Yirrkala: Conversations with Dundiwuy Wanambi

Ian Dunlop
50 minutes


Yirrkala is an Aboriginal township on the Gove Peninsula in Northeast Arnhem Land. It was established as a Methodist mission in 1935 and over the years Yolngu from many different clans moved there.

Yirrkala's isolation was shattered in the late 60s and early 70s when a huge open-cut bauxite mine was developed on the Gove Peninsula. With the mine came an alumnia treatment plant and the mining town of Nhulunby. In 1970-71 Aboriginal land owners took the mining company and the Commonwealth to court in the first land rights case in Australian history. The Yolngu lost their case.

Conversations With Dundiwuy Wanambi is a personal film which reveals something of the struggles and thoughts of one elder in the face of enormous change. In the early years Dundiwuy was a heavy drinker. In a disturbing interview in a pub, Dundiwuy explains his reasons for drinking. Then, through a dream, Dundiwuy realizes he must begin to protect his family and clan. He establishes his Marrakulu clan homeland center at Gurka'wuy, south of Yirrkala. He will hold a great ceremony there. Years later Dundiwuy returns to Yirrkala. His clan is small and he did not receive the necessary support from his sons. But Dundiwuy endures, continues his struggle, and we learn in the post-script of how he has become a successful and sought-after artist.

Pip Deveson
Producer / Production company: 
Chris Oliver