nation are given the conditions to achieve the best health and education outcomes available.

The dilemma which confronts us is how we create the environment where the economic and cultural imperatives that saw us through millennia can be maintained in the western world in which we now live.  I think must be some form of real existence by which we can live happy and healthy lives where which we are spiritually and culturally enriched and also highly educated and in possession of the capacity and rights to make decisions about our own existence.

Thank you.

 Published with the kind permission of the authors.