One of the CLC’s functions is to raise public awareness of the views and achievements of its members and constituents. Its communications team is the first port of call for many journalists visiting Central Australia and its spokespeople respond to a high volume of media inquiries on a wide range of issues.
The prolonged drought and record temperatures in Central Australia ensured that the impacts of climate change on CLC constituents were never out of the media. Members of the CLC executive supported climate strikers in September, with the chair saying that remote community residents are most at risk from the climate emergency and are “already suffering most during our hotter, longer and drier summers” in overcrowded, poor quality houses, with many remote communities under severe water stress. Another manifestation of global heating, the unprecedented bush fire crisis of 2019–20, fuelled media interest in carbon burning and Aboriginal land management traditions. The CLC rangers were happy to explain the difference between cultural and fuel-reduction burning.
Even before the international Black Lives Matter protests, the need for criminal justice reform in Australia was driven home by the killing of Kumanjayi Walker in Yuendumu. The CLC used its Facebook page to support the Walker family’s call for restraint in social media commentary to ensure justice for the family and a fair trial for the police officer charged with Kumanjayi’s murder. Ongoing CLC advocacy priorities were the subject of sustained media interest prior to COVID-19, such as the reform of the Australian Government’s punitive work-for- the-dole scheme; the council’s opposition to the proposed rollout of a cashless debit card; and the council’s support for the Uluru Statement.
Fresh food shortages and high prices in remote stores are nothing new but, thanks to intense lobbying by Aboriginal organisations, the pandemic made it impossible for the media to ignore food security. The CLC played a leading role in facilitating media conferences with its partners to call for affordable and plentiful healthy food in remote communities and tougher NT border restrictions.
While COVID-19 dominated most of the CLC’s media activities from March 2020 onwards (see COVID-19), the first half of the reporting period will be fondly remembered for significant joyful events, some of which attracted considerable media attention: the Tennant Creek Station native title determination, the handback of a portion of Ammaroo Station to its traditional owners, the second Vincent Lingiari Art Award, and the celebration of the closure of the Uluru climb. These events, especially the latter, attracted a lot of media interest.
CELEBRATION OF THE ULURU CLIMB CLOSURE
On the afternoon of the climb closure, in October 2019, an international media scrum waited for the last minga (ants/ tourists) to descend the rock. Having addressed the reporters earlier, CLC chair and tourism entrepreneur, Sammy Wilson, hosted selected journalists at his family’s homeland, more than 50 kilometers from Uluru. He told them the future of the region’s tourism is Anangu-run visitor experiences outside the national park. “What I’m looking at around me is beautiful country, great country where we want to take people. These places you see are surrounded by so many great homelands and so much tjukurrpa (dreaming),” he said.
Other Anangu used the media presence to showcase what they have achieved with their share of the rent they receive for the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park. Traditional owners gave politicians, senior public servants, the ABC and The Guardian a tour of the rent-money-funded Mutitjulu pool and surrounding recreation area.
National Indigenous Australians Agency CEO, Ray Griggs, and former NT opposition leader, Gary Higgins, heard that the CLC’s Uluru rent money project had invested $14 million in more than 100 projects in communities across the region since 2005. “That money, we use it everywhere for a swimming pool, bush trips, dialysis, lots of good things for community,” said elder Ngoi Ngoi Donald.
Anangu had requested a public celebration to mark the long-awaited closure of the climb. The CLC participated in the consultations and planning for the event at Talinguru Nyakinjaku, the park’s sunset viewing area. CLC rangers and other staff provided firewood to Anangu visitors camping at Mutitjulu and transported them to the event. The CLC gave financial and in-kind support to Indigenous Community TV and Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Media to live-stream the celebrations to those who could not afford to attend. It also hosted an information stall and distributed posters commemorating the Uluru handback in 1985 and the rock’s recent history (see HISTORY).
VINCENT LINGIARI ART AWARD
NT artist and senior law woman, Eunice Napanangka Jack, was awarded the $15,000 Vincent Lingiari Art Award prize for her painting Kuruyultu in September 2019. The widely acclaimed artist from the remote community of Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff) is only the second person to win the award. Award judge Glenn Iseger- Pilkington said Ms Jack’s work “speaks to the story of her life, her birth and her cultural inheritance, which informs all that she paints, all that she is, and where she belongs”.
Kuruyultu is a site near the remote community of Tjukurla in Western Australia, where her mother’s father speared a wallaby the night before Ms Jack was born, approximately 80 years ago. “Only my father knows all the stories for that country, and he painted them too. I know the story of the wallaby which left me with a birthmark. That’s what I paint,” Ms Jack said in her artist’s statement. The CLC has acquired the painting for its collection.
Ms Jack has held 11 solo exhibitions and has been a finalist in many prestigious art awards, including several times in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. However, this award was only her second art prize. It was presented to her by four of Vincent Lingiari’s granddaughters: Antoinette Bernard and Lisa, Rosie and Mary Smiler travelled two days from their home community of Kalkaringi to Alice Springs to be at the opening of the award exhibition at the Tangentyere Artists Gallery. Desart and the CLC again joined forces with the gallery to present the award, thanks to funding from the Peter Kittle Motor Company (prize money) and the Newmont Corporation (exhibition catalogue).
The theme of the exhibition was Our Country – True Story and referenced the Uluru Statement’s call for truth telling. The 23 entries from across Central Australia and beyond reflected on topics ranging from the fallout of the Maralinga nuclear tests to reconciliation, housing and road construction in a range of media. Aboriginal artists and art centres in the CLC region, as well as Desart member centres, and individual Aboriginal artists with strong links to Aboriginal land in the region were eligible to enter and submitted sculptures, ceramics, a video installation and paintings.
The winner of the CLC Delegates’ Choice Award was again selected at a council meeting. In August at Ross River, the delegates picked a small painting by David Frank, from Iwantja Arts in South Australia, which celebrates a handback of land near Pukatja (Ernabella) in the early 1980s. It was the second time they voted for one of Mr Frank’s works; he won the first CLC Delegates’ Choice Award four years earlier.
The inaugural Vincent Lingiari Art Award, in 2016, celebrated 40 years since the passage of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, and 50 years since the Wave Hill Walk Off. That year’s award judge, Hetti Perkins, chose a soft sculpture by Marlene Rubuntja, My Future Is In My Hands, as the winning artwork.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw the CLC ramp up the publication of posters, radio and video community service announcements for Aboriginal broadcasters and social media, informing constituents about the developing crisis. From the earliest “stay home and stay safe” and health and hygiene messages in March, and information about changing biosecurity area restrictions and permissions in April, to the new rules for CLC meetings in June, the communications team and its collaborators in the Aboriginal medical and media sectors responded flexibly to fast-moving developments.
The 15 video messages produced were delivered by trusted community leaders, mostly CLC executive members, speaking in their own languages. Three messages featured Aboriginal staff. Eleven posters with original artwork and 10 radio scripts for translation into six community languages were also produced for broadcast.
Australia’s longest running Aboriginal newspaper, Land Rights News, produced a special coronavirus edition. Two other issues of the paper, as well as two editions of Community Development News with stories about the achievements of the CLC’s community development program, were also published and distributed. Land Rights News and the Tennant Creek and District Times are now the only printed newspapers serving the CLC region.
The cancellation of the council meeting scheduled in April 2020 meant that only the July and November 2019 editions of Council News, a newsletter informing constituents of the outcomes of council meetings, appeared during 2019–20.
Other publications ranged from the ranger program annual report supplement to brochures about the CLC’s new fee-for- service Ranger Works and ABA application support projects, and a future NT remote housing model.
The remote community audience of the CLC’s website and Facebook page struggles with poor internet, computer and phone access. Smartphone and tablet users are continuing to find it difficult to access the ageing website, adding renewed urgency for the redesign that is now underway.
In line with the trend of recent years, visits to the site decreased by 5.47 per cent (the vast majority new visitors), however there was an increase in returning visitors this year. There was a 10 per cent increase in the number of people using phones and other mobile devices to access the site, in line with a longstanding trend. The bounce rate (a single-page visit that leaves the site without interacting with the page) for those users, however, also went up.
The CLC reviewed the structure of the existing site and produced fresh content. It requested proposals from web development companies in late 2019 and proceeded to scope the redesign with one of them, before requesting additional proposals in June.
The CLC’s digital archive serves as a de facto photo album for many Aboriginal families in the southern half of the NT. While still working reduced hours during the reporting period, the digital archive officer added 483 new items to the archive and identified 500 new features of existing and new items. An inventory of archival material kept in storage boxes is progressing in collaboration with the information services team. Items appropriate for uploading to the archive have been identified and digitised.