Northern Territory

Aug 12, 2009

Time to start making sense, Galarrwuy

Aboriginal leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu has dumped a bucket on the NT intervention -- a policy that only two years ago had his support Chris Graham is confused.

Chris Graham

Tracker managing editor

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". 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.

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3 thoughts on “Time to start making sense, Galarrwuy

  1. James Bennett

    Hey Chris,

    There’s no interest in your article today.

    I think you have forgotten the basic rule of indiggy reporting – Black fella GOOD, White Fella BAD.

    I think you have dissoriented you supporters today with this slanderous ( deserved ?) attack an an important black leader.

    Try to get back to form tomorrow with one of those riveting stories of how it’s the Governments fault that some hero with centuries of proud traditional heritage has lost his blanket or can’t find the toilet.

    They are always winners with your fans.

  2. Bob Durnan

    OK I get it. First Dog is now doing “Chris Graham”. Perfect parody. Cartoonist nails paragon of moral rectitude in blackface, with portrait of the Black and White Minstrel getting all huffy with Black Superman. Pious logic heartlessly satirised. Take that Galarrwuy, and that! Get all sorry, you scoundrel, for the mighty spirit Graham has been offended, and expects obeisance and a humble apology.

  3. SBH

    James I’m not trying to insult you but before we go on do you want to reflect on whether or not the term ‘indiggy’ might be dismissive and offensive? And you might want to read a bit more of Graham’s work before you provide the analysis you do. Graham is certainly critical of Noel Pearson so the first bit is wrong and I don’t know where he makes the blanket statement that whitefellas are the source of all evil. He does criticise Jenny Macklin but as a minister isn’t her performance open to scrutiny. In my view it’s been terrible.

    Bob your a long term supporter of the intervention and Chris Graham is a long-term detractor. I guess that sets up a nice polemic but your attack accuses him unfairly. I was in the NT when the intervention was announced and when Yunupingu first opposed then backed it. Disorienting? you bet. I can only assume that deals were done to get Yunupingu’s endorsement and I seem to remember promises of a) lots of cash and b) that Yolongu land would be relatively untouched which gave some kind of logical framework to what transpired. I figured Yunupingu knew what he was doing in the circumstances but it still made a lot of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people deeply concerned.

    It didn’t alter my view that the intervention had the interests of Aborigines well down the list of priorities and that there were lots of very bad things about it but the merits of the intervention aren’t really the issue here.

    Once again we have a story from Chris Graham that goes to an important indigenous issue in a level of complexity and depth unseen in mainstream media. Yunupingu’s changes of direction on the intervention do beg some questions and it seems a reasonable subject for a story.

    If you want to keep discussing this through ‘comments’ ok but see if you can do it without descending into the name calling ad hominem stuff.

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