The Independent member for Nhulunbuy has condemned a draft bill under consideration by the Nt parliament that dictates how and where people can be buried.
In a written statement, Yingiya Mark Guyula, said the draft bill – which will receive a public briefing in parliament today – will effectively criminalise Aboriginal people who “act according to their customs and tradition in the burial of kin”.
If enacted, the Burial and Cremation Bill 2019 will create laws that regulate and potentially criminalise the burial of Aboriginal people on Aboriginal land, said Mr Guyula.
“Our people, when they die, become sacred objects. With this Bill the Government are not showing respect to our sacred traditions,” he said.
“But we will not bow down and ask permission of a CEO in Darwin and await their approval to bury our people according to Yolŋu law.
“This is bad law, that criminalises our traditions and has the potential to imprison more Aboriginal people.
“This is part of an ongoing undermining of Aboriginal authority on our land and of our people,” he said.
The draft bill provides a new mechanism for declaring cemeteries on Aboriginal land, and means these burial grounds will need to be registered and managed by the local Aboriginal community.
The bill was introduced by Local Government, Housing and Community Development Minister Gerry McCarthy, who previously told the NT News he was proud of the bill and anticipated the legislation could lead to more than 100 new cemeteries being recognised.