Moonscape, outside Yuendumu, 2009

Moonscape, west of Yuendumu, 2009

I’ve been loath to comment on the recent situation at Yuendumu — and beyond — for several reasons.

First, I wasn’t there when the so-called “riots” happened a few weeks back; secondly there has been more than enough prattle and ill-informed comment about the unfortunate events then and since to warrant anything from me. For an informed point of view of one long-term local see this assessment from Yuendumu resident Frank Baarda in an earlier post here.

A couple of weeks ago just over 100 people — apparently all from one side of the dispute at Yuendumu — removed themselves to Adelaide. What I want to do here is look at the reaction of the South Australian and Northern Territory governments to that decision.

Because I spent the past 10 days or so in Geelong at the UCI Road World Cycling Championships (see my posts here, here and here) I missed a fair bit of the local commentary about the so-called “exodus” to Adelaide. Now I’m in Bali having a few days off after attending the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival — so I’m even further away from any “action”.

Not long after the group left Yuendumu, and subsequently Alice Springs, the aforementioned Frank Baarda made the following comments in the latest of his irregular and often pointed and humorous missives issued under the header of “Musical Dispatch from the Front“:

Nobody these days claims Aborigines are not human. Aboriginal men are widely believed to be lazy, violent, depraved, uneducated, alcoholic and inferior, but human none the less. So often is this stereotype reinforced by political opportunists and others with vested interests in the failure of remote Aboriginal society, that it becomes a self-fulfilling reality. Warlpiri people are not slaves, yet many in “mainstream” society persist in claiming some sort of “ownership” of Aborigines. They arrogantly have opinions as to what Aborigines should or shouldn’t do, and believe they have some sort of right in deciding what is best for them. Warlpiri have no power over their destiny. No say in their future. No say in how they should run their lives.

Frank’s words got me thinking about some of the more intemperate comments by leaders of the NT and South Australian governments in the course of what developed into an unseemly spat over responsibility for the 100 or so people from Yuendumu that fled to Adelaide.

Peter Fray

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