The rats have begun to desert the Good Ship Intervention. It really was only a matter of time.
In The Australian today former Australian of the Year and Arnhem Land Aboriginal leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu dumps a bucket on a policy that only two years ago had his support: “We hope there is not going to be anything like the intervention ever again. It is discriminatory, it’s a form of apartheid. It has never been any good to us,” Yunupingu said.
Which of course bears no resemblance whatsoever to what this man said about the intervention in 2007. But I’ll come back to that.
Later in the story, The Australian reveals that Yunupingu’s comments follow the formation of a “new political force” in the Top End, a “Yolngu parliament”, which will become the “highest authority in Arnhem Land”, to be known as the “Dilak”.
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But before Galarrwuy throws his weight behind a parliament that he hopes will represent the views of others, he might first like to explain his views in relation to the NT intervention.
When the emergency response was launched in June 2007, Yunupingu called it “worrying and sickening”. So concerned was he, that he called a meeting of leaders at the Garma Festival, an annual event staged on his country in Arnhem Land.
The meeting agreed on a position — the intervention was a stinker — and Yunupingu sent a delegation with a message stick to Canberra to lobby the federal parliament against passing the legislation.
But within weeks, Yunupingu had completely reversed his position. His backflip came after he was graced with a visit from some seemingly important white men — a Minister (Mal Brough) and a cabinet boss (Peter Shergold). Cape York Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson — already a vocal supporter of the intervention — was there as well.
Within a year of supporting the intervention, Yunupingu was out bagging it, sort of. In one startling interview with ABC Radio’s PM program in July 2008, he appeared to change his position mid-sentence. After telling the journalist that he did not support a petition being presented to the Prime Minister to roll back parts of the intervention, he added, “I practically would like to get the intervention roll-on and run a full 12 months, maybe.”
Bear in mind Crikey readers, this is July 2008, 13 months after the intervention was launched. But back to Yunupingu: “Maybe it did run a full length of that 12-month period. But I think people are getting sick and tired of what it’s doing to their lives, which means that they would like to see a reviewed process happening, whereby it’s not affecting their lives seriously and damaging it.”
That is, sad to say, a direct quote. And it comes from the same man who now says he wants to create the “highest authority in Arnhem Land”.
Sorry Galarrwuy, but I think your priority should be making sense first.