10 August 2015 - The man who at sixteen years of age was the youngest signatory to the 1963 Yirrkala Bark Petition – the catalyst for Aboriginal land rights – lived an inspirational life, Deputy Opposition Leader Lynne Walker said today.
“The passing of Mr Wunungmurra in Nhulunbuy leaves an enduring legacy and inspiration for all Territorians, Yolngu and Balanda, to admire and follow,” Ms Walker said.
“Mr Wunungmurra was an active and passionate advocate for Aboriginal Territorians and to a standing ovation at the Garma Festival last week, was recognised as such with a ‘Yolngu Hero’ award.
“A senior man of the Dhalwangu clan, he was a gentle, humble man with a strong vision who will be remembered for many things during four decades at the forefront of Aboriginal rights.
“During his 20 years’ service to the Northern Land Council, it was his strong cultural leadership as chairman which will be long remembered by the many traditional owners in the north of the Territory.
“He steered the NLC through some difficult and challenging years with poise and dignity, always maintaining the best interests of the traditional owners as his guiding principle.
“He played a pivotal public and personal role in advocating and supporting activities and enterprises that promoted positive engagement of Aboriginal people in the broader Australian community.
“Leading by example, Mr Wunungmurra represented the Yolngu clans of north east Arnhemland across numerous organisations, always motivated by a strong vision to fulfil the aspirations of self-determination.
“At various times in his life, Mr Wunungmurra, served as chairman of Laynhapuy Homelands, chairman of Yambirrpa School Council, was an executive board member of Yolngu-owned company YBE, and was a founding member of Miwatj Aboriginal Health Corporation.
“However, it is perhaps his passion, his unshakeable belief in “both ways” education at Yirrkala and homelands schools with the late Dr Yunupingu and community elders, which was closest to his heart. “I believe that our children can achieve anything,” was his mantra.
“Mr Wunungmurra was truly a man of consensus working to bring together divergent ideas and opinions into a harmonious position that was above self-interest, to that of common benefit.
“On behalf of the Labor Opposition, I offer sincere condolences to Mr Wunungmurra’s wife and extended family and friends.”
The Member for Nhulunbuy Lynne Walker said today that local communities were responding remarkably to the aftermath of Cyclone Lam, but significant support was needed.
Ms Walker visited the north-east Arnhemland homelands of Nyinyikay, Matamata and Marpuru and the community of Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island on the weekend to deliver food and check on the welfare of residents.
“Assisted by emergency services, Elcho Island residents have done a remarkable effort clearing their yards and roads, but they are exhausted,” Ms Walker said.
“There is a need for alternative shelter arrangements for families made homeless and options could include utilising existing vacant government housing and visitor accommodation on the island or providing subsidised flights to Nhulunbuy.
“There are families who can find temporary accommodation with relatives at Yirrkala, Ski Beach and Nhulunbuy and could get their kids back to school as Shepherdson College is closed for the week, if the government can assist with subsidised flights.”
Ms Walker thanked Shepherdson College staff who worked tirelessly to assist families sheltering from Cyclone Lam in the school hall.
“The school’s acting Principal Marg Fenbury and her staff have done a great job and I hope that additional support is brought to the island to help our public servants who have been working tirelessly for days,” Ms Walker said.
“The clean-up job is underway and a great effort is occurring yet it’d be good to see more practical support such as storage containers for families whose homes need repair so that their salvaged household goods can be stored.
“I also ask for the Government to assess the impact and repairs required for homelands on Elcho Island such as Gawa and Banthula so that they get assistance as soon as possible.”
Media contact: Louise Connor 0438 241 211
The Member for Nhulunbuy, Lynne Walker, today said Shepherdson College on Elcho Island may be left with eight too few teachers at the start of the 2015 year due to the troubled roll-out of Global School Budgets.
“At Shepherdson College some 14 teachers have been told to pack up and be ready to go by tomorrow,” Ms Walker said.
“Flights and removalists have been booked for these teachers out and they have vacated their accommodation.
“But now the Department of Education is saying they made a mistake in their allocation of the Global School Budget and eight of those teachers no longer need to be cut.
“Why did the Government not cancel these removals on Tuesday when the Chief Minister announced the Education Minister would review all schools global budgets?
“How many other schools are losing teachers because of mistakes?
“This is an expensive waste of resources and causes unnecessary chaos and confusion for Shepherdson College and our local community.”
Ms Walker said that good teachers in our remote communities should be supported rather than sacked due to the bungling of Education under Minister Peter Chandler.
“This chaos has deeply affected a great school community at the end of a year when they should be celebrating success and getting ready to enjoy the Christmas break,” Ms Walker said.
“It is inexcusable bungling and further proof that the CLP education cuts are being rushed with a disastrous impact on our school communities.”
Media contact: Cathryn Tilmouth 0427 500 667
Member for Nhulunbuy, Lynne Walker, today said the announcement by Airnorth to cut Saturday flights in and out for Nhulunbuy was another blow for the local community seemingly forgotten by the CLP Government.
“Since the Chief Minister, Adam Giles’, reneging on the Gas to Gove deal, Nhulunbuy and the surrounding region have suffered an economic tail spin,” Ms Walker said.
“There has been no offer of a structural adjustment package since the announcement by Rio Tinto to curtail their alumina refinery operations.
“Qantas left Nhulunbuy in August and now Airnorth is cutting back their flights.”
Ms Walker said air access is essential for the development of any future economic driving ventures in Nhulunbuy.
“The future of Nhulunbuy is still in question,” Ms Walker said.
“As 2014 comes to an end more families have packed up and left town for greener pastures interstate.
“The CLP Government has done nothing to keep families in Nhulunbuy and the reduction in population is going to have these kinds of impacts on transport routes.
“Tourism has been touted as an industry that could aid in the recovery of the Nhulunbuy economy but this loss of air access will have a negative effect on making the region an attractive destination.
“How long do the people of Nhulunbuy and the surrounding region have to languish before the Chief Minister and his Government put in place real strategies to build Nhulunbuy?”
Member for Nhulunbuy, Lynne Walker, today said that alarmingly, residents in the community of Yirrkala had been without power overnight and without water for much of today without any communication from Rio Tinto or the CLP Government.
“After a power outage which affected the Gove region last night, including Nhulunbuy, reports have come in that Yirrkala was without water for as long as 8 hours,” Ms Walker said.
“The local school and childcare had to close as a result.”
“Unacceptably, there has been no communication from the CLP Government, who are responsible for distribution for power and water supplied by Rio Tinto, as to what the problem is and in what timeframe it will be remedied."
Ms Walker also questioned whether the residents would be receiving the same sort of treatment if this incident had occurred last week when the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was in town.
“Last week Yirrkala was in the national spotlight thanks to the visit by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott,” Ms Walker said.
“This week it appears as though the CLP Government has returned the region to its usual state of “out of sight, out of mind” for the CLP Government.”
Media contact: Cathryn Tilmouth 0427 500 667
Member for Nhulunbuy, Lynne Walker, has called on the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, to take time from his stage managed visit to Arnhemland to meet with Nhulunbuy businesses and residents impacted by the curtailment of Rio Tinto.
“I welcome Mr Abbott’s commitment to spending time in an Indigenous community and hearing the concerns of Yolngu traditional owners around the need to improve health, housing, education and economic development in the region,” Ms Walker said.
“He also needs to hear from residents about how the current downturn is hurting Nhulunbuy and people across north-east Arnhemland and explain why the Federal Government has abandoned the region since the Rio Tinto announcement.
“I did invite the Prime Minister to join me for a quick coffee to discuss what the transition phase means for the region but I’m afraid I’m not on his “A list”.
“But I hope Mr Abbott will explain to residents while he is here why his government had done little more than direct people to Centrelink when they have asked for assistance.
“I hope he will tell people how slashing millions of dollars from programs designed to close the gap on indigenous disadvantage will improve the lives of Indigenous Territorians.
“I hope Education Minister Christopher Pyne will spend time at a homeland school and learn about the great work being done and listen to parents when they tell him they don’t want their kids send to compulsory boarding schools.
“Nhulunby residents who were hoping Chief Minister, Adam Giles, would be putting their case to the Prime Minister have been left out in the cold there too.
“Mr Giles has taken off to Malaysia while the Prime Minister is in the Northern Territory.
“How seriously does Adam Giles take northern development when he’d rather take off overseas than take the opportunity to put the Northern Territory’s interests to Tony Abbott on our own patch?
“The CLP Government is again dropping the ball when it comes to advancing the interests of Territorians and Nhulubuy in particular.”
Member for Nhulunbuy, Lynne Walker, today said Nhulunbuy and the surrounding regions appear to have been left out of the CLP Government’s Developing the North plans.
“The CLP Government’s major economic policy for the Territory is void of any real plans for economic drivers for Nhulunbuy and the surrounding regions," Ms Walker said.
"This region has been left without key direction since the announcement by Rio Tinto to curtail their Alumina refinery operation in November last year.
“Adam Giles and the CLP Government have turned their backs on Nhulunbuy and the surrounding region.
"Developing the North forums are being held in every major Territory centre but Nhulunbuy.
"And advertising for the Developing the North policy to a national audience has left Nhulunbuy off the map completely.
“Is it a case of out of sight out of mind for Adam Giles and the CLP Government?"
Ms Walker said for nearly nine months the residents of Nhulunbuy have had to suffer the inaction of Adam Giles and the CLP Government.
"Residents are still waiting for the CLP Government to provide answers to what their plans are for the future of Nhulunbuy," Ms Walker said.
“Tourism ventures have been announced yet the CLP Tourism Minister, Matt Conlan, has not even visited the region.
“The Territorians living in Nhulunbuy and the surrounding regions deserve better."