The Darwin-based musician, who was raised in Milingimbi and Maningrida in northeast Arnhem Land, is the first Indigenous artist to have achieved mainstream success rapping in the Yolngu Matha language.
“The kids are growing and not knowing how to write their own Yolngu Matha name,” laments Jane Miyatatawuy, a former teacher from the Top End coastal communities of Ramingining and Milingimbi.
In a step to providing better resources for children who speak Yolngu Matha languages, a new and improved illustrated dictionary has been created — containing close to 300 words and watercolour pictures.
Fifteen people, including five children, have arrived safely in Milingimbi after a 24-hour ordeal drifting on board a 4.4 metre aluminium dinghy without an engine.
Sergeant Andrew Hocking from the Water Police Section said the party was extremely fortunate to be found after launching from Elcho Island and heading for Milingimbi at 1:00pm on 2 July, Northern Territory Police say.
I noticed that Air North have announced some new route they will be flying from Darwin to Alice Springs. This is very good. I also noticed that this has been supported and subsidised by the government. Last year I appealed to the Chief Minister to support remote communities in accessing cheaper travel. Can you tell me what the government are doing to support and subsidise the existing air routes to remote communities Galiwinku, Maningrida, Milingimbi, Ramingining, Gapuwiyak and other communities.
It is important that people from communities have access to air services out there. We do know that particularly in the north of the Northern Territory it does present some real challenges when the wet season and the monsoon kick in, and with access to certain communities. Because we still have the issue with roads and trying to get as much sealed as possible to communities more accessible year round.
There is going to be a body of work happening at a federal level looking at the subject of regional air services, which of course will look at places like remote communities and level of services that do go out there.
That is going to be a very important body of work and I would urge you to make a submission—but I am sure you have already done that—with regards to how airline services can service Territorians better going out there across the Northern Territory.
We did invest in extending the centre run, which is the run that goes from Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and back, because that is something we need as well. It is an important service and that is one thing that I will thank the previous government for where they got that trial up and running. And we have continued that as well, to see if we can see some commercial operation happening there. Because it is an important service.
But what is so fantastic about this dry season is that that is going to extend from three days a week to five. That is going to test some of those commercial opportunities there, about making it a more viable and sustainable route for Territorians to travel on in getting up and down the track.
Looking at regional transport, it is an important area to look at those accessibility issues. Getting out to community. I know it is a tough cost of living pressure if people have only air transport to use. It is something I would be keen to discuss with you further Member for Nhulunbuy and happy to have a bit of a conversation so I can understand the needs of your constituents a bit better.
In the meantime we have managed to make sure that we invest in airstrips as well because that is very important infrastructure. I know Milingimbi, that has been an issue there and we have put significant funds into it through the budge to look at the widening and the issues there with the airstrip.
We would be more than happy to sit down with you, Member for Nhulunbuy, to understand some of those transport and accessibility issues. But again, I think it is going to be a really important body of work that we see through those questions that the senate committee look at with regards to remote and regional air services. And looking forward to seeing what comes out of that and where there are more gaps that need to be filled in ways in which we can ensure that there is more sustainable and cost-effective airfares for people who live out bush.
RISING hip-hop star Baker Boy only started rapping a year ago, and has only released two songs.
But his ever-growing fan base just voted both those songs into the world’s biggest musical countdown, Triple J’s Hottest 100 — his latest single Marryuna at No.17, and his debut track Cloud 9 (featuring Kian) at No.76.
That’s a pretty amazing achievement. But the 21-year-old “Fresh Prince of Arnhem Land” — who was raised in the Northern Territory’s Milingimbi community before moving to Melbourne three years ago — is even more proud of the fact that he’s helping introduce listeners to his traditional language, Yolngu Matha.
It is stifling hot and the humidity is 100 per cent. Ceiling fans take the edge off the heat. However, for the Indigenous cabinetmakers, working from a shed on remote Milingimbi Island, in Arnhem Land, a new high-end furniture enterprise called Manapan, has given its Yolngu community a new lease of life. “It’s a magical moment,” says Keith Lapulung, the chair of the Indigenous-owned Manapan Furniture. “It has reshaped and re-energised our community. It’s taken us into the 21st century.”
However, not everything is state of the art. Furniture produced on the island needs to be barged out and machinery in. Every tool that needs sharpening has to be transported to Darwin, 500 kilometres away. Originally a workshop making wooden coffins, the craftspeople are now collaborating with some leading Melbourne furniture designers to produce complex and labour intensive handcrafted furniture aimed at the top of the domestic and commercial markets.
This story contains images of people who are deceased.
Aboriginal missions, which existed across Australia until the 1970s, are notorious for their austerity. Aboriginal people lived on meagre rations – flour, sugar, tea and tobacco – and later, token wages. At some missions, schoolgirls wore hessian sacks as clothes or skirts made from old bags.
Christmas, however, was a joyful time on them. Old people remember Christmas for food, gifts and carols. But the celebration had a sinister edge. For years, missionaries hoped the joy of Christmas would replace Aboriginal traditions. But Christmas actually became an opportunity for creative cross-cultural engagement, with Aboriginal people adopting its traditions and making them their own.
The food was a respite from the usual diet of damper, rice or stew. On the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory, missionaries would shoot a bullock, and the old women remember feasting on beef and mangoes on the beach.
Missionaries used food to attract people to church. Christmas might be the only day of the year that it was distributed to everyone. Cake was a favourite. On Christmas Day at Gunbalanya in western Arnhem Land in 1940 the superintendent called it “the happiest we’ve experienced here. Ten huge cakes for Natives – no complaints – 106 at service” (suggesting that church attendance was linked to cake quantity).
For elders on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria, turtle-egg cake was a highlight of Christmas in the 1940s. As Jabani Lalara recalled:
We used to have a lovely Christmas … In front of the church, that’s where they used to put the Christmas tree and that’s where we used to get a present. Especially like cake, used to make from turtle egg. I love that cake. True.
Gifts were another drawcard. On Christmas 1899, the Bloomfield River Mission in far-north Queesland was said to be “overflowing” because Aboriginal people “heard there would be a distribution of gifts”. These included prized items such as handkerchiefs, pipes and knives. At some missions, Santa (often the superintendent) distributed gifts.
However looking back, old people have mixed feelings about the gifts. As much as they loved them at the time, they discovered their treasures were only toys that white children had rejected. As one person told me:
We didn’t have much in them days, it was tough, but we were happy. We were happy with those secondhand toys at Christmas from the Salvation Army. We didn’t know they were secondhand toys at the time. I found out in my later years.
Missionaries and Aboriginal people alike loved carols; they were an opportunity for shared enjoyment. Tiwi women look back fondly on their time singing with nuns. Said one woman:
Sister Marie Alfonso, she used to play organ and all of us girls used to sing in Latin, but we still remember… Every Christmas [the old women] sing really good. They all can remember that Latin. It’s really nice.
There were also nativity plays, with Aboriginal children proudly performing for their communities. Said another:
When there was Christmas or even Easter Day there was a role-play… On Christmas Day I used to read. Three of them was the Wise Men and the other one was Mary and the other young boy was Jesus.
Behind the lightheartedness came an agenda. As one priest commented, Christmas was to be a “magnet” to draw people into missions. Ultimately, missionaries hoped the celebration of Jesus’s birth would prove more attractive than Aboriginal people’s own ceremonies.
For those who would not settle on missions, Christmas was used against them. At Yarrabah in Queensland the “unconverted heathens” were invited to join the festivities, but their exclusion was symbolised by them walking at the back of processions, sitting at the back of the church and being the last to be served their meal.
In missionaries’ eagerness to use Christmas to spread Christianity, they started to use Aboriginal languages (with Aboriginal co-translators). At Ngukurr in southern Arnhem Land and Gunbalanya, the first church services in Aboriginal languages were Christmas services (in 1921 and 1936).
Aboriginal people loved carols, so these were the first songs translated. On the 1947 release of the Pitjantjatjara Hymnal, Christmas carols were the most popular (The First Noel sung in parts being the favourite). On Groote Eylandt, translation began with Christmas carols, nativity plays and Christmas readings in the 1950s. At Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island in Arnhem Land, the annual Christmas Drama was in Yolngu Matha from 1960.
Translation was meant to make missionary Christianity more attractive, but it opened the way for more profound cultural experimentation. Aboriginal people infused Christmas with their own traditions. On the Tiwi Islands, in 1962 there was a “Corrobboree Style” nativity on the mission told through traditional Tiwi dance. Dance traditions missionaries had previously called “pagan” were now used by Tiwi people to share the Christian celebration.
At Warruwi on the Goulburn Islands in western Arnhem Land, Maung people began “Christmas and Easter Ceremonies” from the 1960s, blending ceremonial styles with Western musical traditions as well as their own music and dance. At Wadeye, in the Northern Territory, “Church Lirrga” (“Liturgy Songs”) include Christmas music, sung in Marri Ngarr with didjeridu. The Church Lirrga share the melodies of other Marri Ngarr songs that tell of Dreamings on the Moyle River.
Many who embraced Christianity sought to express their spirituality without missionary control. At Milingimbi in the NT, Yolngu people developed a Christmas ceremony with clap sticks and dijeridu outside the mission and free of missionary interference.
At Ernabella Mission in South Australia in 1971, people began singing the Christmas story to ancient melodies, with the permission of their songmen. Senior Anangu women at Mimili, SA, later sang the Pitjantjatjara gospel to their witchetty grub tune, blending Christmas with their Dreamings and songlines.
Christmas was woven into community life. Just as introduced animals found their way into Aboriginal songs and stories, Christmas became part of the seasons and landscape, as Therese Bourke explained at Pirlangimpi on the Tiwi Islands:
They used to have donkeys [here] and the donkeys used to come round in December. And my mother’s mob used to say, “they’re coming around because it’s Christmas and Jesus rode on the back of one.”
The missions transformed into “communities” under a policy framework of self-determination in the 1970s, although missionaries themselves often remained active in the communities for decades. Meanwhile, many Aboriginal people have mixed memories of the missions – fondness for some aspects, anger at others – including Christmas.
But regardless of the missionaries, Christmas became an Aboriginal celebration in its own right. Some missionaries even came to appreciate Aboriginal ways of celebrating Christmas in line with their Dreamings. Though missionaries had wanted to replace Aboriginal spirituality with a “white Christmas”, it became a season of deeper meetings of cultures.
We are very excited to announce we are launching air Regular Public Transport (RPT) between East Arnhem Land Communities next Tue 22nd Nov. We will be expanding and streamlining services in due course and will keep you updated of those.
Contact us to book a seat at a fraction of charter cost.
Of course we are still offering our high standard charter services and can offer seamless connections and bookings between our RPT and charter aircraft to other communities and homeland. Payment can be received at the same time for both.
Many thanks for your partnership and patience with us as we worked through the extensive process to get to this point.
We look forward to flying you soon.
Feel free to provide feedback to help us improve our service to you.
Benefits of flying with MAF:
Not-for-profit organisation serving Arnhem Land for over 40 years
Safety 1st culture with proven safety record
Modern, well maintained aircraft capable of carrying up to 7 passengers/350-470kg
New aircraft capable of carrying 10 passengers/850kg
RPT shuttle services between East Arnhem communities due to commence VERY SOON
Seamless transfers on our charter planes to connect to homelands/communites not covered by RPT