The Yanyuwa Families of Borroloola

The present generation of Yanyuwa elders from Borroloola are very concerned about passing on knowledge to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. They have embraced 3D animation as a technology that allows the old people and young people to “sit down and talk together”.

Borroloola is located 1000 kilometres south east of Darwin in the south west Gulf of Carpentaria. The town is on the McArthur River. Borroloola lies on the coastal plain between the Barkly Tablelands and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Rivers that run from the Tablelands escarpment to the Gulf regularly flood in the wet season, making travel on the unsealed section of Highway One along the coastal plain to Queensland impossible. The rivers of this region have carved spectacular gorges through sandstone deposits in their upper reaches. The rivers and coastal areas are host to barramundi, earning Borroloola a reputation among sports fisherman, and also to the deadly saltwater crocodile. The region has little rain from May to September, and is characterised by lightly treed Savannah grasslands. Borroloola is home to the Yanyuwa, Marra, Garrwa, Gudanji and Binbingka people. Elders in this community are very worried about their language and culture and educating their young people.

In the local Indigenous languages of Yanyuwa, Garrwa, Marra, Gudanji and Binbingka, Borroloola would be written as Burrulula. The name belongs to a small lagoon just to the east of the present day caravan park. The name itself carries no specific meaning, other than it is the name of the lagoon and associated with the Hill Kangaroo. It was at this site that the Hill Kangaroo Ancestral Being (Nangurrbuwala) danced his ceremonies. The white barked gum trees in the area are said to be his body decorations as they flew from his body as he danced. Other Indigenous names in the area of Borroloola are Wurrarawala (Trig Hill), this hill is associated with the backbone of the Hill Kangaroo Ancestor. Bunubunu (Rocky Creek), this creek is associated with a File Snake Ancestor. Warralungku (The McArthur River Crossing) and Mabunji, a set of specific rocks at the McArthur River Crossing that carry the imprint of the Hill Kangaroo’s tail and feet. The area of Borroloola belongs to members of the Rrumburriya clan. Se also: ‘Forget About Flinders’ A Yanyuwa Atlas of the south west Gulf of Carpentaria (2002) by Yanyuwa families, John Bradley and Nona Cameron. J.M. McGregor Publishers. Queensland.

The Monash Country Lines Archive has been working with the Yanyuwa elders to animate a number of stories and songs from their country. These can be viewed at Animations.