Having just spent almost six weeks in the north-west corner of Australia I have been able to observe a little of the public side of life of the indigenous people who live there. We had been booked to spend four days in a community on the Dampier Peninsular, but that was cancelled because the road was closed by flooding. I was really surprised to have my cultural blindness lifted a little by realising that there is a vast area of Australia where indigenous peoples live and speak their own languages. I guess I have seen little snippets over the years, mostly about education, health or housing, but those news films don’t include people speaking in language … of course not, we English speakers would not understand it! There is estimated to be over 500,000 indigenous people living in Australia, with a higher density in the north-west, and very few in the south-east where I live. Of the estimated 500 or more languages spoken when white people arrived, there are now less than 150 remaining, most of them endangered. Many aboriginal people speak a mixture of their own language and English, Kriol.


Percentage of Indigenous Australians in the population

On our travels we had the chance to speak with people working with indigenous people in health and mental health capacities, so we heard about the difficulties they face with diet, for example. Where the traditional diet included over 200 different food sources, now the basic diet includes only 8, none of which are high in nutrition. What a shocking legacy for white invasion to leave! You can imagine the mainstay is damper, made from white flour, along with tea, processed meat, coca cola, and alcohol. Of course this high kilojoule diet leads to tremendous health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and kidney failure. Depressing isn’t it? Yet the resilience, creativity and spirit of the people shines through. Last week there was a national funeral for the famous musician and educator, M Yunupingu, the leader of world-famous band Yothu Yindi. Here is short video about him and his band, well worth watching if you are curious, or if you loved their music. Photos of his memorial service are also fabulous, and worth seeing.

Mandaway Yunupingu

  • The first Indigenous Australian from Arnhem Land to gain a university degree
  • Co-founded Yothu Yindi in 1986
  • Became Australia’s first Aboriginal principal in 1990
  • Named Australian of the Year in 1992 for his role in building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
  • He was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2012
  • Yothu Yindi won eight ARIA music awards, including Song of the Year for Treaty
  • The band released six major albums, from 1988 to 2000
  • Died aged 56 at his home in Yirrkala, NT, after fighting kidney disease for several yearsTomorrow I will share about our talented and brilliant indigenous people, so don’t feel too sad about todays post. I always love NAIDOC week because it brings them into our homes through radio and television in such a celebratory way!

23 thoughts on “NAIDOC Week

    • yes we did, a wonderful story! he is such a true teacher, saying that his alcohol dependency and subsequent kidney failure is a lesson for his people … so sad that they lose a gem like him to learn the lesson though … glad you like the post, i found it difficult to write … wanting to give some information with the deepest respect for the people whose lives we have so severely disrupted in the last few hundred years …

  1. Yes, very interesting. I know so little. Or should I say NOTHING…looking forward to hearing the music… Everyone is asleep here in the house so I will listen to the music in the morning with breakfast.

  2. Mandaway Yunupingu was a great inspiration to both black and white people such a pity he died so young. I also was surprised to hear so many Aboriginals speaking in their own language when we went through the Kimberly and Katherine regions and down the west coast. I love the Yothu Yindi music such a strong beat and rythm

  3. è il triste destino che accomuna i nativi di molte nazioni del mondo
    riprendo a seguire il tuo avventuroso viaggio dopo un periodi di assenza
    un saluto

    is the sad fate that unites the natives of many nations of the world
    I followed your adventurous journey after a period of absence
    a greeting

  4. Interesting. I saw on the news or a current affairs program, something about indigenous children learning to read with books written in local languages… maybe the start of redressing the loss.

    • i am really hopeful that there is a turn around … maybe we are seeing the beginning! i also heard about a scheme delivering boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to indigenous families in the north of nsw (near you) and the subsequent improvement in their health … all good 🙂

  5. You share beautifully and respectfully when you speak of the the indigenous people and your observations about some of the conditions that threaten their existence. Native American cultures are continually underserved and our American history is tragically scarred by the way whole tribes were obliterated. I have a soft spot in my heart for the plight of indigenous people everywhere. You’ve so wonderfully shared stories of people from Australia, and I am so glad to have increased my exposure to people I really do not know. Thank you, Christine.

    • you and me too … here we have indigenous people in and around our town, but they are usually invisible, not employed in town, not coming to the weekly markets, just seen walking along the streets or buying fish and chips at the Black Swan Takeaway which is owned by indigenous fishermen … staffed by two Chinese women … we have some well-known artists and elders who come to community events, and another local leader has worked with S from time to time with planning and building issues … another national parks ranger we all know … but the two populations rarely meet, except perhaps in the school 🙂

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