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Barunga Statement

Category: Event
Date: 12 June 1988
Sub Category:Statement of Commitment/Intention
State/Country:Northern Territory, Australia
80km south-east from Katherine.
Subject Matter:Cultural Heritage | Native Title | Recognition of Traditional Rights and Interests | Self Government
Summary Information:
On the 12 June 1988, during Australia's bicentennial year, Prime Minister Bob Hawke was presented with the Barunga Statement at the annual Barunga Cultural and Sporting Festival. Written on bark, the Statement 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. However, this wish was not fulfilled.
Detailed Information:

The Barunga Statement was created during the 1988 Barunga Sport and Cultural Festival. The Statement combines Aboriginal symbolism from both Northern and Central Australia as well as an English translation printed in text, signifying a collaboration between cultures.

The Statement was presented by Indigenous leaders Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM and Wenton Rubuntja AM to Prime Minister Bob Hawke with the full text reading:

We, the Indigenous owners and occupiers of Australia, call on the Australian Government and people to recognise our rights:

  • to self-determination and self-management, including the freedom to pursue our own economic, social, religious and cultural development;
  • to permanent control and enjoyment of our ancestral lands;
  • to compensation for the loss of use of our lands, there having been no extinction of original title;
  • to protection of and control of access to our sacred sites, sacred objects, artefacts, designs, knowledge, and works of art;
  • to the return of the remains of our ancestors for burial in accordance with our traditions;
  • to respect for and promotion of our Aboriginal identity, including the cultural, linguistic, religious and historical aspects, and including the right to be educated in our own languages and in our own culture and history;
  • in accordance with the Universal Declaration of human Rights, the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, the international covenant on civil and political rights, and the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, rights to life, liberty, security of person, food, clothing, housing, medical care, education and employment opportunities, necessary social services and other basic rights.

We call on the Commonwealth to pass laws providing:

  • A National elected Aboriginal and Islander organisation to oversee Aboriginal and Islander affairs;
  • A National system of land rights;
  • A police and justice system which recognises our customary laws and frees us from discrimination and any activity which may threaten our identity or security, interfere with our freedom of expression or association, or otherwise prevent our full enjoyment and exercise of universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms.

We call on the Australian Government to support Aborigines in the development of an international declaration of principles for Indigenous rights, leading to an international covenant. And we call on the Commonwealth Parliament to negotiate with us a Treaty recognising our prior ownership, continued occupation and sovereignty and affirming our human rights and freedom.

(Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2020)

Related Entries

  • The Barunga Agreement
  • Organisation
  • Commonwealth of Australia
  • Event
  • Uluru Statement From the Heart
  • Policy/Strategy
  • Prime Minister Hawke's Response to the Barunga Statement

  • References

    General Reference
    Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies The Barunga Statement


    Statement of Commitment/Intention (Australia) | Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Australia)

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