Congratulations to the Warumungu Patta people
on the successful settlement of the Warumungu Land Claim this week!
I was very fortunate to meet the Warumungu people in Tennant Creek thirty-three years ago and maintain an association with this tribal community celebrating a two-way learning where I offered my skills as a school teacher and the Warumungu reciprocated with an acceptance of me and my family providing an aboriginal cultural education.
As I live in the Barkly and learn about the language, culture and law I remain fascinated with the unique events and community initiatives that resonate from Warumungu country and appreciate the innovative approaches by the Warumungu people over many years in dealing with British colonialism, European contact and contemporary Australian life.
In the context of global colonist policy it is my opinion that if the Australian continent was not colonised by the British then the French, Portuguese, Dutch, or Spanish would have landed or in more contemporary times the Japanese as a result of their World War II campaign in the Pacific.
History dictated that it was the British and true to the legendary resistance movements by Aboriginal tribal groups across the continent the Warumungu people featured prominently.
One hundred and fifty years ago John McDowell Stuart lead an expeditionary party recognised and awarded internationally as one of the great feats of European exploration, crossing the Australian continent.
History records that on his first attempt his expeditionary party was turned back by Warumungu tribal warriors at Attack Creek and as legend has it these warriors were well positioned, well prepared and in full ceremonial attire etching formidable images into the psyche of the new colonialists that they were trespassing on traditional Aboriginal country!
This event is both boldly symbolic and historically important as Stuart’s expedition was a strategic turning point in the colonial history of Australia encompassing the opening up of the continent to pastoral and agricultural industry in addition to forging the communication lines between a fledgling British colony and the rest of the world via the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line and it was the Warumungu that put a stop to it!
The colonial history testifies to the eventual contact between the Warumungu and the European settlers with further examples of innovative and exemplary practice demonstrated by the Aboriginal ancestors with the men becoming acclaimed drovers, stockmen and miners with the women becoming pastoral pioneers working on the early stations as fencers and yard builders, horticulturists, cooks, housekeepers and gardeners.
The Warumungu however stayed on country and endured the brutal realities of colonial contact, disposition of land, disease and alienation on settlements and missions yet maintained a strong cultural association with their land in what proved to be the most prolific community action now celebrating the successes of Commonwealth land claims and settlement of native title rights.
The handing down of the Consent Determination and the signing of the Indigenous Land Use Agreement which settled Native Title interests within the Tennant Creek Town 1980 boundary was a first for Australia, recognising Aboriginal peoples Native Title Rights and interests within a township.
It is fitting that today’s Title Handover Ceremony for further portions of Warumungu country commonly known as Kunjarra and the Jurnkurakurru blocks is taking place at the famous Nyinkka Nyunyu Art andCulture Centre as this special place created on a sacred site is the modern keeping place of Warumungu language, culture and law and now operating in its 10th year.
Happy Birthday Nyinkka Nyunyu!
It is in this culture centre that visitors can witness and view the images and photographs of the ancestors, elders and community members who united in strength and solidarity in the fight for gaining back the title to traditional lands representing sacred sites, dreaming tracks and ceremonial grounds.
The photographs, the dioramas and the cultural displays housed in the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre all tell the stories of disposition, the struggle, political action and community celebration however the most important element is the Warumungu people!
It was visionary Warumungu ancestors and tribal elders who understood the colonial changes that brutalised their people yet continued the struggle for freedom and self determination and now the baton is being passed to the new generation of Aboriginal leaders.
Warumungu youth need to be educated in the ways of their ancestors and tribal elders to both understand and appreciate what creative and innovative intellect energises their DNA.
The youth of today need to be reminded of both colonial and post modern struggles and the innovations of the Warumungu people to adapt and deal with change such as the Warumungu Housing Association developing into the composite Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation, the establishment of the first Night Patrol in Tennant Creek by the Warumungu community, the creation ofAnyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation, the famous Pink Palace JulalikariArts, the Papulu Apparr-Kari Language Centre Aboriginal Corporation and the award winning Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre.
Very recent examples of the Warumunga Patta Group working with Government on settling land tenure issues was the agreement to create the Northern Territories first Correctional Services Work Camp and the release of land to support further residential development in Tennant Creek with a capacity for 200 lots.
With significant sites like Kunjarra and Jurnkurakurru added to the Warumungu Lands in Trust the old people and young people can continue to collaborate on new plans and better ways of doing in the tradition of the innovation and creativity of their ancestors.
I would like to congratulate the members of the PattaAboriginal Corporation and Central Land Council on the finalisation of the Native Title Settlement for the township of Tennant Creek in the true sense of cooperation, support and reconciliation.
All elements of the Tennant Creek and Barkly community can learn from such sensitive and inventive collaboration that in essence highlights the very special nature of Tennant Creek, its underlying sense of community.