Murrumu Walubara Yidindji is the foreign minister of Yidindji sovereign nation, an Indigenous tribal group that has renounced ties with Australia
A small Aboriginal tribal group that has established its own government and renounced legal ties with Australia aims to make history by entering into the first Indigenous treaty with the Commonwealth.
The Sovereign Yidindji Government, whose lands stretch south of Port Douglas, through Cairns, inland across the Atherton Tablelands and 80km out to sea, says it wants to help Australia overcome the legal conundrum of operating on Yidindji territory without consent.
Murrumu Walubara Yidindji, the foreign affairs minister, said his government was similar to the Vatican City State – with its own laws, language and institutions.
To the Yidindji people, Australia is a “foreign entity”.
“The Commonwealth of Australia does not have consent or a treaty to enter Yidindji territory, so we had to show the leadership to create our own institutions of government,” Murrumu told Fairfax Media on a visit to Sydney.
“It doesn’t have any validity in law.”
Formerly a journalist known as Jeremy Geia, Murrumu has renounced his Australian citizenship, relinquished his passport and bank accounts, and eschews Australian currency.
“Australia, we can see the injury you’ve got,” he said.
“We can cure it and we’re not going to send you a bill for it. It’s a hearts and minds game and all we’re saying is we have our own jurisdiction.”
On Sunday, he sent his condolences as Yidindji foreign affairs minister to the people of Russia after an horrific plane crash in which all 224 passengers on board perished.
“Today I conveyed our condolences to Russian Foreign Ministry agents & our thoughts and prayers to loved ones of the crash victims #7K9268“, Murrumu Walubara Yidindji tweeted on Sunday.
Today I conveyed our condolences to Russian Foreign Ministry agents & our thoughts and prayers to loved ones of the crash victims #7K9268
— Murrumu: Walubara (@MW_Yidindji) November 1, 2015
Since early last year, around 40 people have taken the citizenship pledge to join the Yidindji tribal people, who also have their own driver licensing system.
— ©Murrumu™ (@flashblack) April 21, 2015
Murrumu was pulled over by Queensland police on Sorry Day in May this year and charged over allegedly driving an unregistered vehicle without a licence, he said.
He did not show up to court to defend the charges and said he had no idea how the case against him had progressed through the state’s legal system.
“It’s got nothing to do with me,” he said.
He is unsure how he will achieve international travel on a Yidindji passport, but is reaching out to countries like Russia and Venezuela to establish diplomatic relations.
The Yidindji government has also sought meetings with the Australian government, but is yet to get a response.
“What we’re saying to the Commonwealth of Australia is: come and sit down with us, have a cup of tea and let’s talk about entering a memorandum of understanding to grant you consent to enter our territory,” Murrumu said.
“This could be a blueprint for true reconciliation.”
Professor Megan Davis, a constitutional law expert and chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples, said there was nothing stopping the Commonwealth from today entering into a treaty with the Yidindji government.
“People might think it seems a little bit out of the box, but it’s not. It’s quite a conventional way to do it,” she said.
“It’s a ‘Field of Dreams’ principle: build it and they will come.”
The impediments to treaties, like those in Canada and New Zealand, were political, not legal, the University of NSW academic said.