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THE YOLNGU

The Yolngu are the Indigenous Australians who live in the northeast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

Yolngu people are linked by language and a rich and complex culture. Their social structure is based on clans and moieties.

Clans are extended family groups and they are the foundation of Yolngu social organisation. There are more than 50 Yolngu clans in northeast Arnhem Land. Each clan has its own traditional land or country, their wanga, their own dialect or version of the Yolngu language, the Yolngu Matha, and their own song lines and ceremonies or bunggul.

Clan membership is patrilineal: a person belongs to the clan of their father.

Beyond the clan, the Yolngu world is divided into two halves, called moieties. (The word moiety means half). People, animals, rocks and even winds belong to either the Dhuwa or Yirritja moiety.

The Yolngu
Wanyubi Marika (Rirritjinggu clan) standing beside Djungguwan poles, Yirrkala 2002.