As Crikey reported on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week, there has been some controversy about the conduct of and reports by some members of the media that traveled to Yuendumu to cover the opening of the new local swimming pool.

Not least of these was a quote that The Age journalist Russell Skelton attributed in his article “Intervention Goes Swimmingly In The Tanami” to a local elder, Peggy Nampijinpa Brown OAM, concerning the conduct of the Macklin NT Intervention and related income quarantining:

“It’s working, no doubt about it,” she said.

Nampijinpa maintains that they are not her words. Russell Skelton and others say they are.

On Friday last week Nampijinpa, her friend and translator, Valerie Napaljarri Martin, and other locals went to the local PAW Media to clarify what Nampijinpa said and to express local community attitudes to Macklin’s Intervention.

The videos they recorded were made for local consumption, but, like all material on the web, is available to all. Nampijinpa speaks straight and strong to the camera for 10 minutes in Warlpiri. Crikey does not have access to an English translation of Nampijinpa’s statement in Warlpiri but for the last four minutes of her video Nampijinpa’s words are translated into English by Valerie Napaljarri Martin. Nampijinpa holds a copy of her Statement of last week while Napaljarri translates:

Nobody told me what to do. These are my own words — what I said in Warlpiri — it is here in Warlpiri and at the bottom is translated into English. Nobody never tell me, it is all my own knowledge from my mind and from my heart. Leave us alone, don’t tell us what to do. The Intervention is rubbish. We don’t want that. Leave us alone, don’t humbug us. This is our community. We don’t want any Intervention. Us old women, we don’t want it.

Francis Jupurrula Kelly is an actor and media worker at PAW Media. It is usual practice at PAW Media (commonly still called by its previous name, Warlpiri Media) to record important local meetings for later narrowcast broadcasting on the local Yuendumu TV channel.

Last Monday, at the invitation of local representatives attending the meeting, PAW set up to record the meeting between Macklin and local representatives. As Jupurrula explains:

It’s not for anybody, it is just for the local news. Where people in the community… missed out, they might want to ask questions about it. I just want to ask (Minister) Macklin, why did (s)he throw those media, especially Warlpiri Media, out. That’s the question I wanted to ask Macklin, “Why?” We had a bad feeling that she don’t want to tell the truth, she just want to play games with us. That is why I think Macklin didn’t want to be caught on local film on (Warlpiri) Media side. We are the local media and we wanted to broadcast for our people, for our evidence.

Harry Jakamarra Nelson attended the meeting with Macklin and presented a petition with the signatures of 236 Yuendumu residents to the Minister:

I was present at that meeting and I was the one who presented the Minister (Macklin) the statement signed by most of the residents of Yuendumu about…asking her to pull back the Intervention … As Francis Kelly asked before, why didn’t she want the media present at the meeting? She must have been hiding something that she didn’t want to be recorded.

Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves is the Community Liaison officer for the new Central Desert Shire:

Minister Macklin came to Yuendumu to officially open the swimming pool. She mentioned that the Intervention is working. From our side, we strongly say to Jenny Macklin that she is wrong and she’s not listening to us and the view that was given the (Peter Yu) review mob. We are strongly saying to her that we do not want the Intervention. It is splitting us. It is dividing us from our family members. We are saying to you right now, on behalf of my community I’m saying “You are dividing us, and we are not happy with you. You are insulting us. We don’t need this. Stop what you are doing, because it is hurting us.”

Those are the words of the Yuendumu community available from the Yapa-kurlangu vodcast website.

Last Thursday Russell Skelton in an article, “Intervention Row Simmers After Support Disputed” published in The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Georgina Wilson of the Yuendumu Women’s Centre:

I was there. I heard her say that intervention had been good; it had been good to have intervention at the store, to have income management. People are putting pressure on Peggy to change her story. She has been caught in the middle. It’s most unfortunate that all people want to do is play politics and don’t see what benefits Aboriginal people.

In her video Nampijinpa holds Russell Skelton’s article published in The Age of last week, “Intervention goes swimmingly in the Tanami” in which she claims Skelton misquoted her:

That’s what they wrote … that’s what they wrote. They said the Intervention is working for us. It’s not. It’s not working for us. I didn’t even say that. It was all about (the) pool. To open the pool for kids to swim in. I didn’t say anything about the Intervention.

Peter Fray

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