Aboriginal elder raising awareness of abuse

Rev. Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra OAM
Rev. Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra OAM

One World Events UK 9th May 2011

Eminent Aboriginal elder comes to London to raise awareness of human rights abuses against Australia's First Peoples

Faced with deliberate attempts by the Australian Government to marginalize Aboriginal people from their resource-rich lands, as well as disempower their traditional leaders and suppress Indigenous languages in schools, Australia's First Peoples are on the brink of cultural genocide. The time has come for the world to listen to their cry for freedom.

One of Australia's most respected Aboriginal cultural and political leaders, Rev. Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, will be traveling to London and Geneva to raise international awareness of his peoples' situation. Dr. Gondarra is a senior clan leader and lawman of the traditional Yolngu people of Northeast Arnhem Land, one of the last strongholds of traditional Aboriginal culture in Australia.

He will be accompanying the filmmakers of the groundbreaking new documentary on Aboriginal rights, Our Generation, of which he is one of the stars.

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Following its highly successful London preview back in February, with special guest Prof. Germaine Greer, Our Generation has been invited to have its World Premiere at the Barbican on 15 May, as part of the London International Documentary Festival.

"Our Generation is a very fine piece of work. It's truthful, eloquent and, above all, it explains very clearly to first-timers and the many who need reminding why the Indigenous people of Australia are once again being defrauded of their human and political rights in a country calling itself a democracy." - JOHN PILGER

Hailed by critics as Australia's "Inconvenient Truth", Our Generation is an independent documentary, three years in the making, which examines the failures of consecutive governments to improve the wellbeing of Australia's First Peoples.

In particular, it is a critical examination of the Northern Territory Intervention, a human rights fiasco that has drawn criticism from the United Nations and Amnesty International1.

Launched by the Howard Government in June 2007, and maintained today by the Gillard Government today, the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), otherwise known as the NT Intervention, was a response to claims of child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities.

The legislation, rushed through Parliament in 48 hours, undermined all existing Aboriginal land rights, suspended the Racial Discrimination Act (1976) and placed over 70 communities under compulsory government control. Subsequent government measures have had little to do with improving children's wellbeing, but instead have disempowered traditional leaders, opened up access to resource-rich Aboriginal land, and sought to forcibly assimilate Aboriginal people.

Since 2008, the United Nations has consistently condemned the Australian Government, on the grounds that the Intervention is "racially discriminatory".

Nearly 4 years on, it has failed to yield any positive benefits for Aboriginal people, yet its imposition continues, with basic services now only being provided to Aboriginal communities in exchange for long-term leases over their land.

Former ABC foreign correspondent Jeff McMullen has called the Intervention "the most devastating effort at social engineering since the policies of the Stolen Generation".

Australia's Northern Territory is one of the last areas in Australia where Aboriginal people still maintain their Indigenous languages and cultural practices, and where communities still live on their ancestral lands.

Despite Australia's "celebration of its Aboriginal heritage", current government policies in the NT are removing Indigenous languages from school education and centralizing Aboriginal people off their traditional lands into larger townships crippled by overcrowding and social dysfunction.

At a broader level, Australia remains the only Western democracy without a human rights charter or Bill of Rights. Its Constitution explicitly allows for racial discrimination. And it is the only Commonwealth country not to have signed a treaty with its Indigenous people.

Whilst in London, Rev. Dr. Gondarra intends to meet with media, human rights organizations and MPs, to build pressure on the Australian Government to restore dignity and human rights to Aboriginal people. Dr. Gondarra will also be traveling to Geneva, to meet the United Nations Human Rights Commission and World Council of Churches.

6-8 May in London; 9-10 May in Geneva; 11-17 May in London
15 May: World Premiere of Our Generation, 4pm, Barbican Centre, followed by Q&A the Dr. Gondarra and the filmmakers. www.lidf.co.uk

For more info and news on Our Generation, visit: www.ourgeneration.org.au