106. What is Evidence? Part 5: Traditional Owners

In this podcast series, Maratja Dhamarrandji and Richard Trudgen discuss who are considered the traditional owners of the land, but how there is a communication breakdown because most Yolngu do not understand the meaning of the English words ‘traditional’ or ‘landowner’. There are also issues surrounding the fact that, even though, according to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act of 1976, it clearly says that land ownership should follow traditional law, the Land Council and the government do not recognise Yolngu political leaders, the ḏalkarra djirrikay, who uphold the evidence – all the checks and balances that determine who owns land under the original Yolngu (‘traditional’) law.

On top of this, younger Yolngu generations do not understand their own original law. They believe the only things their elders have got are their songlines and nothing else. They see them having no money, no houses, no equipment, and everything coming from the all-powerful government. And some other Yolngu are also taking advantage of this Balanda/Yolngu English driven two-way confusion.

The Yolngu elders, especially the ḏalkarra djirrikay, who have been set aside by the people as their political leaders, have knowledge of the original law. And everyone should be listening to the real ‘traditional’ evidence that determines land ownership under this Yolngu original law. Instead, many are now looking to the government and the Lands Council to say who the ‘traditional landowners’ are. This leads to anarchy and lawlessness. These two systems, Balanda and Yolngu, must be understood on both sides and brought together.

In this podcast, Maratja and Richard unravel the confusion, showing how language hugely affects land ownership, any chance of business development across Yolngu lands, and how we can move forward in the future.

Click here for the transcript.

Note: Due to lack of resources and time, the complete Yolngu Matha (ym) translation of this series has not been finalised. This translation is done at our own time and cost. Because of the important nature of this subject we will update this as soon as possible.


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

  • Story No. 1 Traditional owner meaning                                               00:00
  • Story No. 2 Our relationship & landownership are the same              09:00
  • Story No. 3 Yolngu Political leaders not on Lands Council                   20:55
  • Story No. 4  Confusion around meaning of Land owners                     31:15