Remarks at the opening ceremony of Garma 2017

August 4, 2017



Ngarra buku-wurrpan bukmak nah! Nhuma'lanah.

I acknowledge and pay respect to your country, and your elders.

Ngarra Prime Minister numalagu djal Ngarra yurru wanganharra'wu nhumalangu bukmak'gu marrigithirri.

As Prime Minister, I want to talk to you and learn from you.

Ngarra Prime Minister ga nhungu dharok ga manikay' ngali djaka wanga'wu yirralka.

I acknowledge and respect your language, your song lines, your dance, your caring for country, and your estates.

Thank you so much for this very warm welcome to your country.

Lucy and I are so honoured, so welcomed, here with you. Thank you so much.

And we extend our condolences, as all Australians do, to the family of Dr G Yunupingu at this sad time. He brought the Yolngu language to all Australians. His music will be forever cherished.

It is a great honour to be here at Garma, and I thank the Yothu Yindi Foundation for the invitation.

Thank you Gularrwuy Yunupingu for your tenacious unceasing advocacy for the Yolngu people and for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people right across our nation. You are a great Australian and, as you reminded us, you opened your speech so eloquently in Australian, speaking words of such ancient moment, speaking words that came from your heart, words that were as poetic as they were powerful. Thank you.

Our relationship is based on mutual respect and we build that and care for that as we learn from each other and as we learn from you. We learn language, we learn culture, and based on that is respect.

This festival brings us to North-East Arnhem Land to share in this two-way learning. So I am here as the nation's leader, as the Prime Minister, and one of my most important roles as a leader is to listen. So, we've come to learn, and participate in this festival, respectfully.

And as Prime Minister I'm heartened to see the theme of Garma is Makarrata - coming together after a struggle.

And you spoke and wrote so beautifully about that in your recent essay Rom Watangu. Your powerful, description from your heart of your family, and of Makarrata and of the significance in your life and the life of your family.

I look forward to better understanding from you and all the people here today what Makarrata means.

Now, the relationship between our nation and our First Peoples is a deeply complex one.

But it's not static, it’s not frozen in time. It's forever growing and changing.

And our journey of reconciliation is made up of many steps, practical and symbolic.

So as we build a greater understanding between First Nations and the broader community, as festivals like this do so well, we know that from little things big things grow.

The '67 Referendum, 50 years ago, set our nation on a different course.

Those changes laid the path for the Mabo High Court decision, the passage of the Native Title Act - both watershed moments and that road to reconciliation.

We acknowledge that the path has a way to go. But it will be an easier path to tread if we bring all Australians along with us.

So I'm grateful for the opportunity to be here today with Lucy, with Bill Shorten, his daughter, with Nigel Scullion, with the Chief Minister, with Senator Dodson, with Linda Burney, with Malarndirri. So many leaders of Australia are here, are here to listen to you and to be part of this beautiful festival.

So, we're here to celebrate your skills, your culture, and to learn.

Thank you so much.

The tongues of the fire of which you spoke and of which, for which you danced so beautifully, will enlighten all of us.

Thank you very much.


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