• NT Chief Minister uses Mahbilil Festival in Jabiru to address topical issues amongst the Indigenous community. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Northern Territory Chief Minister, Michael Gunner used Mahbilil Festival as a platform to discuss Jan 26, treaty and place names of colonisation.
By
Elliana Lawford

8 Sep 2017 - 12:47 PM  UPDATED 8 Sep 2017 - 12:48 PM

Every year a small community in Kakadu National Park, 200 kilometers East of Darwin, comes alive with culture when the Mahbilil Festival comes to town.

It’s been 12 months since the Northern Territory Labor government came into power.

This year Northern Territory Chief Minister, Michael Gunner delivered his one-year address to the small crowd in the community of Jabiru, focusing his attention on Indigenous Affairs in the Territory.

"It is one year since Territorians placed their faith in Territory Labor, but I’m not here to spin you a list of achievements or milestones."

Instead, he wanted to address some issues that have been hot topics in southern politics recently. Such as the debate about January 26, the day our federal government and many people across the nation call ‘Australia Day’.

Mr Gunner says he’s written to the Australia Day Council, to discuss ‘new ways forward’ that better recognise the Frontier wars. 

"Australia Day should be about unity, not division, and for the health and harmony of our nation, Australia Day must evolve. January 26 must here on meaningfully acknowledge the entire story of our nation." 

"Let us acknowledge the entire history of this nation. Let us teach in our national curriculum the displacement, the trauma, disease, and the massacres."

Mr Gunner said it means more than just an acknowledgment of country and a smoking ceremony.

"It means a genuine celebration of the Aboriginal contribution to our national identity. A celebration of all this continent’s waves of immigration. Acknowledgment of the frontier trauma passed from generation to generation and still killing people today in the guise of grog, suicide and sickness. Also pushing for a national day of observance, that acknowledges the horrors Australia’s First Peoples have endured."

The NT Chief Minister is also pushing for a national day of observance, that acknowledges the horrors Australia’s First Peoples have endured. 

"Aboriginal men, women, and children died for their country, for their families, for their way of life. They will be remembered," he said.

"Aboriginal language existed everywhere on this continent long before English."

"Let us acknowledge the entire history of this nation. Let us teach in our national curriculum the displacement, the trauma, disease, and the massacres."

He’s in favour of a treaty.

"We believe in treaties. They will be the foundations of lasting reconciliation, stronger communities and, ultimately, a stronger Northern Territory."

And wants Australia to do away with the place names of colonisation.

"My Government will begin consulting about complimentary street and place names to elevate Aboriginal identity, language and history into the everyday. Aboriginal language existed everywhere on this continent long before English."

Jabiru, a town near the Ranger Uranium Mine which will cease operations in 2021 was built in 1982. Its reputation is as a mining town, and there have been questions around it's future beyond that. However, the government says the future is in its culture. 

"We are working with the Commonwealth, ERA and Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation to transition Jabiru from tired mining town to a services and tourism hub," said Mr Gunner.

Locals from outstations near Jabiru believe the town is culturally unique but they say that January 26 doesn't include Indigenous people. 

Conrad Maralngurra from Mamadawerre Station says it's a place rich in history, culture and stories. 

"Lots of different Aboriginal cultures all come together in Jabiru... We were here long before the Australian days."

Berribob Watson from Menmoyi Station says thousands of years of culture must be remembered.

"It would be good to pass on our culture to others." 

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