On October 20, more than 200 Gurindji people joined an 11am stop work meeting in Kalkaringi, 470kms South-West of Katherine, NT. The rally was attended by workers from across the community including from the Victoria Daly Shire, Kalkaringi service station, the mechanics, the clinic and the school. The Gurindji are demanding an end to the NT Intervention, investment in proper jobs and return of control over land, employment and services to Aboriginal people.
The protest was also joined by many non-Aboriginal support staff living in Kalkaringi, representatives from the LHMU and delegations of Aboriginal people from Alice Springs and nearby communities.
In 1966 Gurindji stockmen led a walk-off from Wave Hill station, helping to catalyse the modern land rights movement. The stopwork meeting was addressed by veterans of the 1966 walk-off, including Bernard Jalyirri, who called on the youth of the community to show similar determination in fighting the NT Intervention.
Of major concern is the loss of jobs and exploitative employment conditions created by attacks on the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP).
Protest organiser John Leemans said that more than 250 people had been employed in Kalkaringi and Daguragu on the CDEP program prior to the Intervention. There are now less than 40 participants.
The smaller Gurindji community of Daguragu has suffered the closure of many programs including their CDEP office, brickworks, retirement home and family centre.
John Leemans said, “at Daguragu, people are still taking their rubbish out from the community in their own cars, because of the pile up since the Intervention cut our services”.
Payment for the “reformed” CDEP is now administered through Centrelink’s Income Management system.
Gurindji worker Peter Inverway led a Gurindji delegation to Darwin in June to protest against the Intervention. He then travelled to the East Coast on a union backed speaking tour. Inverway explained:
“Our people walked off Wave Hill station for getting paid in flour, tea and sugar. Now we are getting paid on the BasicsCard. We need to continue with this strike action.”
Judith Donald said: “They took our land at Daguragu with a 5-year lease without asking. That is very wrong. Gough Whitlam gave us that land back. I think they want people to move away from that place. But Gurindji will never leave. We will fight until we get our land back”.
The rally voted to endorse the national ‘Jobs with Justice’ statement printed in The Australian newspaper on October 29.
John Leemans and Paddy Gibson