Yingiya Mark Guyula makes history, addressing NT Parliament in language

Yingiya Mark Guyula at the members trip to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, April 2018. Photo supplied by Office of Yingiya Mark Guyula.

For the first time in Northern Territory Parliament history, an interpreter has been permitted on the Chamber floor to translate a sitting member’s speech in their traditional language.

Member for Nhulunbuy, Yingiya Mark Guyula, addressed the Chamber in his traditional language of Djambarrpuyngu, a language from country in Arnhem Land.

Per NT Parliament’s Standing Orders, members must seek permission to speak in their traditional language, provide an English translation of the speech beforehand, deliver the speech in Chamber in English first, then in the Indigenous language.

Mr Guyula has advocated for nearly three years that these Standing Orders be amended so members can speak freely in their first languages.

“English is not my first language and trying to say something in another language to another clan, the right words are just not there,” Mr Guyula said.

Although the Member had to request leave to speak Djambarrpuyngu, having an interpreter on the Chamber floor is a step toward progress in the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Mr Guyula said out on country, many Indigenous leaders are always coming together and speaking in different languages in their own kind of Chamber in the presence of an interpreter.

“We use our own language to get across to other communities and tell other leaders what we feel through an interpreter,” Mr Guyula said.

“It’s a common practice in our culture. We want to work with other clans towards creating a pathway where we can understand each other.”

The Member believes traditional language interpreters should become commonplace in Parliaments across the country in order to close the gap between Australian governments and First Nations governments.

“We need clear messages to be passed through from one language to another,” Mr Guyula said.

The Member has been calling for the NT Minister to address the continued shortcomings of the Education Department in providing culturally competent and language appropriate education for remote Indigenous children.

By Hannah Cross

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