63. Northern Land Council - Landowners Rights

Nikunu Yunupingu and Richard Trudgen discuss the meaning of the term ‘traditional landowners’, comparing it to words in the Yolngu language.

Many people use the abbreviation TA for Traditional Owner. Both these terms often create confusion for many Yolngu Elders. They use terms in Yolngu Matha (the Yolngu language) like wäŋa waṯaŋu (meaning land or property owners) and yirralka waṯaŋu (meaning estate owners).

Section 77A of the Land Rights Act talks about using the traditional process at law for decision-making on Yolngu yirralka estates. This process is not understood by Westerners and so is not followed as part of most conversations with English speaking mainstream people and so not adhered to in practice.

Because this traditional process of consultation is not being followed many senior Yolngu landowners are confused and angry. This poor consultation process also leads to much internal family conflict as incorrect people or clans are making decisions over the Yolngu corporate lands.

The wrong people are being called to meetings by the NLC, whereas the yirralka estate owners should be making the decisions. Many of these older estate owners are left behind in communities while young people go to meetings and make decisions about their lands and royalty payments, leaving families broken.


There are 4 stories in this podcast. Please see time stamps below-

  • Unpacking the meaning of Traditional Aboriginal Owners  – 00:00
  • Traditional law – the way to negotiate  – 9:18.181
  • Yolngu should say where meetings are held – 19:14.934
  • Corporate group leaders should organise – 29:32.971