Bulunu Milkarri: A story of sky, sea and spirit

Bulunu Milkarri: A story of sky, sea and spirit


This beautifully produced film documents one woman’s journey to learn an endangered songline from remote Arnhem Land that explores cycles of death, life, rain, tears, and the replenishment and abundance of land, sea and spirit, and the quest to ensure this ancient songline is practiced for generations to come.


The World Premiere of Bulunu Milkarri was on the 9th June 2015 at the Sydney Film Festival - screening alongside other films from Screen Australia and NITV's 'Songlines on Screen' initiative. Bulunu Milkarri also screened at Garma 2015 near Yirrkala, Arnhem Land NT.

The film was also broadcast on National Indigenous Television (NITV) in early 2016 and Indigenous Community Television (ICTV) following that.

If you are interested in Bulunu Milkarri screening at your film festival or for broadcast sales please contact us, we would love to hear from you.


The Bulunu songline belongs to the Djambarrpuyŋu (Djambarrpuyngu) clan of the Yolŋu (Yolngu) Nation of northeast Arnhem Land. Bulunu is the south east cloud formations that bring the rains that replenish the land and provide the time of abundance in food from the land and the sea. Milkarri is the women's crying songs that are used in funerals to sing the spirits back to their ancestral homelands. The Bulunu Milkarri reminds people that as well as appreciation for Bulunu replenishing the land, it is also about replenishing the spirit within and remembering loved ones past.

This songline is not being sufficiently being passed on to younger women; only a small handful of elderly women hold this knowledge. The film follows Director, Sylvia Nulpinditj, on the quest for her and her sisters to learn to sing Bulunu Milkarri and to creatively portray the concepts of this deep and rich bed of interlinking cycles of death, life and everything in between that are represented in Bulunu Milkarri.


Bulunu Milkarri is a women’s songline of the Djambarrpuyŋu Clan Nation of northeast Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, Australia. The Bulunu Milkarri songline connects a number of different Djambarrpuyŋu clan groups under the one law, as well as connecting their ancestral homelands off the coast of north east Arnhem Land.

This Bulunu Milkarri law is owned by the Djambarrpuyŋu Clan nation and is sung by Djambarrpuyŋu Yothu Yindi women.

The custodians of the Bulunu Milkarri songline are the leaders of the Djambarrpuyŋu Clan Nation and are based in the communities of Galiwin'ku, Raminginiŋ, Miliŋimbi, Gapuwiyak, Yirrkala and homelands such as Ban'thula on Elcho Island where the main film shoot took place.


Sylvia Nulpinditj - Middle aged woman from the Galpu clan. Mother of 6. Accomplished and authorised traditional painter and dancer. Sylvia is an accomplished speaker and writer in the necessary languages, and is in line to inherit Bulunu Milkarri from her Grandmothers. Sylvia sees Milkarri as the last key element remaining for her to learn and practice in order to be fully carrying out her roles and responsibilities in Yolngu Society. Sylvia is frightened of the prospect of her and her children and children’s children not being able to sufficiently carry out clan traditions the right way in the future, so she is driven to ensure that her and other mothers around her are learning and passing knowledge on to their children in the right way according to foundational law. Sylvia directed this film.

Margaret Marrnyula - Margaret is an elderly Djambarrpuyŋu woman who resides in Darwin due to illness. Margaret is one of the small handful of women who are accomplished in the practice of singing Bulunu Milkarri. Margaret is very aware that this needs to be passed on to the younger women is line to inherit the songline before it is lost forever. Margaret is Sylvia's Märi or Mother's Mother. Marrnyula plays a key role.


Writer and Director - Sylvia Nulpinditj

Producer and Co-Writer - Gaia Osborne

Co-producer - Keith Djiniyini Wutjara Dhamarrandji

Director Mentor - Erica Glynn

Director of Photography - Torstein Dyrting

Sound Recordist - Jeremy Conlon

Second Camera - Christine Motatj Garawirrtja

Sound Assistant - Tyrone Dhamarrandji

Editor and Co-Writer - Naina Sen

Assistant Editor - Christine Motatj

Sound Design and Post - Matthew Cunliffe

Sound Post Assistant - Andrew Grimes

Titles - Huni Bollinger

Stills Photography - Paz Tassone

Funded by

Screen Australia, NITV, Community Broadcasting Foundation and Screen Territory

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