Jumat, 01 Agustus 2014

Aboriginal leader chides Prime Minister Tony Abbott for absence at NT Garma Festival (ABC)

One of Australia's most prominent land rights activists says Prime Minister Tony Abbott has broken a promise to meet with him and discuss the issue.

Former Australian of the Year Galarrwuy Yunupingu was speaking during the main forum at the Garma Festival near the mining town of Nhulunbuy.

Mr Yunupingu, the Yothu Yindi Foundation chairman, told the crowd - which included Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and representatives from mining company Rio Tinto - that Mr Abbott had promised to attend Garma but never showed.

"He promised me to come to this meeting, to today's meeting. Well, he didn't come yesterday. I wonder if he'll come?" Mr Yunupingu said.

"We'll excuse him, but he'll come, and when he does come he'll get the message.

"It's all about land rights. Last time I meet him was in this room. It was a brand new building. I said to him that I had a message for him. 

"Land rights is the most pressing issue for Aboriginal people in north-east Arnhem Land."

Comment was being sought from the Prime Minister's office on his non-attendance at the forum.

After Mr Yunupingu's speech, Senator Scullion read out a message from Mr Abbott.

It read in part:

"The success of the Garma Festival shows that vision can become a reality when people work together. If we all take responsibility, if we can work together I'm certain that tomorrow will be better than today. I send everyone my best wishes for an enjoyable Garma Festival."

In June this year, the ABC reported that Mr Abbott, along with parliamentary colleagues and government department representatives, would make good on an election commitment and spend a week in north-east Arnhem Land in September.

"For an entire week, Aboriginal people will have my full focus and attention as Prime Minister," Mr Abbott said in a statement.

'A spear in the heart of racism'

Senator Scullion told the crowd Australia needed to "do better" on the issue of land rights, and that constitutional recognition would be a "spear in the heart of racism".

"I will not change land rights act unless land councils support it," Senator Scullion said.

He said Government and Aboriginal land councils should not be the "gatekeepers" of economic development.

"I will not change Land Rights Act unless land council supports it," he said.


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