I've known the elders of this community for something like 25 years. I was a very young man when I worked with the elders on the Wik case, and from this Wik people I received my greatest pride and joy when the former Mayor and the elders gave me my Yuuk Puungh recognising my work for the land rights of the Wik people.
Why education for our people? Why? What is the purpose? Why do we want a strong education for our Aboriginal children? Well, my answer to that: I come from a mission like this, a good mission, and so I'm very heavily influenced by the mission, and by the Bible. And my own personal answer about why education comes from the commandments. Honor thy father and thy mother, so they mayest live long on the earth. Living long on the earth.
I want the Wik and Wik Waya people to live long on the earth. Our people have already lived for more than 53,000 years in this Cape York. 53,000 years, and Europeans have only been in Australia a little more than 200 people. People in Cape York were the first people to come to Australia. Back when we first arrived, there was land between Cape York and New Guinea, and our ancient ancestors walked across the Torres Strait on dry land. That's how long we have been here. And yet two hundred years later look at our people. We live short lives. We live in great inequality. Our health is no good. Our education is very poor. There's too many of our people in jail. There's too many of our young people in detention. And there's too many babies taken away from their parents.
That's only two hundred years out of fifty-three thousand. What about in 100 year’s time? Will our people still be alive? Will our culture? Will our language still be alive in two hundred year’s time? That is the question we need to ask ourselves. Where will the Wik people be in two hundred year’s time? We've got to find the answer to that question. We have lived for fifty-three thousand years and what? We're going to all lose it in a couple of hundred? We can't let that happen. We’ve got to get strong. We’ve got to keep our language and our culture strong. And keep our land strong. How can we lose everything in just a few hundred years of white fellas coming here? When our people prospered for fifty three thousand years.
So, why education? Education is going to make us strong. It's going to make the little ones strong. It's going to make these little ones become elders, like the elders we used to have. And the elders that I worked with when I was a young man.
So, I'm not here for the government. I'm not here for the council. I'm not here for my own organisation. I'm here for your children. I want to support the mayor in his message that you bring your children and grandchildren to school because that is the only way to make the Wik people strong. And you will live for hundreds of years into the future if you do that. They're the only ones that can keep the Wik people and the Wik culture alive many years into the future.
Our plan has got to be as Bama from Cape York, the plan is going to be we have lived for fifty-three thousand years, we are gonna live for another fifty-three thousand more. We’ve got to get healthy. We’ve got to get educated. Support our children, because they are the future. I really want to echo what the mayor said: send your children to school every day, please. They are your future. There's only one thing: send them to school with mayi in their tummies, a good night's sleep and encourage them.
My mum never spoke English. She’s from the bush. But she said to me; ‘you gotta go school every day’. My dad told me, he only went to grade three, he said; ‘reading makes a full man’. So, these uneducated people, my mum and dad, even though they weren't educated, encouraged me to go to school. They told me to read. That's what we have to do with our children here in Aurukun, and the Wik, and the Wik Waya people, and the Guugu people. Encourage them to go to school every day. It's the most important thing.
Before I close, I want to say I wish your children who are going away to boarding school - you've got 50 something kids - they are the future. 50 plus kids. Wik kids going to the best schools in Queensland. Give them a pat on the back. Encourage them to keep their identity, to keep their culture. But also, get the best education they can.
The second thing I want to say is to support the school and the teachers. They've come to serve your children. Get right behind them. Create a relationship with them. They are people who have come to serve your children and I want to wish the school and the teachers and the parents all the very best. You have to work hard on behalf of your children and I really hope this year is a year when we bring all of the kids back into the school. It has to happen. If you want for there to be a Wik people in 100 year’s time you've got to get into the school and support your children.
Thank you very much Derek and the organizers here this morning for giving me the opportunity to say this. I just want to say that the most important thing is to support the children.