Celebrating the Barunga Statement

Jensen PLUS has been engaged by Roper Gulf Regional Council to assist with the development of a memorial to the Barunga Statement, to be located in Barunga — a small Aboriginal community near Katherine in the Northern Territory.

The Barunga Statement is one of several significant documents that Aboriginal people have presented to the Australian Government.

Painted during the 1988 Barunga Sport and Cultural Festival, the Barunga Statement is the culmination of years of engagement and discussion between Aboriginal groups in the Northern Territory and the Australian Federal Government.

Reb Rowe, Senior Urban and Regional Planner, says the Jensen PLUS team will be working closely with the council to design the installation.

“Together with the council, we want to ensure that both the process and the outcome are meaningful and respectful, and that the community have opportunities to shape the outcome throughout the design process.”

The Barunga Statement combines Aboriginal symbolism from northern and central Australia and a translation of these into English language text, signalling collaboration and communication across cultures and languages.

Community consultation key to delivering respectful outcome

Earlier this year, Reb and Matt from our team visited Barunga to meet with community leaders and the project team at Roper Gulf Regional Council.


“This was a great opportunity to discuss the vision for the memorial and also to understand the meaning and importance of the Barunga Statement to the community,” says Reb.

Initial themes were then presented to the community by council staff at the 2023 Barunga Fest in June — which was itself celebrating 35 years since the creation of the Statement.

“The council shared the early stages of the project with community and visitors, and invited them to contribute their feedback,” says Reb.

“There was strong interest in the project and a clear desire for the story of the Barunga Statement to be widely shared and to create a place of reflection which respects the environment.”

History of Barunga Statement

In 1988, Aboriginal leaders presented a statement to Prime Minister Bob Hawke at the Barunga Festival.

The Statement called for important improvements to the lives of Aboriginal people in Australia including:

  • Self-determination for Aboriginal people
  • Respect for Aboriginal identity
  • Land, social, economic, and cultural rights.

The Prime Minister responded by saying that he would create a treaty between Aboriginal people and wider Australia by 1990. However, this commitment has yet to be fulfilled.

The Roper Gulf Regional Council recognises the importance of the Barunga Statement and wants to celebrate it by sharing its message widely.

Next stages

Community engagement is still underway, with the council sharing the project at the AFL’s NAIDOC Round in Barunga in mid-July and inviting feedback from the community.

“Following this, we will collate and summarise all the feedback we’ve received from the community and identify key themes to help further guide the design of the Barunga Statement Memorial,” says Reb.

“This will include where it will be best located, what the design materials might include and how people want to use or engage with the marker to Barunga’s important place in Australia’s modern history.

“We feel very honoured to have been selected by the council to lead the design of this significant memorial at another critical time in Australia’s history.”

Photos: Community and visitors provide feedback on initial concepts at the Barunga Fest in June 2023.

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