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Decision-making agreement formalises self-determination for the Nauiyu

The Nauiyu community on the banks of the Daly River has formalised its aspiration for self-determination and signed a local decision making agreement with the Northern Territory government this past July to advance the health, wellbeing and prosperity of the community.

Nauiyu has become the eighth community to sign a local decision making agreement, which facilitates working relationships with Aboriginal communities and government agencies to assist the transition of services and programs to community control.

The agreement recognises the Green River Aboriginal Corporation (GRAC) as the decision-making body for Nauiyu, and is chaired by Dr Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann AM, who delivered the opening keynote address at Ozwater’22.

Following the signing of the agreement, Ungunmerr-Baumann said the new arrangement will enable Nauiyu to lead the way forward on many important matters. 

“This is exactly the support our community needs to progress Aboriginal leadership and secure the future of Nauiyu for generations to come,” she said. 

“We’re all looking forward to this new phase.”

Advancing the community

GRAC represents the broader community and acknowledges the Malak Malak Traditional Owners, and will now work with the Northern Territory government on four key action areas to advance the social and economic development of Nauiyu.

The key areas include: community health and wellbeing; economic development opportunities, including local jobs and training; community housing; and land tenure and future land-use planning.

The agreement comes months after Ungunmerr-Baumann emphasised the importance of sitting down and listening to each other in her Ozwater’22 keynote address.

Ungunmerr-Baumann explained that her tribe name — Ngangikurungkurr — means deep water sounds, and the willingness and patience to listen for messages from the deep informs much of her work.

“I want to share with you all a special quality of our people, our most important and our most unique gift,” she said.

“In our language this quality is called dadirri. It is inner deep listening and quiet still awareness. Dadirri is the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls on us, and Australia is thirsting for it, something like what you call contemplation.”

Listening to water

Ungunmerr-Baumann said one area that requires more contemplation, more care and more listening is in water, which is central to her people on the edge of the Daly River floodplain.

“It is a life-giving source, a river is fed by 16 creeks and rivers upstream between Katherine and us,” she said.

“It is an important source of food for many of my people, providing fish such as barramundi and turtle. It is teeming with life.” 

However, Ungunmerr-Baumann says care for water is not being taken throughout the country.

“In some areas of Australia, rivers have been uncared for or overused, and have run dry. We are concerned by the decisions being made by people on properties upstream — in particular, pollution and the use of chemicals, or the overuse of water,” she said. 

“We hope that when decisions are made, that we can all sit down together and deeply listen to each other. 

“Our culture is different. We are asking our fellow Australians to take the time to know us to be still and listen to us.”

The Local Decision Making Agreement consolidates the Nauiyu community’s partnership with government, and builds on GRAC’s working relationship with government, too. 

Minister for Local Decision Making Selena Uibo the agreement is a celebration for the people of Nauiyu, as it is a big step towards ensuring the community controls decision making over their land, their lives, and their destiny.

“We have already seen the partnership between our Government and the Nauiyu community working effectively to deliver housing programs in the region and I’m looking forward to continued success with the implementation of the local decision making agreement,” she said. 

Member for Daly Dheran Young said the agreement is exciting for the community and that he looks forward to seeing the beneficial changes that will come. 

“I know the residents of Nauiyu are excited about this agreement and are very positive about leading the way to a better future for their community,” he said.