Maningrida Legal Challenge to Territory Invasion: The new Wik/Mabo?


Map of Arnhem Land showing Maningrida location
[Image source: Burarra Gathering]

I have a feeling the words “Maningrida” and “Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation” are going to be on everyone’s lips before long. The ABC and Age are now reporting that people from the Maningrida community in Arnhem Land are challenging the Liberal government’s forcible acquisition of their national lands and abolition of the permit system. If this case shows that the law is invalid, there could be 72 other communities joining in the fight for sovereignty.

St John Frawley from Holding Redlich in Melbourne and former Federal Court judge Ron Merkel (who left the bench to work in indigenous and human rights issues) are assisting the people of Maningrida in their struggle against the colonisers, and the Age says they’ve done their homework and believe they have a case.


A didjeridu by Nicholas Pascoe
[Image source: Maningrida Arts & Culture]

Bawinanga corporation chief executive officer, Ian Munro, explains further some of the devastating practical consequences of the invasion:

“It could potentially be devastating. It could cause the demise of organisations like Bawinanga. That’s because section 68 of the Act gives the Commonwealth the power to seize the assets of organisations like ours and reassign them. We’re talking here about land, buildings, portable assets, and our business operations.”

Mr Munro says the seizure of such assets would deprive the community of services.

“It would have the effect of removing from the community the business operations that we own and operate and the services that we provide and the control of those services that we provide to the community,” he said.

Mr Munro says abolishing the permit system could also be devastating for the wider Maningrida community.

“There will be an influx of people to communities likes Maningrida, and those people will include recreational tourists like fishermen and hunters, grey nomads. Also much less desirable people like grog runners and drug dealers, door-to-door salesmen. And none of these people intend to visit any benefit on the community at all.”

In good news, the High Court is listing the case for a directions hearing urgently – next Thursday – because the land grab is imminent. Stay tuned.


The footy Grand Final in Maningrida in 2004
[Image source: Maningrida Council incorporated]


Also, check out “A chance to right many historic wrongs” in the Age, Galarrwuy Yunupingu‘s (edited) speech to Melbourne University Law School about the constitutional mutterings.

Yunupingu is the man who handed the Barunga Statement bark petition to then prime minister Bob Hawke in 1988. He asked last year for the petition to be returned to Barunga, to be buried in a sorry funeral ceremony, as its calls for treaty have been ignored. From Yunupingu’s speech this week:

Reconciliation does not come about because we agree to sit down and talk. Reconciliation only comes about when we have talked and reached an understanding. It is at the end of that process, when we shake hands and go off into our day-to-day lives when we are reconciled; reconciliation does not come just from turning up to a meeting place.

Reconciliation comes about because of honesty, truth and making good what wrong has been done. There has been much wrong done to my people, including to the Stolen Generations. These wrongs must be made right.


The Barunga statement
[Image source: Barunga Stories]

Categories: culture wars, history, indigenous, law & order, Politics, social justice

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3 replies

  1. I’m crossing all my fingers and toes that the High Court sees things their way. The whole NT reinvasion strikes me as highly unconstitional, but I make no claims to be an expert at all.

  2. I just knew they wouldn’t take it. Great news! Lots of unfinished business for after the election.


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