Yolŋu Leader Gives Prince Charles A Treaty Letter Stick… And A Diplomatic ‘Middle Finger’


If you read the mainstream news on Prince Charles’ visit earlier today to Arnhem Land, everything apparently went swimmingly. Except it didn’t.

The future King of Australia – and the direct descendant of the family who oversaw the dispossession and slaughter of a continent of First Peoples – received a “spiritual blessing by a world didgeridoo master” and a traditional headdress during a visit to the Buku – Larrŋgay Mulka Centre in Yirrkala.

Media reported Prince Charles responded: “I feel better already.”

It wasn’t to last.

Shortly after, Prince Charles was met by a delegation of Yolŋu clan leaders (convened by Dennis Wanambi and Waka Mununggurr) and lead by the Member for Nhulunbuy in the NT Parliament, Yingiya Mark Guyula, and things got real.

Yingiya Mark Guyula, the new independent Member for Nhulunbuy in the NT Parliament.

His Royal Highness was presented with a ‘Letter Stick’, and it had none of the warm welcome attached to it that Charles had earlier enjoyed.

It read: “This here is Yolngu Land, we are sovereign people and we live by Yolngu law.

“We have many difficulties with the Australian Governments because they do not recognise our sovereignty. We need to correct this situation, for the sake of our children and their children, for our cultural survival, – for our ancestors. We are the oldest living culture in the world.

“I request, on behalf of the people standing before you, and the Yolngu nations that you intervene on our behalf and take a strong position to acknowledge our sovereignty and promote a pathway to Treaty.

A graphic of the letterstick presented to Prince Charles earlier today.

“We are the only indigenous people of a Commonwealth country that does not have the respect or dignity of a Treaty with our people. Will you advocate on our behalf for our justice?

“Please accept this letter stick and create a diplomatic passage for this letter stick from your highly respected position to the Prime Minister of Australia, in order to help our sovereign nations reach Treaty.”

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In diplomatic terms, this is a pretty big deal – generally speaking the Australian Government goes to enormous lengths to ensure Prince Charles and family avoid delicate matters like ‘family history’. That might explain why Yingiya Mark Guyula – the elected representative for the region – wasn’t even aware the Prince was visiting until a few days ago.

Guyula’s press statement added: “Prince Charles graciously accepted the letter stick.”

It’s unlikely Malcolm Turnbull’s reaction will be quite so gracious.

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Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. In more than three decades of journalism he's had his home and office raided by the Australian Federal Police; he's been arrested and briefly jailed in Israel; he's reported from a swag in Outback Australia on and off for years. Chris has worked across multiple mediums including print, radio and film. His proudest achievement is serving as an Associate producer on John Pilger's 2013 film Utopia. He's also won a few journalism awards along the way in both the US and Australia, including a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards. Since late 2021, Chris has been battling various serious heart and lung conditions. He's begun the process of quietly planning a "gentle exit" after "tying up a few loose ends" in 2024 and 2025. So watch this space.