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Who are the traditional owners?

By Thumper - 13 April 2009 58

The Canberra Times has jumped all over this bit of hilarity . Apparently a stoush has erupted between two indigenous groups over the traditional ownership of Canberra. The Ngunnawal people are currently recognised as the traditional custodians of the land, but the title is contested by the Ngambri people.

The standing disagreement took a dramatic turn earlier this week when ”Welcome to Canberra” signs were illegally changed.Five signs at entry points to the territory were altered from Ngunnawal Country and replaced with Ngambri Country some time between the weekend and Wednesday morning. The professional-looking Ngambri stickers were placed over the top of Ngunnawal to convincingly change the greeting.

The switch was noticed on Wednesday and TAMS moved quickly to restore the original message.

Mr Stanhope has indicated that the police will be involved to find the culprit, surely a fairly easy task one would think.

What’s Your opinion?


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58 Responses to
Who are the traditional owners?
Woody Mann-Caruso 9:42 pm 13 Apr 09

Here’s why I’m skeptical:

The driving force behind the whole Ngunnawal vs Ngambri thing are Matilda, Harold and Arnold Williams. You may know Matilda better as Matilda House. These three claim that there’s no such thing as the Ngunnawal people, only a Ngunnawal language spoken by people who are not the traditional owners of Canberra.

This strikes me as a peculiar position to hold, given that these three formed the Ngunnawal Local Aboriginal Land Council in 1984, and up until very, very recently, have always identified as Ngunnawal people. This isn’t the first time they’ve played the “one of these groups just doesn’t belong here” game – over the years, there have been all sorts of political shenanigans, with claims that some Ngunnawal people were actually Wiradjuri people, or that the ‘double N’ Ngunnawal were the only legit mob and that the ‘single N’ Ngunawal were fakes.

These days, you can see Matilda described as Ngunnawal, Ngambri or even Ngunnawal-Ngambri. Despite claiming to have ‘recovered [her] Ngambri heritage’ by 1996, she was still identifying as Ngunnawal in 2000 for the Olympics, and was doing the ‘welcome to country’ as a Ngunnawal elder as late as 2007. When she was named Canberra Citizen of the Year in 2006, Stanhope acknowledged her long-standing involvement in local affairs as a Ngunnawal woman, including on the United Ngunnawal Elders Council. In 2002 when she set fire to structures at the Tent Embassy she said she was “asserting the rights of my grandfather and my great grandfather … the true Ngunnawal people.”

I’m not saying that there weren’t and aren’t Ngambri people, or that there weren’t and aren’t Ngunnawal people, or that either group is or isn’t the traditional owners of Canberra. What I am saying is that the Ngambri thing is just the latest twist in a long-running battle.

Next time, instead of pointing and howling ‘racist’, how about you try to learn a little bit about what’s going on? In case you hadn’t realised, Aboriginal people can be d.ckheads too sometimes, and it’s not racist to say so.

grundy 9:42 pm 13 Apr 09

monomania said :

If it was anyone else who contested their right for recognition as a owner of an asset such as a house or a copyright or a patent it would not be treated with the scorn shown here.

Yes it would, this is THE RiotACT!

bloodnut 9:20 pm 13 Apr 09

double posting apology – i agree that the first few comments for this post were made in extremely poor taste.

bloodnut 9:15 pm 13 Apr 09

monomania said :

Ori said :

I care. And I wish there was more legit info on this than the one-sided nature of the Canberra Times article. I also don’t get why this is “hilarity”.

+1

If it was anyone else who contested their right for recognition as a owner of an asset such as a house or a copyright or a patent it would not be treated with the scorn shown here. Blatant racism.

-2

you both miss the point.

if you tried to claim a patent or a house by putting a sticker on it?

i don’t think there is a question of legitimate issue – just the methods employed.

i’d love to see photos.

Nemo 8:52 pm 13 Apr 09

I wonder if this has anything to do with the large amounts of money paid for ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremonies. I’ve heard from reliable sources 1 particular Ngambri woman charges more than $500 for a 5 minute ‘Welcome’.

From http://www.ngambri.org/statement.php

“We also humbly request that the ACT Government ends the practice of paying non-Ngambri usurpers to conduct ‘Welcome to Country’ addresses.”

monomania 8:16 pm 13 Apr 09

Ori said :

I care. And I wish there was more legit info on this than the one-sided nature of the Canberra Times article. I also don’t get why this is “hilarity”.

+1

If it was anyone else who contested their right for recognition as a owner of an asset such as a house or a copyright or a patent it would not be treated with the scorn shown here. Blatant racism.

vg 8:11 pm 13 Apr 09

You need a sense of humour then

TP 3000 8:10 pm 13 Apr 09

I thought that the welcome sign on Canberra Avenue had the Ngambi name since January 2009. But I would like to know why after over 150 years after white people, has these court proceedings only just began?

Ori 7:43 pm 13 Apr 09

I care. And I wish there was more legit info on this than the one-sided nature of the Canberra Times article. I also don’t get why this is “hilarity”.

I-filed 7:22 pm 13 Apr 09

Isn’t Matilda House a Waradjiri woman? I think the Ngambri are just as entitled as a rep who is Waradjiri/Ngun(n)awal.

LlamaFrog 6:55 pm 13 Apr 09

sad guys, move to northern queensland you three will fit right in.

trevar 6:55 pm 13 Apr 09

I’m sure the Ngambri care.

The argument is over whether the Ngambri are a clan within the Ngunnawal nation, as one of the early scholars said, or whether they were separate prior to the British occupation. His Chiefliness follows this line of reasoning, and acknowledges the Ngunnawal on the strength of this argument, intending to include the Ngambri.

The Ngambri dispute this, and I believe their argument is partly that the Ngambri were a separate clan, not a part of the Ngunnawal, AND that the name of the city, Canberra, is a anglicisation of Ngambri, and therefore worthy of greater acknowledgment.

el 6:16 pm 13 Apr 09

Does anyone?

goose 6:14 pm 13 Apr 09

Tell someone who cares!

Woody Mann-Caruso 5:58 pm 13 Apr 09

You say Ngambri
I say Ngunnawal
Let’s call the whole thing off

(Or just call yourself one, the other, or both at the same time depending on what’s most advantageous at the time.)

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