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Indigenous community panels

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Indigenous community panels

Barks, Birds & Billabongs: Exploring the Legacy of the 1948 American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land. 16-20 November 2009.

Indigenous perspectives on the Arnhem Land Expedition were critical to an evaluation of its legacy and to this symposium. Arnhem Land communities touched by the 1948 Expedition were invited to select representatives to express their views on the Expedition and issues of concern, thus giving the symposium itself an Indigenous legacy.

The community panels each represented one of the three principal base camps of the Expedition: Groote Eylandt, Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) and Yirrkala. Representatives from Milingimbi which was visited during the Expedition on a secondary research trip, were also present at the symposium. However, these three divisions varied on the day according to community wishes and in recognition of the fluidity of the relationships people have across a number of communities.

These panels were an opportunity for Arnhem Land community members to share stories about the 1948 Expedition and to discuss contemporary issues and initiatives such as re-engagement with collections and continuing impacts on their Country. In consultation with communities, participants engaged in panels, rather than as solitary speakers. Speaking in related groups conforms to community practice, ensuring participants a degree of confidence and flexibility in unfamiliar surroundings. Symposium delegates were also able to share their own stories and ask questions of the panellists.

Map of Arnhem Land indicating the three principal Expedition base camps.
Map of Arnhem Land indicating the three principal Expedition base camps.

Panel 1: Expedition camp 1 – Groote Eylandt

Symposium Day 2, Wednesday 18 November, 4–5pm

  • Thomas Amagula, Liaison Officer, Aninidilyakwa Land Council. Thomas was part of the repatriation delegation to the Smithsonian Institution in 2008.
  • Jabani Lalara, senior community Elder. Jabani's father was present at the time of the 1948 Expedition.
  • Johnathon Wurramarrba. The remains of Johnathon's father's mother were returned from the Smithsonian Institution.
  • Alfred Lalara, artist and family member. Alfred is connected to the repatriated human remains.
  • Dr Brooke Rankmore, ecologist, Aninidilyakwa Land Council.
    Anindilyakwa Arts and Cultural Centre: www.anindilyakwaart.com.au

Panel 2: Expedition camp 3 – Gunbalanya (Oenpelli)

Symposium Day 3, Thursday 19 November, 11.30am–12.30pm

  • Alfred Nayinggul, Traditional Owner. Alfred was part of the repatriation delegation to the Smithsonian Institution in 2008.
  • Wilfred Nawirridj, President, Injalak Arts and Crafts Centre.
  • Mr Jimmy Kalarriya Namarnyilk. Jimmy is a Gunbalanya community Elder.
  • Emmanuel Namarnyilk, Land and Fire Officer. Emmanuel is the grandson of Mr Kalarriya Namarnyilk.
  • Donna Nadjamerrek. Donna is a Kunwinjku language consultant and daughter of the late Wamud Namok, a senior ceremonial Leader.
  • Anthony Murphy, Director, Injalak Arts and
    Crafts Centre.

Panel 3: Expedition camp 2 — Yirrkala

Symposium Day 3, Thursday 19 November, 1.30–2.30pm

  • Naminapu Maymuru-White, a distinguished artist, winner of the 1996 Telstra Art Award Works on Paper Prize and Creative Fellow, Australian National University.
  • Wukun Wanambi, Cultural Director, Mulka Project.
  • Julie Djarpirr Mununggurr. Julie is a Yolngu educator and cross-cultural interpreter, and a string-figure maker.
  • Leon White. Leon is an educational initiator at: Batchelor College and Yirrkala School.
  • Rob Lane, Coordinator, Mulka Project.
    Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre: www.yirrkala.com
    The Mulka Project: www.yirrkala.com/themulkaproject

Milingimbi representatives included:

  • Raymond Bulambula, leader of ceremony and traditional story.
  • George Milapuma, leader of ceremony and traditional story.
  • Joe Wulwul, leader of ceremony and traditional story.
  • Troy Koch, Service Manager, East Arnhem Shire.
  • Kathy Barnes, Manager, Milingimbi Art and
    Craft Centre.
    Milingimbi Art and Craft Centre: www.milingimbiart.com

Participant names and descriptors were provided by the relevant communities and were accurate at the time of publication but subject to change in accordance with community wishes.