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  Barunga Statement

In the 1870's pastoralists and telegraph line construction crews followed the explorers; tin mining began in 1913 and continued until 1946. The Darwin – Mataranka railway was completed in 1928. During the war Katherine became a major army base, and many people moved in from all over the NT to work as labourers or drovers. After the war a ration station opened at Maranboy, but water shortages forced its removal first to the King River, and then east to Tandangal in 1948. The people were reluctant to settle at Tandangal because it was a sacred site, and so in 1951 the station was relocated again, on the Beswick Creek, an area rich in rock art. The settlement, known as Beswick Creek, was renamed Bamyili in 1965 and Barunga in 1984.

The people won freehold title to the 100ha former government station which is managed by Bamyili Community Council Inc. The community hosts the annual Barunga cultural and sporting festival. A statement of national Aboriginal political objectives issued to the federal government in June 1988 became known as the ‘Barunga Statement’. Written on bark and presented to Prime Minister RJL Hawke at that year’s festival, it called for Aboriginal self-management, a national system of land rights, compensation for loss of lands, respect for Aboriginal identity, an end to discrimination, and the granting of full civil, economic, social and cultural rights. The Prime Minister responded by saying that he wished to conclude a treaty between Aboriginal and other Australians by 1990, but his wish was not fulfilled.

Text by Dr Ian Howie-Willis from the Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia

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View full text of the Barunga Statement

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View image of the 'Treaty painting for all Australians'

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Selected references to the Barunga Statement in the AIATSIS Library:

Title: [Barunga Festival]
Source: Land Rights News, 1988; v. 2 no. 9, p. 22-27 -ill., ports.
General Note: Contents; The man behind the Barunga Festival/Robert Lee-Barunga; the first steps - why a treaty/Galarruwuy Yunupingu - The Barunga statement - Our culture and law - a reality held dear/Pat Dodson.
Annotation: Covers addresses given; festival organisation; activities; Barunga Statement; Treaty issue
AIATSIS call number: SF 26.8/1

Title: Barunga Festival revisits Treaty
Source: ATSIC NT News, December 2001, p. 16, ills., port.
Annotation: Bob Hawke returned to the Barunga Festival this year, where in 1988 he had been presented with the Barunga Statement and two paintings and had supported a treaty; Geoff Clark also attended this year's sporting and cultural event and spoke about a treaty
AIATSIS call number: SF 25.7/14

Author: Bell, Diane, 1943-
Title: The battle for hearts and minds : shifting the terms of the debate / Diane Bell
Source: Law and Anthropology - no. 5 (1990), p. [185]-200
General Note: Includes the Barunga Statement
Annotation: Politics, rhetoric and actions of state, political, economic and Aboriginal interests surrounding the Bicentennial celebrations, 1988; Aboriginal policy under the Labor Government, 1983-1988; political background to national land rights, creation of ATSIC, and promise of a treaty by 1990; Aboriginal protest; reflections on the role of the state
AIATSIS Call number: p BEL

Author: Crawford, James, 1948-
Title: The Aboriginal legal heritage : Aboriginal public law and the treaty proposal / James Crawford
Source: Australian Law Journal, Vol. 63, (1989), p. 392-403
Annotation: Non-recognition of Aboriginal law, application of English law; sovereignty; treaty proposals, Barunga statement
AIATSIS call number: p CRA

Title: Make it right! [videorecording]
Publication info: Canberra, ACT : Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Northern Land Council, Central Land Council, c1988.
Physical descrip: 1 videocassette (VHS) (22 min.) : 1/2in., sd., col. ; 21 cm.
General Note: "A film by Kim McKenzie"
General Note: Container carries copy of The Barunga Statement.
Credits: McKenzie, Kim; Rubuntja, Wenten; Yunupingu, Galarrwuy; Dodson, Patrick, 1947-.;Ah Kit, John; Hand, Gerry; Hawke, Bob, 1929-
Credits corporate: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies; Northern Land Council (Australia); Central Land Council (Australia)
AIATSIS call number: KIT M156.76/M1

Author: Nettheim, Garth
Added Author: Simpson, Tony
Title: Aboriginal peoples and treaties / Garth Nettheim, Tony Simpson
Source: Current Affairs Bulletin, Vol. 65, no. 12 (May 1989), p. 18-23, ill.
General Note: Includes bibliographic references; Photocopy
Annotation: Legal basis for an Aboriginal Treaty; Makarrata; formation of the Aboriginal Treaty Committee; theory of terra nullius; Barunga Statement, 12 June 1988
AIATSIS call number: p NET

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