Coronavirus 12-15: Why are Balanda so frightened of this virus?

Here are 4 important education programs about the Coronavirus.

These programs are primarily in Yolŋu Matha and are available with English subtitles.

This is perfect for English speaking people involved with Yolŋu so you can listen together and have an informed conversation.


From WHY WARRIORS PTY LTD’s YouTube channel

Produced by Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra and Richard Trudgen

CORONAVIRUS 12: Why are Balanda so frightened of this virus? (with English subtitles)

Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra and Richard Trudgen talk about some of the European history of disease.

Djiniyini opens the program by asking, “Why are Balanda so frightened of this disease”? Richard explains how the Black Death plagues in Europe 700 years ago killed between 75 and 200 million people. They dialogue about how Balanda were so frightened then because they weren’t sure what was causing the disease and deaths. Europeans thought it was sorcery, some sort of spiritual event, or could possibly have been coming from the smell.

Djiniyini explains that’s what Yolŋu think now. He says people are really confused, and don’t understand what a virus actually is. So they blame other people for doing sorcery.

It’s mentioned that this kind of European history is needed for people like Yolŋu to be on the same page as mainstream Australians. Otherwise the government’s short scripted ‘what to do’ messages make little sense.

Click here for full Covid:19 playlist



CORONAVIRUS 13: Ring a Ring a Rosie (with English subtitles)

In this program Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra and Richard Trudgen deal with more European history that’s helpful in understanding Coronavirus. They also look at the meaning behind the children’s song ‘Ring a Ring a Rosie’.

When Yolŋu elders pass away their relatives have a particular songline they sing to remind them of the event. Richard shares with Djiniyini one of the European songlines that comes from the 700-year-old plagues of Europe. It was taught to Yolŋu children in the Mission days and is often still taught today however the meaning of it is rarely explained.

The program then discusses the cultural habit of men wearing a flower in the top buttonhole of their coat. Richard explains it’s a custom that began in the days of the plague, as it was believed the smell of the flower would overcome others less desirable smells and hopefully stop them getting the “Black Death”.

Thank you to © Helix Animation 2020 for the animation in this program. All rights reserved.

Click here for the full Covid:19 playlist


CORONAVIRUS 14: Old Balanda culture – from villages to cities (with English subtitles)

In this program Djiniyini and Richard talk more about the Balanda (European) history, and what happened when Balanda left their villages/estates and started moving into big cities. In the transition Balanda changed many cultural things.

For example, on their homeland estates they had plenty of land for toileting and they had small lakes and streams to bathe in.

However when they moved into the city they built houses very close together like they were still living on their estates, even though other things changed. The program discusses how Balanda used to throw the contents of their bed pots out onto the street and that many Balanda now only bathed once a year.

This is a similar history as Yolŋu now experience. When they lived on their homeland estates, Yolŋu would walk off into the bush privately to go to the toilet. They would also swim in the rivers and billabongs across their estate on a daily basis.

However when they moved into the missions and now the central communities things like toilets and places to wash are often in short supply.

Again this history is important for Yolŋu to understand why mainstream Western society places high value on certain cultural activities around hygiene.

Click here for the full Covid:19 playlist



CORONAVIRUS 15: The discovery of germs (with English subtitles)

In this program Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra and Richard Trudgen talk about how germs were first discovered.

They also discuss that it took a long time after the discovery of germs for Balanda to believe they were connected to the disease and sickness they were experiencing.

Click here for the full Covid:19 playlist


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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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