My name is Megan Djuramalwuy Yunupingu and am originally from Yirrkala Community.
I moved to Galiwin’ku, Elcho Island in 1988 when I was at the age of sixteen years old, to live with my Aunt Judy Manany Gurruwiwi, my mother Violet (Louie) Galawarr Gurruwiwi third youngest sister.
When I was growing up, I would travel to different homelands and spend time with most of my relatives, from the Island called Dhambalaya, which is an island opposite Yirrkala, living with my grandfather Barpar Dhamarrandji, then onto Biranybirany and Garrthalala, with my Aunts Gulumbu & Gaypurrnga Yunupingu (sisters of James Galarrwuy Yunpingu) my father, Biranybirany is where our homeland is. From there I’d travel to Gurrumuru, to stay with my Aunts Susan Djuldjul (2) Gurruwiwi, Susan Buyanggirr Ganambrr, my cousin sister and brothers and other relatives. I would also be taken by my grandmothers Alison Marrimarri Burarrwanga and Phyllis Batumbil Burarrwanga, to live at Gikal and then Matamata, and not to mention other homelands, to make the story short. But yes, all my family were very fond of me and just wanted me here and there. There was so much care and love back in the days.
It was because of my Aunts Susan and Judy encouragement & determination that I was able to focus on having a mindset on being busy and to try hard to being independent workwise, so that I was able to provide for my family.
Before I decided to settle down and have my own family, I lived in Maningrida for a few months, where I was selected, (at age 16yrs old) to run the Hasty Tasty Takeaway for 5 days and mange it while the lady manager went to Bali for her long awaited holiday. At the time, I didn’t really think that it was a job too enormous to take over by a 16 year old (turning 17), but looking back, I felt proud that I actually achieved the task that I was given, and of which gave me a the ability to build my confidence and motivation to keep going in my life no matter what.
After a couple of years living on Galiwinku, and settling down with my own family I started to work at Marthakal Homelands Resource Centre close to the end of 1991, alongside the bookkeeper for a short period before going away on maternity leave.
I went back into the work field during 1995 and was employed by ALPA (Arnhemland Progress Association) our local store, doing cash handling/banking in the office, and register operator for a short while, as we had plans on moving to Ganpurra Homeland, which is a remote area, about 35km from the community where my husbands mother Jane Garrutju and his father Gali Yalkarriwuy Gurruwiwi were trying to re-establish again. As we had planned to move there in future but could only be there during the weekends as there were no houses to accommodate us at the time.
As time went by, I was confident enough to try new jobs to build my skills and knowledge on the job, as I did not have the opportunity to complete my higher education. From working as a charter flights booking reservations, pay clerk, administration officer, administration manager, homelands landscaping, homelands assistant teacher, PE assistant teacher, front office arts worker administrator, arts centre interim manager, health administrator, community based child development research, workshop administration & senior womens ranger.
In between working in these areas, I was also learning to create art, from painting to sculpturing, which my Aunts again, Susan and Judy inspired me to do, but mostly I work on contemporary art creations.
When I was in the position as the Front Office Arts Worker Administrator, I had the opportunity to go overseas, to Kuala Lumpur for a week with my Manager for an exhibition. There I was able to build my confidence in speaking to audiences and presenting our art works from Elcho Island and the surrounding homelands artists, and also some of my works.
It was after this exhibition that the manager resigned and so I was appointed by the Arts Centre Committee members to be the interim manager, of which I was nervous to take on, but after a while managed to keep it open for a few years, it was hard work but was grateful that I had the opportunity to learn about the arts world and enjoyed working with the local artists before resigning.
In the years 2016 to 2018, I was employed by Yalu to do research on the project called Growing Up Children In Two Worlds, alongside Anne Lowell and other local Yolngu researchers like Stephanie Yalngarra Guyula, Abbey Guyula and Mitjarrandi Wunungmurra. I was able to independently interview parents, grandparents and carers with their children aged 5 years old and younger on video recordings or audio and then transcribe Yolngu matha (Aboriginal Language) to English.
After finishing the research work with Yalu, I was able to find time to work on my own business called Banumbirr Arts, in partnership with with Gurilka Indigenous Corporation, creating carved wooden sculptures, cataloguing and marketing on Etsy & Ebay, thanks to my consultant from Many Rivers consultants, whom I’ m very grateful to.
At the moment I have not been creating any of my arts due to the Covid-19 situation, but am hoping that I will be able to move forward at a time sooner than later, as all my artworks were sold on the last cruise ship visit we had, of 100 passengers at my Aunt Jane Garrutju homeland, Galawarra. This was a special event & moment we had, as my husbands father was able to see that we, my husband and I and the family could do it on our own, to arrange & prepare for the special event, for the new generation of his grandchildren to take on the dance moves that the old man was well known for, of the Morning Star dance, to perform to the tourists that were to arrive. The tour visit was a success and we received positive feedback from the captain of the ship and all the passengers, who were so amazed at the performance of the dancers, the artworks we sold, and the scenery of the coastline and just how it was all set perfectly.
Currently, I am employed at the Marthakal Arts Centre again, but as an arts worker doing casual work until I can find a job elsewhere.
Doing the research work with Yalu, on Growing Up Children In Two Worlds, gave me more insight on how we, Yolngu People, whether we might be a mother, grandfather, sister, brother, Aunt, little brother etc. are at work, day in day out, from the beginning of a child life, they are taught traditional & Western ways, and how much is absorbed by them, which makes them intelligent in many ways.
And I hope one day, having to get involved in more research work, maybe I could go for a diploma in research, if the opportunity was to arise.
I like to work with a team, or independently if I must. I am always keen to learn new things, and am always committed to finishing my duties or tasks before the end of the day, if not, I am always prepared for tomorrow, so I can go home with knowing that at least I have achieved something, and look forward to a new day.
- Lowell A, Maypilama EL, Fasoli L, Gundjarranbuy R, Godwin-Thompson J, Guyula A, Yunupiŋu M, Armstrong E, Garrutju J, McEldowney R. The ‘invisible homeless’: challenges faced by families bringing up their children in a remote Australian Aboriginal community. BMC Public Health. (2018) 18:1382 https://rdcu.be/bdQUK
- Fasoli L, Maypilama L, Lowell A, Yunupiŋu M, Farmer R. (2018) ‘We’re still being dragged to be white’: Learning from Yolŋu growing up their children in two worlds. In Pence A. (ed.) Thinking About Pedagogy in Early Education: Pedagogies for Diverse Contexts. Routledge.
- Lowell A, Maypilama EL, Fasoli L, Gundjarranbuy R, Godwin-Thompson J, Guyula A, Yunupiŋu M, Armstrong E, Garrutju J, McEldowney R. Building Yolŋu Skills, Knowledge, and Priorities into Early Childhood Assessment and Support: Protocol for a Qualitative Study. JMIR Res Protoc 2018;7(3):e50n http://www.researchprotocols.org/2018/3/e50/
- The Tarrn doon nonin Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research Project Ethics Award recognises and upholds respectful ethical practice in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Awarded in 2019 to Ŋuthanmaram djamarrkuḻiny’ märrma’kurr romgurr: Growing up children in two worlds Project.
Speakers: Megan Yunupiŋu, Anne Lowell and Jenine Godwin-Thompson. Growing up children in two worlds: sharing knowledge about early childhood from a remote region of Northern Australia at the SNAICC National Conference, Canberra 12-14 September: 2017.