A GROUP of Cape York leaders – some elected and some just getting it done at the grassroots – have spoken of their passion for their communities and why greater collaboration is needed.
Lucretia Huen, Talei Elu and Wayne Butcher shared the stage with Cape York Land Council’s Richie Ah Mat and Dion Creek at the Cape York Oration in Palm Cove last Friday.
And while it wasn’t designed to be about the Voice and the pending referendum, there were significant underlying messages about recognition from the Cape York identities.
“Self-determination is within our grasp,” said Ms Huen, who is the general manager of the Coen Regional Aboriginal Corporation.
“We just have to believe that we can obtain it.
“Indigenous representation is more important now than it has ever been.”
Ms Huen said there also needed to be more support of one another in communities.
“If one of our mob gets ahead … we feel the need to put them in their so-called rightful place, similar to crabs in a pot,” she told the audience at the Sea Temple Resort.
“In those moments, we don’t realise that the fight should be against the system that has kept us reliant, dependent and feeling unworthy of something better for so long.
“It is an identity crisis.”
Lockhart River mayor Wayne Butcher, wearing a black T-shirt with “Yes” across the front, said he felt safer wearing it closer to home.
“I was wearing this in Charters Towers the other day and I thought someone might run me over with their car,” he joked.
The long-time leader then reflected on the history of land rights in the Cape.
“It’s been 50 years since there was a dance festival on the beach there at Lockhart River and it ended up in Laura,” he said.
“There were dancers from Groote (Eylandt) and the Cape and we’re talking about how we can stage a smaller one back in the community.
“I remember talking to my uncle (Isaac Hobson) about it and he said that it wasn’t a dance festival.
“We just hid the lands rights agenda behind it, he told me.
“There would be dancing in the day time but at night everyone would sit around the camp fire and discuss land rights.”
Ms Elu, a prominent young leader who has introduced life-changing grassroots projects in Seisia, praised her parents for her community approach.
“It took me a long time to fully understand the sacrifices that were made in the hopes of my education,” she said.
“I was told constantly about the importance of the education I was receiving and that it would one day help me contribute back to my home, Seisia.
“Like many Cape York kids who have gone to boarding school, I was grateful for it, but at times saddened by it.
“Some of my fondest memories are of the journeys home … traversing Cape York roads in four-wheel drives, catching plane after plane to get from Canberra to the Cape, catching ferries, dinghies and cargo ships to get from the city to the Straits.
“The best feeling was that of coming home.”