HISTORY – Yuendumu
Today we visited an aboriginal community called Yuendumu, around 230 kms NW of Alice Springs along the Tanami Track. We met with Simon Fisher from Warlpiri media who told us some of the fascinating history of the town and the Warlpiri people.
In the 1920’s and 30’s Simon’s grandparents were taken forcibly off their land – a place called Vaughan Spings - by the government and relocated about 70kms away in an aboriginal reserve called Yuendumu.
“They wanted the land for cattle because of the springs. Water has always been one of the most contentious issues between the pastoralists and the Warlpiri people. The conflict over Vaughan Springs has still not been resolved even today”.
In the 1970’s there was a movement towards self-determination and return of land to the traditional owners during the Whitlam labour (left wing) government. This started the turn of the tide for the rights of aboriginal people in Australia.
“We got some of our land back and the right to self-determination and decide our own affairs: things like politics, education, social affairs and health.”
At around the same time a bilingual program started in the local school, allowing Warlpiri children to speak our own language inside school”.
“Up until this time we were only allowed to speak English. It was part of the policy of assimilation by the government. But now we speak both, which I believe is the way forward for our generation: keeping our indigenous way but also learning the western way, so other people can learn from us”.
I also asked Simon whether he had a message for children around the world. This was his answer:
“Educate yourself. Education is the key, for the people of Australia but also all around the world. It is the future”.
Suggested learning activities: examine the history of indigenous people in your community. Do you know of an indigenous person you might be able to interview? If so, ask how their family got to live there and other questions about the history of their community.