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THE MAKING OF

In the late 1960s and early 1970s a huge open-cut bauxite mine was developed on the Gove Peninsula, on the doorstep of the mission settlement of Yirrkala. Film Australia asked Ian Dunlop to make a film documenting the effects of the mine on the Aboriginal community. The Yirrkala Film Project was born.

Yolngu quickly came to recognise the importance of the film project as a means of recording their culture for future generations and on several occasions asked Ian to film their ceremonies, including a major Djungguwan ceremony that took place on Marrakulu clan land at Gurka'wuy, some 100 kilometres south of Yirrkala, in 1976.

In December 2002 Rirratjingu clan leaders called a meeting with filmmakers Trevor Graham and Denise Haslem who were in Yirrkala at that time filming for Film Australia. They were concerned about negative media coverage of Yolngu culture. Rirratjingu clan leaders were in the process of organising the first Djungguwan to be held since the one Ian Dunlop had filmed in 1976. They decided that this ceremony should also be filmed. They asked specifically that all three filmed versions of the Djungguwan be used to show the history and complexity of Yolngu ceremony and how ceremony relates to land, law, people and politics. They felt that the resulting DVD would be, as Rirratjingu clan elder Wanyubi Marika said, 'a powerful thing to help build self-esteem and establish a basis for a positive future'. They hoped that it that would be accessible both to future generations of Yolngu and to all Australians.