Biodiversity publications archive

Country in flames

Proceedings of the 1994 symposium on biodiversity and fire in North Australia - Biodiversity series, Paper no. 3
Deborah Bird Rose (editor)
Biodiversity Unit
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories and the North Australia Research Unit, The Australian National University, 1995

Fire in Arnhem Land

Joe Yunupingu
Dhimurru Association, Nhulunbuy, NT

Welcome to you people. My name is Joe Yunupingu from Nhulunbuy, Dhimurru management land care at Nhulunbuy. I'm a land management ranger working around there at Nhulunbuy.

Nhulunbuy is a very big place, at a bauxite mine, you know that. So, they can damage country very badly. Yolngu people, like Yolngu we call Aborigines. I'm a Yolngu. What I learn, what I want to care about the land, my traditional land care, all around that country, that East Arnhem Land. And, with thirteen clans, Aborigines movement to homeland. I'm running around the country, and I support the people work, homeland.

Even I care of the fire. The fire burnt only traditional way. Because we look after the animals, birds and land. The land is real important for us. Our lands. If we want to go make a fire, to burn, every year not to fire, every year. Take about two, three year for the right time got to be burnt. Got to look for animal. Kill animal, few, not much. We look after the animals, eat them not to waste it, kill them, waste them. Not for fun, that business. That's the law for the Yolngu people. That's their ceremony ground, ceremony area, traditional way.

All right, we look after around the country, all around the beach. At the time turtles coming out, lay eggs, don't take the eggs. Let them grow. Eggs, turtle eggs. Any fish, fishing, fishing don't fun waste it, throwing out the fish. That's why we look after the land. The land's very important. Don't, don't fishing and throw the you know the people coming tourist, any kind of the fun fishing, they throw it. But we must look after every animal and every fish or crocodile. They might shoot them and throw them out, leave them lying there.

We take care of the all animals from sea to bush. That's why we look after, that we run it, the landcare, all around Dhimurru country, our country. Some people going to be a camping, recreation area, fishing, throw the fish, make a stink, lying like [in the] sun. And we must look after the country, we must look after animals.

Fire the fire burnt only traditional way. Two or three years it burnt. And the traditional people say: 'Yes, you can burn.' And around that every country, I been to Queensland. I saw people out there, poor, no work, ranger not much. Not much money, not much support there. Only couple, only council way. We establish our office by own money, when we get the royalty way. We put it in a one place. All Aboriginal people; and white people, they help support us. And we run the country out there. Look after the country and no burnt. Fire, no burnt: no killed animals, no killed anything. Only Yolngu people look after for they eat, that's all. Eat the animals, eat the fish or stingray, shark, whatever you caught. That what we look after, for Yolngu. That's Yolngu land.

You know, different ranger mob, from the Top End country, they still want our help. They ring us, send the letter. I don't know what we are going to do with them. We still going to help them, we support them. We put one heap of money and we run [the country]. Some of them ranger, ranger like other country, you run [your country], we run this way to look after the country, to look after the fire and to make sure traditional way for fire. That's what we've done and what we're doing up there.

And that's all I say. Thank you very much.