Video #18 COVID-19: Looking for the Right Medicine to Stop the Virus

In this program, Richard Trudgen asks Djiniyini Gondarra to explain the concept of ḏilthan.

Dilthan is a process where Yolngu take particular trees and plants, crush them and then throw them into the water. This takes place particularly in deep water where “we can’t get there to fish with a spear”. The chemicals from the trees and plants kill the fish and they rise to the top of the water, but they are still edible. Dilthan is also the name for when people get sap on their skin from the ganyawu tree (also known as the rrayung or bunydjarrnga tree) and don’t wash it off quickly. The skin swells up (bolbolyun) and sometimes small infected, watery heads appear.

Djiniyini and Richard discuss how medical companies are trying to find the right chemical to ḏilthan this virus. They explore the two ways that are being considered: one will destroy the virus and the second will involve finding a chemical that blocks or renders useless the spines in the little arms of the virus that can inject its chemical into body cells to make more viruses.

This is the first part of our series that introduces people to how the virus replicates. Djiniyini and Richard promise to return and talk more about how the virus actually makes people sick.


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.