4 August 2018

Ladies and gentlemen, this morning you have now been welcomed by your hosts, the Gumatj, and by the Dilak Leaders of the Yothu Yindi Dilak Council. 

This group of councillors are the utmost respected leaders for their country. They are the law men and women. In their hands they hold their land, their law, their people and the Yolngu constitution.

Together we represent the ancient sovereignty that has been here in this country since time began.

This sovereignty is so proud and powerful and so beautiful in its operation, and it exists in every single part of this nation, Australia.

Yet this sovereignty remains neglected by the sovereignty of a British King who simply flew a flag and claimed this land – our land – and claimed it for the British people.

And the Truth is that this sovereignty was not enjoyed by my people and it was put upon us by force and by fear of the superior power of the British people.

The British sovereignty was enforced without care and in ignorance of the sovereignty that exists in us, and it sought to remove us from our rightful place in this country, this beautiful land of ours.

And the Truth is that many of you have lived your lives enjoying this second sovereignty while we, the First People, from all points of the southern sky, have suffered. 

The First People, the First Nations, from the Islands, to the East Coast, to Tasmania and the Western Beaches – from the Deserts and the Tropical North – have all suffered and continue to suffer and we all feel our powerlessness.

Yet we all had land and we all have land. 

And we know the secret names and the secret places, and it is all sacred to us – our luku¸ our foundation, our heart – ngarraku wanga

We still practice it, we still believe in it and we believe in ourselves and the identity of who we are that is given to us by this land.

We are connected to the land by our song-lines and as Aboriginal people we are connected to each other.  And to my brothers and sisters I must say that you remain with us and we are always with you – we are all connected.

Don’t forget that when you worry about what has been lost and what has been taken from you. It can be remade and it will be. Remember that we are all connected and we can all look up to the future. 

The Yolngu people will be here for you and Garma will be here for you. Remember we sing our dead to the Islands, across that Gulf you see over there, across Cape York, over to Badu and Sabai and Duwen Islands, to the home of Wuymu people, the Torres Strait Islanders. 

Our songs go North, others sing South, or West, or East. Our song-lines travel on the winds, hitting the country and sending the messages of our deep ownership of it all.

You will hear us singing tonight and we will be singing to our ancestors, who are your ancestors too. We will be singing to remind them that we are here, maintaining our connection to them, for their appreciation. And we do this not just for us, but for all of us.

Because our sovereignty is not a hard and brutal sovereignty, it does not take from others – it does not exclude or steal. Our sovereignty is welcoming, just like you see and feel here at Garma, which is a public ceremony.

That is what Garma is – a ceremony – and here this year we have promised to tell the Truth – Yuwalk Lakamara.

And to get to my point, the Truth is that we are not United in this country – we are not Comfortable – and we remain uncertain and troubled by this Truth.

Because we live side by side – Two People – Two Laws – One Country. 

Let me repeat that because my High Priest Djunga Djunga misspoke it yesterday: – Two People – Two Laws – One Country.

Djunga Djunga said “Two Countries” but of course he meant “One Country” because that is what we want and it must happen in the Constitution.


So how long do we have to wait to get this right? 

Another Committee? Another Hearing? Another Meeting? Another Prime Minister? Galarrwuy has dealt with 8 Prime Ministers, if you can believe it.

So can we blame him for crying when the Uluru Statement is read to him and he knows it has been rejected? After all he has done.

Do we blame him for being frustrated?

I understand because I know how it feels and it feels no good.

But in the Gumatj world we have a saying that is Look UP to the Future and that saying was given to us by Murayana and by Mungurrawuy.

So we are going to believe in ourselves and work to get fairness and justice for all Aboriginal people.

When you think about these issues yourself, try and think about my Aboriginal and Islander brothers and sisters who have had so much taken from them. Please think about those people who for no fault of their own, but by the hands of the nation that has been built on their soil, find themselves without LAND, without LANGUAGE and without CEREMONY.

It is the Truth that these things were forcibly taken from them, without their agreement or their consent.

Think about that Truth, when you hear the Yidaki tonite and you watch the perfect movements of the dancers, and listen to the songs of my people, as you witness our constitution in action.

And please think about what is fair to them.

And let’s see if together we can find a Pathway where we can all be included in the Nation’s Constitution. 

Let there be a person who puts up a light and says “here”, “come with me”, “there is a better way”. This is how it must be now and forever.

Let there be a Prime Minister who does that! 

In closing, I am introducing my leader, our leader, Galarrwuy Yunupingu.

This man has led us and kept us strong and safe and proud and done this not just for us, but for the nation. Imagine if the British sovereignty had succeeded and wiped out everything from everywhere? Galarrwuy and the Dilak leaders here with us, have made sure that cannot happen and, like the ancestors, have linked all of us to the past, the present and the future. The whole nation can accept this gift if it wants to.

My brother spoke about the jungle fowl yesterday. That jungle fowl is meaningless to most of you but to us it is our sacred ancestor Danburama¸ who is both a spirit-woman and a creator. 

The idea that we do not own that little bird, who gave us land, ceremony, song and painting, and who is so much a part of us, is as worrying to us as the idea that Parliament House can be taken from you. 

Or the idea that your cathedral could be bulldozed by a new owner in the morning.

Djilawurr, the Jungle Fowl, and Dhanburama the spirit-woman are a total part of us, just like the land that she created for us.

The idea that everything in this soil does not belong to us, is at its heart a false statement. We own it because our ancestors made it for us and we stay connected with them, and them to us, through our song-lines and our ceremonies and our beliefs.

And we own the minerals too, by the way. That is our law.


Ladies and gentlemen, we call him Djingarra because he can see things that we cannot see, and he finds pathways. He is a thinker and a leader. 

THANK-YOU for listening to me and please welcome, Galarrwuy Yunupingu.





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