The East Kimberley Region is renowned for its natural beauty, World Heritage listed Bungle Bungles ranges of Purnululu national park and is Australia’s largest producing diamond mine, Argyle Diamond Mine. It is also home to the oldest living culture where Aboriginal customary lore and traditions are still practiced, traditional language has survived and a strong spiritual attachment to land is unbroken.

In the East Kimberley there are plenty of opportunities and our people have lots of ability but the thing that is missing is individual and family responsibility. This is the thing that can help us move forward and help us rebuild our culture. A key question to ponder is why have we not broken the dysfunctional cycle?

Despite the levels of opportunity, Aboriginal people still remain in the grip of welfare dependency and suffering from the damaging effects of entrenched poverty: poor health, substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, incarceration, FASD and suicide. We as leaders of our community cannot stand by and watch this continue, it has gone on for too long and too many lives have been lost in its grip.

Life expectancy for Aboriginal people in the East Kimberley is 20 years less than the non-Indigenous population. The Gap, in all measures of engagement and well-being is not closing, and poor outcomes have been normalised by low expectations.

We believe it’s time for us, as a collective, to take ownership of the challenges facing our people and lead the way to a better life.  For any change to be sustainable it must be Aboriginal led; we must be at the forefront of making decisions that drive this change and hold ourselves accountable for the outcomes.

We now need to establish a platform to break away from the victim syndrome and put our ideas into action to radically change the way things are being done in our community.

Our vision is the reinvention of Aboriginal culture, where being poor and dying young no longer defines us and our traditions, values and family structures reassert themselves as central to our way of life, and to our future: to the benefit of all Australians.

We accept responsibility for achieving this vision.

Image credits: Jawun and Louie Upton