The traditional owners Bininj/Mungguy

 

 The land and its people have always been linked. Caring for the land and its wildlife is fundamental to Aboriginal people’s culture. Art, language, ceremonies, kinship and caring for country are all aspects of cultural responsibility that they have passed from one generation to the next, since the Creation time.

Clans and kinship

 
 

 The Kakadu region is culturally diverse. The Aboriginal people in the region are from a number of different clans, often speaking different languages and in some cases upholding different traditions.

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Clans

Clans consist of two or more family groups sharing ownership of an area of land. Clan boundaries are passed from one generation to the next, generally through the father. Kakadu has about 19 clan groups.

The Creation ancestors gave Bininj/Mungguy a kinship system linking people to all thing and the cultural responsibility to look after them all. They have always understood the biodiversity of country and their traditional ancestral knowledge is a vital part of managing Kakadu’s rich environment.

Kinship

In the Kakadu area, the kinship system is very complex. All people, plants, animals, songs, dances, ceremonies and land are divided into two groups, or 'moieties': Duwa or Yirridja.

Each moiety is subdivided into eight 'skin' groups. A child's skin group is determined by their mother's skin group but they inherit their moiety from their father.

In simple terms, kinship can be described as a system that defines how people relate to each other. Through the use of 'skin' names we identify the people around us as mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, potential marriage partners, and so on, and modify our behaviour accordingly. Almost every aspect of day-to-day communication with other Aboriginal people is governed by kinship ties.

 

 Language

In the time before non-Aboriginal settlement, 12 languages were spoken in the Kakadu area. Today, only three are spoken on a regular basis: Gun-djeihmi, Kun-winjku and Jawoyn.

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Many Aboriginal people will speak two or more languages. Gun-djeihmi and Kun-winjku languages are regarded as dialects of one another because speakers can understand each other. Jawoyn is a separate language.

Gun-djeihmi is a living language. It is the language spoken in the central part of Kakadu. Unlike English, the spelling system is very consistent, so once you have learnt the rules it is quite easy to work out how to correctly pronounce words.

For more information about how to pronounce the Gun-djeihmi alphabet and a few key words download the Aboriginal language park note.

  • Bo bo - good bye
  • Andjeuk - raincloud
  • Anme - fruit and vegetables
  • Anmorlak - Kakadu plum
  • Djeni - fish
  • Gudjewg - Monsoon season
  • Banggerreng - knock 'em down storm season

Language Audio Files

Listen to our language audio files to hear the aboriginal spoken word.

Want to learn more about Kakadu’s languages? Visit the Bininj Gunwok website

 

 

 Respecting Indigenous culture

Aboriginal culture has a set of social behaviours and customs which are considered good manners.

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  • Traditionally, Aboriginal people (Bininj/Mungguy) do not greet each other every time they meet. However, they are used to non-Aboriginal people doing so and may expect a 'hello'
  • Many Bininj/Mungguy do not use personal names as freely as non-Aboriginal people do. They often address each other by kinship terms
  • Bininj/Mungguy appreciate privacy. It is good manners not to take photographs without permission
  • Some Bininj/Mungguy find constant eye contact uncomfortable
  • In Bininj/Mungguy culture it is important to listen carefully and consider the response carefully before giving an answer
  • It is polite to say goodbye when leaving. The Bininj/Mungguy word for goodbye is 'Boh Boh' (pronounced bor bor)
  • Show respect by not entering restricted areas. They may be sacred sites, ceremonial sites, burial grounds or even someone's home.