Category Archives: Ramingining

Ramingining data tables

Governance in Yolŋu communities is complex and often is negotiated in the moment according to the issue at hand and most importantly who is involved. In Ramingining we started to map some of this information in an excel spreadsheet. While on one level it shows the arrangements of clans, leaders and places it does not take into account the gurruṯu system of governance arrangements. The data also shows which Yolŋu are involved in particular Balanda agencies and how some of these agencies organise their governance across cultures.

Download the Excel Spreadsheet Tables for Ramingining

Don’t leave us out – Posters-for-talking…

Don’t leave us out

GovernanceMapIn one visit two facilitators (T and J) and Yolŋu consultant (M) were talking about governance in Ramingining and all the different ‘balanda’ stakeholder groups or ‘bodies’ in Ramingining and their affiliations with government and nongovernment organisations. J began drawing a picture on butchers paper as we talked. Looking at the drawing, M talked about ‘communication’ being a real problem. Not enough involvement of Yolŋu community members in the running of the community through different agencies, Balanda not communicating properly with Yolŋu and vice versa. With issues like school attendance, health and safety etc. most community members don’t understand how agencies have responsibility and how this connects with the community. They don’t know enough about the Australian, NT and local government laws, policies and programs how these are implemented. M pointed out that, ‘There is a current and Yolŋu are caught in the government current which is pulling Yolŋu to their way of learning and doing things. Yolŋu have things. I need to think what I have and what I can do. Yolŋu have land, sea, bush, culture. What I have I can use to make something useful in the modern world’. Later J re-drew it in Word and shared it. This new picture provoked different conversations. ‘Where are Yolŋu leaders in this picture? How do Yolŋu leaders fit into this stakeholder governance picture? No Yolŋu body in the picture. M remembered the days of the ‘Village Council’ in the 1960’s. ‘Maybe we should look at the Village Council again?’ We talked about the VC as a Yolŋu stakeholder group under Yolŋu governance and leadership and operate according to Yolŋu rom (law/protocols/processes). ‘All we would expect is the outside world’s respect’.


In the next IGLDP visit several weeks later, M and other leaders were talking about the Milingimbi petition (website URL) and doing something similar at Ramingining. They were also talking about drafting an MOU for all Ramingining stakeholders including Yolŋu of how to work together. M and T made a rough drawing together while thinking through the MOU idea. T showed M another poster he’d made of a generic community governance scenario and had trialled at Milingimbi a few weeks before. They used the elements from this poster with the MOU drawing to make a ‘poster-for-talking’ showing the current state of affairs with ‘Balanda’ stakeholders, governed by their Rule Books or Constitutions and their connections to the Australian and NT governments. After showing drafts to other elders we started looking at some concepts of Yolŋugovernance and how different it is from the Balanda system and made some edits to show the Yolŋu clan nations each governed by their Sacred Dilly Bag and how these are not recognised by the dominating Balanda stakeholder governance landscape. A draft of the poster was sent to the IGLDP Steering Committee who noted Local Government was missing.
The final poster has been used in all three IGLDP towns and with Yolŋu Nations Assembly to stimulate conversations about governance. Yolŋu consultants and other leaders have copies of the printed poster
Drawing together as we are talking prompts conversation, helps us to explain our ideas and reveals important cultural and other differences in the way we understand things. It supports us to work collaboratively, to generate collective understanding and most importantly, to do our ‘difference’ respectfully and well. The pictures are also traces of our journey together through a landscape of shared understanding we have performed and created together. When we do this work particularly well, the pictures often start to resonate and do their own work. The pictures themselves provoke, stimulate and generate dialogue. They become ‘actors’ in the dialogue. These pictures we develop slowly and carefully through using them with other people over time, watching how they work until we feel we have a version that is ready for printing.
Ramingining Governance

The poster came from some earlier work we did in mapping out the governance bodies and networks in Ramingining.

The final poster was used on many occasions to talk around ideas of governance and leadership, below Dhulumburrk makes a point at the recent Yolŋu Nations Assembly meeting.
Dhulumburrk and Poster

Wäŋa Gurruṯu Mapping

This is an interesting and valuable activity which developed out of a conversation with one of the TOs and was subsequently taken up by Matthew Dhulumburrk and other Elders. The name translates roughly as ‘Land Kinship Mapping’ and can be illustrated by the map for the Ramingining township area.

The activity shown itself to be particularly valuable to Yolŋu as it is a way (albeit 2D and lacking the dynamic richness of the complex relationships continually being re-enacted in Yolŋu society), of illustrating that the simple notion of one group of ‘Land Owners’ or TOs, is just plain wrong, and is even offensive to Yolŋu.

The maps show that for any particular estate, while there is a clan who has inherited that land from their father (and are know as the wäŋawataŋu = land owners) there are also clans which call that land their mother (ŋäṉḏi), grandmother (märi), etc. They in turn are the ŋäṉḏiwataŋu (the owners who call the land ŋäṉḏi/mother), märiwataŋu (owners who call the land märi/granmother), etc.

School Council Workshop

In May 2014 we did a workshop with the School Council. The objectives of this workshop were

1.    To clarify the roles of school council members and who they represent.

2.     To learn about the specific functions and powers of the school council.

3.    To learn about the difference between governance and management.

4.    To develop teamwork skills.

5.    To identify and learn the meaning of key words.

Download a report of the School Council Workshop

IGLDP in Ramingining

Our work in Ramingining built on our presence there in a number of projects over recent years including the Building up Good Supervisors Skills project, and the Building up Skills for Teaching and Learning project

Anthea had also been a teacher and researcher in the town for many years, so we already had strong relationships with many of the people we would be working with.

We were especially fortunate to have the support of Matthew Dhulumburrk, a Gupapuyŋu elder who is also the chairperson for the Yolŋu Nations Assembly. Matthew worked closely with us, advising and engaging in the both ways teaching and learning which is such an integral part of this project.

Stage 1

As in the other four towns, Stage 1 involved meeting with many of the senior people in the town and Homelands and also Balanda representing key organisations, in order to get a picture of where and how ‘governance’, in the broadest sense, was being played out in Ramingining.

This project was working alongside two other projects. In late 2013 we had conducted a Feasibility Study for a new Aboriginal Corporation in Ramingining. We had also received Federal funding under a project called ‘Walking Together, Working Together’, to support the development of a new corporation.

Stage 2

The first Stage 2 event was a three-day Elder’s Forum, held in May 2014.

Link to Elders Forum and Q&A Newsletter

This event brought together many elders who cared about the future of Ramingining and the challenges it faces in the modern world. Then a small group of elders met two days later to take up the question, ‘Do we want a new Corporation?’ This lead to choosing a steering committee which is currently meeting – with IGLDP support – to build the constitution for a new corporation from the ground up. This means writing a vision statement that matches its vision for Ramingining in the future, and building it on a preamble which sets out the foundations for all Yolŋu institutions, in maḏayin and rom. Link to Steering Committee notes

The IGLDP team was also invited to work with the school council, newly elected and keen to build up its governance understandings and skills. The first workshop was held on 19-20 May. Link to School Council Workshop and Newsletter

Project Reports can be found on the Resources page