ARDS conducted its first fieldtrip for the ‘Gambling Dialogues with Yolŋu’ project in October, travelling to Dhälinybuy andWaṉḏawuy homelands.
Our goal in visiting these communities was to identify and document Yolŋu leadership models in response to antisocial behaviours, including gambling. This approach is based on the underlying harm minimisation message of the ‘Pokies Story’ radio series: Yolŋu-driven regulation, embedded in gurruṯu (Yolŋu kinship) and rom (Yolŋu law) is central to tackling problem gambling.
Dhälinybuy and Waṉḏawuy are closely connected to clan leaders Djeriny and Daymbalipu. In the 1960s and 70s, these and other leaders were prominent spokespeople who sought to unite Yirrkala communities against intensifying social ills such as gambling and drinking, which had emerged as serious problems with the new Nabalco mine. This also led to the Homelands movement, where clans established small communities on their ancestral land, away from the issues in Yirrkala.
We sought to find out the legacy of these leaders through the voices of their descendents. We wanted to draw on their knowledge to support present-day residents to malŋ’maram dhukarr mägaya rom – find a pathway to peace – now that gambling, drinking and other threats to social harmony have indeed become part of everyday life for Yolŋu communities.
A clear message from homelands elders was that homelands provide Yolŋu with strength, and the opportunity to overcome addictions. This is a translation of lead project officer Gawura Waṉambi’s summary of the outcomes of the fieldtrip:
ARDS staff Gawura Waṉambi, Adam Waṉambi and Andrew Pascoe went to two homelands, Dhälinybuy and Waṉḏawuy. Our purpose was to find how the Yolŋu there live. Why did they return there to live, and what harmful things did they see taking place there?
We discussed how to find a peaceful law, a pathway for Yolŋu to live. We talked about alcohol, card-playing and pokies gambling and how they make people addicted; and also where the pathway lies for these addicted people to find their way back to a good, lawful and peaceful existence.
The story we heard at both places was that the law in its truest form was laid down by the old people, and is still being followed by homelands residents. Nothing bad is happening on homelands, or is going to happen. The law, and the guidance it provides, is standing strong.
This story has strong implications for our approach to the rest of the project, over the next 2.5 years. We will start planning further fieldtrips in early 2019. We will also be broadcasting the recordings from the first fieldtrip on Yolŋu Radio, and engaging with groups in several communities who have requested our involvement in discussions about gambling regulation. We will also dialogue with Darwin-based renal patients, who have received small radios to listen to the radio programs, and seek their feedback and thoughts.
Photo:The project team - Gawura Waṉambi, Andrew Pascoe, Adam Waṉambi (& Biḻma)