Learn Yolngu Culture

Cultural Worlds by WhyWarriors.com.au

Get lifelong access to our Cultural Learning Courses.

Also, see our 90 free Q&A Videos.

You will learn a lot about Yolngu Culture that you will not learn anywhere else in English as you do these courses or listen to these Q&A videos.

Participant Quotes from our workshops.

Yolngu Culture is one of the last remaining traditional Aboriginal cultures.

However, the biggest blockage stopping Yolngu people from being able to explain their culture to Balanda (English speakers) is that English does not have equivalent terms and concepts that exist in their language, Yolngu Matha. And sadly Yolngu elders do not know English well enough to overcome this communication blockage.  To be clear, Yolngu Matha has many deep concepts that just do not exist in English and the original Australian cultural concepts that all Australians should know about.

We have been commissioned to do this education

As we work with many Yolngu adults and elders on different English problems around understanding medical, legal and business issues in English these elders have asked both Richard and Tim Trudgen (principles of Why Warriors) to explain and teach their culture to other English speakers (Balanda). Both Tim and Richard speak legal, economic and medical Yolngu Matha and have worked with our Yolngu production team and many others elders on this high level of language over many decades. This is the main thing that sets us apart from all other organisations.

So, we will teach you things about Yolngu Culture that you will not learn anywhere else in English due to the language problems.

Information shared

We will only share what is called makarr-gärma public information. The inside makarr-dhuni cabinet or ŋärra’ inside parlementary information or dhulŋuŋu private Bäpurru corporate clan group information will not be shared.

Here are some things you can do to learn more about Yolngu Culture.

Cultural Learning Courses

Go to Cultural Learning Courses, where you can get lifelong access to a number of courses that will teach you things about Yolngu Culture while learning how to communicate better in a cross-culture cross-language relationship.

Origines of these courses

These courses grew from the request of Yolngu elders to run workshops in the early 1970s to teach Balanda staff coming to their communities about Yolngu culture and how Balanda could work in a more “culturally safe”  way with them.

Plus, for over 20 years, Richard ran Bridging the Gap seminars all around the country in an attempt to inform the mainstream Australian community about Yolngu culture and hopefully lead to more culturally competent staff coming to the Yolngu communities and better program rollout from government departments.

Many ask, “What course should I do first“?

Worldview Course

We recommend you go to the Cultural Learning Courses and do the Worldview course first. Many ask why it is best to start with the Worldview course first.

In short, different cultures can have very different worldviews. And different worldviews can cause real destructive communication problems at times. From our experience, we can say that the role that worldviews play in cross-cultural communication can be even more important than learning the people’s language. It is not a stretch to say that Yolngu are dying due to different worldviews between themselves and the English Australian mainstream.

So please start with “Worldview“, you might be greatly surprised.

In all our courses, we use the Yolngu culture as our Case Study to make our training more relevant. So, while you are learning about Worldview, you will learn about Yolngu culture. This course will save a lot of cross-cultural conflicts and misunderstandings.

Kinship course

Then we would recommend you do the course that covers the Yolngu kinship system. It is important to know how different cultural groups name their families differently from mainstream English naming. Once you know this, your understanding of different family naming systems across many cultures will make sense to you.

This course is built around the Yolngu Kinship. So, you will learn a lot about the very complex Yolngu Kinship system. There is also a Yolngu Kinship chart that you can print off and put up on the wall. This course is the Kinship Course.  The Yolngu Kinship system made easy.

Cultural Booster Pack

Or you can buy the Cultural Booster Pack. This pack includes Worldview and Kinship Course, plus Tips for Teachers (and for others), plus you get a free “What is Cultural Safety?”

Lifetime Access to these courses

Why Warriors gives you lifetime access to these courses with the same email login, so you can come back to the courses many times for revision if you need to.


Books from our Book Store

You can also go to our bookstore to access books that will teach you a lot about Yolngu culture.

Why Warriors Lie Down and Die 

Why Warriors Lie Down and Die is as good as a two-and-a-half-day cross-cultural course that would cost over one thousand dollars. Here you can get it in a book for a fraction of that price.

It has sold over 40,000 copies and is used extensively in staff training and universities to provide real, practical cross-cultural solutions.

There are other great books in the store as well.

Face to Face or Online Work Shops

Why Warriors also runs face-to-face or online workshops that can meet the needs of your staff or group.

Please get in touch with us about your needs. Call us on 1300 501 795.

90 Free Videos

As mentioned above you can also access our 90 free videos and get answers to many questions you might have about Yolngu or their culture.


Learn Yolngu Matha

When you start learning another group’s language, you will start to learn their culture. If you want to learn an Aboriginal Language, it’s best to find an existing resource for the language group and region where you want to work.

Resources to get started;

There are also many other organisations out there doing work in different language regions. Some include NGOs like Aboriginal Resource and Development Services (ARDS), the Summer Institute of Linguistics, the Australian Society for Indigenous Languages and also some universities like Charles Darwin University (http://learnline.cdu.edu.au/yolngustudies/)

Ask around to find the best language resources for your area.

Yolŋu Matha – Languages for North-east Arnhem Land
If you want to learn Yolŋu Matha we would recommend that you start with the “Gupapuyngu Alphabet & Pronunciation Course” by Beulah Lowe. From Aboriginal Resource and Development Services (ARDS). This is the best place to get started learning Gupapuyŋu (one of the Yolngu Matha languages).

Students are taken through the Yolŋu alphabet and learn the sounds of the language. This course is an old one, but I still think it is the best to teach you to hear and speak Yolŋu Matha. Plus, you will learn how to read and write Yolngu Matha from the person who first recorded it.

After you have completed the above lessons, I suggest you get the “Learning an Aboriginal Language Kit (Don Williams).”
Language: Gupapuyngu and English, also from Aboriginal Resource and Development Services (ARDS)

This book and CD of lessons by Don Williams gives you access to 100 words and phrases in the Gupapuyŋu language.  By the time you finish this, you will be speaking Yolŋu Matha and can then self-learn.

You can then do the Charles Darwin University (CDU) course. Many people find the CDU course too hard and do not finish it. I suggest you will find it much easier to handle after you have completed the lessons listed above. The CDU course will teach you more about how to read and write Yolngu Matha.

Visit http://learnline.cdu.edu.au/yolngustudies/


Hear the Yolngu Matha Podcast online

Go to our Yolngu Learning Site and get access to over 500 podcasts and videos. Some podcasts have transcripts, and most videos are back-translated, so you can listen to the Yolngu Matha while still following along in English. These resources are produced to answer the questions that the Yolngu people want answers to. They also represent a good example of their views on the world around them.

Happy reading and learning!


Richard Trudgen Nov 2023

About Richard Trudgen

Richard was born in Orange NSW and trained as a fitter and turner. He moved to Arnhem Land in the NT in 1973 and became a community worker, learning to speak Djambarrpuyŋu. Has now worked with Yolŋu people for over 45 years. He was the CEO of Aboriginal Resource and Development Services (ARDS) for 10 years during which time he developed discovery education methodology with Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM and also established Yolŋu Radio in 2003. He is the author of Why Warriors Lie Down and Die and facilitated ‘Bridging the Gap’ seminars, and delivered corporate training across Australia. He is currently the CEO of Why Warriors Pty Ltd, a community development social enterprise organisation working with Yolngu people. He spends his day writing, producing podcasts and building online learning platforms, producing videos and working face to face with Yolngu. He is also involved in building online cross-cultural training material to build understanding between Indigenous peoples and the Dominant Culture.

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