66. Yolngu international trade with Macassans

Djiniyini Gondarra and Richard Trudgen discuss how the value of traded items was measured in the term Yolngu call balanydja. Balanydja is a Yolngu term for payment for goods and services rendered under contract.

Djiniyini  and Richard discuss how Yolngu did not have dollars and cents money but how different items were used like money according to their law.

Yolngu would measure the amount of balanydja they should receive for any particular product they produced or for resources taken off their land (like trepang) by using an internal value measurement called märr. Märr has no real equivalent term in English. Märr is a measurable quantity of the strength of our spirit.

This program explores the start of at least four centuries of international trade between the Yolngu and the Macassan people. It discusses how Macassans came looking for trepang, an item Yolngu never used as food. The Macassans wanted it and took out djugu’ contract agreements with different Yolngu Bäpurru (corporate family groups) along the coast.


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

  • How mingurr value in trade was measured balanydja dhumbalbal maarrmiri 00:00
  • How Yolngu traded based on maarr spiritual power strength 07:27
  • Yolngu entered into djugu contracts with Macassans after a war with them 16:50
  • Yolngu set up safe trading and processing dharriny places 27:24