Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra asks if the COVID-19 virus has occurred before. Richard explains it’s a new disease that humans have not seen before and compares it to the Spanish flu in 1918. The Spanish flu killed over 50 million people around the world.
Richard discusses the history and effects of the Spanish flu on Yolŋu people in north-east Arnhem Land. At the time of the Spanish flu an entire generation of Yolŋu along the coast died unexpectedly (including Djiniyini’s grandfather). When this occurred Yolŋu blamed it on sorcery or other acts by neighbouring clan groups. However as Yolŋu were coastal people and had regular contact with British-owned Malay-crewed boats in their waters historians believe the numerous deaths were caused by the Spanish flu.
Djiniyini says this information is a shock to him because he knows the Yolŋu history of the Elders deaths but has never heard of the Spanish flu. He says the discussion about the Spanish flu brings home the severity of this COVID-19 pandemic.
The traditional worldview of Yolŋu means they want in-depth, science-based information in order to understand any new topic. This is what Yolŋu call the “dhuḏi-dhäwu” – the deep true story. This full series of videos attempts to answer some of their questions from a Yolŋu worldview, using their linguistic construction of knowledge.