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Treaty – Yothu Yindi

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Mandawuy Yunupingu is the band leader of Yothu Yindi, an Australian band with both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members. The name Yothu Yindi means ‘mother and child’. Mandawuy’s full name is Mandawuy Djarrtjuntjun Yunupingu. Mandawuy means ‘from clay’. Djarrtjuntjun means ‘roots of the paperbark tree that still burn and throw off heat after a fire has died down’, and Yunupingu is ‘a solid rock that, having travelled from freshwater, stands in salty waters, its base deep in the earth’.

The Aboriginal members of Yothu Yindi belong to the Gumatj and Rirratjingu clans of the Yol?u people. They come from near Yirrkala, on the Gove Peninsula, in the Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land. The band combines aspects of both Yol?u and balanda (European) cultures, using traditional Yol?u instruments such as the yidaki and clapsticks, as well as guitars and drums. Some of their songs are in a traditional style, some are pure rock/pop, but many combine both elements. They also use traditional dance to accompany their music.

Mandawuy was the first Yol?u person to gain a university degree, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Deakin University in 1988. In 1989 he became assistant principal of the Yirrkala Community School and in 1990 he took over as principal, becoming the first Aboriginal principal in Australia. He held this position until late 1991, when he left to pursue his career with Yothu Yindi. Mandawuy was named Australian of the Year in 1992 and in April 1998 was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Queensland University of Technology: ‘in recognition of his significant contribution to the education of Aboriginal children, and to greater understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.’

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