Vale Big Boss


The very much adored, and deeply admired paramount matriarch of the Yan-nhaŋu people Laurie Baymarrwaŋa passed peacefully away in her ninety seventh year on Wednesday 20th of August. Her life was inestimable, her virtue remarkable, and her passing bequeaths a fabulous legacy. Born in the time before the coming of the missions, she remembered the old ways, the ways of kin and country. Her dream to entrust this knowledge to new generations as a foundation, a font of strength and counsel in the law, drove her to create a homeland, a school, ranger and heritage programs, marine sanctuaries, language nests and an Atlas among other gifts. Senior Australian of the year 2012, her vast knowledge of generations of social and physical geography was revered by others who themselves are old and wise. To the very end she struggled to save her ocean home from mining and exploitation, unspoiled for future generations. Baymarrwaŋa’s love and generosity for the world is something one rarely sees . . . if only it were more common. A truly great leader, a nurturer, her spirit returns to the homelands that created and compelled her.

marrḏapthanaraŋu adj. joy-giver marrkapmirr customary greeting (friendly/informal). Lit: märr (joy) -ḏapthun (join) -nara (nominaliser; joining) -ŋu (adjectiviser; describes) describing the quality of joining with joy. marrḏapway adj. joy-giver marrkapmirri, märr -ḏap -way (having the attribute of joining with joy). P: 317  Yan-nhaŋu Atlas and Illustrated Dictionary of the Crocodile Islands

Vale: Latin, literally ‘be well!, be strong!’, imperative of valere.


Dear friends AT LAST AT LAST….the Atlas has arrived…

I can hardly tell you how happy we are about its arriving at last, and how wonderful we think it is. And although it seems a little self-serving let us share with you some of the wonderful comments that we have received from those lucky enough to have seen it.

‘Awesome…we are oohing and aahing over the Yan-nhangu dictionary and atlas. It really is fantastic -It’s so beautifully produced and the illustrations are awesome. I just had to write and congratulate you on a magnificent and extraordinary achievement with the dictionary. You have set a benchmark that I feel will not be exceeded for many many years to come. I can’t imagine how you must all feel to finally be holding this book that has a lifetime of work within its’ covers…and how fortunate are we to have been gifted such a beautiful and important treasure!’

‘Absolutely amazing. Visually stimulating. Highly informative. A very important piece of Australian writing that captures an essential component of our society.’

‘The Atlas is a credit and it is good to know that such precious knowledge is being honoured and preserved. We have both enjoyed looking through it and imagining the people and places the book gives access to. ‘

It’s an astonishing work! Bravo! Yo manymak!

What a work of personal dedication, scholarship and collaboration, congratulations. This is a work that will not just stand the test of time but that will be historically important

‘This book is by far away the biggest and most beautiful book I’ve ever had. It’s a masterpiece…thank you again for the most wonderful book I’ve ever seen. As someone who’s dreamt of being a part of something like that, I’ve gotta say, you’ve really done an amazing job’

‘What can I say except what a magnificent job you have both done? It will forever stand as a monument to her and a beacon, I hope, for the generations to come. I know from the initial brief skim through the massive volume – it only arrived a half hour ago – that I will get endless pleasure from it.’

‘It’s an incredible production. I will look forward to reading it carefully and savouring the stunning images.’

‘— and it’s stupendous. Congratulations! I’ve been combing the dictionary for Makasar words and found some old friends and admiring all over again the Thomson photos. Being in the business of designing a few books, I can see the quality of that. One thing that I almost still find shocking — it’s so rare — is the naming of everybody in the photos! So thanks, and I’ll keep learning and enjoying. Please pass on my appreciation to everyone involved.’

‘It arrived this morning and it is a triumph – twenty years in the making & an instant classic – a truly great achievement ‘

‘the most beautiful book in the whole world, I sat down with it for on several occasions yesterday and will continue to do so over the coming days, months and years. It contains deep longevity through past, present and future. It’s HOLY love!’

Please forgive us those of you who will not receive a copy, it is with deep regret that we inform you that the government, philanthropic organisations and the public did not see the value of this work and refused repeatedly to support it over the twenty years of its evolution. The cost of its production, although exceedingly high, has been offset by the significance of the work, especially to a new generation of young Australians wishing to know and understand their place in their country. All copies have been accounted for and are on their way to recipients. You can find copies in some 330 libraries around Australia.

Donations over a thousand dollars to the Crocodile Islands Scholarship Fund will receive a copy of the Atlas.

Thank you and all the best Laurie Baymarrwangga.

Atlas Approaches Australia


Dear friends thank you for your support. The Atlas is on a ship bound for Australia as we speak. When it arrives we will begin the work of distribution. 36 homelands, seven schools, seven ranger programs and some three hundred and thirty libraries around Australia.

The Yan-nhaŋu Atlas and Illustrated Dictionary seeks to provide opportunities for new generations to know the language of place and walk in the footsteps of the ancestors. The generosity and vision of this project spring naturally from the wisdom of kinship and reciprocity that are at the heart indigenous relations to country.

In our Indigenous languages exists the knowledge of countless generations; the gifts of intimate coexistence with the land and sea; the precious knowledge of place that will enrich our lives and those of future generations.

Baymarrwaŋa shares with us the wisdom of kinship with place vital to a living future. For nearly a hundred years she has endeavoured to share this knowledge of kin and country, so that we may live more harmoniously with each other in our places.

Perhaps now more than ever, at a time when Indigenous people worldwide are struggling to save us from the destruction of our planet, we can see the value of her insight.

We thank you for the gift of your support so far. With your help I am planning to create a scholarship program for ten thousand dollars a year to facilitate further studies in the Crocodile Islands. I intend to raise this money with help from sponsors to focus on the biological and cultural diversity of this wonderful place in the world.



The Yan-nhangu Atlas and Illustrated Dictionary of the Crocodile Islands is complete!

Laurie Baymarrwangga, 2012 Senior Australian of the Year, born nearly a hundred years ago on the outer Crocodile Islands wants to provide this complete bilingual resource for the children of North-east Arnhem Land.
Please help us make the thousand copies we need for the fifty homelands, four junior ranger programs and seven schools, Yirrkala, Nhulunbuy, Galwin’ku, Gapuwiyak, Ramingining, Milingimbi and Maningrida C.E.C. This will cost sixty thousand dollars.

Jaypeg_40 Yan-nhangu Atlas
Please send your fully tax deductible donations to the Yan-nhangu Atlas and Illustrated Dictionary of the Crocodile Islands
Bank Account name: NAILSMA PUBLIC FUND
BSB: 085 933
A/C: 14 001 2871
Thank you, from Laurie Baymarrwangga and the children of North-east Arnhem Land.
Donations over one thousand dollars will receive a copy of the Atlas.

Please support me to produce and distribute this tri-lingual Atlas and Dictionary for the children

At 97 Laurie Baymarrwangga saw the arrival of the first missionaries, the bombing of Milingimbi, started an island homeland, a school, a ranger program, a turtle sanctuary, saved her language, created ‘language nests’ and a trilingual dictionary and is still not giving up. The 2012 Senior Australian of the Year now wants to provide a trilingual Yan-nhangu dictionary to children for free.

Laurie Baymarrwangga has been working on a trilingual Yan-nhangu dictionary project entitled The Yan-nhangu Atlas and Illustrated Dictionary of the Crocodile Islands to support homelands and bilingual language education. 1n 1993 there were only 300 of her words documented now she has recorded some four thousand containing the local knowledge of uncounted generations. Learning local language, aside from the positive health outcomes and psychological resilience attending bilingualism, promotes the intergenerational transmission of local knowledge to a new generation. This dictionary brings together two Yolngu languages, Yan-nhangu and Dhuwal/a (7000 speakers) with English, as a learning resource to fill the vacuum left by removal of Bilingual education. Baymarrwangga plans to give this beautiful full colour dictionary to all Yolngu children, their schools and homelands throughout the region as a gift before Christmas 2013.

Laurie’s concern for her country’s vibrant linguistic and customary heritage generated a family of interrelated projects designed to support language, livelihoods and homelands. These initiative aim to skill and employ people on country, follow traditional law, and protect the linguistic, cultural and biological diversity of the Islands. Her initiative to nurture local diversity resonates with the global need to find a sustainable future.  Her work is about practical engagement with livelihoods activity on country and includes a Ranger Program. In 2011 this initiative won her the NT innovation ‘Life Time Achievement Award’ for services to country.

The Ranger Program she started with her own money was formally launched in 2010, after a decade of struggle. In 2012 it won the Ministers award for Outstanding Team Achievement in the NT Ranger Awards. The Crocodile Islands Rangers now protect more than 10,000km2 of sea country with 250km2 of registered sacred sites. Caring for some of the last breeding and nesting places of many endangered species including a 1000km2 turtle sanctuary. The Rangers are working to improve economic, social and cultural wellbeing by providing meaningful employment and education through dedicated language and cultural programs. These programs are set to manage, conserve and enhance the natural marine resources and traditional ecological knowledge living inside local languages.

‘Big Boss’ as she is affectionately known says ‘Homelands are at the heart of our country’. Knowing country depends upon complex cultural relationships linked to living on homelands, and provides vital services to the Australian nation in heritage preservation, environmental management services and biodiversity.  What’s more homelands provide better health and education outcomes, not to mention the jewels of our national cultural heritage and arts. They are the sites for transfer of the oldest living traditions, deep cultural knowledge and globally rare Indigenous languages. These relationships are assured on the homelands where positive engagement with country life promotes their vitality but they are under serious threat. At 97 she persists to struggle against forced assimilation and the destruction of indigenous languages in an effort to save her culture, country and a diverse inheritance for all our futures.

Please help us support her.