Welcome to Diwurruwurru!

In our languages, Diwurruwurru means MESSAGE STICK.

We send out message sticks far and wide when we want to invite people to visit us, to celebrate with us, or to settle matters that trouble us.

This website is our message stick to the world. We warmly invite you to come and experience our cultures with us. We intend this website to educate not only our own children but people everywhere.

We choose to use web-technology (rather than print or CD-Rom) because we can change it as our culture and concerns change. This site is intended to show us as both a traditional and a dynamic contemporary society.

Who are we?

We are Aboriginal Australians living in the 'top end' of Australia, on the southern shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria in the small Northern Territory town of Borroloola and the areas around it. Our homelands are in the Edward Pellew Group of Islands towards the south of the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia.

We belong to four different cultures: the Yanyuwa (the senior Law people of the area), the Garrwa, Mara and Gudanji. We are closely linked through culture and marriage to other Aboriginal peoples of Borroloola,the Garrwa, the Mara and the Gudanji. This website shows mainly the Yanyuwa culture, but many Garrwa and Mara people and customs will be seen here too. Eventually, there may be sites for these cultures too

This website shows a small part of Yanyuwa culture in ways that the people of that culture have chosen to show it. At the moment this site features Yanyuwa culture, but you will find out about the other cultures too, as we are more intermarried now than we used to be before European contact. Eventually, we hope to have separate websites for the Garrwa, Mara and Gudanji, but that depends on resources and skills being available within our communities.

This site is just a fragment of our culture, just what we are prepared to share with the outside world. The site changes continually as we rethink what should be here and what is missing, and also what does not quite say what we want it to.

Please enjoy your visit to this site, and if you like what you see, come again!

For more information about this site, email


Welcome to the Yanyuwa Website!

If you have the Diwurruwurru CD, click here to listen to the official welcome from the Yanyuwa elders.

The website will tell you things about who we are, what we believe, how we use the land, the sea and the islands that we call country. It will also tell of our language, our songs and stories, and our history, and the institutions and problems we face as a people. It will tell you where to go for more information. The website is being constructed in close collaboration with the elders of the Yanyuwa community. We want this website to educate our own people, especially our children, as well as people who live distantly from Yanyuwa Country. We hope you enjoy what you see of us and our culture, and our country.


Li-Wirdiwalangu Li-Yanyuwa, the committee of elders who run this site, unanimously agree that this is our vision for the site:

To promote cross-cultural understanding and reconciliation between indigenous culture and the wider Australian and world communities by way of a website based on the Aboriginal cultures of the Borroloola area by the following means:

1. To respect the diversity of cultures - Yanyuwa, Garrwa, Mara and Gudanji - in the Borroloola area, and to at all times recognise the existence of indigenous law, and the information held by the jungkayi and ngimarringki.

2. To communicate the living (contemporary and diverse) and historical cultures of the Yanyuwa and their links to Garawa, Mara and Gudanji cultures in relation to

a. land

b. ceremony

c. kujika

d. everyday life (eg., social issues, health, education, landrights etc.)

3. To further the employment and training prospects of Aboriginal people of Borroloola through the development of skills in

a. research

b. administration

c. computer literacy

d. multi-media production

e. cross-cultural programs at Deakin University, University of Queensland, and the Australian National University.


This website could never have happened without the generosity and open-heartedness and the high-order teaching skills of the Yanyuwa community. Annie Isaac (Karrakayn), Dinah Norman, Jemima Miller, Jeannette Charlie and her sister Miriam, Nancy and Rachel McDinny and Dinny McDinny, and Thelma Douglas, and from Darwin, Barbara McCarthy, have been energetic forces propelling the project forward. We thank them and acknowledge their powerful sense of their culture. The hope is that this website can take a part in strengthening Yanyuwa culture and language into the next millennium. It is a matter of great pride that, against the odds,Yanyuwa and Garrwa languages are among the twenty or so (originally there were hundreds) that survive.

There are many others who have over the years told Yanyuwa stories and talked about their country to earlier researchers, who are also part of the Diwurruwurru and Li-Wirdiwalangu Li-Yanyuwa team. In particular, John Bradley, ethnobiologist and linguist, has spent many years in Borroloola and is a fluent speaker of local languages. He continues to serve the community as Senior Anthropologist in the Landclaims of 1992 and 2000, and as a teacher and writer, building bridges of understanding between cultures. Richard Baker's oral histories have allowed a wider world to hear the Yanyuwa version of contact history. Elizabeth Mackinlay has worked with Yanyuwa women and helped to demonstrate the richness of Yanyuwa musical culture and fun songs. The film-makers who have worked with the Yanyuwa also deserve our thanks for helping to build bridges between cultures: Carolyn Strachan and Alessandrou Cavadini, Debbie Sonnenberg and Jan Wositzki and Trevor Graham. There are many others too.

The handmaidens of the project are Adrienne Campbell, web-designer from the Deakin Centre for Academic Development and Frances Devlin Glass, from the School of Literary and Communication Studies, Deakin University. They bring the parts together and take advice from Yanyuwa people about what needs to be on the site, what must not be on the site, and how it might work better. They are keen for their students, mainly but not exclusively whitefellas, to learn directly from Aboriginal people what they should know about the land they share. The aim of these web-authors/designers is to have Yanyuwa people taking full control of the authorship (technical as well as cultural ownership) of the site, and plans are afoot to realise that ambition.

One day we hope the site will be hosted on Yanyuwa country and that Yanyuwa people will be authors in addition to being, as at present, consultants and owners.

This site is being developed with the assistance of a Commonwealth Universities Teaching Staff Development Grant, supplemented by Deakin University.