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.