In 1988, the Jawoyn community in Barunga, Northern Territory, invited people from across Australia and the world to their annual Barunga Sport and Cultural Festival. Former Prime Minister the Hon. Bob Hawke along with Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM and Wenten Rubuntja AM, chairs of the Northern and Central Land Councils, accepted their invitation.
At the festival, Yunupingu and Rubuntja presented Hawke with The Barunga Statement, a painted declaration that included the aspirations of ‘the Indigenous owners and occupiers of Australia’ and a request to the Australian Government and people to ‘recognise our rights’. The Statement was a product of extensive engagement between Aboriginal leaders in the Northern Territory and the Australian Government.
In June 1988, the Hawke Labor Government had adopted as its official policy support for a treaty between the Australian government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s speech at the Festival, he agreed to the request for a treaty-making process expressed in The Barunga Statement.