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Knowledge Water @ Developing The North Conference

Rurrawiliny & Rod presented Knowledge Water at this year’s Developing Northern Australia conference. It was great to be so well received and thank you to the organisers.

Rurrawiliny introduced us and outlined her family’s long history of aspirations to empowerment.

Her father, Dula Ngurruwutthun, a ceremonial specialist and leader, painted park to the Barunga statement.

The whale tail at the foundation of the artwork has many layers that only time can reveal.

Dula was a driver of the homelands movement and they wanted control of their future. They wanted sweat money not sit down money. They did not want dependance.

Rurrawiliny’s oldest sister was a driver of bilingual education throughout her life

Her mother was strong too and she got that from her father, Wongu who negotiated a peace between Ngapaki and Yolngu, on his terms in the 1930’s

Wongu was Wäka’s fater and Rurrawiliny’s grandfather.

And so this family that has always sort empowerment through politics and education is now seeking it through business

She updated the audience on where we are at, fence up, packaging chosen, building design being completed and we are actively seeking customers.

Are you one? Let us know your volumes please.

Water that comes out of the spring in the jungle has the knowledge of the land in it

Water represents our knowledge,

the Mandjawuy spring water represents Munyuku knowledge, my knowledge. Springs on other land have their own knowledge

Different clans speak different languages that have different ideas

Children grows up with the mothers clan language coming from the land like water

Then they learn the fathers clan language as they become an adult

The mixing of the two waters represents the mixing of the mother and fathers language into their identity

We also use this way of thinking to understand the mixing of Yolngu and Ngapaki knowledge in our identity

Rod then introduced himself and explained what knowledge he brought into the mix in 2004

He arrived as an agricultural scientist and teacher.

In addition to the professional knowledge he embodied Rod confessed to some nerdish tendencies and had been reading a fair bit of Nietzsche among other European philosophers on arrival.

Those familiar with this work may think it a long way from indigenous thought but that is to some extent the point. An explicit understanding of cultural difference is critical to ensure that the mixing of the waters of knowledge results in a functional mode of being in a contemporary context.

Rod remember Rurruwiliny’s sister, also his ngandi and the former principal explaining how in the fresh water fish trap we put leaves into the water to stupefy the fish and make them easy to catch. In the last 50 years the Ngapaki knowledge has come in like a flood and we need to be careful that we only take on the knowledge that makes us stronger and not weaker.

We have done our best to make this mix one that empowers the Mandjawuy community on their own terms. Yolngu are conditioned by their mythic system as much as any and some progress through it to sit above and become authors of their culture as much as recipients of it. The code-breaking realisation between the two systems comes from an ecological mindset. It comes from scale. The self in the yolngu system is entwined in the kinship system and is not as strongly individualised as the European self. Shift the functional unit from the self to the extended family and the will to empowerment can be seen shining though and cultivated through to its own blossoming.

Rod spoke of his confidence that this family will respect the empowerment it achieves and take the responsibility of empowerment seriously as it works for the education and empowerment of all yolngu.

We then went form this philosophical riff to the practicalities of our use of the lipalipa in our corporate power structure as described briefly in their blogs.

The company is the canoe. The paddlers are the workers who need to build their strength for long journeys. They need to paddle in time with each other. The person who is djambatj; focused on the waters with harpoon in hand is the manager who has an eye on the details. The captain who sits at the back and navigates is the board of directors who need clear and long vision as well as seeing the paddlers and current situation. The waters we travel through may be calm or rough, with or against the tide and the wind. Any leaks in the structure that stop the business staying afloat must be found and fixed. Our marketing strategy is our hunting strategy and our branding is our bait.

We talked of the importance of our support network that many of you reading are part of, and we thanked our crowd funders and corporate sponsors. We talked of the critical skills present in our soon to be announced industry expert advisory group.

There were many interested questions and suggestions from the floor and a circle of people expressing support and even some avenues to market at the end of our allotted time.

There were many other interesting presentations that provided perspective on the broader development agenda. Rurrawiliny wondered why there were no other yolngu and so few indigenous people here at the discussion about developing the north. “They should be here” she said and Rod could only agree. We are making new ground and I sincerely hope our success is followed by other families all over Arnhem Land and they too join the discussion among empowered peers.

Rurrawiliny closed by briefly describing the Yarrinya story and leaving those present to contemplate what its meaning may be there at the base of the Barunga statement. It certainly was not just a statement of ownership of a particular piece of land but carried a much deeper message not to be conveyed in our brief introduction in this presentation and now blog.

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