Never use the beckoning finger!

Ngunhi nhe dhu wiripulil makarr-yindilil marrtji wangalil, ngunhiyiny dhuka wangaynguyam dharra ga guyanganhawuy walalang wiripu. Dhiyaliyin nhe dhu dharradayirrnydja ga djaka nhunhuwuy nhe marrka nhe dhu marr-dhunupaka nhina.

When you go into another world, they think differently from your world. You have to protect yourself and make sure you are doing things the right way.

When you fly to Japan, you are going to learn the language and learn the culture. Flying to an Aboriginal community is the same. Their world their operates differently, values are different.

Indigenous people across the world, especially in north-east Arnhem Land, read body language more intensely than most Balanda. There are different forms of sign language which mean different things in different communities. One of the most important things that you need to learn is to never call people over by the ‘beckoning finger’. It shows you are morally corrupt and causes offence. Using that action is extremely rude, not just in original Australian culture, but throughout Asia too. Basically it means an erect penis. No teacher should come into Indigenous communities without being taught this. The way to call people towards you is underhand instead.

If there is a brother or sister in the classroom and you do this beckoning finger action, then you are causing an offence because of an avoidance relationship there also. What it says to the kids in the classroom is you’re a morally corrupt person. Which is not the message you want to give to your students! Also it takes those students to places they should not be thinking about as children. It’s like switching on a pornographic movie in the middle of your lessons.

Learn the way to call someone towards you by listening to our latest Q&A for alternatives:

We have a whole education video around the beckoning finger on our website here:

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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