Video #17 COVID-19: No Microscopes Before

Djiniyini goes on to ask what social distancing is for. Richard says it’s to stop the spread of Covid-19. Djiniyini explains how goŋ-wukundi law was for the same reason – to stop the spread of disease. They discuss the reasons why this was in place with the law given to Yolngu by the Great Creator Wanga. This was necessary before the development of microscopes and people knew the reason why social avoidance occurred around the control of disease and sickness.

Djiniyini asks to discuss the use of the word warrakan (animal, birds, meat) when referring to live disease agents like bacteria and viruses.

Background: 20 years ago Djiniyini and Richard first began teaching germ theory with Yolngu, using microscopes and live samples. The term buwayak (invisible) warrakan was used to name bacteria so Yolngu would understand bacteria and viruses are a living disease agent that can multiply and cause problems in the body.


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.

Watch the full series by clicking the links below:

Please note: Videos 1–7 are currently not available due to the unfortunate passing of one of the presenters. These videos will come back online again once permission is given from the family. Thank you for your understanding.