The Aboriginal Benefits Foundation’s plans for a Healing Centre at Yirrkala in Arnhemland took a proud step forward last night when well over $300,000 was raised at an auction in the capable hands of Robert Bleakley, ex-boss of Sotheby’s.

The value of the proposed Rerrantjun Healing Centre was powerfully justified by artist and community leader, Banduk Marika from Yirrkala, who made a passionate speech about the suicide rate amongst the Yolgnu – especially young men – which has now running at one per month. “The Intervention”, she said, “had been demeaning and debilitating. They are measures taken without our consultation. We understand there are problems, but we are culturally different – we need to own our own problems. In fact, we used not to have health problems; this has all come in recent years because of contact with another culture”.

Marika then went on to call for separate places to educate the children of the community, as well as places for mainstream education. “If you can’t look after your body, you can’t look after your country”, was her final plea – which produced a generous response from the 250 diners in Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Top price was $28,000 for an Imants Tillers work showing Haasts Bluff – great painting country – donated by the artist. A tiny Banduk Marika print exceeded expectations at $1300. A small Dorothy Napangardi painting proved her popularity at $20,000, and a gorgeous David Moore photo of Pitjanjatjara kids surprised at $2400. Even an unknown name like Tjukapati Brumby from Tjungu Palya in the Western Desert found favour at $4400.

And an on line auction of artworks is still running at for the ABF.
On the night, there was the spontaneous donation of holiday experiences at and around Yirrkala – including one with the Marika family on the otherwise inaccessible Bremer Island – which raised approx. $32,000