29 August 2016
Some of my thoughts on the NT Election and Yingiya Guyula...
by Dean Whittaker
In this election Yingiya is flying!
In 1969 in his ABC Boyer Lectures entitled the Great Australian Silence, WEH Stanner, spoke of the silence in history surrounding invasion, theft of land and massacres in Australia, and of the ignorance of so many of Aboriginal existence in Australia. Stanner argued the ‘silence’ wasn’t the result of individual historians neglecting these issues, but instead
"It is a structural matter, a view from a window which has been carefully placed to exclude a whole quadrant of the landscape. What may have begun as a simple forgetting of other possible views turned under habit and over time into something like a cult of forgetfulness practised on a national scale."
In some ways I feel the Northern Territory elections on Saturday have provided a glimpse of this.
The Northern Territory election on Saturday has been seen as an amazing triumph for Labor and thumping for the Country Liberal Party. It clearly has been a landslide victory for Labor, and CLP leader, Mr Giles,looks like he may not win his seat.
There has been a huge amount of media attention on these things.
A third remarkable event has hardly been mentioned. The battle for Nhulunbuy. In the face of a Territory-wide landslide shift to Labor, Nhulunbuy is doing something quite different.
Labor have held the seat of Nhulunbuy since 1980. Lynne Walker was first elected in 2008 and is highly regarded by many. Her seat has been Labor for 36 years straight, and was regarded as very safe Labor, needing a 13.8% swing according to Antony Green and the ABC. The Tally Room said Labor should have no trouble retaining Nhulunbuy, which is their safest seat.
Yet something has happened this election. Lynne Walker is in the fight of her life for the seat of Nhulunbuy. I would not be surprised if she were to lose.
Yingiya Mark Guyula is standing as an independent with an emphasis on Treaty. He is a Yolngu man of the Djambarrpuynu nation who grew up in the bush. He learnt Yolngu ways first and later on did Balanda culture schooling. (Yolngu is the local Aboriginal term for Aboriginal people, Balanda is derived from Hollander and is their term for non-Aboriginal people).
Yingiya was the first Yolngu person to get his pilot’s licence. He has worked as a lecturer with Charles Darwin University, and as a support worker with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
Within Yolngu culture Yingiya is recognised as a Djirrikaymirr, a judge amongst his people, who has authority under, and within, the Yol\u law system - called Maḏayin. He and his people are one of a number of nations who oversee their Yolngu parliament, Ŋärra’. Yingiya is very passionate about ensuring that Maḏayin and Ŋärra’ continue to be able to maintain peace, justice and harmony in Arnhem Land, and he has been working with the Yolngu Nations Assembly to achieve a treaty that enables this to happen.
Yingiya honours the knowledge, stories and law systems passed on to him by the generations of leaders before him.
Yingiya stood for Nhulunbuy with the backing of the Yol\u Nations Assembly. Yingiya seeks a treaty between Yolngu and Balanda. Yingiya wants to address the matters than concern Yolngu.
Yingiya has stood as a Yolngu leader for the seat of Nhulunbuy, and Lynne Walker is staring defeat in the face. She may survive but Yingiya has achieved amazing things.
Yingiya stood against a firmly entrenched Labor member. He had a significant Yolngu man representing the CLP stand against him also. He has had little local financial support and did travel south and east to raise some funds to enable him to take on their party machinery.
On Saturday night the NT Electoral Commission showed that with 53.4% of the vote counted, Lynne Walker had 1374 votes and Yingiya had 1292… there were 82 votes between them. Looking at the figures Walker has won the vote in the town of Nhulunbuy, amongst the Balanda, but Yingiya has won basically all the communities, the Yolngu. It is as black and white as that. The count continues today.
Some people are saying that the continuing count guarantees Lynne Walker’s election, but there are two issues.
The expectation is that much of the remaining vote is absentee voting and that this will most likely be Balanda voters, and thus Walker voters. If this is so Walker may win.
As I understand things the new system of voting means that people don’t have to place preferences, so it is unpredictable who will have allocated a preferance and who won’t have.
Todays count will be very interesting. I believe Yingiya will get the numbers. That would be remarkable.
Yet for some reason this amazing contest where the whole direction of the election across the rest of the Territory has been challenged has attracted almost no media comment. This is hard to fathom.
If Yingiya wins then he will be brilliantly placed to begin working towards real progress towards a treaty. This would be an amazing outcome. He will be a true voice for his people seeking to create a way for his people’s sovereignty to be recognised and honoured.
Even if Yingiya does not win, there is a profound message in the outcome of this vote. Whatever Balanda may think about it, Yolngu want a treaty. The Labor party, local power brokers and the Federal Government need to hear this and honour the call of the Yolngu in a real way.
Yingiya is flying high in the face of Stanner's Great Australian Silence.
Dean Whittaker from the Adelaide Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress
Reproduced with the kind permission of Dean Whittaker.