104. The Second Makarrata Way

In this podcast series, Rev. Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra OAM and Richard Trudgen discuss the second Makarrata mediation process, ending in a reconciliation ceremony in Yolŋu law and why all people need to return to a way of peace.

In the first Makarrata way we looked at how disputes are resolved between people in very serious instances such as cases of murder or manslaughter. The second Makarrata In Part 2 we look at resolving disputes and finding reconciliation where someone has stolen something such as an object, equipment, large assets or even people, such as a wife.

In these cases, the political leaders (dalkarra djirrikay) from the families of the thief and from the sides of the victim will control the legal process. Any conversations will take place in a Makarr-garma, or a semi-public arena. This arena will be in a Mukla Wäŋa, or legally safe place of the clan who are the victims. These safe places have legally protective symbols of that clan (such as the king brown snake or fire) that protect them so nobody can breach them. It also keeps other Yolŋu from interfering in the legal processes. These safe places are similar to old Scottish halls or embassies and are similarly protected by guards, or djuŋgaya, Yolŋu police. The djuŋgaya police are painted with okra displaying the emblems of that clan group, which are similar to NT police uniforms with their own symbols representing authority. Djuŋgaya have also taken an oath just like Balanda policemen take an oath, in order to keep the peace. They put up dilly bags (symbols of legal authority) in the safe place so people will see they can’t go in, and they also hold milak (weapons) to show they have authority to exert ‘reasonable force’ against any intruders if necessary. Just like a Balanda government or court that will defend against anyone who does not abide by its legal proceedings.

During the proceedings, Yolŋu mel’ŋu (special witnesses) watch from both sides, not interfering or throwing spears. The victim will be full of fury and will want to throw a spear at the offender, but their dalkarra djirrikay (political leaders) instead get them to throw their spears at a mound of earth, or Molu, instead. This mound of earth is not just an ordinary mound of earth, it is a special ceremony Madayin (legal) mound of earth that must be approached with absolute holiness. Otherwise, it could become a grave for that person if abused. The victim and offender (or representatives) throw their spears into it, getting rid of all the anger inside them. And all the anger at the depth of their being will go into the shaft of the spear, and when it is broken, the conflict, the curse, between them is also broken.

After this, they then go and sit quietly – one on one side of the sacred mound and one on the other, with the dalkarra djirrikay, political leaders beside them. They talk out a settlement, what is the right sanction or punishment for the thief. This big peace process, mägaya, has many options. Perhaps the thief will have to give a gift or build a new object that was stolen, or be sent away from their community until they agree he can return. But in they find a way and work on a solution, all the time looking for ŋayaŋu waŋgany, a oneness of mind, body and soul.

For a copy of the full transcript, please click here. For a copy of the Rev. Dr Djiniyini Gondarra’s speech (English translation) in Story No.4, click here.

There are 4 Stories in this podcast. Please see time stamps below –

  • Story No. 1 2nd Makarrata way to Law and order                                  00:00
  • Story No. 2 Legal sanctuary and Mukla Waanga Yolngu Police          11:15
  • Story No. 3 The way of peace for Yolngu                                                   21:56
  • Story No. 4 Djiniyini speech, ‘Need to return to the way of peace’   32:15