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Larrakia 'Gulumerrgin' subproject

My name is Lorraine Williams. I am a Larrakia woman and Research Associate with the School of Australian Indigenous Knowledge systems. For a lot of my life I have been involved in and have given evidence as a claimant in the Kenbi Land Claim and the Darwin Native Title proceedings. I am currently working on Larrakia Cultural Heritage Management focusing on Larrakia archaeological sites in the Darwin region and I have a keen interest in all things Larrakia. In years gone by I have worked on Larrakia ethnobiology with the view to keeping Larrakia language and culture strong. I am a member of the Batcho family of the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation.

The Larrakia in previous years referred to themselves as Gulumerrgin. Gulumerrgin is the name of the language spoken by the Larrakia. The Larrakia are the traditional owners of the land in and around the city of Darwin. The Charles Darwin University is situated on the land of the Larrakia.

The Gulumerrgin Database Project is a collaborative project that will allow for Larrakia people to protect knowledge and disseminate knowledge by means of computer technology. In particular I am concerned with making sure that the younger members of my family are given the same opportunity as me to learn the Gulumerrgin/Larrakia names for the land, plants, and animals. I envisage that historical accounts of special events will be recounted and revisited with commentaries and photographic records from surviving members of my family.

Over a few months of discussion with several of my siblings, we have begun to work on a computer database system which will use a map interface which has Larrakia place names located on it, complete with sound files of (place names and associated stories). Photographic attachments will be available for viewing 'behind' 'hot spots' on the map. It is important to note that there are cultural protocols and spiritual issues to consider with recorded sites names and associated stories on Larrakia country. These sound recordings will need to be negotiated with family members about which names could be recorded (if any) and who they should be available to and under what circumstances.

There will be two parts to this project: one that will enable Larrakia people to have access to Larrakia information that is currently in the public domain and there will be the ongoing negotiated entry of data, that is part of the Victor William's family history (my father) that will be partly protected from the public domain.

This resource in the first instance will be exclusively for my family. Some of the photographs and information have been used as evidence in the Kenbi Land Claim and Native Title court cases and together they represent one possibility of a rich collective memory making resource. Whenever our people reminisce with photos, storytelling starts again and collective memories are rebuilt.

We have employed my niece Leanne Hunter, to work alongside me to create a database of historical photographs, showing sites and food resources that have been collected in Darwin and surrounding areas.

Donna Jackson of the Browne family of the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation, as the founder of the 'Gunumitjanda Rangers', will provide data, support and comments to directly benefit the Larrakia rangers that will be using the information as part of their base-line data surveys for future training.

My office now has maps of Larrakia country on the wall, and place names are slowly being negotiated and added to it. Computer technicians have organised three computer systems to be available for data entry these include ArcView software, Fugawi software and one using an interface prepared using Flash software, created by Trevor van Weeren.

Ongoing work with Donna, Leanne and myself will involve user-testing the various computer options and looking at the ways in which they can be used for teaching young people, as well as looking carefully at how similar software could be shared with other groups within and outside the Larrakia people.

My sisters and other older people in my family continue to raise important issues about knowledge protection, ownership and access rights. Issues of the separate identities of various groups of Larrakia people including the eight family groups, which make up the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation have arisen, therefore it is vital that the processes of obtaining informed consent have to be negotiated concurrently, as several Larrakia families hold information collectively, whilst for others it has become uniquely highly specialized knowledge.

The flora and fauna part of the project aims at making some of the ethno-biological sound recordings, which have been collected from Larrakia people in the past, more available for use by the people who are privy to that information. There will be careful negotiation of the use of these sound recordings with preference given to the descendants of the elders who have previously given the knowledge.

With endorsement from Larrakia family members, this project will aim to promote the Larrakia protocols for looking after country. This project is dedicated to the Larrakia family members who have since passed on and held strongly their cultural obligations to 'Looking after Larrakia country'.

This report: Lorraine Williams September 2004



Maps will be the main interface in the Larrakia database

Click on the map below to view a proof of concept map



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