Professor Brian Djangirrawuy Gumbula-Garawirrtja

Professor Brian Djangirrawuy Gumbula-Garawirrtja is a Yolŋu leader, ceremonial director, traditional singer, artist, and knowledge holder from North-east Arnhem Land.

Brian holds the most senior rank of ceremonial leaders in the Gupapuyŋu alliance of Yirritja-moiety Yolŋu clans, and he is the most senior living ceremonial leader of the Birrkili clan within this alliance. Brian holds executive ceremonial responsibilities for the Gupapuyŋu clan alliance and their many Gupapuyŋu estates, including the homelands of Djiliwirri, Luŋgutja, and Borrum.

He has directed research funded by the Northern Territory Library and participated in projects funded by the Australian Research Council. His work is displayed in the Australian National Maritime Museum. He has sat on Boards for Yirralka Rangers and the Laynhapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corporation and has served the community as a Traditional Owner advising the Laynhapuy Indigenous Protected Area Management Plan (2017–2022).

Brian Gumbula is one of the most senior and well-respected Yolŋu nations Elders and holds uniquely rare and exceptional knowledge of Yolŋu law and culture in North-east Arnhem Land, which is a key focus of the University’s Indigenous Strategic Plan and Reconciliation Action Plan, April 2018-December 2022.

He holds long-term research collaborations with colleagues at the University of Melbourne in the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, Faculty of Science, and Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, as well as with academics at other universities around the world.

Brian’s appointment as a Fellow through this scheme will bring urgently needed understanding to links between Yolŋu cultural practice and University of Melbourne collections, including the Donald Thomson Collection. The complex layers of connections within Yolŋu law, culture, and ancestors are not well understood outside Yolŋu communities and are arguably understood less and less by younger generations of Yolŋu people today.


Professor Marcia Langton, Brian Djangirrawuy Gumbula-Garawirrtja, and Professor Aaron Corn: keynote speech – “Currents from Distant Shores”

This presentation was part of the 2021 International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples Symposium.

Luŋgutja: Songs of Yolŋu trade with foreigners

In this panel, Yolŋu elder Brian Djangirrawuy Gumbula-Garawirrtja will explain how public songs and ceremonies from his ancestral homeland, Luŋgutja, in North-east Arnhem Land, recount long pre-colonial histories of trade and cultural exchange with seafaring foreigners from beyond Australia’s northern coastline. We will contextualise this largely unknown history and discuss how it provides Yolŋu people with ancestral antecedents for contemporary engagements across cultures. The panel will discuss how Yolŋu ceremonial knowledge of their shared past with foreigners from abroad enables all kinds of intercultural engagements today, while simultaneously asserting Yolŋu sovereignty and autonomy from foreign influences.

This presentation was part of the Cooking the Kangaroo: Conversations on Indigenous Song, Spirituality, and Connection webinar, which was held within the 20th Symposium on Indigenous Music and Dance, in association with the Musicological Society of Australia’s 44th National Conference.

Professor Brian Djangirrawuy Gumbula-Garawirrtja: "How Yolŋu knowledge informs creative innovation"

This presentation will discuss the Yolŋu Manikay tradition of song and dance and its importance in maintaining and understanding Yolŋu culture in North-east Arnhem Land. It shows how contemporary Yolŋu creative practices build on knowledge held and transmitted through the Manikay tradition in various innovative ways.

The presentation was part of the 2022 International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples Symposium.