There is evidence fishermen from Makassar, on what is now the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, were visiting the coast of what is now Arnhem Land to collect sea cucumbers as early as the mid-1600s to sell to Chinese merchants. The fishermen camped on the beach to boil and dry their caught trepang, and exchanged goods with the local Indigenous tribes.
It was all smiles as the Prime Minister announced Australia will ease its limitations on kava imports — a drink popular among Pacific Islanders.
Australia’s celebrated Arnhem Land aerospace project, rather than being dedicatedly civilian as the nation was media-led to believe, will have a US military component. Can the town of Nhulunbuy be permitted to survive? Probably not. Rio Tinto’s bauxite mine will soon close and the only other functions of the town are as a servicing hub for local Aboriginal communities and as a staging post for tourism. Obviously, both roles will end. And the Indigenous population? Without access to Songline sites, morale will collapse, and Arnhem Aboriginal culture will go into terminal decline.
Yirrkala is an indigenous community in East Arnhem Shire, Northern Territory of Australia. It is 18 km South-East from the large mining town of Nhulunbuy in Arnhem Land. In the 2016 census, Yirrkala had a population of 809 people.
There has been an indigenous community at Yirrkala throughout recorded history, but the community increased enormously in size when Yirrkala mission was founded in 1935. Local governance and planning are now the responsibility of the Yolngu-led Dhanbul, which is roughly equivalent to a Shire Council in non-indigenous communities.
Yirrkala is also home to a number of Mission Aviation Fellowship pilots and engineers based in Arnhem Land providing air transport services.
Yirrkala is home to a number of leading indigenous artists, whose traditional Aboriginal art, particularly bark painting, can be found in art galleries around the world, and whose work frequently wins awards such as the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. Their work is available to the public from the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre and Museum and also from the YBE art centre.
It is also a traditional home of the Yidaki (didgeridoo), and some of the world’s finest didgeridoos are still made at Yirrkala.
Yirrkala played a pivotal role in the development of the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians when the document Bark Petition was created at Yirrkala in 1963 and sent to the Federal Government to protest at the Prime Minister’s announcement that a parcel of their land was to be sold to a bauxite mining company. Although the petition itself was unsuccessful in the sense that the bauxite mining at Nhulunbuy went ahead as planned, it alerted non-indigenous Australians to the need for indigenous representation in such decisions, and prompted a government report recommending payment of compensation, protection of sacred sites, creation of a permanent parliamentary standing committee to scrutinise developments at Yirrkala, and also acknowledged the indigenous people’s moral right to their lands. The Bark Petition is on display in the Parliament House in Canberra.
Yirrkala has a number of heritage-listed sites, including:
- Roy Marika (1925-93), councillor and artist
- Galarrwuy Yunupingu (1948-), land rights activist and Chair, Northern Land Council
- Gatjil Djerrkura (1949-2004), ceremonial leader
- Mandawuy Yunupingu (1956-2013), musician and educator
- Raymattja Marika (c.1959-2008), scholar, educator, linguist and cultural advocate
- Yothu Yindi (1986-2000), rock band
- Nathan Djerrkura (1988-), Australian rules footballer
- Maminydjama Maymuru (1997-), model
- Timmy Burarrwanga, businessman and cultural leader
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As 2018 draws to a close we decided to revisit some of the stories affecting the region throughout the year, so we suggest you pour yourself your preferred tipple, grab a mince pie, crank up “Fairytale of New York” and journey through some of the stories and articles our volunteers gathered for you in 2018.
Overnight police responded to a report of a single vehicle crash in a remote area of North East Arnhem Land approximately 100km from Nhulunbuy. Acting Commander Warren Jackson of Northern Command confirmed that a 23-year-old female was killed as a result.
the small community of Maningrida is remarkable for many reasons. It is one of the most linguistically diverse communities in the world, with 15 languages spoken or signed every day among only a couple of thousand people.
A rocket has been launched into space bearing the Northern Territory’s Boundless Possible slogan.
The Northern Territory has made significant inroads in developing a space industry, with Australia’s first commercial space launch facility located in Arnhem Land.
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There have been 80 cases of the flu confirmed in the Top End since the beginning of November, with over 40 per cent of the cases needing hospitalisation.
“We have had cases in East Arnhem Land as well. It has been across the Top End and we will just have to wait and see if it spreads,” he said.
We have our own ways of understanding illness and health. Only by using our own words, metaphors that are meaningful to us, and a communication style that is respectful, can we hear the messaging from health professionals. This means the health messages need to be made with us rather than for us.
Tailored messaging using local footage offers the best chance of engaging viewers. We need to help make the stories if our communities are to trust and understand the information.