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.
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.
- 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!