102. What is Evidence? Part 3: Confusion stops Mägaya (the big peace)

For the complete transcript click here.

In this podcast series, Maratja Dhamarrandji (MD) and Richard Trudgen (RT) discuss why Balanda (mainstream western Australians) do not recognise Yolŋu law, its foundational source, array of evidence, and the many checks and balances that underpin it. One of the main problems leading to this marr-dhumbalyun, confusion, is language.  When Balanda arrived in Australia 200 years ago, they brought their own law and language. They brought their own parliament and established their own way of doing things. When they observed Yolŋu culture and customs, they named them with English terms, using phrases such as ‘the dreaming’, ‘hunter gathers’, ‘primitive’, ‘nomad’, ‘gone walkabout’, ‘payback’ and ‘rule of elders’, instead of the gurraŋay matha, or proper academic Yolŋu Matha language that should have been investigated and attributed instead.

Yolŋu law is mägaya rom, the legal way of striving for a state of peace and harmony, by respecting one another and creating protection for all. The servants of the law and people are the dalkarra djirrikay, political leaders, not simply ‘elders’, but qualified leaders who have studied the law and are given ganydjarr, authority, through a process in which they are enthroned. These leaders then determine who belongs to what land through a series of evidence, checks and balances that exist for all the rom waṯaŋu walala, Yolŋu citizens, such as knowing the different surnames within each of the Bäpurru corporate clan groups, displaying the Dhulmu Mulka, title deeds dilly bags and gamunuŋgu painted title deeds. These and other forms of evidence are recognised inside Yolŋu legal processes and their own ŋärra’, chamber of law.

Even though many Yolŋu people can speak English now, they use the Balanda names attributed to Yolŋu law instead of what their names for their law actually mean. If we want to turn this confusion around, Yolŋu have to stop using Balanda words and start using their own terminology to describe their original Australian law instead.

This podcast series helps us to see how Balanda have created a naming for Yolŋu and Yolŋu have created a naming for Balanda. We’re naming each other’s cultures, rather than knowing the real law that exists on both sides.

For the complete transcript click here.


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

  • Story No. 1  Why Can’t Balanda see the Evidence                               00:00
  • Story No. 2  Our leaders & Elders are servants of the law                09:28
  • Story No. 3  Confusion causes disbelief in Yolngu law                      19:50
  • Story No. 4  We want the big peace Magaya                                        31:05