Podcast #1 COVID-19: Introduction to the Coronavirus

Nikunu Yunupingu and Richard Trudgen discuss the coronavirus. Yolngu hear the coronavirus is coming to their communities but they’re not sure what it’s about. This is the first of many programs on this subject that will share information as it’s updated about the coronavirus, including its spread and control.

Richard has done a full investigation of the subject from Government Health Department sources and the World Health Organisation. Meanwhile, Yolngu coproducers have been investigating what Yolngu know and their points of confusion and concern. These programs are aimed at filling in the knowledge gaps that Yolngu have in relation to the subject and other connected subjects which may include:

  • How does it move from one person to the other?
  • Is coronavirus a lifelong sickness?
  • What is a virus?
  • What is the role of immunisations?

Initially Richard and Nikunu talk about the spread of the disease, explaining that it emerged in Australia in March 2020 and began slowly. They then explore how the virus moves by people carrying it inside their bodies to different places, including around the world via plane travel. They discuss how the virus can be carried by people who might not be very sick, but they are still infectious and can pass the virus on to others. (We use the Yolngu term dawala, which talks of fit healthy young people who carry viruses and pass them on to elderly or sick relatives.) We also introduce the information that the life cycle is approximately two weeks long.

In the second program we introduce the names of the coronavirus and COVID-19. Nikunu asks if this is a lifelong sickness. (This is one of the points of confusion that many Yolngu have.) It’s explained that it’s only a short sickness of about two weeks. Throughout this time people might be infectious even if they only get a mild sickness. If they’re not sure they should self-isolate for two weeks and it’s explained this becomes necessary as a strategy to stop the virus moving through communities.

Nikunu explains how we do not need to be too concerned about dawala Yolngu, fit healthy young people. The main concern and attention needs to go towards the elderly and the large number of people who are already sick in Yolngu communities.

The question is asked, “What happens after 2 weeks?” Richard shares a lot of information about the immune system and white blood cells. This information is built on the Yolngu worldview around their zoological knowledge. This is necessary so people can see clearly how the immune system works and also how immunisation works.

We make it clear that there is no immunisation for coronavirus yet, and it might take two years for it to be produced. However, doctors might ask people on community to have the standard flu injection so their body is not fighting this season’s flu and the coronavirus at the same time.

In the final section of the program the information is summarised, paying particular attention to the English words that Yolngu will come across. During the program Yolngu say they’ve been very scared about what they’ve seen on TV and in other places and it’s good at last to get some real information.

(Information relevant @ 13 March 2020)


There are 4 Stories in this podcast. Please see time stamps below:

  • Story No. 1 History and transmission of Coronavirus       0:00
  • Story No. 2  Asymptomatic cases and self-isolation    10:55
  • Story No. 3  How long does it last & how the  immune system works   20:50
  • Story No. 4  Immunisation and summary of medical English words     30:20


Click on the links below to listen to the other podcasts in our COVID-19 series: 


If you’d like to hear this audio with English subtitles please visit https://www.whywarriors.com.au/coronavirus-covid-19/