The battle for Sea Country legal rights

Acknowledgement 

The Australian National Maritime Museum acknowledges the Yolngu people as the traditional custodians of the lands and waters of North-East Arnhem Land. We pay our respects to them and their elders both past and present.

The Yirrkala bark paintings are held in the ANMM collection and were purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery.

Cultural Warning

The Museum would like to advise visitors that this content may contain the names and artwork, by deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Members of the Northern Land Council flew into the homeland centre of Yilpara to commence the Blue Mud Bay legal case hearing. Image courtesy Northern Land Council.

Members of the Northern Land Council flew into the homeland centre of Yilpara to commence the Blue Mud Bay legal case hearing. Image courtesy Northern Land Council.

A tireless fight

30 July 2018 marks ten years since the landmark High Court decision that granted sea country legal rights to the Yolŋu people of the Northern Territory. The exhibition Gapu-Monuk Saltwater: Journey to Sea Country centres around 40 Yirrkala bark paintings from the Saltwater Collection, created by the Yolŋu artists who petitioned for sea rights by painting their Saltwater Countries onto bark and revealed sacred patterns or designs, known as Miny’tji, as evidence of their connection to Blue Mud Bay. This legal fight was just one small part of a much richer Indigenous history and relationship to the sea.

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On the River to Gundagai – Yarri, Jacky and the Great Flood of 1852

Statue of Yarri at Gundagai in southern New South Wales.  Photo: Stephen Gapps.

Statue of Yarri at Gundagai in southern New South Wales.  Photo: Stephen Gapps.

On Friday June 25 1852 the small township of Gundagai, nestled on the river flats of the Murrumbidgee River, was completely destroyed when the flooded river burst its banks. Previous floods had not been this devastating and the early settlers ignored the advice of local Aboriginal people not to build on the low lying ground. Over two days around 80 people drowned from the 250 European residents then living in the township that had grown up around the river crossing. Nearly a third of the population were killed in what still remains as one of Australia’s greatest natural disasters. However another third of the township were rescued – plucked from rooftops or trees and ferried through the raging current to safety in bark canoes.

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