Session 2 day 2(b)

Friday 24 February (day 2)

(scribe/author: Pam Smith)

Session 2:  Reconciling the Towers of Power

Panel:  Rev Djiniyini Gondarra, Steve Hatton, Ken Parish, Danial Kelly

Rev Gondarra

  • See Robyn Smith’s notes for history outline given

Steve Hatton

  • Cross-cultural de-mystification – understand each other so we can engage in better dialogue
  • Want self-determination – they saw they could govern according to their law. We saw they could govern with our model.
  • Real tragedy is the misconceptions on both sides. Need to take the time to explore and understand what each is trying to say.
  • They wanted to have the right to be treated as equal human beings

Ken Parish

  • Critical in terms of prosperity on the NT. 1/3of our population are indigenous and they own 50% of the land. We will not progress unless we grow together.
  • How – by not doing what we have been doing for the last 10 years. Community has y=to have ownership.
  • Amalgamation into super shires and then the emergency – these were responses to real problems but you don’t come in over the top to solve problems.
  • What do we do? Revisit the issue of a Treaty and with a time frame.
  • Present government looking at it but with no time frame. There would need to be a change in the constitution.
  • The idea of Top up members could work here to address the imbalances. You could add additional MLA’s who only sit on issues relating to land rights etc.- so rights can’t be taken away at the stroke of a pen.
  • Statehood failed because it didn’t address Aboriginal rights.


  • Aboriginal law is a big issue – ho could this be recognised by and collaborate with the NT legal aystem.
  • Where possible and appropriate aboriginal law ought to be used
  • Many discrete areas of use have already been recognised – appropriate spearing, promised brides etc. These only a small part of aboriginal law
  • Why doesn’t it happen more? Doesn’t need legislation to enable it to happen
  • Basis of the model – establish a new lower level court or tribunal integrated into existing court system. Local courts travel now on a circuit basis. Instead of white staff – local justice could be resolved by local people appointed as Justices of the Peace. Can be done in own languages. Vast majority of local court matters could be handled this way. Punishments given by JP’s ( not imprisonment) but can give others. If an error is made – appeal could be made to LOCAL court. Justice would be meaningful for local communties.

Comments and questions

Steve Hatton

  • They already have their own judicial systems – they can regulate the nature of punishment

Rev G – we can solve problems without going through complicated  system. There is a role for the elders – different areas have their own systems.

Question – Land Councils or other structural bodies  are missing in this discussion. Focus should be on more than crime and punishment. What about the administration of Trust Funds? If we get too far ahead of demystifying we lose sight of accountability for expenditure and those other big issues.

Rev G  – Action right across Australia about the referendum

Question – Haven’t defined the right objective yet. All aborigines don’t aspire to be white people. Many traditional aborigines don’t want to live like us. How do you separate those who want and those who don’t in out statistics. Democracy can throw up people who have no experience of tribal people and communities. They should be able to elect their own in their own way.

Question – To what extent do people want to aspire to a job and a white man’s life style or have a traditional lifestyle

Rev G

  • I’m not sure what he was trying to say here He did mention the big movement of people into Darwin living in the long grass?

Question –Life on communities is very bad – hopelessness. The majority of people not represented  by anyone. What are the objectives of the Northern Land Council? It seems to keep aboriginal people down – the fiction of aboriginal ownership!

Comment – So much more focus and work to do on demystifying – involved powerful work. Professionals turning up and telling people what to do doesn’t work.