about Bawaka


Bawaka homeland

Our home, Bawaka homeland, is a small community located 55 kilometres from Nhulunbuy or approximately a one-hour drive. Bawaka homeland is on the East coast of East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory with beautiful beaches and views looking out into the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Bawaka homeland is on the ancestral land of the Gumatj people, the Yunupiŋu the Burarrwaŋa and the Mununggurritj families. The Burarrwaŋa people are the custodians of the land and seas.

In our language, Bawaka means unknown heaven.

We have great respect, love and pride of our home. It lives within our mind, our heart and our soul. We carry the image of this land that you can see. Our land is our livelihood, without it, there would be emptiness. This is one of the reasons we are opening up our home and inviting you to experience our culture, our way of life and the significance of Bawaka.

The Future – Protect our family, our land, our culture, our stories and our sacred places. Working together, raising the children together where the land can be part of their mind, spirit and soul. So one day, when we are gone, the responsibility passes onto our children. And respecting the land, the people and the Bawaka home. We could understand both worlds and learn from each other. In your world and our world, we share together in this place. Here there is no influence from the big cities. Sit quietly with us and listen to the sound of nature – the land is talking to you. Hear what it has to say. Change your lives, open your eyes, your ears, and your heart and experience our world. Let us – you and I – carry the same knowledge forward to the future.

Bawaka homeland from above

The iconic Ŋalarrk (Lonely Beach)

The anchor is symbolic and is of great importance to the Gumatj people of this country. It is very important that we carry the spirituality of the anchor. The anchor for us is an identity. If we carry this symbol of the anchor, we are safe and sure that we are anchored to our land.

Bayini is a Spiritual woman from this country of Bawaka. She is the protector of this land and the people. She protects all of the plants, animals and people of Bawaka. If a stranger arrives, she knows they are here. Her eyes can see to every corner of this land. Bayini lives within us. Because we have invited you to Bawaka, Bayini will also watch over and protect you.



Parents of Timmy Burarrwaŋa

Timmy Burarrwaŋa

In 1975, as a family, we (members of the Gumatj clan) established the small community of Gulurunga in Port Bradshaw south east of Nhulunbuy with the Rirratjiŋu Clan whose Leader was Roy Marika. We had one open-backed truck to transport people (about 20) and supplies to and from Yirrkala. If the truck was not available we would walk from Gulurunga to Dhupuma Indigenous College, this would take approximately seven hours. Then we would catch a bush taxi to Yirrkala.

We used to visit Bawaka on day trips from Gulurunga. It was about 8 kilometres along the beach, walking and carrying everything we needed, also having to carry the young children. My Father taught my brother and me how to catch fish using a spear and woomera. My mother (Barbara) took the girls and collected berries and fruit, mud crabs, mud mussels and longbums. We found this type of hunting easy as Yolŋu people are natural hunters.

The Elders – my great great grandfathers, my great grandfathers, my grandfathers and my father – the Gumatj Burarrwaŋa, Gumatj Mununggurritj and Gumatj Yunupiŋu, decided to move to Bungulu (the first Bawaka home site) now known as Bayini Beach. They did day trips to this place.

Afterwards, the elders decided to move to the current Bawaka home site. They made their home with their family under a big native cashew tree. The Laynhapuy Homelands Association helped build their corrugated iron house, a workshop and a water tank. These houses have now been replaced.

Over the next decade the Mununggurritj family elders passed away, leaving their sons and daughters and families living at Bawaka. When one of the Elders’ sons passed away, the family decided to move back to Yirrkala.

In the mid-1980’s, when no-one was living at Bawaka, my father decided he wanted to move back to Bawaka with the Burarrwaŋa family permanently. The Laynhapuy Homelands Association helped build some new houses, one which was made into a school. My mother is a qualified school teacher who studied at Batchelor College for 3 years. She taught me, my brother and my sister at Bawaka school and gave us a good education, teaching us both the Yolŋu way and the Ngapiki (white people) way.

We lived at Bawaka for 15 years until my father passed away in the year 2000. He was the first Gumatj man and the landowner of Bawaka to be buried on his own soil and his voice, vision and dream still exists. He still owns everything in this land, he still gives us knowledge to understand in this significant place. When Dad passed away, we missed him. Dad was gone and now he is not present with us. But his spirit is still here with us. We can feel, and we can see; and Mum carries that. We believe that Dad is always with Mum. The attitude that Dad carried lives in Mum and that means we don’t really miss him.

I have got one older sister and one younger brother. Their names are Djawundil (Dianne) and Nalkuma (2) (Aaron). They are here with me and work with our other brothers and sisters to carry on Dad’s visions and dreams. That dream being the family business. It is our responsibility to look after not only the business, but also our beautiful land and home called Bawaka.

His vision, before he passed away is written into the Bawaka Homeland Plan as the Leader’s Words:

This is the Bawaka Development Plan. This Plan should help us work hard, work together, take control of our lives, our land, our people and our future. We have to put this Plan into action in order to make our tribal land a better, beautiful and peaceful place for our family to live. After I pass away, leave my people in peace. My two sons are to take over my responsibilities for my people and land.

We have great respect, love and pride of our home. It lives within our mind, our heart and our soul. We carry the image of this land that you can see. Our land is our livelihood, without it, there would be emptiness. This is one of the reasons we are opening up our home and inviting you to experience our culture, our way of life and the significance of Bawaka.

We started Bawaka Aboriginal Corporation in 2014 to carry on my Dad’s vision and dreams for our community.


new family

There are a lot of Yolngu in the Bawaka family. The main business members running Bawaka Experience are Timmy, Rita, Aaron and Dianne. We want to build a future for our children by bringing our ancient homeland and culture together in a new, friendly, contemporary business. So whether you are just visiting or doing a cultural experience tour, we hope you really enjoy your time with us.

Timmy Djawa Burarrwaŋa

I am the founder of Bawaka Aboriginal Corporation and Lirriwi Tourism and am a traditional owner of Bawaka homeland. I am a cultural leader and teacher, sit on several boards and sat on the Australian Government’s Expert Panel on constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.

I have worked with a lot of corporate companies like Telstra, Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and others to develop their reconciliation action plans. It is key that any business in Arnhem Land should have a reconciliation action plan to help with the language of business and also to understand the corporate world.

Coming on a tour with us is not just about taking photos, it’s the things that you do with us like fishing, sitting, telling stories and the beautiful campfires. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about building our friendship.

We are waiting for you to visit us at Bawaka homeland and to experience our beautiful way of life.

Rita Wopurruwuy Gondarra

I am a weaver and I love to share my knowledge and traditions with our guests. I am Timmy’s wife and am the daughter of Reverend Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, a well-respected civil rights activist for our people.

I grew up in Darwin and I didn’t have much time in the city to sit and listen to nature and hear stories. I moved to Yirrkala from Darwin and here I used to go and sit with old ladies and listen to their stories. I loved sitting with old people and picking up stories, when I was living in Darwin I missed those moments. I completed Year 12 in Darwin and then completed a Certificate III in Primary Health Care. I worked at the Yirrkala Clinic for 16 years, where I also worked in collaboration with all the elderly women with the bush medicine.

I also have a Masters of Indigenous Knowledge from the Mawul Rom Project.

Dianne Djawundil Maymuru

I am a Mangalili woman, raised by a Gumatj leader from Bawaka.

I am a member of the Gay’wu Group of Women who are the authors of the award-winning book Welcome to my Country and Song Spirals. I am Timmy’s sister and I sit on the Lirrwi Yolngu Tourism board and the board of Bawaka Aboriginal Corporation.

I like people coming into the community to learn our culture and respect we have towards the land.

My favourite activity is going out and getting the pandanus and teaching the tourists how to make baskets as well as to teach them about our kinships and how we as Yolŋu people are connected to the land and seas.

Theo Dimathaya Burarrwaŋa

I am a Gumatj man and son of Timmy. I was born in Darwin and raised at Bawaka. I am a singer/songwriter and the guitarist and vocalist for the band King Stingray.

I am a family man, I have one son and one daughter.

My favourite part about working at Bawaka is teaching visitors about the cultural upbringings and telling stories.

I also work at Miwatj Health as a NDIS community connector, helping community to access the NDIS.

Aaron Nalkuma Burarrwanga

I was born in Nhulunbuy in 1973. I am a Gumatj man from the Bawaka homeland and the brother of Timmy.

I performed as part of the Boomerang Project at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow along side Djakapurra Munyarryun. I am also performed in The Eyes of Marege at the Sydney Opera House and Adelaide Festival in 2007.

I work for Miwatj Health in the Rapirri program. Three or four years ago, I worked for Rio Tinto driving trucks. I am currently studying a Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs.

My favourite part of having visitors to Bawaka is being able to tell stories and go fishing and hunting.

Sasha Rriwandi Burarrwanga

I am a Gumatj women and the daughter of Timmy and Rita. I was born in Darwin and grew up at Bawaka.

I like to weave and like to sit and learn from the older women like my Mum and Grandma. I like to tell stories to visitors and take them hunting for mud crabs and seafood.

Being part of Bawaka Aboriginal Corporation is important because it helps protect our heritage and our land. I want to help other Yolŋu be successful in business and continue to grow our business at Bawaka.