68. Yolngu trade based on djugu contract agreements

Djiniyini Gondarra and Richard Trudgen discuss how the international trade between Yolngu and the Macassans was based on djugu’ (contract arrangements) along dhumbalbal dhukarr (established trade tracks). Djiniyini explains that contracts existed not just here in Australia between different bäpurru (corporate clan company groups) but also overseas to Macassar between different Macassan families.

Djiniyini confirms with Richard that he clearly understands that djugu’ is like the English word contract and that their trading was just like Balanda business. Richard says yes, but explains that many Balanda think Aboriginal people and Yolngu had no business or international business.

Djiniyini says that Yolngu Elders are confused about what happened when the missions/church/government settlements arrived after the Macassan trade was stopped in 1906. He says they used a similar process to the Macassans, but instead of engaging in contract and trade using their own private industries, Yolngu started working directly for them. He explains that Yolngu didn’t feel a sense of pride in this way of doing things because they weren’t working for themselves anymore and were just working as labourers and not independent business people.

Djiniyini and Richard discuss traditional Yolngu trading and enterprise, using private corporate family businesses. They explore how different this traditional way of doing things is compared to today’s welfare dependency. They explore the concept of maarr-miriw; a word that has no direct English translation but is similar to being in debt or helpless, including in a spiritual sense.

Djiniyini and Richard explore inter-generational welfare dependency, and that this means many Yolngu are still maar-miriw; their soul is without spiritual strength, with no real will to live.


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

  • Yolngu international trade through djugu contract giving with Macassans 00:00
  • Started working for mission rather than their own private businesses 09:06
  • Yolngu leave their industries and become beggars 18:45
  • How can we get back to our private clan businesses 28:05