Difference, distance, respect and equality: an interview in Yolŋu matha and English.

 

3424CBatimbil

 

There is something to be said of the (near universal?) tension between difference, sameness and equality – and questions of which takes precedent over or subsumes the other (as Dumont well recognised). Here I cover these types of themes in conversation with my close Yolŋu sisters (both 50+ years of age) and my older Mum (of indeterminate age – sorry ŋändi!). I am not sure how much I need preface this excerpt other than to say that it’s an excerpt of a longer discussion, which is itself one of a series of discussions that I recorded with my close kin toward the end of my stay in camp in 2008.

For a domestic audience it might be of interest to note the ‘closing the gap’ part of the discussion some way through. The ‘gap’ in this case – from the Yolŋu point of view – is a ‘gap’ in understanding, a margin of misunderstanding or misrecognition born largely of the inability or refusal of Balanda (‘whitefellas, Europeans’) to recognise, understand and respect Yolŋu people and that which makes them Yolŋu (incl. their history, culture, language and way of being in the world). Just as interesting is how simple and practical the suggested measures are for ‘closing’ this perceived gap and the respect for cultural difference that such measures require or entail.

I can’t say I didn’t cry translating this. I’ve included it the final chapter of my thesis. I think it is particularly special.

A few final methodological notes: all the questions are my own (i.e. where there is a question asked, it is me asking it). The first question follows on from an earlier point of discussion in this same recorded conversation. I have chosen not to distinguish between the voices of two older sisters and my ŋändi for a number of reasons (not least among which is the fact that they were each talking over and on top of each other throughout the discussion). Oh, and it’s a bit long.

 

 

Q:  “Balanda ga Yolŋu barrkuwatj. Manymak, yurru nhä ŋayi wiripu, what’s the difference between Balanda ga Yolŋu? Nhä, wo nhaltjan ŋayi wiripu?” (‘Balanda and Yolŋu are different, separate. Okay, but how are they different, what’s the difference between Balanda and Yolŋu? How, in what way are they different?’)

 

Ŋayaŋu. Ga mulkurr

(‘Feeling. And thinking [lit. head]’)

 

 

Q:  “Nhaltjan, nhäwi, nhaltjan ŋayi mulkurr wiripu?” (‘How, umm, in what way is [their] thinking different?’)

 

Ŋanapurru, ŋanapurruŋ-gu Yolŋu-wu birka’yunaraŋanapurru yukurra birka’-yun ŋanapurruŋ-gu way. Nhäma ŋanapurru yukurra dhukarr, nhaltjan ŋayi manymak. Mäwaya ŋayi yäku dhukarr – manymak – wiripu yäku ŋayi mäwaya. Dhukarr-nha ŋunhi ŋanapurru yukurra nhäma ŋunhi ŋayi yurru yaka ŋunhi mari-mirri-yirri.

(‘Us, we think the Yolŋu way – we are [always] thinking our way. We are [always] looking for the good/healthy way [of doing things] – peaceable is a different name for that way [of doing things] – the other term is “peaceable.” This way [of doing things] that we are [always] looking [for], is so as not to create trouble or conflict’

 

Ŋunhi ŋayi ŋuli ŋunhi ŋäpaki-wu-ndja dhukarr menguma ŋanapurruŋ-gu-ndja, Yolŋu-wu. Ŋunhi ŋayi ŋuli walala ŋunhi – ŋäpaki-ndja walala milkuma ŋanapurruŋ-gu – mulkuru dhukarr . . . nhanŋu-way ŋäpaki-way-nha rom. Ga yaka-nha ŋayi lakarama-ndja ŋunhi, dhunupa-kuma ŋanapurruŋ-gu.”

(The Balanda way [of doing things] [purposefully] disregards us and our Yolŋu way [of doing things]. The Balanda way [of doing things] – that they show towards us – is [that of a] stranger . . . that is their [Balanda] law, their manner of doing things. And it is not telling towards us [i.e. we are never forewarned, informed or told about it], it does not straighten things out with [or between] us.’)

 

 

Q:  “Ga culture, nhaltjan ŋayi different-ndja?” (‘And culture, in what way is that different?’)

 

Barrkuwatj ŋilimurruŋ-gu rom-ndja. Dhiyali wiripu-ndja ŋayi yukurru, nhäwi, wiripu . . . Wiripu-dhi liŋgu ŋanapurru Yolŋu-wu rom wiripu, ga Balanda-wu wiripu. Yaka ŋilimurruŋ-gu rom waŋgany-ŋura. Barrkuwatj. Ŋamuma-nha-[y]irri yukurra.

(‘Our law, manner of doing things is different, separate. This is what makes us different . . . Yolŋu law and manner doing things is different, and Balanda law and manner doing things is different. Our [respective] laws are not ‘at one.’ Different, separate. Not recognising or understanding [one another]’)

 

Napuŋga’-ŋura-nha ŋamunha-mirri-nha. Balanyara bitjan Balanda ga Yolŋu ga napuŋga’-ŋura ŋayi there’s a big gap. Dhiyali ŋayi yaka-ndja understanding each other, recognising with making bayŋu manymak communication, between Yolŋu ga Balanda. Unless there’s a Balanda more respectable ga understandable to listen Yolŋu voice – to accept the word. Balanyara ga otherwise ŋunhi walala ŋunhi Balanda-wu djäma, they just, self controlled. They leading us.”

(‘In the middle, in between [that’s where we are] not recognising [one another].) It’s such like, Balanda and Yolŋu – and in the middle, in between – there’ a big gap. This is where [we are not] understanding each other, recognising – [there’s] no good communication between Yolŋu and Balanda. Unless there’s a Balanda who is respectful and is willing to [try and] understand, to listen to Yolŋu voices and accept their word [i.e expressed opinion or point of view]. Thus so, otherwise those Balanda and their work [the way they do things], they’re just, self controlled. They’re [just] leading us.’)

 

 

Q:  “Bitjan bili balanya liŋgu baman’?” (‘[Was it] the same before, a long time ago?’)

 

Bayŋu. Manymak ŋäthili, bili walala marrtij-nha ŋunhi ŋanapurruŋgu ‘missionaries’ mulkurr-briya-mirri ŋäpaki walala. They from the Uniting Church, ga they were so close with Yolŋu people, working together, rrambaŋi with Yolŋu. Ga teaching Yolŋu in a proper way, ga treating Yolŋu equally-nhayaka treating separate. Balanya[ra] bitjan now it is happening. Mid 80s-dhu ŋayi change-ndja everything. Become more complicated-nha Yolŋu-wu.”

(‘No. It was good before, because the missionaries that came were prayerful Balanda [ext. ‘of one mind’]. They were from the Uniting Church, they were so close with Yolŋu people, working together, together, level, ‘at one’ with Yolŋu. Teaching Yolŋu in a proper way, treating Yolŋu completely equally – not treating [us] separate. Such like is happening now. Mid-80s, everything changed. Became more complicated for Yolŋu [people].’)

 

 

Q:  “Ga can you give me a picture – tell me what it was like back then, when it was manymak?” (‘And can you give me a picture – tell me what it was like back then, when it was good?’)

 

“Picture-nha manymak mirithirri, balanyara bitjan, old people Yolŋu’yulŋu djäma yukurra ŋäpaki-walala yaka-nha yukurra warku’-yurru-nha Yolŋu-nha. Dhäruk ŋunhi in a gentle way, yaka rough, ga supporting. Balanya ŋäpaki dhiyaŋubala ŋayi happening it’s different.

(‘The picture was really good, for this reason, the old people worked with [those] Balanda, and they never [sought to] deride or demean Yolŋu [people]. They spoke [and addressed people] in a gentle way, not rough, and supporting, such  like [were] those Balanda. [But] now it’s happening different.’)

 

 

Q:  “Ga nhäwu ŋayi ‘gap’ yukurra djiŋgar-yun?” (‘And why is that gap still there [between Yolŋu and Balanda]’)?

 

“Yolŋu, we come from a different background, we have a different culture. We can’t identify ourself in the middle of that gap, ‘we are Balanda’ or either Balanda will identify themselves that they are Yolŋu. No. Absolutely we are different. Balanyara, that’s where Balanda ga Yolŋu-ndja are getting confusion.”

(Yolŋu, we come from a different background, we have a different culture. We can’t identify ourself in the middle of that gap that “we are Balanda,” or either Balanda will identify themselves that they are Yolŋu. No. Absolutely we are different. Thus, that’s where Balanda and Yolŋu are getting confusion’)

 

 

Q:  Ga nhaltjan ŋilimurru yurru dhal’yurra ŋayi gap-nha?” (‘And how will we close that gap [of misunderstanding/misrecognition]?’)

 

Dhal’yurra ŋilimurru yurru by bringing Yolŋu ga Balanda together. Marrtji manda yurru waŋgany manapan-mirri, ga nhina ga talk about something. Because there’s a lot of Balanda living in [Yolŋu] communities now . . . that they never even been through the orientation. That’s where Balanda are getting self-controlled . . . ”

(‘We will close it by bringing Yolŋu and Balanda together. Those two should come together and join [in as] one, and sit and talk about something. Because there’s a lot of Balanda living in community now . . . that they have never even been through [cultural] orientation. That’s where Balanda are getting self-controlled.’)

 

 

Q:  “Is that why you’ve said before that orientation is really important?” (‘Is that why you’ve said before that orientation is really important?)

 

Yomärr walala yurru marŋgi-thirri Balanda walala ŋanapurruŋ-gu rom-gu. ‘Orientation.’ Ga buthurru wetjun ŋayi yurru ŋanapurruŋ-gu dhäruk-ku. Ga bulnha-nha ŋayi rom yurru gäma nhanŋu Balanda-wu rom bulnha – slowly, take time. Yaka rushing in ga rough treating-ndja.”

(Yes. [Those] Balanda should learn about our law/proper manner of doing things. ‘Orientation. And they should listen [lit. gift their ears] to our language, our message [i.e. what we have to say].’ And carry their Balanda law or way of doing things slowly, gently, taking time. Not [just] rushing in and treating [people] roughly’)

 

 

Q:  “So that’s why nhuma always mention that Balanda should go through orientation?” (‘So that’s why you [plural] always mention that Balanda should go through orientation?)

 

“Yo.”

(‘Yes’)

 

 

Q:  “And is that happening at this time?” (‘And is that happening at this time?’)

 

“Bayŋu. Bayŋu-nha. Happening ŋayi yukurra bawalamirri community-ŋura. Ŋunhi Balanda balanyara-yi rom ŋunhi yaka yukurra marrtji-nha – orientation-kurru, ŋayi ŋunhi nhäwi-ndja – djäl gänaŋu-mirri ŋayi – djäl gänaŋumirri, ‘self controlled’ ŋayi yäku. Bayŋu-nha company. Balanyara bitjan that person, he or she’s just sitting in their own little world, thinking only their way, but not accepting our way of thinking.

(‘No, not at all. It’s all over the place in communities [now]’ [i.e. ‘whatever goes’]. If Balanda don’t come with that particular law, proper manner of doing things – come through [cultural] orientation, they whatdoyoucallit – they have the quality of wanting to be alone, separate – “wanting or desiring to be alone, separate” – another name for that is ‘self controlled. Never [making/keeping] company. That person is such like, he or she is just sitting in their own little world, thinking only their way, but not accepting our way of thinking.’)

 

 

Q:  “Ga how does that make nhuma, nhäwi, how does that make Yolŋu feel when Balanda are like that?” (‘And how does that make you [plural], whatdoyoucallit, how does that make Yolŋu feel when Balanda are like that?’)

 

“Yolŋu-nha feel, yaka-nha manymak. Bili ŋayi ŋunhi Balanda ŋunhi taking over everything-nha, balanyara.”

(‘Yolŋu feel, really not very good. Because those Balanda just take over, control everything, such like.’)

 

 

Q:  “Nhaltjan Balanda yurru marŋgi-thirri Yolŋu-wu rom-gu?” (‘How can Balanda learn about the Yolŋu law, or proper manner of doing things?’)

 

Marŋgi-thirri-nha ŋayi yurru, ŋayi yurru marŋgi-kuma walala ŋäpaki ŋayi yurru riŋimap, as soon as ŋayi ŋunhi ŋäpaki ŋuruŋi-yi nhäma ŋunhi advertising for something [a job] ŋayi yurru märrama djorra ga ŋayi yurru riŋimap, ga lakaranha-mirri “ŋarra djäl-thirri ŋarra yurru märrama dhuwali djäma.”

(‘They can learn, those Balanda can be taught if as soon as they ring up, if that Balanda responds to a job advertisement [to work in a Yolŋu community], they get that paper/notice and ring up, and tell us ‘I would like to take this job/do this work.’’)

 

Manymak, ŋayi yurru Yolŋu-yu . . . Yolŋu, ga waŋgany Balanda ga nhämunha . . . three or four Yolŋu . . . nhäwi-nha walala, ŋunhi-nha nhina ga waŋa-nha-yirra, reports ga backgrounds ga everything märrama, getting information, background – nhä nhanŋu djäma whether that person is eligible, whether he is really the right person to do that job. Balanyara. Not just by misleading that person, put it into the office and then that person will become a boss – ŋunhi-ndja word ‘orientation-miriw.’

(‘Ok, and then Yolŋu should . . . Yolŋu and [that] one Balanda, and how many . . . three or four Yolŋu people . . . whattdoyoucallit they, should sit and talk about, their experience/qualifications, background and get all that information, background, what that person’s work is whether that person is eligible, whether they are really the right person to do that job. Such like. Not leading that person the improper/wrong way, [simply] placing them in the office and giving them authority – that is what we call ‘without or lacking orientation.’)

 

And if that Balanda, as soon as that Balanda, we agree with that Balanda to have that job in our community, each an individual Balandas will have their cultural awareness teaching ŋayi yurru marŋgi-thirri ŋanapurruŋ-gu how we feel and how we think.”

(‘And if that Balanda, as soon as that Balanda, we agree with that Balanda to have that job in our community, each an individual Balandas will have their cultural awareness teaching.’)

 

 

Q:  “Ga nhäwi, example nhe yurru gurrupan, like waŋgany Balanda milkuma respect-nha Yolŋu-wu? Nhaltjan Balanda showing respect to Yolŋu people?” (‘And whatdoyoucallit, can you give an example of, like one Balanda [who] shows respect to Yolŋu? How Balanda show respect to Yolŋu people?)

 

Ŋäpaki?? [cynical tone] Yol-nha ŋarra yurru lakaraŋa-ndja? . . . ŋäpaki-ndja ŋarra yurru lakarama-ndja . . . ŋäpaki ŋunhi ŋunha warkthun-nha mid 80s-dhu – from 70s to mid 80s – balanyara ŋäpaki ŋhäku nhina-nha Marthakal-ŋura, yurru ŋayi ŋunhi yukurra djäma-nha yaka nhanokiŋ-gala mulkurr-yu. Eh, yuwalk gutha . . . yaka nhanokiŋ-gala mulkurr-yu. Yolŋu-way ŋayi yukurra buthuru-wetjun-nha. Nhanŋu djörra djäma wukirri, ga working ga thinking Yolŋu-wu marrtjinha, yaka nhanŋu. He’s there to do the paperwork yaka ŋayi wukirri the way that he wants to do things or run the admin, yaka.

(‘Balanda? Which Balanda can I tell you of? . . . the Balanda I can tell you about . . . those Balanda who worked in the mid 80s – from the 70s to the mid 80s – those Balanda were at Marthakal why? Not simply for their own purposes with their own way of thinking. It’s true little sister . . . [they weren’t just there] with their own way of thinking [lit. with their own head]. They listened [lit. gifted their ears] like Yolŋu people/the Yolŋu way. They came to do their writing, and work and thinking for Yolŋu people [i.e. with Yolŋu people in mind], not [just] for them[selves]. He’s there to do the paperwork not just writing the way that he wants to do things or run the admin, no.’)

 

Balanyara bitjan ŋilimurruŋ-gu gurruŋ-miriŋu ŋilimurruŋ-gu. Ŋilimurruŋgala waku-miriŋu märraŋala Balanda-nha, ga his heart[1], he had a heart towards the Yolŋu people. Märrtji-nha ŋayi ŋuli, spend a week djäma together, Yolŋu-wala. Not just sitting back in the swivel chair doing nothing. Spending time ga talking, ŋunhi ŋayi manymak-ndja, towards Yolŋu-wu. Join in with Yolŋu people. Ŋunhi ŋayi manymak ŋäpaki. Everything yukurra djäma-nha ŋayi laytju-nha running Marthakal.[2] Yaka yukurra Yolŋu-wu walala malŋthuŋ-maram-nha hard time, like now it’s happening.

(‘Such like, our gurruŋ, [the way he was] for us. Our waku adopted that Balanda, and his heart, he had a heart towards the Yolŋu people. He would come and spend a week working together, with Yolŋu. Not just sitting back in the swivel chair doing nothing. Spending time and talking, that is [what is] good/healthy, towards/for Yolŋu. Join in with Yolŋu people. That is [what was good about those] Balanda. Running everything and doing all the work in a good/smooth/nice [way at] Marthakal. They weren’t giving Yolŋu people a hard time, like is happening now.’)

 

Everythings change. Place is getting professional-nha. There are a lot of Balanda there . . . before ŋanapurruŋ-gu bayŋu daŋaŋ Balanda, we used to have nhämunha’, three or four ŋäpaki.”

(‘Everything is change/changing. The place is getting professional. There are a lot of Balanda there . . . before there weren’t heaps of Balanda, we used to have . . . how many . . . three or four Balanda.’)

 

 

Q:  “Ga wiripu question, nhaltjan Yolŋu märrama confidence to stand up with Balanda-nha?” (‘A different question, how can Yolŋu get the confidence to stand up with Balanda?’ [NB: this was a follow up question from a previous discussion.])

 

Ŋarra yukurra nhäma, there’s not many people that have that confidence, bayŋu-nha. Unless ŋayi Yolŋu strong in leadership. Strong in leadership bäyma ŋunha stand in Yolŋu foundation. See everything from there. Yolŋu-wala foundation, ga ŋayi yurru nhäma towards the Balanda foundation.

(‘I am seeing that there’s not many people that have that confidence, none/nothing. Unless that Yolŋu person is strong in leadership. Strong in leadership, to stand in the Yolŋu foundation [even when over there].[3] See everything from there – from the Yolŋu foundation – and look to[wards] the Balanda foundation [from there].’)

 

Ŋunhi ŋayi Yolŋu marŋgi how to do that ŋunhi yukurra dharaŋan nhäma dhukarr ŋayi ŋunhi Yolŋu become a person that – ŋayi yurru waŋa, ŋäpaki-nha ŋupan. Waŋa ŋayi bitjan confidence nhanŋu, mulka-nha, mulka ŋayi yukurra mulka nhanŋu ŋayi yurru waŋa nhanŋu. Bunha ŋayi yurru ŋäpaki-wu ga waŋa nhano-kala. Wo ŋayi yurru waŋa in public or balanya bitjan place in Darwin or Canberra wo wanha-mala ŋayi yurru marrtji. Yolŋu ŋayi yurru identifying her or himself that they a speaker for their own people, Yolŋu-wu – ‘for my own kind – that I can talk. Bitjan ŋayi yurru.”

(‘If that Yolŋu person knows how to do that, they will recognise/understand the way forward, and they will become a person that, – they can speak [to], stand up and engage with Balanda. They will [be able to] speak with confidence, that will be their confidence/self-assuredness/steadiness that [will allow or enable them to] speak. They will [be able to] meet and speak with those Balanda, or speak in public, at a place like Darwin or Canberra or wherever it is they go. That person will identify her or himself that they are a speaker for their own people, for Yolŋu people – ‘for my own kind – that I can talk.’ They’ll do such like.’)

 

 

Q:  “Ga nhaltjan, how can Balanda help Yolŋu to get that confidence?” (‘And in what way, how can Balanda help Yolŋu to get that confidence?’)

 

“By nhina manda yurru, sitting ga talking about. Sorting out together. Sorting out the way together. Nhäku walala ŋayi ŋäpaki djäl-thirri. Bitjan ŋayi ŋunhi preparation together djäma, preparation-ndja. Rrambaŋi. Yo. So ŋanapurruŋ-gu ŋäpaki dhuwala marrtji-nha slowly nhäma ŋayi marrtji, nhaltjan ŋanapurru yukurra yuwalk djäl-thirri . . . . This is what Yolŋu want to see here, working together, if you have the heart towards the people – Yolŋu people. Do that and show us that respect.”

(‘By [those two] sitting, sitting and talking about. Sorting out together. Sorting out the way together, what it is that those Balanda want. Such like, preparation [and decision making] work together, preparation. Together, level. Yo. So Balanda should proceed slowly, looking to see [recognise/understand] what it is that we truly want or desire. This is what Yolŋu want to see here, working together, if you have the heart towards the people – Yolŋu people. Do that and show that respect.’)

 

 

Q:  “Wiripu nhäwi, dhäwu, like adopting – like when Yolŋu adopt Balanda, how do Yolŋu decide yol wo nhätha walala yurru adopt ŋayi ŋunhi Balanda-nha?” (‘A different, whatdoyoucallit, story, like adopting – like when Yolŋu adopt Balanda, how do Yolŋu decide who or when they will adopt that Balanda person?’)

 

Bitjan yurru if ŋanapurru adopting-gu djäl-thirri ŋäpaki-wu ŋanapurru yurru waŋa-nha ŋanya first-nha, ŋanapurru yurru waŋa bitjan, checking her or him first whether he or she’s adopted with another family. And if you alone, then we can just make our own choice to adopt you.

(‘We will do such like, if we want to adopt a Balanda person we will speak to that person first, we will ask, checking with her or him first [to see] whether he or she’s adopted by/with another family. And if you alone [i.e. if you haven’t been adopted by/to another family], then we can just make our own choice to adopt you.’)

 

 

Q:  “And what does that mean for Yolŋu when they adopt someone? What do they expect from that Balanda?” (‘And what does that mean for Yolŋu when they adopt someone? What do they expect from that Balanda?’)

 

Balanyara bitjan nhe – you my sister, I adopted you. And to me, I feel you so close to me, balanyara bitjan waŋgany-nha ŋandi ga waŋgany bäpa. I don’t have to worry about your skin – it doesn’t matter. I’m feeling that you my own real yapa. Closing ŋayi gap-nha, liŋgun-nha – you and me, we closing the gap. There’s no more gap in between.”

(‘Such like, you – you my sister, I adopted you. And to me, I feel you so close to me, like [we have] one mother and one father. I don’t have to worry about your skin – it doesn’t matter. I’m feeling that you my own real sister. Closing the gap, finished – you are me, we closing the gap. There’s no more gap in between.’)

 

 

Q:  “And does that always happen when Yolŋu adopt Balanda?” (‘And does that always happen when Yolŋu adopt Balanda?’)

 

Yaka. Sometimes the things are going wrong, dhiyaŋcum – reason-dhu: If I adopted you, and you work in the office. In the office you not my yapa [‘sister’], eh. I won’t treated you like as my yapa. I’ll treated you outside at home you’re my yapa. Because you there to work. So that’s where some Balanda and Yolŋu are getting a bit of confusion. You there to work. . . yo.”

(‘No. Sometimes the things are going wrong, for this – [forthcoming] – reason: If I adopted you, and you work in the office. In the office you are not my sister, eh. I won’t treat you like as my sister. I’ll treat you [like that only] outside at home you’re my yapa. Because you there to work. So that’s where some Balanda and Yolŋu are getting a bit of confusion. You are there to work . . . yo.’)

 

 

Q:  “Ŋathili when you used to work at Galiwinku – or other Yolŋu – do you know of a story where Yolŋu adopted a Balanda and it wasn’t manymak, or where something didn’t go very well?” (‘Before, when you used to work at Galiwin’ku – or other Yolŋu [did] – do you know of a story where Yolŋu adopted a Balanda and it wasn’t good, or where something didn’t go very well?’)

 

Balanya bitjan if that Balanda adopted to Yolŋu family, this is Yolŋu getting bit, getting crazy, because what they do – I don’t humbug you for money – but once you adopted to Yolŋu family they family will keep on going, going to asking asking asking, rrupiya rrupiya rrupiya wo for ŋatha. Ga that’s where Balanda, because that Balanda comes from a different background, it’s not matching with Yolŋu culture. Or not suiting to that person. Not suitable. Dharaŋan-nha-miriw balanyara rom. Thinking “where all their money gone?” “Why they always coming back to me, asking for rrupiya ga ŋatha?” Balanyara confusion Balanda-ndja getting. Different culture ga different background.”

(‘[Yes] such like, if that Balanda adopted to Yolŋu family, this is Yolŋu getting bit, getting crazy, because what they do – I don’t humbug you for money – but once you adopted to Yolŋu family they family will keep on going, going to asking asking asking, money, money, money or for food. And that’s where Balanda, because that Balanda person comes from a different background, it’s not matching with Yolŋu culture. Or not suiting to that person. Not suitable. [But] that is lacking in understanding, thinking “where has all their money gone?” “Why are they always coming back to me, asking for money and food?” Thus so, confusion Balanda are getting. Different culture and different background.’)

 

 

Q:  Ga nhäwi, adoption-nha, nhäwu ŋayi important to Yolŋu people, nhäwu ŋayi important?” (‘And umm, adoption, why is it important to Yolŋu people, why is it important?’)

 

Nhäku ŋayi important-ndja? Bili wiripu Yolŋu ŋanapurru liŋgu wiripu ŋanapurru Yolŋu that we feel the same. Because we all human being, balanyara. Equal-nha balanyara. Bitjan ŋanapurru ŋunhi adopted-ndja like when you have to go out or you’re travelling on your own and you meet a different Yolŋu people, ga those Yolŋu always come with a question: who adopted you?” Ga once you explained that person’s name, ga those people will say “we related to you too!” Gurrutuyindi-nha gurrutu! Märr walala bukmak-dhu feel good about. Eh, feel good about.”

(‘Why is it important? Because we are different people, we are already different, so [it is important that] we feel the same. Because we are all human beings, thus so. Equal, such like. So when we adopt, like when we you have to go out or you’re travelling on your own and you meet different Yolŋu people, and those Yolŋu people always come with a question: “who adopted you?” And once you explain that person’s name those people will say “we are related to you too!” Kinship – a lot of family/kinship! And then everyone will feel good about [because of that]. Feel good about.’)

 

 

Q:  “Ga ŋuli Balanda ga Yolŋu nhina together balanyara one place like Galiwin’ku, yurru bayŋu adopting, is it easier or harder-nha?” (‘And if those Balanda and Yolŋu sit together, like in one place, like at Galiwin’ku, but there is no adopting, is it easier or harder?’)

 

“Hard-nha. Each one of them, like Yolŋu – ya, ŋayi ŋunhi Balanda, Balanda mak ŋayi feel strange to itself  – feel strange ŋayi ŋunhi bitjarra, thinking “I’m on my own” “I’m in my own world” bili no-one adopted that person into their family, Yolŋu family-lili ga ŋayi ŋunhi feel lonely. Feeling emptiness around him.

(‘Hard. Each one of them, like Yolŋu – ya and those Balanda, Balanda perhaps they feel strange to itself – feel strange because of that, thinking “I’m on my own” “I’m in my own world” because no one has adopted that person into their family, into Yolŋu family, and they feel lonely. Feeling emptiness around them.’)

 

Dhuwali ŋayi big picture-nha. Learning about cross-cultural, learning ŋayi yurru, training ŋayi yurru. Balanda needs cross-cultural training, so that person will learn about our culture, our language, our feeling. Because we Yolŋu people, we feel people. We feeling people whether that Yolŋu or Balanda is manymak or not. Dhäkay-ŋäma ŋanapurruŋ-li rumbal-yu ŋanapurruŋgala our feeling ŋuli lakarama dhäkay-ŋäma ŋanapurru lakarama-mirri dhäwu-mirri ŋanapurru-li rumbal.

(‘This is the big picture. Learning about cross-cultural, learning and training. Balanda need cross-cultural training, so that person will learn about our culture, our language, our feeling. Because we Yolŋu people, we feel people. We feel people whether that Yolŋu or Balanda is good or not. We feel with our bodies, our feeling, they tell us something, our feelings tells us a story about [that person], through our bodies.’)

 

 

Q:  “Ga dhuwala nhäwi ŋonuŋ ŋayi question, nhäwi yindi question – big picture-nhanhä nhumalaŋ-gu hope ga dream ga vision for the future for Yolŋu ga Balanda? (‘And this here is a heavy question, a big question – big picture: what is your [plural] hope and dream and vision for the future for Yolŋu and Balanda?’)

 

“Hope ga dream ga vision for the future? Yolŋu-wu ga Balanda-wu? To see Yolŋu ga Balanda treated equally-nha. Working ga sharing together. Balanda yurru märrtji, sit down with us to have something that we eat, Balanda will have that too. So that Balanda will learn something . . . I want to see my brothers and sisters to come, and sit, and share. Paddling [as in a canoe] the same way. I don’t want to see my brothers and sisters paddling opposite. I want to see us paddling together, same way. Ga same direction. Yaka gäna’gäna. Yo.”

(‘Hope and dream and vision for the future? For Yolŋu and Balanda? To see Yolŋu and Balanda treated equally. Working and sharing together. Balanda should come, sit down with us to have something that we eat, Balanda will have that too. So that Balanda will learn something . . . I want to see my brothers and sisters to come, and sit, and share. Paddling [as in a canoe] the same way. I don’t want to see my brothers and sisters paddling opposite. I want to see us paddling together, same way. And same direction. Not separately, one by one. Yo.’)

 

 

 

 


[1] “Heart” is often an English gloss for ŋayaŋu in this context, which refers to ‘state or sense of feeling’ associated with the chest.

[2] Marthakal is the name of the local Government Service Provision agency at Galiwin’ku Island.

[3] ‘Foundation’ is often used as a synonym for rom – law, culture, way of life, way of doing things, custom, history, tradition.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Anthropology, Ethnography, Indigenous Rights, Thesis/Yolngu related writing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s