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Yirrkala Bark Petitions

Category: Event
Date: 1 January 1963
Place:Eastern Arnhem Land
State/Country:Northern Territory, Australia
Subject Matter:Native Title | Recognition of Traditional Rights and Interests
Summary Information:

In 1963, the Yolngu people of Yirrkala sent the bark petitions to the House of Representatives in protest against the Commonwealth's granting of mining rights to Nabalco over 390 square kilometres of land excised from Arnhem Land reserve. The result was a parliamentary inquiry which recommended that compensation was owed to the Yolngu.

However, in a subsequent court case in 1972 (Milurrpum v Nabalco), the Yolgnu people were not able to establish their native title at common law.

Detailed Information:

Yirrkala bark petition, 1963

The Humble Petition of the Undersigned aboriginal people of Yirrkala, being members of the
Balamumu, Narrkala, Gapiny, Miliwurrwurr people and Djapu, Mangalili, Madarrpa,
MagarrwanaImirri, Djambarrpuynu, Gumaitj, Marrakulu, Galpu, Dhaluangu, Wangurri,
Warramirri, Naymil, Riritjingu, tribes respectfully showeth.

1. That nearly 500 people of the above tribes are residents of the land excised from the
Aboriginal Reserve in Arnhem Land.

2. That the procedures of the excision of this land and the fate of the people on it were never
explained to them beforehand, and were kept secret from them.

3. That when Welfare Officers and Government officials came to inform them of decisions
taken without them and against them, they did not undertake to convey to the
Government in Canberra the views and feelings of the Yirrkala aboriginal people.

4. That the land in question has been hunting and food gathering land for the Yirrkala tribes
from time immemorial: we were all born here.

5. That places sacred to the Yirrkala people, as well as vital to their livelihood are in the
excised land, especially Melville Bay.

6. That the people of this area fear that their needs and interests will be completely ignored
as they have been ignored in the past, and they fear that the fate which has overtaken the
Larrakeah tribe will overtake them.

7. And they humbly pray that the Honourable the House of Representatives will appoint a
Committee, accompanied by competent interpreters, to hear the views of the people of
Yirrkala before permitting the excision of this land.

8. They humbly pray that no arrangements be entered into with any company which will
destroy the livelihood and independence of the Yirrkala people.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray God to help you and us.

(English language translation.)

Bukudjulni gonga'yurri napurrunha Yirrkalalili yulnunha malanha Balamumu, Narrkala,
Gapiny, Miliwurrwurr, nanapurru dhuwala mala, ga Djapu, Mangalili, Madarrpa,
Magarrwanalmirri, Djambarrpuynu, Marrkulu, Gumaitj, Galpu, Dhaluangu, Wangurri,
Warramirri, Naymil, Riritjingu malamanapanmirri djal dhunapa.

1.1Dhuwala yolnu mala galki, 500 nhina ga dhiyala wanganura. Dhuwala wanga Arnhem
Land yurru djaw'yunna naburrungala.

2. Dhuwala wanga djaw'yunna ga nhaltjana yurru yolnunundja dhiyala wanga nura
nhaltjanna dhu dharrpanna yolnu walandja yakana lakarama madayangumuna.

3. Dhuwala nunhi Welfare Officers ga Government bungawa lakarama yolnuwa malanuwa
nhaltjarra nhuma gana wanganaminha yaka nula napurrungu lakarama, walala yaka
lakarama, walala yaka lakarama Governmentgala nunhala Canberra nhaltjanna napurru
ga guyana yolnuyu Yirrkala.

4. Dhuwala wanga napurrunyu balanu larrunarawu napurrungu nathawu, guyawu,
miyapunuwu, maypalwu nunhi napurru gana nhinana bitjarrayi nathilimirri, napurru
dhawalguyanana dhiyala wanganura.

5. Dhuwala wanga yurru dharrpalnha yurru yolnuwalandja malawala, ga dharrpalnha
dhuwala bala yolnuwuyndja nhinanharawu Melville Baythurru wanga balandayu
djaw'yun nyumukunin.

6. Dhuwala yolnundja mala yurru nhamana balandawunu nha mulkurru nhama yurru moma
ga daranun yalalanumirrinha nhaltjanna dhu napurru bitjarra nhakuna Larrakeahyu
momara walalanguwuy wanga.

7. Nuli dhu bungawayu House of Representatives djaw'yun yulnuwala nathili yurru nha dhu
lakarama interpreteryu bungawawala yolnu matha, yurru nha dhu djaw'yun wangandja.

8. Nunhiyina dhu marrlayun marrama'ndja nhinanharawu yolnuwu marrnamathinyarawu.
Dhuwala napurru yolnu mala yurru liyamirriyama bitjan bili marr yurru napurru nha
gonga'yunna wagarr'yu.

(National Museum Australia, accessed 5 December 2020).

Related Entries

  • Nabalco Pty Ltd
  • Commonwealth of Australia
  • Event
  • The 1967 Referendum
  • People
  • Yolngu Traditional Owners
  • Yirrkala Bark Petition Signatories
  • Case Law
  • Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd (1971) 17 FLR 141

  • References

    Yolngu People (1963) Yirrkala Bark Petitions

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