chapter  1
16 Pages

‘Singing through the sea’: song, sea and emotion

ByJohn J. Bradley

Nine hundred and seventy kilometres south-east of Darwin, in the Northern Territory of Australia, is the small township of Borroloola. It has been home to the Yanyuwa people for the past hundred years as successive waves of colonialism and enforced institutionalized removal from their homelands has taken place. ey are really ‘saltwater people’; their homelands are the Sir Edward Pellew Group of Islands and the immediate adjoining coastal regions. While resident at Borroloola they have never forgotten about their homeland. ey have fought through the long process of land claims to win back large portions of their homelands, a journey of over thirty years of intense court hearings and government negotiations. e island and sea country has, over all of these periods, been constantly visited, talked about, danced and sung about. It is the sea country that has been at the heart of their emotions even while living in the diaspora of Borroloola. e Yanyuwa people’s own name for themselves is li-Anthawirriyarra, or ‘the people whose spiritual origins are derived from the sea’.