Traditional Land Owners
This vast tract of nearly 100,000 sq km of Aboriginal owned land is one of Australia's last strongholds of traditional Aboriginal culture. The Aboriginal people of East Arnhem Land call themselves Yolngu and today live a unique lifestyle blending the latest in western technology with timeless traditions.
Yolngu have lived in the region for at least 50 thousand years with recognised land and marine estates. Clans live throughout Arnhem Land much like they always have, hunting fish, bush animals and seasonal bush foods. Today Yolngu retain their cultural and spiritual links to the area.
Yolngu is the term that Aboriginal people in this region use to refer to themselves, it is not the name of a language group or clan. Any non-Yolngu person is called a Managa (thought to orginate from the word 'Hollander' for a white or Dutch person).
Yolngu and the Land
North-east Arnhem Land (including the Gove Peninsula) is part of the Arnhem Land Aboriginal Land Trust, and is held under inalienable freehold title by the Aboriginal traditional owners. The township of Nhulunbuy and the associated bauxite mining operation are located on lease areas.
Yirrkala is the largest Yolngu community on the peninsula some 15 km south-east of Nhulunbuy with around 800 people. Many of the Yolngu in the region live in small communities located on the traditional homelands of the various clans.
The abundance of plant, animal and marine life in the area provided for one of the densest and most settled Aboriginal populations in Australia.
Arnhem Land's close geographical location to South-East Asia also gives rise to the theories that it was one of the first areas occupied by Aboriginal people over 50 thousand years ago.
The richness and diversity of culture is reflected by the large number of different clan groups and some 40 clan-languages in north-east Arnhem Land alone.
Arnhem Land is the home of the yidaki (known to other Aborigines as the didgeridoo) and the Yolngu are master players and craftsmen of this instrument.
Examples of Conversation and Dialogue
Nhamirri nhe? (how are you?)
Manymak bay' (good)
Nhamirri manda? (how are you two?)
Yaka manymak (not good)
Nhamirri walala? (how are they?)
Märr-gangga/Latju (not too bad/they are good)
Ga' ngarali (got a cigaretter/smoke?)
Bäyngu (no, nothing)
Ga' gapu (got water?)
Dhuwala bay' (here)
Dhäwul bay' (none nothing)
ngay' (here, take it)
Ga' rrupiyah (got money?)
Bäyngu (no, nothing)
Go marrtjina! (come here)
Yo! Yalala bay' (Yes, later on)
Yaka. Yalala marrtji (No, go later)
Ma'. (okay then)
Examples of farewells:
Nhäma yalala (see you later)
Nhäma godarr' (see you tomorrow)