A Yolngu Elder and Warramiri Tribal Chief has rejected claims that he is the author of a letter published in a blog post that was published by NewsCorp columnist Andrew Bolt on Sunday.
The letter, which appears on Andrew Bolt’s blog attributed to “Terry Yumbulul, Tribal Chief of the Waramiri people, on behalf of the traditional owners of Arnhem Land clans, on behalf of the Yolngu people” claims the writer is speaking on behalf of all Yolngu people and denounces the popular author and historian Bruce Pascoe and his book Dark Emu.
In an exclusive interview with NITV News on Monday, Terry Yumbulul said that he was contacted by businesswoman Josephine Cashman regarding elements contained in the letter published by Bolt, but emphasised that he did not author the letter.
“Josephine rang me about it and that was on the phone… and I did not say anything of the sort to write the letter on behalf of me,” said Mr Yumbulul. “There was never consent.”
Mr Yumbulul took issue with several aspects of the letter published by Bolt and attributed to his name.
Mr Yumbulul said he does not speak on behalf of the Yolngu people and has never claimed to.
“I speak for Warramiri people only,” he said.
Mr Yumbulul said sections of the letter published by Andrew Bolt contained inaccuracies that he would never write.
For example, the letter contained spelling errors that Mr Yumbulul said he would not make and contained a claim that Ms Cashman was bestowed with a leadership role within the "Yolgna" community.
The letter published by Bolt on Sunday says: “The land selected Josephine Cashman for a leadership role and she has benefited from a Yolnga discipline ceremony to prepare her for a leadership role. Josephine is the only woman to have done so,” said the letter.
On Monday, Mr Yumbulul said there was no such ceremony to prepare a woman for a leadership role where the land chooses a woman or person to lead
“The land does not choose leader, birth right does,” he told NITV News.
Mr Yumbulul also said the letter goes against and misrepresents his beliefs.
“I don’t talk about people or politics of the Country, I live in the Country so therefore I wouldn’t,” he said.
The letter said the Yolngu people find it “insulting” that prominent Aboriginal people have “supported Pascoe and his theories” including Professor Marcia Langton and the Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.
“The only thing I will to say to these people …. what was said by those words, were not me,” Mr Yumbulu said in in response.
Dark Emu controversy
Bruce Pascoe’s best-selling book, Dark Emu, has been the centre of controversy since late 2019, after Andrew Bolt aired criticisms over Mr Pascoe's claims that Indigenous people were not simply hunter-gatherers but also lived using agricultural techniques to grow and obtain food.
The letter published by Bolt on Sunday and attributed to Mr Yumbulul, says there were no ancient creation stories in "Yolgna" heritage about Aboriginal settlements and "no evidence of it in our art, languages or song lines.”
“It would have been impossible for my people to have built wells, silos, houses and yards to pen animals, as Pascoe promotes,” says the letter.
Speaking with NITV News, Mr Yumbulul said he did not know of Mr Pascoe or his work, but had been contacted by Ms Cashman by telephone and asked about related aspects of Yolgnu culture.
Last month, in an email sent to the Minister for Home Affairs, Ms Cashman accused the Dark Emu author of financially benefiting from falsely claiming to be Indigenous.
On December 24, Mr Dutton referred the email to the Australian Federal Police and, on January 10, they commenced a preliminary investigation into the merits of the allegations.
The AFP last week In a letter to Ms Cashman last week, the AFP said it would not be pursuing a formal investigation and that it now considered the matter "finalised".
“Your referral provided details of a number of allegations of fraud by Professor Pascoe," said the letter.
"Based on the information provided and inquiries undertaken no Commonwealth offences have been identified.
“The AFP now considers this matter to be finalised.”
Mr Bolt and Ms Cashman were contacted by email for comment, however, no response was received before NITV News' deadline for publication.