105. What is Evidence? Part 4: Mägaya rom

For the complete transcript click here.

In this podcast series, Maratja Dhamarrandji and Richard Trudgen discuss mägaya rom, or ‘the big peace law’ that governs Yolŋu way of life. In the Yolŋu Madayin system of law, culture and identity starts with mägaya, which means peace, tranquility, harmony, completeness, health, prosperity, fullness, perfectness, rest, safety, absence of agitation or trouble, and protection for all.  Mägaya determines how Yolŋu talk to each other, their interactions, and how they recognise one other and their more widely spread Riŋgitj alliances. It is an incredibly powerful concept to live by and the mägaya rom (big peace law) has its own series of checks and balances to make sure there is no ḻiya-gäna, or dictatorship. In English, this would be comparable to democracy and the “rule of law” that creates stability, consistency and a belief in where you stand. So why, if this is what both mainstream law and Yolŋu law try to achieve, can they not understand and work with each other? Why do so many Yolŋu people not understand mainstream law when the concepts are similar to their own? And why is Yolŋu law still not recognised or understood by mainstream Australia, when it has been in practice for 40-60,000 years?

Without respect and recognition of identity, there is anarchy and lawlessness. It doesn’t matter if Yolŋu are a minority group, they still have rights. There should be respect for the true political leaders of Arnhem Land, the ḏalkarra djirrikay. The ones who have been given the authority by the people, the owners of the original law.

“Our law has been taken off from us by different systems of law. And without our mägaya, big peace law… we are… feeling, like what you call it… hopeless. ŋayaŋu-miriw, no strength left in our soul,” says Maratja.

Maratja and Richard discuss how there cannot be proper community and business development, how can kids be inspired to go or stay in school, how do we stop disempowerment, domestic violence, people going to jail, and unemployment? None of those things can be fixed when Yolŋu people live in this state of anarchy.

For the complete transcript click here.


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

  • Story No. 1 Mägaya rom: the big peace law                                       00:00
  • Story No. 2 Lawlessness and anarchy                                                 09:00
  • Story No. 3 Understanding each others deep educational language   20:55
  • Story No. 4  Balanda seen as illegitimate according to Yolngu rom     31:15