54. What is a Tribunal?

Nikunu Yunupingu and Richard Trudgen work through the meaning of Tribunal, a very confusing term for most Yolŋu people. It also looks at how the National Native Title Tribunal affects the community. Nikunu explains how many Balanda people come to the community and use these types of academic English words. Then some Yolŋu even start using them, but they really don’t know what they mean; they can even use them in context but still have no real understanding of their meaning. The result is that many Yolŋu don’t know what Balanda are really talking about and people are confused.

It’s easy for Balanda to come into communities from different organisations, even Aboriginal organisations, and use these English words that the community has little understanding of. But if this confusion about academic English words continues, then Yolŋu will always lose out. They could even end up losing control over their own Estates.

Richard mentions how all the different European languages have been mapped and translated with each other for many thousands of years. English, Chinese and Japanese have been communicating together for over four hundred years.

When Chinese students come to an Australian University they can get access to 32,000 English words into their own language in three minutes. The translating has already been done between those two languages.

When Pacific Island people come to Australia they also have an advantage because they’ve been working with English four hundred and eighty years. They also have good dictionaries covering a lot of the academic English words and translate them to their language.

But Yolŋu only have eighty years of work between themselves and English speakers. There has been little mapping of the two languages, particularly around academic language, so even today there are still no highly developed dictionaries available.

To make the problem worse many mainstream linguists working on Aboriginal languages look at much of the intangible academic Aboriginal language terms and concepts has just being “ceremonial language”.

(This program was recorded when we are having trouble with our online studio, so we apologise for the audio quality)


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

  • The difference between Land Rights and Native Title – 00:00
  • The difference between Land Rights and Native Title – 9:15.010
  • The difference between Land Rights and Native Title – 18:00.652
  •  Bad communication causing sickness and division – 27:55.869
Mayali ŋorra dhuwal mala dhärukgu