Why don’t we recognise each others law?

Maratja Dhamarrandji asked this question of Richard Trudgen. We spent a lot of time in research around this question and from a Yolngu point of view they find it very hard to know why Balanda do not recognise their system of law. Because of this it is now causing problems where young Yolngu think that the contemporary “Balanda” world is a lawless world where you can just, “Help yourself” to whatever you want and disobey those in authority.

Since colonisation the Balanda world also never saw any system of law operating amongst Aboriginal people in Australia. Aboriginal people were seen as native and primitive with no system of law. Richard talks about the confusion on both sides.

Maratja asks why can’t we talk about this openly to each other and find a way of peaceful coexistence. It is especially hard for Yolngu to recognise Balanda law when Yolngu assent to their law by a ceremonial called Waṉa Lupthun but Balanda have no ceremonial process to assent to their law so it is seen as lawless. Much Balanda law happens behind closed doors in the office of the Governor General or the Administrator in the NT.

Maratja comments that Balanda say this lawlessness is a Yolngu problem. But it is not. Balanda are part of the problem. Balanda started the problem by stopping our law from operating by not recognising it. Now we have lawlessness. There is something wrong with the system!

In the second program of this series Maratja talks about the Yolngu system of law that created the ancient trade tracks that crossed the nation. He talks about their laws of hospitality, and the moral teaching to their children and asks why Balanda can’t see these good things. We talk about the confusion and how it is hard to see the other side across the language and cultural barrier.

How can we better understand each other law? We can understand the Balanda law by talking about it here on radio and Yolngu will have to keep talking about their law to Balanda.


There are 5 Stories in this podcast. Please see time stamps below:

  • Why don’t we recognise each others law? – 00:00
  • Something is wrong with the system – 09:02
  • How can we recognise each other law and bring peace back to the community? – 16:58
  • Don’t they see our laws of hospitality and moral codes – 25:39
  • How can we understand each other law and live in peace again? – 33:00
Mayali ŋorra dhuwal mala dhärukgu