Makarrata at Milingimbi

2 kids looking at the camera

Water carriers [Roy Wewa and Laurie Baymarrwanga, Milingimbi]. 1923-1938. (PXA 1137/no.865).

A contemporary makarrata was enacted by Yolngu men last week at Milingimbi in the Crocodile Islands, Arnhem Land, N.T. A makaratta is a highly ritualised ceremony that brings parties together to settle disputes. The parties in this instance were Yolngu peoples and cultural institutions that hold Milingimbi collections. Cultural property including artefacts and artworks as well as cultural knowledge, archives and photo collections have been syphoned from Milingimbi over many generations.

A group of men painted in white moving and throwing a spear

Yolngu makarrata ceremony, Milingimbi.


More than 40 collecting institutions were represented at Milingimbi for the ceremony, the culmination of years of research in identifying Milingimbi-related material from around Australia and the world. The hope is to create a dialogue and look at new ways of returning and sharing Yolngu culture at Milingimbi.


Researchers Dr Louise Hamby (ANU), Lindy Allen (Museum Victoria) and Dr Gumbula (Yolngu, Milingimbi) were thrilled to discover about 100 photos from the Methodist Overseas Mission collection in the Library. These are some of the earliest photos taken in that region, primarily between 1916-1938. The glass plate negatives were digitised in a co-operative effort to document information from the community at Milingimbi about the photos. Many names, places and dates have been added to the catalogue record for this important collection.

ABC News covered the makarrata.



Ronald Briggs

Indigenous Services