John Bradley's compelling account of three decades living with the Yanyuwa people of the Gulf of Carpentaria and of how the elders revealed to him the ancient songlines of their Dreaming.
With oral traditions slowly being lost, Singing Saltwater Country is an important record of traditional Aboriginal knowledge and ways of life for future generations.
At the age of 20, John Bradley left his rural Victorian family home to become a teacher at Borroloola Primary School, in the fragile riverine and island country of far north Australia. There began three decades living with the Yanyuwa people, building a relationship of trust and intimacy that led to his learning their Dreaming stories and his family becoming part of theirs.
The Yanyuwa elders had realised they needed to record their stories and ways of life, because too many old people were dying and a generation had drifted away from their culture due to the influences of the modern white world and the tidal wave of change that government welfare policies, disease and alcohol have brought to remote Aboriginal communities. Currently, only eleven old people speak the Yanyuwa language and they feel a great sadness that future generations will never see the great and sacred ceremonies or hear the songs of the old people.
The elders agreed to teach John their Songlines, their ‘ways of knowing’ (called ‘kujika’, pronounced goo-djee-ga), if he would record the teachings in a form that would preserve them for future generations. John and his wife Nona’s drawings of the Songlines are part of that process, as is the very personal story he tells here.
About the Author
John Bradley also worked with the Yanyuwa as anthropologist on their land claims and sacred sites. He is now deputy director of the Centre for Australian Indigenous Studies at Monash University.
Table of Contents
1 "That meat - he's got a song"
2 "You have to learn him, you belong to Mambaliya"
3 "Not like the bread of white men"
4 Knowing what Old People knew
5 Chasing after the Dingo
6 Tangled Up in the Law
7 Broken Songs
8 "It makes the country tremble"
9 Putting it down
Tertiary; University or College
For Ages: 11 - 14 years old
For Grades: 7 - 10
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 1st August 2010
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3
Weight (kg): 0.45
Edition Number: 1